Tag Archives: separatism

Annual Habs Cultural Concern Renders Separatism a Joke

By Jason Menard

You know the best way to tell that hockey season’s right around the corner? It’s not by using something so frivolous as a calendar, or even charting the stars. No, the best way is to wait for the rite of passage that is the Annual Clueless Quebecer Complaining About a Lack of Francophones on the Roster of Les Habitants.

Hey, guess what? It’s hockey season. Know why? Because Pierre Curzi’s gone on the record discussing the Montreal Canadiens’ lack of French-Canadian content on the roster. Continue reading

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What’s in a Nation?

By Jason Menard

While Liberal leadership candidate Michael Ignatieff brought this particular Pandora’s Box to the party, it seems that the Bloc Quebecois is ready to pry that sucker open and unleash its contents on the country – for better or for worse.

The Bloc has submitted a motion to the House of Commons, to be debated on Thursday and voted upon early next week that reads: “Que cette Chambre reconnaisse que les Québécoises et les Québécois forment une nation.” Simply put, the debate will be open as to whether the people of Quebec represent a nation.

… And with the children of Canada all tucked snugly in their beds, visions of Meech Lake and Charlottetown will dance through their heads!

But could this work? Could the age-old issue of Quebec separatism really be solved by a House proclamation that Quebec should be recognized as a nation? Will millions of Quebecois suddenly be comforted by being able to say “Canada is my country, but Quebec is my nation”? And if this motion doesn’t pass, does this mean that we’re headed down the path of another linguistic crisis?

Surprisingly, this latest round of the “My Canada includes Quebec” debate has largely slipped by unnoticed by the masses. And this has happened because the debate has been restricted greatly to the confines of the Liberal leadership debate. Ignatieff’s use of vocabulary to solve this challenge has been met with opposition – not with the concept, as such, but rather with the timing and the designation — by his fellow candidates, including noted federalist Stéphane Dion and former Ontario NDP premier Bob Rae. However, at last month’s meeting, the Quebec wing of the Liberal Party did, in fact, adopted a resolution to recognize Quebec as a nation within Canada and to call for the establishment of a body to determine how to best make this a reality.

The funny thing is that although this is truly a federal issue, Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been able to tread lightly around the issue, not even dipping a toe into the water.

Well, it’s everyone in the pool now – and the Bloc have pushed Harper in with both hands. And once again the question is… what is the question? Perhaps we need Dion to draw up another Clarity Act because this idea of recognizing Quebec as a nation, while it does have merit, leaves too many Questions unanswered.

As shown by the lessons learned by Meech Lake, before it fell victim to the public relations nightmare of the use of the Notwithstanding Clause to defend Bill 178, the Canadian public is willing to acknowledge Quebec’s unique status within the country. However, it’s safe to say that special should not mean superior.

So what does the word nation mean in this context? And where do we stop? If Quebecers are a nation, are not the Cree of Quebec also considered a nation? In fact, we already have the First Nations, so where do we stop? Can it not be argued that Acadians are a distinct society within Canada and therefore deserve nation status? What about French-Canadians living outside of Quebec? Do those living in Ontario and Manitoba become part of the nation of Quebec, or are they simply living in exile? Heck, if Quebec becomes a nation, can those living in the Anglo bastion of Westmount not rise up and claim nation status for themselves?

During the last referendum the idea of partitioning came to the fore, the argument being that if Quebec was able to separate from Canada, then segments of Quebec should have the same right to leave Quebec – and any argument from Quebec against that would invalidate the initial separation argument.

The problem with this resolution is that it’s only a word. And the great thing about this resolution is – it’s only a word. You see, words are extremely powerful things. A word can be a source of pride and inspiration for an entire people! Look at the word Quebecois – it alone is a symbol of strength and fidelity for a significant portion of our population. While simply adding an extra meaning to a word that already exists in the Canadian lexicon may not be enough to satisfy the most ardent separatist, its recognition of the distinct society that Quebec is may be enough to bring those fires to a dull ember.

However, if we start bestowing nation status on a number of groups – and it’s hard to create an argument for one group of people without allowing those same rules to applied to another – then the value and power of that word becomes diluted. And, proportionately, the impact of the word is rendered negligible. In the end, recognizing Quebec as a nation within Canada is a no-brainer and it should be done. It’s what happens next that matters most. But should this symbolic recognition should open up the topic of constitutional reform – ay, there’s the rub. Those who are so happy to toss the word nation may become strangely reticent when it comes to putting those words to paper and entrenching nationhood rights and protections into the very framework of our country.

In the end, like the song states, they’re only words and words are all I have to steal your heart away. In this case, the right word can also represent our country’s soul.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Courting the Governor General

By Jason Menard

Phew. I’m glad that’s over. Michaelle Jean has come out of the closet finally. After much hand-wringing and back and forth debate: Is she or isn’t she? Was she or wasn’t she? Our governor general-designate has finally come forth to say her and her husband are proud, flag-waving Canadians.

Thank goodness that’s been decided. Now the position can go back to its irrelevance and Jean can assume her place in the annals of Canadian historical trivia.

Interestingly enough, many of those who claim that Jean’s alleged support of separatist causes would undermine the integrity of the position are the very same people who were ready to abolish the whole post in response to Adrienne Clarkson’s free-spending ways during her tenure. Suddenly a position that was no more than a benign, but necessary, growth on our system of constitutional monarchy turned into a malignant growth that threatened the very political life of our Prime Minister.

While the uproar over Jean’s alleged nationalist leanings may have its basis in simple politicking, part of it reeks of our Canadian need to be loved and validated. With separatists factions gaining steam in the West due to its economic prosperity, and dissatisfaction with Jean Charest’s Liberal government fanning the flames of nationalism in Quebec, maybe those on Parliament Hill are just looking for someone to tell them they love them.

Like an insecure lover, Canadian federalists need to hear that their expressions of amour are reciprocated. There’s nothing worse than professing your love, getting hitched, and then finding out that the object of our affection has a wandering eye and her heart is somewhere else.

Of course, there are the whisperings from the Prime Minister’s camp that the seeds from which the rumours of separatist sympathy have grown were actually sown by nationalist forces in Quebec. Essentially, the idea is that sovereigntists are acting like jealous lovers — if separatism can’t have her, then nobody can. And that they don’t want to see a federalist Quebecker in a position of prominence as she may be able to effectively woo soft-separatists or swing voters in the province towards the Canadian cause.

But let me tell you, if these first few days are indicative of Jean’s tenure, then I may hop on board the pro-Governor General bandwagon. Essentially a patronage appointment, this office has long been looked down upon by many Canadians. Viewed as a necessary, but largely irrelevant, position in modern Canada, the Governor General’s office is a reminder of our Commonwealth affiliation and attachment to an absentee sovereign.

So when you combine the outgoing Governor General’s penchant for being free with the ol’ taxpayer-filled wallet with the questions over the incoming Governor General’s loyalty to our nation, maybe the motivation will be there to take a good, solid look at the role of the monarchy in our day-to-day lives.

Maybe instead of courting the Governor General, we’ll decide as a nation to walk away from the position entirely. The fact of the matter is that the Queen’s presence in this country – well, not her physical presence of course – is cause for debate in our society. While not a front-burner issue like separatism, sponsorship inquiries, or human rights, it is, nonetheless, a simmering pot heating up on the back burner.

Perhaps the passions that have been incited by our two most recent appointees will finally fan the flames of that debate and cause it to boil over. If that’s the case, we’ll finally able to engage in a nationwide debate on the role of the Governor General, the monarchy, and what it means to be a Canadian.

Then, at least, we’ll be able to say that the Governor General is far from irrelevant.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Quebec Win an Opportunity for Both Sides

By Jason Menard

Monday’s landslide victory for the Quebec Liberal Party, while significant, should not be considered the death knell for separatism in the province of Quebec. In fact, if the right cards aren’t played, future generations looking back at this week’s election may see it as the watershed moment for a renewed sovereigntist movement.

The separatist forces within Quebec find themselves at a crossroads. Its leadership is aging and the youth of Quebec – and even some soft-separatists – have found a more comfortable fit within Mario Dumont’s Action Démocratique party.

The separatist movement is in dire need of an infusion of youth and fresh ideas to deal with the realities of the 21 st century. Ironically, it could be the actions of the new Liberal government that could provide that new infusion of youth.

Historically, separatism flourishes in times where the PQ is not in government. The party is better able to concentrate on its raison d’etre and not be bogged down with more difficult issues such as balancing a budget or improving health care.

A number of factors led to the PQ’s current loss, ranging from residual resentment over forced mergers, union disenchantment, and lack of faith in the leadership. The PQ was strongest with charismatic leaders such as Jacques Parizeau and Lucien Bouchard – suffice to say Bernard Landry did not captivate the masses in the same way as they, or even Mario Dumont, did.

However, the electorate’s political memories are short. These next few years of Liberal government are key. Mismanagement or public relations nightmares akin to those of their federal counterparts could spark a groundswell of disenchantment in voters, which could be quickly fanned into a blaze of anti-federalist sentiment within the youth of Quebec.

While good government may be the mantra, the reality of the situation is that the underlying causes of Quebec separatist feeling are still there. While French-English equality is greatly improved in the province itself, the essential fact of the matter is that French Canadians are still surrounded by an overwhelming sea of English. Consider the concerns Canadians as a whole have in protecting their culture from the overwhelming American influence, and now transfer that to an even smaller population of French-speaking people warding off the influences of English on their culture in this day and age where borders are disappearing courtesy of a number of influences, ranging from the Internet to Television.

If the provincial Liberals aren’t able to satisfy the needs of the masses, then we could see a startling reversal of fortune during the next election. Which is why it’s important for Jean Charest to separate himself (no pun intended) from his federal brethren and be almost belligerent in his efforts to bring to the fore the needs and desires of the Quebec population to the extent where he must be more pro-Quebec than even his PQ predecessors. Anything less, regardless of the intent, will be seen as a weakness by those soft federalists and separatists who donned Liberal red this election.

It is also important that the rest of Canada does not take an out-of-sight-out-of-mind attitude towards Quebec. While the majority of people outside of Quebec may have finally breathed a sigh of relief, it’s important for Canadians across the country to continue to work towards improving relations with Quebec. They say a watched pot never boils, and by maintaining a focus on Quebec, federalists as a whole can work to prevent separatist sentiments from bubbling up.

By no means does this mean acquiescing to all of Quebec’s demands, but rather it does mean that we now need to move away from a confrontational style of negotiation between the provinces to a more open concept rooted in mutual understanding and support. There also needs to be a fundamental understanding and appreciation of the role culture plays in each society.

There are those that will apply the overly simplistic Darwinian theory on cultural survival, essentially stating that society should be able to be stand on its own two feet and survive on its own without outside aid. However, we live in a more enlightened age wherein it’s hopeful that we as a country have come to a point where we see how we benefit from being a bilingual nation, with two strong yet distinct societies living under one flag.

If Canada is truly worth working for, then now is not the time to rest, but to redouble our efforts as a whole for the future.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

How the Bloc Can Help Canada

By Jason Menard

Maybe, after all has been said and done, we’ll see that Quebec separatists have the right idea.

I’m not talking about tearing the country apart, of course. But, as all signs point to a wide-spread sweep of the province for the Bloc, they seem to have their priorities right when it comes to voting for a federal election.

Many of us have spent these last few days leading up to the election still juggling in our minds which party we should support in Monday’s balloting. For many, the question is not ‘Which party do I like best,’ but ‘Which party is the lesser evil?’

People who once described themselves as staunchly red or blue, are now blinded by shades of grey. There are those who would love to support the NDP or Green parties, but feel that their vote would be ‘wasted’ on the national level.

This is an election unlike any other over the past two decades, and normal voting patterns have been thrown out the window in lieu of strategy and big-picture thinking. But one problem with looking at the big picture is that the smaller details tend to blur out of focus.

So Quebec has it right. For the rest of Canada, we’re so busy looking at a macro level that we’ve neglected our own backyard. Our obsession with determining which head of the Martin/Harper/Layton hydra would end up biting us the least has prevented us from looking locally to see who is the candidate that will truly affect change in our everyday lives.

Maybe it’s a selfish concept, but really, when it gets down to brass tacks most of us heading to the ballot box are not looking to altruistically subjugate ourselves for the masses. We want to know ‘what’s in it for us?’ Quebecers have figured that out and that’s why the Bloc is so popular!

For many soft-separatists or even federalists who vote Bloc, they’re not necessarily casting their ballot for separatism. Rather they’re casting their ballots for a party that has Quebec’s best interests at heart — and really, what’s wrong with that?

Many of us complain that our elected representatives seem to vote along party lines, rather than by what their constituency wants. But that’s what the Party system has bred – the ruling party has to be as palatable and inoffensive to the masses in order to keep their hold of power. So instead of working on the micro level, they’ll take a macro view – and that’s when the details start to blur.

This election offers us a chance to take back some of that power! We’re so firmly entrenched in this Party system of government that, chances are, there’s no going back. However, as we look to a probable minority government, our local representation becomes that much more important.

As a governing party looks to build consensus, they’ll need to negotiate and offer concessions with those sitting across the Parliament floor. In the absence of a dominant Party able to force a collective view through the system, the smaller, regional groups can rise up to fill the void. Put it this way, with a block (no pun intended) of seats estimated to number in the 70s, do you not think that Quebec’s interests will be well represented in a minority government?

So as you deliberate as to whom will receive your vote, spend more than a fleeting moment thinking about your local riding. When we go to the ballot box, the names on the ballot aren’t of the leaders, but rather those of our local representation. So let’s take this opportunity to hold them accountable.

More than ever, each vote in this election matters. By voting for the candidate you feel will best represent you and your community you can send a message to the federal government that Canada as a whole can’t be painted with the same brush. Rather it has to be appreciated for the rich social and cultural mosaic that it is!

So, in an ironic twist, maybe the Bloc will strengthen this country after all! If we vote for strong regional representation, like Quebecers do, then our elected officials will have to work in the best interests of all Canadians!

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved