Saturday, February 28, 2015

A few important facts about Quebec


1. Québec's French-speaking majority is a multi-ethnic community


Québec's French-speaking majority is a multi-ethnic community, just like Canada's English-speaking majority. Francophone Quebecers cannot honestly be described as a simple homogeneous ethnic group or even as a homogeneous cultural group.

The community of descent comprised of people who can trace some ancestry to the French settlers of New France is vast and dispersed in the whole of North America. A great percentage of those people are today native English speakers living outside Quebec and have no or little connection with the culture of Quebec. Unlike some other ethnic communities, there is nothing solidly uniting North Americans of French descent.

There is however, in Quebec, a community whose members share a common identity based on language and culture: They are Francophone Quebecers. The members of this community are not united by ancestry but by shared culture and language. This identity can be adopted by anyone who wishes to learn French and become Québécois and has in fact been adopted by many people from Ireland, the United States, Scotland, England and Germany during the 19th century and by people of an even greater number of origins during the 20th century. Quebec culture does not begin and end with Félix Leclerc and Gilles Vigneault, it includes people from a wide variety of backgrounds, for example: Émile Nelligan, Mary Travers (La Bolduc), Jim Corcoran, Serge Fiori, Normand Brathwaite, Gregory Charles, Kim Thúy, Alain Stanké, Marina Orsini, Kim Nguyen, Dany Laferrière, Naïm KattanBoucar Diouf ... just to name a few!

Quebec nationalists want this identity, socially transmitted from generation to generation, and passed on to immigrants and their children by assimilation, to keep existing and thrive. We feel that this identity is vulnerable due to our minority status in Canada and even threatened since the people who make it exist can only govern their common destiny by the means of a provincial government, whose status as a national government is denied by the central power in Ottawa.

In addition to the main French-speaking national group, Quebec is home to ten distinct Amerindian nations, the Inuit nation and a minority of Anglophones who tend to identify as Canadians first. Despite the plurality of identities found in Quebec, all its citizens are de facto and de jure part of the same political nation as the laws adopted by the National Assembly of Quebec apply to all. The same goes for all citizens of the Canadian federation who are de facto and de jure a part of the same political nation whether they identify with it or not. The two nations overlap.

The advocates of Quebec independence argue for a free Quebec State that would grant citizenship to all current residents of Quebec. Of course, there is no point in denying that one of the central reasons for the creation of this new independent State is to allow its people to govern themselves freely through political institutions that give control to the majority of them. It is the right of Quebecers as a people to determine, in full freedom, "when and as they wish, their internal and external political status, without external interference, and to pursue as they wish their political, economic, social and cultural development."

2. The people of Québec were never consulted on the adoption of any of the constitutional acts enforced to rule them


The people of Québec were never consulted on the adoption any of the constitutional acts enforced to rule them. Quebec has yet to democratically choose its constitution. As a people, Quebecers can legitimately claim the right to self-determination just like all the other peoples on Earth. Read Article VIII of the Helsinki Act.

The British North America Act was the work of British imperialists and would have been rejected by Quebec at the September 1867 election if it had not been for blatant electoral fraud. In order to create the confederated Dominion of Canada, the non-elected colonial government first had to neutralize the elected leaders of Lower Canada (Papineau and the Parti Patriote) and unite the two Canadas (Upper and Lower) with the 1840 Act of Union, hence forcing the Canadiens to become a politically weakened minority destined for assimilation in the new political system of the colony. The constitution of 1867 changed nothing of this reality.

On October 27, 1864, after the signing of the confederative pact, George Brown, founder of the Toronto Globe and one of the "Fathers of Confederation", wrote a note to his wife while packing his things before leaving for Toronto: "All right... Constitution adopted - a most creditable document - a complete reform of all the excesses and injustice we have complained of: Is it not wonderful? French Canadianism entirely extinguished."

The Indirect Rule and the massive immigration of British subjects to Canada were still in effect under the centralizing Federation disguised as a Confederation. From a democratic standpoint, the legitimacy of the Confederation can be considered null. Even worst, in 1982, the constitution was amended and "repatriated" without the approval of the National Assembly of Quebec. Quebecers are, therefore, governed by a constitution that they officially rejected.

3. The majority of Québec's independentists favour a republican form of government


The majority of Quebec's independentists favour a republican form of government, an elected President and a modern and truly representative voting system to elect the National Assembly's representatives. Basically, we want the real democracy that our people have been dreaming of for over a century and a half.

4. The majority of the independentists recognize the right to self-determination of the Amerindians and the Inuit


The majority of independentists recognize the right to self-determination of the Amerindians and the Inuit. They are to be a part of all negotiations between Québec and Ottawa in the advent of secession. Despite Indian affairs being a federal jurisdiction, the Quebec government has worked with native communities to help them strengthen their economic, social and cultural autonomy. See the various agreements achieved between Quebec and the Amerindian peoples and the Inuit people over the past years.

Following recent developments in international law, Quebec independentists have recognized the right to autonomy of the Amerindians and the Inuit inside Quebec. Some adversaries of Quebec's independence have threatened to partition Quebec by playing the right of Quebecers as a political nation against those of Aboriginals. This strategy is both hypocritical and dangerous. Recognizing the right to self-determination of the Amerindians and the Inuit does not mean recognizing the right of Ottawa or anyone else to unilaterally partition Quebec along arbitrary lines. Of course, this right is only cynically attributed to the Native peoples of Quebec by the opponents of Quebec independence. This same right is never granted to the Native peoples outside of Quebec.  

5. Quebec nationalism stems from an old desire for national liberation


Quebec nationalism, in the context of British imperialism, must be understood for what it is: a desire for national liberation. The starting points of our movement are the American revolution and the ideals of the Enlightenment of the 18th century which were mainly expressed in French at that time. The Patriotes Rebellion of 1837-1839 was in essence an attempt to bring about an American-style Republic in Quebec (then known as Lower-Canada). These ideal are still what motivates Quebec independentists today.

Attempts to discredit the sovereignty movement by linking Québec's nationalism to reactionary 20th century "right-wing" movements is part of something called Quebec Bashing. The whole thing has reached near hysterical proportions since the near-victory of the sovereignists in 1995.

6. The word "Québécois" is not an invention of the Parti Québécois


The word "Québécois" is not an invention of the Parti Québécois. It has been used to designate the citizens of Quebec since the confederation and also the citizens of Quebec City long before. The French-speaking majority of Quebec has not always used this term when referring to themselves and the English-speaking minority never did, except when deprived of its very meaning. As a term referring to a political nation, it only appeared when the French Canadians of Québec chose to adopt it as their main defining identity during the Quiet Revolution. The main cultural group constituting the Québécois are the descendants of the 19th century French-speaking Canadiens and immigrants who have integrated this people. Canada used to be the name of what is essentially the two shores of the St-Laurent river, where the most important settlements of New France were located. Today, this land is called Québec, so we call ourselves Quebecers (in French Québécois).

7. The Parti patriote had wide support among Lower Canadians of all origins


The Assembly of the Six Counties
In the 19th century, the Parti patriote of Lower Canada had the support of an overwhelming majority of the Canadien population, including a significant number of English-speaking subjects, especially of Irish and American origin. The Patriotes movement is nothing marginal in Québec's history. The leaders of the time, who very often spoke both French and English (along with Greek and Latin), were not completely disconnected from the world. On the contrary, they had read the literature of the American and French revolutions and were aware of the various other liberation movements in other parts of the world. The Canadien people wanted to establish a free and democratic Republic that would have been one of the most egalitarian state of its time. See the Declaration of Independence by the Patriotes of Lower Canada (1838).

8. The repression of the Lower Canada revolution was massive


The arrest warrants issued against the patriot leaders were illegal. The massive repression of Lord Seaton (called "Milord Satan" by the Canadiens) was proportionally much worse than the repression ordered by the Comité du Salut Public in France during the period of the French revolution called La Terreur.

9. Québec is a nation in both the sociological and political meanings of the word


Québec is a nation in both the sociological and political meanings of the word. In the English language, nation comes from Old French nation which itself comes from Latin natio which means "to be born". This word is unfortunately vague for it can designate different ideas or concepts. Nation can mean a people or a nationality which is a human group who shares some or all of the following attributes: customs, culture, religion, institutions, language and history. That is the United Nations's definition at least. A more modern definition is the political nation, a human group that is politically organized under a single government, i.e. the government represents the whole people. These two definitions are not in contradiction with each other; as a matter of fact, they often complement one another: you typically have a nation (people) under a national government (state) for example.

Another meaning of the word nation in English is an independent country. Often, people will say that Québec is not a nation, meaning that it is not an independent country and in fact is just a province, a federated state inside Canada. They are absolutely right on this. That is precisely why there is an independence movement in Québec.

10. The Quebec State is much older than the Canadian federal State


The Parliament of Quebec, created in 1791, is much older than the federal Parliament of Canada, which the Parliament of the United Kingdom "created" in 1867.

The existence of a political nation within Québec goes back to at least 1663 when New France was made a royal province of the Kingdom of France. With the cession of 1763, this provincial state, its code of law and some of its key civil institutions, were detached from the Kingdom of France and attached to the Kingdom of Great Britain. The French Province of Canada became the British Province of Quebec.

In 1774, the Quebec Act created a crippled Parliament consisting of an unelected Legislative Council. A minimum of 17 and a maximum of 23 Councillors were appointed by a Governor, himself appointed by the British government.

In 1791, the Constitutional Act divided the territory of the Province of Quebec in order to create two distinct colonies. A new Province of Upper Canada and Parliament of Upper Canada were created to meet the demands of the United Empire Loyalists who started colonizing the Ottawa region in 1785. The territory of Upper Canada corresponded to the vast area North of the Great Lakes.

The rest of the Province of Quebec, to the East of the Ottawa river, was renamed Lower Canada. This territory, the St. Lawrence river valley, corresponded to what was previously French Canada and included Québec City, Trois-Rivières, and Montréal. The crippled Parliament of Quebec was modified to include an elected Legislative Assembly. (Upper Canada received corresponding institutions.)

In 1792, the Lower Canadian population elected its first representatives to the Parliament of Lower Canada. The Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada, located in Québec City, was the only institution representing the people of Lower Canada, in the majority French-speaking and Catholic. This representation was totally powerless, as was the corresponding representation in Upper Canada.

In 1837, the non-elected colonial Executive government of Lower Canada, feeling it had lost control of the majority of the people, ordered the arrest of the Parti patriote leaders. An armed conflict broke out. Following the military repression of the people who resisted, Lower Canada was annexed to Upper Canada through the Union Act of 1840. Despite the fact that the population of the late Province of Lower Canada constituted a numeric majority over the population of the late Province of Upper Canada, both sides were given an equal representation in the new Parliament.

The union succeeded at 1) turning the national representation of the people of Lower Canada into the representation of an artificially-constructed national minority, and 2) breaking the previously unbreakable solidarity of those who considered themselves the elected leaders of la nation canadienne.

Indeed, the forced legislative union caused the disunion of the Parti patriote leaders, who became divided into those who sought reforms within the new union framework and those who wanted to repeal the Act of Union. The conquered people of the late French Canada were finally divided. But the political agitation was far from being over and the stability of the new union regime proved uncertain. The federal system, presented to the electorate as a "confederation", became a reality in 1867, with the adoption of the British North America Act. This Act of the UK Parliament created a new Parliament for a new Dominion federating all British American colonies. This federation was given the name of "Canada". The late provinces of Upper Canada and Lower Canada were re-separated as "Ontario" and "Quebec". The people of Quebec, thus finally obtained a full Parliament. Unfortunately, this one came without the full legislative powers needed by Quebecers to control their own destiny. Conflicts of jurisdictions between the federal State of Canada and the provincial State of Quebec have been a permanent issue ever since.




Thursday, February 12, 2015

Jane Jacobs on Quebec: Independence or Decline


Commenting on Jane Jacobs’s book on Quebec sovereignty, the architect Joseph Baker wrote in The Gazette on March 22, 1980: "If I were René Lévesque, I would buy all the copies of Jane Jacobs's book and I would hand it out free of charge to everyone west of Saint-Laurent Boulevard. I would even translate it and take back the white paper." This was two months before the 1980 referendum.

What exactly is it that Jane Jacobs, the famous urban planner, said about Quebec that was so original that it brought this eminent citizen of Westmount and future president of the Quebec Order of Architects to make such a proposal? And, are Jane Jacobs’ thoughts on the matter still relevant today?

In The Question Of Separatism - Quebec And The Struggle Over Sovereignty, Ms. Jacobs says that the economic development and prosperity of Montreal necessarily entail an independent Quebec. Without this political sovereignty, Montreal will lose its role as a metropolis and will slowly become a satellite of Toronto, its economy becoming increasingly subservient to that of the chosen "Canadian metropolis". And in the end, all of Quebec will lose out. Montreal will play the same role in relation to Toronto as Lyon to Paris, Glasgow to London, Melbourne to Sydney, in short, a city receiving whatever the greater metropolitan city is willing to grant it.

Proof of Ms. Jacobs’ predictions abounds in the media. In fact, Canadian newspapers are filled with articles where commentators go on and on about the plight of Montreal without ever proposing a convincing solution. The blame is always attributed to political instability, language laws, our lack of collective daring, unions, and so on. Yet the most important urban planner of the twentieth century, Jane Jacobs, wrote this in 1980:
"Montreal cannot afford to behave like other Canadian regional cities without doing great damage to the economic well-being of the Quebecois. It must instead become a creative economic center in its own right.
"Yet there is probably no chance of this happening as long as Quebec remains a province of Canada. The Quebecois themselves seem unaware of the nature of the problem which looms in their future, and given the prevailing assumptions, they may not come to understand it. But they will understand this: things are not going well.” 
That is why the issue of sovereignty for Quebec, now that it has been raised anew as a possibility, is not going to evaporate. Inevitably, whether or not they could do better on their own, the Quebecois are going to think they could, and many of them are going to want to try. We may expect the question of separation to be raised again and again in coming years until it is finally settled either when Canada accedes to some form of sovereignty for Quebec or when the Quebecois accept the decline of Montreal and become resigned to it and to its repercussions.
She wrote this in 1980 and repeated it in an interview in May 2005. Some argue that in taking a position in favor of Quebec independence in 1980, Jane Jacobs lapsed into a secondary domain, straying away from the main subject of her work which was cities and their economies. Nothing could be further from the truth. Her position on Quebec is in tune with the rest of her work, both by its content and by the weight of its arguments.

Her book on Quebec is the logical continuation of her previous two books, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) and The Economy of Cities (1968). The first book revolutionized urban studies worldwide. Champion of urban diversity, social as well as economic, not out of altruism but for the sake of economic vitality, she explained how the majority of urban planners despised everything that was urban and showed a total unawareness of the sources of vitality that make a big city. Fifty years after its publication, this book still is a bedside book for any serious urban planner.

She brought more depth and insight into the economy of cities in her second book, published in 1968, by explaining how urban economies begin, grow in population, and expand economically. She contrasts cities that grew brilliantly only to fall due to their own success, and cities that managed to maintain a more economically viable foundation upon which to grow and prosper through changing times. She also suggested new development paths. She was already predicting the huge economic potential of recycling municipal waste, alas a field still underdeveloped to this day.

What brought about her book on Quebec? CBC Radio had offered her the prestigious forum of the radio series entitled The Massey Lectures. Free to choose her subject, Jane Jacobs titled the series “Canadian Cities and Sovereignty–Association”, which was to become the heart of her book on Quebec. Without the research and reflection on the concrete case of Montreal and Toronto, she would never have been able to write her other ground breaking book, Cities and the Wealth of Nations (1984). In that book, she amply shows the terrible effect of demobilization and economic slowdown in major cities like Montreal, which must comply with the requirements of a “national” logic which imposes a so-called national metropolis.


Eloquent examples


Montreal Stock Exchange Tower
Four years after the 1995 referendum, Montreal almost entirely lost its stock exchange due to a reorganization that still left it with the exclusivity of derivative products for a period of ten years. Six years later however, seeing Montreal’s success in this area, Toronto tried at all costs to get its hands on this exclusivity. It threatening to launch its own derivatives exchange to compete with the Montreal Exchange if it refused the merger deal that the “Metropolis” was offering. Toronto, of course, had the support of Canada's Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, who was formerly the Ontario Minister of Finance.

The same trend can be seen in the regulation of financial markets. In June 2006, a committee appointed by a minister of the Ontario government, recommended the creation of a single "national" body to regulate financial markets in Canada, thereby eliminating the AMF in Quebec. Jim Flaherty took up the ball and in the name of our "national" economy, supported the creation of a national regulator, which of course would necessarily be in Toronto. This plan is still in the works. Thus, the dismemberment and destruction of all the Montreal's financial sector continues inexorably by the closures the Montreal Exchange, by the concentration of these activities and related transactions (management of mutual funds, etc.) in Toronto and increasingly in Western Canada.

Mirabel: Trudeau's white elephant
Possibly the best example of Montreal's subordination to Toronto can be seen in the realm of air transport. Things started out well enough in the late sixties when Pierre Trudeau announced that Montreal would be "the main gateway to air traffic in Canada, only 60 minutes to New York, three hours to Nassau, six hours to Paris, Brussels or Madrid.” Building a new airport for Montreal was probably the most important federal decision on the physical development of Montreal since 1945.

However, the decisions regarding this airport were made against the expressed will of the government of Quebec, which wanted to build the airport to southeast of Montreal. In short, Ottawa chose the Mirabel site to promote the development of the Montreal - Ottawa axis and the east-west "national" corridor of Windsor - Toronto - Ottawa - Montreal. Ottawa was thus ignoring the development perspective advocated jointly by the Quebec government and the City of Montreal which was to favor the economic and urban development within the triangle formed by the cities of Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivières and Quebec City.

In the end, following some political maneuvering for a “national” gateway endorsed by the Canadian government, Toronto’s Pearson airport was deemed better suited to become the main "gateway" from which international flights would depart. Therefore, Montreal, whose Dorval airport was renamed the P.E. Trudeau airport (hard not to see the twisted irony in this), has become completely insignificant to air transport, a mere satellite airport serving the chosen "Canadian metropolis”. Trudeau's Mirabel airport, which cost over $500 million to build in the 1970s, is currently being demolished.


Profitable flights transferred to Toronto 


This subordination continues today. Many profitable and regulated international flights have been transferred to Toronto and they're not done, more continue to be transferred every year. The Toronto International Airport has become the first airport in Canada, Vancouver's Airport is now second (not too surprising considering its advantageous geographical position for flights to Asia). Montreal ranks third, its business consisting mainly of local flights feeding the Toronto Pearson Airport. According to an article published in Le Devoir, even Calgary may soon overtake Montreal in terms of international flights.

The transfer of most international flights to Toronto is of course a deliberate choice. After all, is Montreal really too small a city for all of these international flights? Toronto is a city of over 6 million people, compared to 4 million for Montreal.  Let’s look at the importance of numbers.

There are several cities larger than Toronto that find themselves in the same situation as Montreal. For example, the city of Qingdao in the Shandong region of China, is a wealthy city of almost 9 million people and yet its airport plays a regional role, like Montreal. On the other hand cities much smaller than Montreal such as Zurich (400,000 inhabitants), Dublin (500,000 inhabitants) or Copenhagen (2 million) are hubs for international flights. In short, the size or even the economic importance of a city does not necessarily explain its importance as a flight destination. It’s the political status of a city within its own country that explains the importance of some cities and the insignificance of others. 

The smaller size of Montreal to the more populous Toronto does not explain the decline in international flights. The reality is that Montreal has become, over time, a city at the service of Toronto. Head offices move to Toronto, the Montreal Stock Exchange has been swallowed up by Toronto, the largest banks now operate from Toronto and Montreal has no choice in the matter but to cow-tow to Toronto. Like many other major cities, Montreal lives in the shadow of its government chosen State metropolis. 

For, while less wealthy and populous cities around the world play much more important roles than Montreal, within the Canadian "national" logic, Montreal finds itself in an almost neocolonial situation. Like other cities that are rich and populous, such as Marseille, Qingdao, Kaohsiung, San Diego and so on, Montreal was simply not chosen by its state to be the star city. As the metropolis of an independent state however, Montreal would have far greater importance. Jane Jacobs was therefore quite right in saying that without independence, Montreal would be transformed it into a satellite city, and it has.


Conclusion


We pay the price of dependence every day. Whether it is the takeover of the Montreal Stock Exchange by Toronto, the control of our businesses by Bay Street, or the decisions taken by Ottawa that go against the will and well-being of our nation, being the province of another nation is debilitating or as Jane Jacobs said "dependence is stultifying." But on the other hand, she continues by saying that "sometimes the obverse is also true. That is, sometimes independence releases new kinds of effort, opens up formerly untapped funds of energy, initiative, originality and self-confidence." For the future and prosperity of Montreal and of all of Quebec, we need to try the second option: independence, since the first option: dependence, has clearly not been working for us.


Based on articles by Robin Philpot and Maxime Duchesne

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The National Policy and Canadian Federalism

The last spike in the Canadian Pacific Railway, 1885

The National Policy was introduced by the government of John A. Macdonald in 1879 and remained, in one form or another, government policy for a long time. Understood in its broadest sense, the policy contained three parts: 

  1. the building of the transcontinental railway - the CPR;
  2. strong immigration policy to fill the West; 
  3. the protection of the infant Canadian industry with high tariffs

The plan was a comprehensive one and each of its parts provided an impetus and a justification for the other parts. The aim of the policy was to create a true country with a national economy. Macdonald thought that while a political framework had been created in 1867 the dreamed up union could only last if it was cemented by the creation of a strong national economy - one that would run east-west rather than north-south. The future of Confederation, he thought, hinged upon the development of the West. Without such development, the Americans would take over the West, encircle Canada and inevitably bring about its annexation. 

Macdonald perceived the occupation of the vast plains of the West as vital national interest. The building of the CPR would assure the sovereignty of Canada over the territory and eastern industry would have access to the resources and the customers of the West. The immigration policy was designed to maximize the investment in such an expensive railway and to provide customers for eastern industry. The high tariffs would ensure the development of a Canadian industry and assure a better standard of living and jobs for Canadians.

At first glance, the policy seems a remarkable one but upon closer examination one has to recognize many difficulties and consequences for the future. The first thing to note is that the national policy was not a "national" policy in some important respects. In an age of mounting imperialism, it was an imperialist policy. The heart of Macdonald's country was essentially Ontario and, to a lesser extent, Quebec where the important Anglo Montreal financial interests were found. The Montreal-Windsor axis was to be the heart of the country, its pole of development, and the policy was specifically designed to benefit its population. The Maritimes, and most of Quebec, would not benefit greatly from the policy. Their contribution would be largely to export men and resources to the center of Canada while importing its expensive industrial products. Railways would cross their territories but they would not be particularly designed to develop them. They would be called to pay taxes to buy the West and to subsidize heavily the building of the CPR, but would receive very little benefit from such undertakings.

It was hoped that immigrants by the hundreds of thousands would be attracted to the West. For that purpose, Canada eventually had hundreds of immigration officers, although nearly all of them were to be found in Great Britain, Ireland and in the United States. So while thousands of Québécois (close to one million from 1830 to 1930) emigrated to the United States, Canada hoped to recruit large numbers of British, Irish and American immigrants to fill the West. It was plain for everyone to see that the federal government did not care sufficiently for the fate of the Quebecois and made no effort to repatriate them. Immigration from Europe was subsidized (each immigrant received free land and, by the 1920’s, a train ticket for the West; Quebecers who wished to go west had to buy their own tickets).

John A. Macdonald
Macdonald's purpose was not to develop viable, autonomous communities in the West. This had to be avoided at all cost: industries were not to locate in the West, they would only compete with eastern ones; railways were not to be established unless they were controlled by the CPR and they were not to link the West to the USA. Macdonald feared that Western farmers might buy their products there. Provinces were not to be created because the federal government would lose control of the whole operation. When the local indigenous population (Indians and Métis) protested the establishment of the newcomers on their land, they were pushed aside; the West was not to exist for its own sake but only as a useful appendage to Central Canada.

Nevertheless, provinces had to be created eventually and the federal government lost part of its control over the territory; natural resources were withdrawn (until 1930) from the control of the provincial governments in the West and the federal right to reservation and disallowance was used heavily to support the National Policy. As one author has written: "One of the most significant factors which emerges from a study of disallowance is that the power has been used primarily against the West... The West has always been Canada's empire. The expansion of Western Canada provided the life-blood of Eastern commerce, finance, manufacturing, and transportation. It furnished the market for the goods and services which, by permitting the economies of large-scale operations, made Eastern undertakings successful. To put it crudely, as Macdonald did, the Dominion had purchased the West and was entitled to the profits of its exploitation." [Alan Wilson, "Disallowance: The Threat to Western Canada," in Saskatchewan Law Review, Vol. 39 (1974-75):180-181].

What makes an examination of the operation of the National Policy so important and vital for the study of Canadian Constitutional history is the fact that it became a permanent factor in Canada's development. Could post-Macdonald governments deny the reality of the policy and undermine its economic objectives (as objectionable as they might have been in some respects) when it seemed that the economic well-being of Central Canada - jobs, profits, standard of living - came to be dependent on high tariff industries and the exploitation of entire regions of Canada (West, Maritimes and most of Quebec)? 

Political considerations must not be discounted either: the exploited regions were also the politically powerless ones while the benefiting regions actually controlled the majority of seats in the House of Commons. So the policy was maintained by successive administrations. Maritimers lost their natural New England market and sank economically into oblivion. For a long time, in fact until the development of the oil and gas industry, the West was condemned to virtual economic stagnation and its farmers were forced to buy expensive eastern products, thus lowering their standard of living (an author estimated, in 1934, that the tariff in effect subsidized each person in Ontario by $15.15 a year but cost each person in the other provinces as much as $11.67 in Nova Scotia or $28.16 in Saskatchewan - the average personal income of a Canadian at the time was around $300 a year). Montrealers benefited from the policy but the rest of Quebec stagnated; rural depopulation was the result. Only Ontarians were fully satisfied with the policy as 68% of the most highly protected industries were located there.

So the country developed unequally under the National Policy and it gave rise to all sorts of regional problems: Westerners became alienated and have complained of unfairness since. Maritimers lost their traditional prosperity and with it their proud heritage of vigorous and autonomous government. Too poor to afford the social services to which we have all become accustomed, they have had to support centralization of powers in Ottawa in order to receive some of the benefits of Confederation. For them, economic development has been replaced by social welfare. Many Quebecers have argued the necessity of the break-up of Confederation on grounds that the system (National policy) profited Ontario at the expense of Quebec. 

In the past seventy-five years there has been recognition of the problem: Royal Commissions were established (Duncan Report, 1926; White Report, 1935; Rowell-Sirois Report, 1940) that considered the economic problems of Canada or some of its regions and provinces and which pointed to the National Policy as partly the root-cause. 

Federal equalization grants were instituted in the late 1950's to, at least, lessen the burden which inevitably befell the citizens of low growth regions in Canada. In 1969, the federal government created the Department of Regional Economic Expansion (DREE) that distributes grants to overcome regional economic disparities. But, by and large, such policies were much too timid: they did not fundamentally seek to solve problems by creating regional growth centers but, rather, aimed at lessening the most obnoxious effects of the National Policy. Many experts see the solution to the problem of regional economic disparity in massive federal involvement but this can only be done, ultimately, at the expense of weakening provincial control over local economies and societies - in other words by undermining even further Canadian federalism.

In the end, only free and self-reliant people can happily accept to collaborate and live in harmony with other people. The nation of Quebec must declare itself to be sovereign in order to break free from these patterns of dominance and exist as a free and self-reliant people. We cannot afford to completely melt into a centralized Canadian economy without losing who we are and assimilating. To exist as a distinct nation and thrive economically we must become independent and prioritize our own economic interests. That is the only sensible road to prosperity for Quebec.


 Based on a text by Claude Bélanger, Department of History, Marianopolis College, Montreal

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Getting Past Survival

For more than a century, survival was the principal theme of Quebec’s view of its own history. Beginning in the 1950s, Quebec intellectuals came to a different understanding of their past, one that demystified the ideology of survival and required a break with it. But now it seems they are returning to survivalist mode. This has a high social cost, which almost no one talks about. The way out of this trap is through independence, which would allow Quebecers, once having acquired political control of their own nation, to cease being nationalists.

What has happened to us? Where are we now in our history as survivors, we whose beginnings were so poorly assured, so badly rooted, in the political sense of the term, that to justify the paradox of our presence, and our French persistence, we had to manufacture mythical heroes and invent for ourselves a providential mission on this continent? To explain this crutch from the imagination, the sociologist Fernand Dumont even went so far as to speak of aborted origins, a “childhood trauma” that occurred long before the English conquest of New France. It’s hardly a recipe for stable kids.

And yet, here we still are, in the precarious equilibrium between the YES and the NO that history has given us, hanging on in our survivors’ way.

We came here 300 years ago and we stayed here. Those who brought us here could return without bitterness or sorrow, for even if it is true we have not learned much, one thing sure: we have forgotten nothing [ ... ]. Of ourselves and our destinies, we have clearly understood only the following duty: persist ... Keep on ... And we have kept on. So well that in a few more centuries the world may turn to us and say: This people belong to a race which does not know how to die ... What we are is a witness.

That’s the personification of the country in Maria Chapdelaine: I must admit I can never reread these lines, written in 1912 by a Frenchman visiting the “country of Québec,” without emotion. They evoke the long winter of our survival, the quiet resistance of those people who came from France during the 17th and 18th centuries and, following the Conquest, had to learn to survive as a distinct “race.” It was a hazardous apprenticeship, which went mostly unrecorded. We mustn’t believe that our ancestors (who in 1760 were no more than 70,000 people spread over a vast territory) came equipped with a collective survival plan. If survival was not the “miracle” that everyone claims, neither was it, at least not at the beginning, a national project (un projet de société). It was, rather, a second-best solution, a patchwork program: Survival was the response to an historic dead end. The French community in Canada faced both the threat of assimilation and the conqueror’s refusal to welcome it as an equal partner in new political arrangements. Powerless to use these arrangements to create a republic — as witness the failure of the Rebellion — it was reduced, after the Act of Union of 1840, to seeking its raison d’être in the preservation of its language, its religion and its lifestyle. The road to political freedom was impassable, but that to survival remained, and the community ended up making this its avocation: Survive and be witness.

But surviving is not living, as the historian Michel Brunet liked to say. This had been recognized by Lord Durham himself, a century before. In his famous report, he had argued that the French in Canada, if they survived, would become vulgarized, and he therefore recommended assimilation. As shocking as this conclusion is, we are forced to recognize the soundness of the argument on which his recommendation was based. When French Canadians left their farms and their parishes at the end of the 19th century to go and live in the cities, they effectively became, as Durham had warned, mostly unskilled workers employed by English capitalists — that is, a proletarian people, the same proletarian people whose docility Maurice Duplessis proclaimed to English and American capitalists, even when he had to impose it with his policemen’s clubs.

Michel Brunet, historian and essayist
We had to wait until the mid-1950s before we could start to see the real political causes of French Canadians’ economic inferiority. The names of three great historians of “the Montreal School,” Maurice Séguin, Guy Frégault and Michel Brunet, are associated with this new awareness. During the profound transformation then taking place, one that waylaid traditional ideologies, these three authors produced a complete reinterpretation of our history, based on the Conquest and on the crushing mortgage it still imposed on the future of the nation and the individuals who comprised it. The new historiography challenged the compensatory myths (equality of both founding peoples, the French mission in America, etc.) that until then had nurtured nationalism and survival, but despite that it did not conclude that nationalism should be jettisoned — as the intellectuals of Cité libre concluded during those years — but instead laid the foundations of an integrating nationalism that was economic, political and cultural at the same time, and to which a large proportion of Québec’s intelligentsia were to rally during the 1960s and 1970s.

Almost 50 years after the birth of this new type of nationalism, and nearly a quarter century after the election of the first Parti Québécois government, it seems to me that, contrary to what some would have us believe, not only are we not yet out of the survival period, but we may be in the process of forgetting why we had to undertake the Quiet Revolution to escape from it. This oblivion represents a collective memory crisis in which both the identity and the future of the nation are at stake.

Our former name of “French Canadians” provided a simple definition for us: Our language, our religion, our customs told us what we were. Anyone could recognize him or herself as a member of a nation whose distinctive characteristics were, above all else, crucial to preserve. Defined on the basis of strictly cultural criteria, this French Canadian identity allowed for a division between the cultural nation and the political nation. More precisely, it assumed that the French Canadian nation could survive as a minority cultural nation within a political nation over which it had no control. Pierre Trudeau — no more than Laurier or Saint-Laurent before him — did not challenge this assumption. His personal success had the effect of, once again, mystifying us by masking the political and collective reality of a problem which this success in itself claimed to solve. According to Trudeau, the problem was due more than anything else to an outdated way of thinking that had to be changed. In a Machiavellian way, Trudeauism thus exploited the French-Canadian voluntarism from which it had itself descended.

French Canadian.” During the 1950s intellectuals, especially poets, began to suspect that this name was only, and had always been, a decoy, a mirror used to attract larks (“Alouette, je te plumerai, etc.”). The agony of French communities outside Québec amply reveals that O Canada, whether sung in French or in English, is a bell that tolls for the French language and culture in America. The substitution of the word “Québécois” to replace “French Canadian” at the turn of the 1960s showed that people had woken up to this “velvet genocide” and resolved to put an end to it before it was too late. The new name involved the death of the old one, and of all things Canadian: The concept of country had to be less encompassing if it was to be understandable, if we were finally to become “masters in our own house,” as the political slogan of the Quiet Revolution claimed.

This control of self, this political independence, is taking a dangerously long time to come about. Forget for a moment the rather volatile results of the last referendum and consider the current state of Québec nationalism. What’s most striking is the growing indifference of those we now call “francophones Québécois” regarding the question of their national identity — as if the question was drifting further and further from common culture and political controversy, and floating off into the rarefied air of philosophical debate among university-specialists-in-the-national-question; as if, on the other hand, Québec intellectuals believed they could (finally) “ponder the Québec nation” in complete objectivity, setting aside the fact that they themselves belong to it. No doubt they can, but at what price? What is hidden behind this epistemological rupture whose consequences fill the shelves of our libraries? Shame of being ourselves? Shame of our past? Shame of the Groulx who may well still slumber inside us? Things were not always so.

Gaston Miron, poet and writer
The intellectuals of the previous generation (the Fernand Dumonts, the Gaston Mirons, the Pierre Vadeboncoeurs, etc.) never placed themselves above the throng, never set themselves apart from the collective adventure. They took up the unhappy conscience of their nation as if it were their own. (“I tie myself to everything, even to garbage, if I must,” wrote Miron the Magnificent). Their assumptions and their aims were ethical above all, even before being political. And so they never believed that to start thinking about the future of their nation, they had to make a clean sweep of the past. Nor did they believe that it was sufficient to dismiss “our master the past” no longer to be its prisoner. Instead, they backed the “future of memory,” hoping it was possible to cull new meanings from the past, meanings until then forgotten, repressed or censored. Paul Ricoeur wrote somewhere that “Memory has two functions. It ensures time-related continuity, allowing us to move along the time axis; and it lets us recognize ourselves, and say ‘me’ or ‘mine’.”

Does historical memory not fill analogous functions for a nation, by allowing those who are part of it to recognize themselves as such and to say, without shame, “we” or “us”? Denial and shame of the past also proceed from memory, but from a memory burdened by what Freud called “repetition compulsion,” a memory haunted by the remembrance of our past defeats and humiliations, a memory that is missing what the very same Ricoeur called “active forgetfulness” and the “work of remembering.” This work is not the exclusive jurisdiction of certified intellectuals. It relies on a collective education to which all those in charge of a soul are invited. Our identity has to be re-made. It is often said that this identity is now just a question of language. But language is not solely a tool of communication. It also carries memory, whose updating depends in turn, and in large part, on the mastery of language. We will only be masters in our own house when we have won our language back. This was well understood by the judges of the Supreme Court of Canada but also, in Québec itself, by the William Johnsons and Howard Galganovs.

Fernand Dumont, sociologist and philosopher
Fernand Dumont was roundly criticized when he wrote in Raisons communes that there is no Québec nation in the cultural sense of the term — which actually seems pretty obvious to me. What there is, he said, is a French nation, or a French-speaking nation, that constitutes the majority nation within a Québec society in which there are also other, minority nations. An independentist from the very first day, Dumont was also a humanist, and always deeply respectful of the other person in what makes him most “other”: his language and his culture. Moreover, Québec independence needn’t give birth to a new nation-state, but to a new political community (or nation, if you wish) based on the equality of all citizens, whether francophone, anglophone, allophone, or Native. In other words, the reconciliation of the cultural and political nation which Dumont wished for at the end of his Genèse de la société québécoise did not in his mind require them to be one. Dumont used to say that if he was a nationalist, it was from necessity, and that he would never have been one had he been born the citizen of a great nation sure of itself and its future. For him, nationalism was nothing but a means — the means, in this case, that our little nation needed first to survive and then to try to get past the survival in which it had vegetated for more than two centuries. Because survival has its price, a very high price. The fact that nobody talks about it, or at least not any longer, says a lot about the depth of our social failure and the censorship that our privileged cultural class exercises over our culture. Will they ever forgive Dumont for bypassing this censorship and brutally asking the question, “Is a nation such as ours worth continuing?

For me, to be a nationalist today in Québec means answering YES to this question — in the hope that one day our children will not have to ask it, will not have to be nationalists, and can finally, simply, belong to their own nation. As for what’s ahead for us: I am no better able than anyone else to guess the consequences of events taking place during my own life — in which I am participating fully, with my own biases, hopes and fears. To know the meaning of history, as so many 20th century intellectual oracles have boasted, begins with a more or less conscious willingness to escape to the darkness in which De Tocqueville saw “the man of the democratic centuries” advancing, when the past does not shed any light on the future. It is a pitch darkness indeed. Let us not search for new alibis to justify our old fears. Let us interpret it instead as a call for new challenges — the unavoidable challenges that confront small nations who want to go on living in the era of globalization. We will take on these challenges with the same courage we summoned before, during the darkest hours of our survival.


By Serge Cantin, lecturer in political philosophy at l’Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, 2000.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Bill 101 for the brainwashed and the amnesiacs



Bill 101 or the Charter of the French language is often depicted as an excessive, anti-liberal, freedom-destroying law with questionable aims. Anglos don't or simply refuse to understand the need for this law and its purpose. Even when you point out its achievements like increasing bilingualism in Quebec or ending old social inequalities between francophones and anglophones, they refuse to acknowledge that anything good has ever come from what they consider to be an odious law which has “victimized” them.

I suppose it shouldn’t be that surprising, the anglophone media doesn’t exactly present a balanced view of this laws. All we ever really heard about is incidents where the application of this law seems frivolous and those incidents usually get pretty distorted. For example, asking an Italian restaurant to include French translations of the Italian headings on its menu becomes “QUEBEC WANTS TO BAN THE WORD PASTA!” and so forth. Good luck having an intelligent conversation about Bill 101 with someone who has been raised on a steady diet of that crap.

There are even some francophone Quebecers who seem to be completely clueless as to why we even have this law. They’re not afraid of English. They’ve spoken to anglophones before and they weren’t assimilated so what’s the point of this law. Why indeed… Let’s start with a common question:

French in Quebec had survived for 400 years before Bill 101 so why do you need it now?

Well, the short answer is this: After the Conquest, French in North America survived as the language of an ethnic group, a group that refused to assimilate. But power and money, unsurprisingly, ended up firmly in the hands of the English conqueror. To get anywhere in our society you basically had to assimilate or serve the interests of the British rulers in some way. Bill 101 transformed French from the language of an ethnic group who happened to be the majority in Quebec to the language of our society, the common language of Quebecers. It has made it possible in Quebec to do pretty much whatever you want to do in life and to succeed at the highest levels in French. This had not existed here since the Conquest.

To quote historian Charles-Philippe Courtois:
After 1760, Canadiens not only lost their commercial empire in the West but most of their access to executive positions, to the detriment of individual socio-economic success and the capacity to shape their destiny as a people. Before 1760, Canadiens had access to most of the most important business, military, and political positions in the colony, as illustrated (toward the end of the regime) by Philippe de Rigaud Vaudreuil (1698-1778), the last governor general of New France, a Canadien born and raised in Canada. 
After the Conquest, not only did the population lose some of their elites, who moved on to pursue their careers elsewhere in the French Empire, but those who remained in New France lost their handle on government, administration, big business, and the military. The Canadien gentry entered into decline. Gradually, the colony’s elites were overwhelmingly composed of the WASP minority, power residing in the hands of London and of men nominated by Britain. Later that overarching power shifted to Ottawa, an almost entirely English-speaking government before the 1970s, and one that from Quebec’s perspective remains today the expression of an English-Canadian majority, even if at times with strong Quebec contingents.
Quebecers, especially after the failure of the Patriote rebellion in 1837-38, came to accept their inferior status to the English and a certain stability set in. Mansions in Westmount and slums in St-Henri, that was the accepted norm. This continued until the 1960s. A new consciousness arose in the sixties. It was fueled by external factors like the end of European empires and the decolonization of the Third World. And it was also fueled by internal factors like the growing rejection of the old order, i.e. the influence of Catholic Church in Quebec society and the puppet leaders who served the interests of wealthy Anglos (both foreign and domestic).

The declining birthrate among francophones combined with the wave of immigrants which came to Quebec after WWII overwhelmingly joining the ranks of the anglophone community was threatening to change the demographic balance in Montreal. If nothing was done francophones would become a minority in Montreal. This had happened before in the 19th century but with a low birthrate there would be no coming back without integrating more immigrants. That wasn't going to happen in a city dominated by English. There was a growing realization that things needed to change.

An impressive number of studies in the late 1960s and early 1970s documented the relatively low usage of French and the inferior economic status francophones in the workplace.

Some fact about Quebec before Bill 101:
  • 83% of the directors and managers in Quebec were anglophones; 
  • Francophones earned on average 35% less than anglophones;
  • Francophone came 12th in the income distribution by ethnicity, just before the Italians and Native people;
  • Even with the same level of education, francophones earned less than anglophones of any background; 
  • Unilingual anglophones earned more than bilingual francophones;

How to make this situation change? Well, we used the most powerful tool we had; the state. The government of Quebec is the only government in North America which is controlled by francophones and we began to use it to redefine our society. The government of Quebec of the 1960s and 1970s implemented some very important reforms in the areas of economy, education and language. One of these reforms was the Charter of the French Language. This law transformed Quebec society.

Bill 101 was adopted on August 26, 1977. The preamble to the Charter sets out the Quebec legislator's principles of action. It indicates the National Assembly's resolve "to make of French the language of Government and the Law, as well as the normal and everyday language of work, instruction, communication, commerce and business." It recognizes the valuable contribution of the ethnic minorities to the development of Québec and the right of the Amerindians and the Inuit of Québec to develop their language and culture of origin. The preamble also specifies that the National Assembly intends to pursue the Charter's objective with all due respect for the Quebec English-speaking community's institutions.

The Charter proclaims that French is the official language of Québec. It then enumerates a series of "fundamental language rights", such as the rights of workers to carry on their activities in French, and of consumers of goods and services to be informed and served in French. French is recognized as the language of the legislature and the courts in Québec, although judgments and proceedings may be in English, if the parties so agree. The French language becomes the language of communications of the government, its departments and affiliated agencies as well as of government-owned firms and the professional corporations. The administration of municipal, school and health bodies may be carried out in both French and another language if these bodies serve a clientele where more than half speak a language other than French. As for commerce and business, French becomes the mandatory, but not the exclusive, language for labels, signs and commercial advertising (with many exceptions).

The Charter of the French language states that French is the mandatory language of instruction in kindergarten, elementary and secondary school classes. This principle holds for both schools run by school boards entirely financed by the Québec state and for private school that receive some of their funding from the government.

The Charter nevertheless makes an exception to this principle and gives several categories of pupils the right to instruction in English in public or private schools financed by the state under the same conditions as for French-language schools. Canadian Children whose parents received their elementary instruction in English in Canada may receive instruction in English. The Charter protects some acquired rights. Children who, at the coming into force of the law in 1977, had received their instruction in Québec or in Canada in English, retained the right to continue their studies in English.

The law recognized that the Aboriginal peoples of Québec could provide instruction in an Amerindian language. The languages of instruction of the Cree and Kativik School Boards are Cree and Inuktitut respectively, although English and French are taught as second languages.

The anglophone community has had its own social institutions - hospitals, school boards, colleges and universities - since well before Bill 101 came into force. It manages and improves them as it sees fit and they offer Quebec's English-speaking population a varied and full range of services in English. The Charter of the French language did not intend to question either the continuity of these institutions or the principle of the freedom to provide services in the client's language. What changed was the provision that no Quebecer would be wronged by the lack of service in French and that the public acts of governmental and parastatal institutions be carried out in French, exclusively or concurrently with another language.

The results of these reforms were dramatic. The labor market disadvantages of francophones during the 1960s and 1970s were largely redressed by the 1980s. Francophones made significant advances in the workplace in terms of earnings as well as in other dimensions, such as representation in highly-paid professions and managerial positions and ownership of enterprises. In addition, the use of French in the workplace dramatically increased and the historic link between francophone workers and low income disappeared. Also, proficiency in French among the immigrant communities of Quebec and even among Quebec anglophones rose dramatically after Bill 101 and has remained so.

It’s hard to argue that there were no inequalities in the past and it’s hard to deny that Bill 101 went a long way in redressing these inequalities so the usual counter argument is to say that if francophones were economically disadvantaged in the past, it was their own fault. You see, saying that it was our fault is meant to delegitimize our solution to the problem, since it affects Anglos who, according to this narrative, were merely innocent bystanders. 

You’ll often hear something like this:

The reason francophones were poor and completely absent from the higher economic levels is that their priests told them to avoid others and to stay on the land.

This is, in fact, a favourite anglophone fairy tale. We weren’t poor because of economic exclusion and cultural domination, we were poor because we sheepishly listened to our priests who told us to stay on our farms… Yet when the rural areas in Quebec were overpopulated, approximately 900,000 francophones of Quebec left despite the objections of the clergy. They were attracted by the rapid industrialization in New England and the economic opportunities that it brought. If those opportunities had been available to them closer to home they surely would have taken them.

By 1890, an estimated 50 to 150 families of British descent living in the "Golden Square Mile" and Westmount, owned more than a third of Canada's wealth. Montreal was Canada's largest city and its Anglo elite dominated the country. Francophones were not part of the club. Capital was not available to them and positions beyond simple worker required English. That's enough to keep anyone unwilling to assimilate down. The francophone elite remained mostly made up of doctors, lawyers, and priests..."essential services" for the bodies and souls of cheap labor.

Contrary to popular mythology in English Canada, it was the economic shift from Montreal to Toronto, accelerated by the opening of the St Lawrence Seaway, that made a francophone renaissance in Montreal possible. Had Montreal remained the economic center of Canada, all of the people who flocked to Toronto would have come here instead making Quebec's metropolis an English city and Quebec culture would have remained a museum piece frozen in time.

But Toronto took over and many Montreal Anglos followed the jobs to Toronto. This enabled us to take control of our society and of our economy. With the creation of institutions like la Société générale de financement and La Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec capital was suddenly made available to francophone entrepreneurs. Private companies like Cascades, Bombardier, Lavalin, Provigo, Quebecor, etc., benefited from these policies. In 1960 Francophones only controlled 47% of Quebec's economy. By 2000 they controlled 67%. That's a substantial achievement by any standard.

By the 1980s Quebec society harvested the benefits of the economic, educational and language policies adopted during the two previous decades. The rise of new generations of highly trained people transformed all walks of life. Francophones also gained a much higher profile. In the large Canadian and American corporations operating in Québec, where they had long been confined to the lower ranks, they rapidly rose to prominent positions. Private enterprises owned by Francophones became much more numerous and powerful; some of them, such as Bombardier and Quebecor, achieved the status of multinational corporations.

Bill 101 was a big part of the changes which took us from being an underprivileged ethnic group to a nation capable of achieving big things like creating the world's largest hydroelectric producer, Hydro-Quebec, and a nation that can accept and integrate immigrants. We are far more in control of our destiny today than at any time since the conquest and independence is the logical next step. But Quebec Anglos can't see anything positive in the changes we brought about, changes that benefited the majority of Quebecers. They even deny that there was anything wrong with the old order. If we were poor back then, it was our own fault. If a unilingual Anglo struggles in today's Quebec, it's our fault. We are always to blame... 

Our crime is and has always been our insistence on existing in our own right and not assimilating. You see, in the great Canadian multicultural mosaic there is an unwritten law which says that the Anglo-Saxon culture will always come first. They will ban your language from their schools or they will forcibly take your kids away and stick them in deadly residential schools if you don't comply. This is why wanting Quebec's culture and language to come first in Quebec is endlessly denounced as "ethnic nationalism" by Canadians. It's not that it is more "ethnic" in any way, it is simply that it is the wrong ethnic group.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Myths and fallacies about Québec



Fallacy: An argument, or apparent argument, which professes to be decisive of the matter at issue, while in reality it is not; a sophism. The point of an argument is to give reasons in support of some conclusion. An argument commits a fallacy when the reasons offered do not, in fact, support the conclusion. This is independent of whether or not a conclusion is true or false. For example, it is true that some cats are black, but it will never be true that they are black because Oceania is a continent. In this case, the fact that Oceania is a continent, a true assertion, cannot be the reason why some cats are black, another true assertion.

Sophism: Deliberately invalid argument displaying ingenuity in reasoning in the hope of deceiving someone.

Myth: A fallacy that sticks around for a long time. 


1. Quebecers rejected separation on two referendums and by doing so indicated that they clearly wish to stay in Canada.

Quebecers rejected propositions for constitutional changes by referendum on three occasions: at the 1980 referendum on Sovereignty-Association, the 1992 referendum on the Charlottetown Accord and the 1995 referendum on Sovereignty with partnership. The 1992 referendum was initiated by the federal government of Canada, while the other two were initiated by the government of Québec. To find out the details on these, read the Constitutional saga page. There never was a referendum on the status quo, only a few polls with (unfortunately) vague questions most of the time. The most reliable polls seem to indicate that at best 20% of Quebecers are satisfied with the Canadian federation in its current shape. There is roughly 80% of the population that is not satisfied with the 1982/1867 constitution. This 80% (6 million people) is divided between those who wish to reform the federation (nationalist-federalists) and those who want Quebec to leave the federation and be a sovereign country (sovereignists). Both sides have so far failed to gather a majority of the vote at decisive moments. About one half (of the 80% who wish for a change) wants to give more autonomy to Québec within the Canadian framework through profound constitutional changes, the other half doesn't believe that any such transformations within the current regime could bring justice and equality to Québec and consequently opt for independence. It is a fallacy to claim that Quebecers have expressed a strong wish to "stay" in Canada, because people who voted No are not necessarily people who wish for no constitutional change.

Here's how the logic works: A bicycle is green. A group of people want to paint it red, another want to paint it blue and the remainder, a minority, want to leave it as it is. A majority is dissatisfied with the green color of the bicycle. A referendum is passed. The question is: "Do you want to paint the bicycle in blue?". 40% vote Yes and 60% vote No. Therefore, a majority does not want to paint the bicycle in blue. However, this does not mean that a majority wants the bicycle to remain green! Quebecers have expressed their division between the options of constitutional reforms and independence (red and blue in the analogy). Read the information on Indirect Rule to learn about methods used by colonial regimes to divide the opinion of conquered masses. Québec's national issue is as of today still unresolved.

2. Canada is a bilingual country.

First, "being a bilingual country" is a vague statement. What is true is that since 1968, the federal government defines Canada as a bilingual country in the sense that its administration pretends to offer equivalent services in both English and French, according to the preference of the citizen and where the number of speakers justifies the expense. 9 out of 10 provinces in Canada have a solid English-speaking majority. The exception to this rule is Québec, where about 80% of the population is French-speaking. According to Statistics Canada, 85% of the total French-speaking population of Canada resides in Québec. This normally leads people to think that Canada is bilingual in the sense that part of the country is English-speaking while another part is French-speaking. That is not what the federal government claims and in fact denies this geographic reality because this would imply a recognition the province of Quebec's unique character as a predominantly French-speaking society.

There is an interesting paradox between the linguistic realities of Canada and Quebec and their respective language policies. On one hand, Canada presents itself to the world as a bilingual nation (whatever that is supposed to mean) while in reality it is very much an English-speaking nation-state which contains an anglicized French-speaking province. On the other hand, while Quebec presents itself to the world as a French-speaking non-sovereign nation, it is in fact the most bilingual part of Canada. To understand how this came to be, we invite you to read the History section of this site. Here is an overview:

For many generations, Francophone Quebecers born under the Dominion flag dreamed of a beautiful idealized bilingual and bi-national Canada because they saw the "confederation" of 1867 as a pact between two nations: the Canadiens (later Canadiens-français) and the "British Canadians" (eventually the "Canadians" alone). They demanded institutional bilingualism (bilingual currency, bilingual public administration, sometimes even bilingual schools) and most importantly, bilingualism throughout the federation just like in Québec.

In the 1960s, a new generation of Québec leaders finally abandoned this idea for many reasons. We recommend that you read on the Quiet Revolution to try fully understand the analysis of the situation that was made back then. One of the most important reasons for the rejection of bilingualism in Quebec can be understood by reading the statistics published by the 1962 Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Bi-nationalism (Laurendeau-Dunton). The socioeconomic picture of the Francophone communities of Canada was disastrous. For the first time, Quebecers got a clear picture of the use of the English and French languages inside Québec and inside the rest of Canada. Since the 1970s, successive Québec governments, federalist or sovereignist, support the idea that Québec should be as French-speaking as English Canada is English-speaking. Ironically, it is around that time that English Canada began idealizing institutional bilingualism.


3. Québec's economy is not strong enough for independence.

Before the 1960s, Québec was your typical British colony. Just like in India or Australia, the economy was mainly in the hands of loyal British subjects and was primarily based on the exploitation of natural resources (and workers). This is no longer the case in Ontario, Québec and to a lesser extent, in Alberta and British Columbia. Ontario and Québec have diversified post-industrial economies. Have a look at the economy of Ontario on the Government of Ontario's website. Also, read the sections dedicated to statistics and Québec's economy. It might also be useful to remind people that many former colonies declared independence under substantially more difficult circumstances.

4. Hundreds of businesses and hundreds of thousands of qualified English-speaking workers have left Québec because of the rise of separatism in Quebec.

Since the beginning of the industrialization of America, migrations from rural areas or declining cities to booming regions and cities is a well studies phenomenon. You can read a great book entitled Grapes of Wrath on the depopulation of Oklahoma in the United States. Montreal was the metropolis of English Canada from the late 1800s to the end of the Second World War, at the expense of Toronto, the largest city in Ontario. There has always been a great mobility of workers within Canada from the moment they were English-speaking. The same goes for the United States. It can be observed that within a booming city like Calgary for example, a great number of people are from the other Canadian provinces to the point that, together with the immigrants, they form the majority. The interprovincial migration of French-speaking Quebecers is a very different story. Indeed, to them, leaving Québec really felt (and still feels) like moving to another country. In fact, between the 1850s and the 1940s, no less than 900 000 Canadiens-français left Québec for jobs in the United States because of the political situation and its consequences in their home country. (See Laws against French in Canada.)

The case we are concerned with, the interprovincial migration of English-speaking workers from English Montreal to Ontario, can be rightfully studied in this context. The economic decline of (English) Montreal in favour of Toronto began a few decades before the rise of modern Québec. We recommend you read the book Remembrance of grandeur: the Anglo-Protestant elite of Montreal, 1900-1950 by Margaret W. Westley to learn about this. The exile of Anglophones in the 1970s and 1980s is an overly exaggerated myth. It is a fact that during this period a large number of people, mostly Anglophones, but also Francophones, moved out of Québec. Most of the time, they settled in other Canadian cities where English is the language of the majority, unlike in today's Montréal. The role played by Québec's rising pro-independence movement in this is marginal compared with the socio-economic transformations that occurred in Québec before and during the Quiet revolution. During the modernization of Québec society, the French-speaking majority reconquered its own economy and that obviously caused monolingual Anglophones to leave for places where they would not feel like immigrants by being forced to learn French in what they considered to be their own country. (Something Quebecers know very much about since the British Conquest.) The irresponsible and demagogic English-Canadian media, which propagated fear of the evil separatists amongst Anglophones undoubtedly contributed to the exile more than Francophones affirmative actions. The presence of Trudeau's soldiers in Montréal during the 1970 October Crisis surely did not help. As for the hundreds of businesses owned by Anglo-American interests that moved out of Québec, they were replaced by other ones owned by Quebecers. That is called decolonization. This phenomenon has be studies in all parts of the world conquered by the British, the French, the Spanish and the Portuguese.

5. Québec is not a good place to invest money. It is a politically unstable zone.

Canada is a politically unstable country. It will remain so until a) its constitution is reformed to recognize Québec as an equal nation or b) Québec becomes an independent country. Despite this, in recent years, foreign investments have grown faster in Québec than in other parts of Canada. Read the section dedicated to statistics on this site.

6. Québec is not a nation.

Québec is a nation in the sociological and political meaning of the word. In the English language, nation comes from Old French nation which itself comes from Latin nation which means "to be born". This word is unfortunately vague for it can designate different ideas or concepts. Nation can mean a people or a nationality which is a human group who shares some or all of the following attributes: customs, culture, religion, institutions, language and history. That's the definition of the United Nations at least. Another definition is that of the political nation, a human group that is politically organized under a single government, i.e. the government represents the whole people. These two definitions are not in contradiction with each other; as a matter of fact, they often complement one another: you typically have a nation (people) under a national government (state) for example.

Another meaning of the word nation in English is an independent country. Often, people will say that Québec is not a nation, meaning that it is not an independent country and in fact is just a province, a federated state. They are absolutely right on this. That is precisely why there is an independence movement in Québec.

7. The French language currently is and always has been well protected by Canadian and British laws.

Please read Laws against French. The French language is alive and (fairly) well in only one place in North America, in Québec where French is the language of the majority. The relative security and stability of Québec French is directly attributable to Quebecers' will to protect their national language and resist the consequences of Québec's position inside Canada.

8. Francophones were never threatened by assimilation in Canada.

The francophones of Canada belong to two distinct populations: the Acadiens and the Canadiens. The Acadian population was deported by the British government in the middle of the 18th century. It was hoped that by dispersing them in the other 13 colonies they would eventually assimilate in order to survive. To escape the deportation, many Acadians sought refuge in Québec, then known as Canada. Between 1755 and 1763, over 10,000 Acadian civilians, 75% of the total population, were deported. These events occurred in the middle of the French and Indian War and are considered to be among of the worst war crimes of North American history. You can read more on this subject in our section dedicated to history.

The Canadiens did not experience deportation. After the Conquest of 1759, there were about 70,000 inhabitants in Canada (modern day Québec). The British authorities believed that this population would be gradually assimilated under the pressure of British immigration from the neighbouring colonies and Great Britain. Summarizing the evolution of the Canadian political system, which directly conditioned the linguistic evolution of the country, is almost impossible. Rather, we will again invite you to visit the section dedicated to history and follow the amazing story of these 70,000 men and women. What we can say in a few words however is that if the assimilation attempts were ultimately unsuccessful in Québec, it is solely attributable to Quebecers' will to survive.

9. The Anglophone minority of Québec is oppressed.

The English-speaking community of Québec is arguably the most well-treated "minority" in the world. If the Francophones of Canada had been given the same rights as Anglophones, the entire history of the federation would have been different. One important detail is that even though the Anglophones are technically a "minority" in Québec, they are the majority in every other province, which means that the Canadian federation as a whole is largely English-speaking despite Ottawa's symbolic bilingualism. Anglophones are a linguistic majority inside Canada. It is Francophones who constitution the only linguistic minority among the two "official language" communities. The Québec government recognizes Anglophones' linguistic rights inside the Charter of the French language. The Québec government also finances a complete English language educational system from kindergarten to University. Québec Anglophones rarely get to feel like they are part of a minority; rather they often see Francophones as the minority (of Canada).

Mentalities evolve: today, a good number of Québec Anglophones also speak French as a second language and have no difficulty accepting the fact that French is the legitimate public language of this unique part of the world.

10. Quebecers are not an oppressed people and never suffered from the colonization of their country.

The consequences of British colonization in Canada were disastrous for the Québec people and even more disastrous for all Aboriginal nations. Discrimination of all kinds, social exclusion, collective as well as individual impoverishment, exile etc. Quebecers' resistance to assimilation and political oppression is a great lesson of courage for all small nations on Earth.

11. The French of Canada have no national culture of their own.

Ha! ha! ha! ha!

12. If Québec separates, it will isolate itself from the rest of North America and the world.

With the status of an independent nation, Québec will have a seat at the United Nations and every other international body where only nations are allowed to sit. By opening a real network of embassies throughout the world, Québec will be more present on the international scene and will build strong and everlasting links with all parts of the world. With full control over its economic, social, cultural policies, and the power to sign its own treaties, the rest of the world will know Québec and Québec will know the rest of the world more than ever in the past. Really, we feel this follows from the simplest and most down to earth logic there ever was. How did people start thinking otherwise? Or should we say, who could have propagated such a non-logical idea in the population?