Friday, April 22, 2016

The Acadians take the Royal tour

The Minister of Canadian Heritage, Mélanie Joly, who encouraged us to "learn more about John A. Macdonald's life and vision for a country that values diversity, democracy and freedom", has recently said that "being a constitutional monarchy was a decision that we made." When exactly did we make that decision? I think it was a decision that was forced upon us and we eventually acquiesced to it to some degree. But nonetheless, the vast majority of Quebecers still reject monarchy despite the endless supply of colonised little buffoons like Mélanie.

In any case, let's mark the Queen's 90th birthday by reminiscing a little about the time that the Acadians "made the decision" to accept the British monarchy. In 2002, a group of seven Acadian historians decided to set the record straight after centuries of historical whitewash and the result was called the Beaubassin Manifesto. Here it is...


Grand-Pré: Round them up and ship them out
We, Acadians, are the survivors of genocide.

Genocide is defined as “the systematic destruction of a people or an ethnic group”; this definition corresponds perfectly to the events of 1755, as British intentions at the time were well and truly to destroy a people and its culture. The Acadians were chased, dispossessed, starved and killed; their crops and homes were burned and their cattle killed or stolen. Furthermore, in order to insure the disappearance of the Acadians as a people, the British took pains to systematically divide them into small groups so as to force them to disperse in the thirteen Anglo-American colonies, while denying them the right to move. The British thus forced the disintegration of a society based on the family and their assimilation into the Anglophone colonies on the continent. In light of these facts, it is clear that the British authorities were guilty of genocide.

Half of our people lost their lives as a result, either directly or indirectly, of this exile imposed by the British. Consequently, on an estimated population of 15000 to 18000 people, from 7500 to 9000 people died, mostly the weak such as children. Several factors explain this high mortality rate: the crowded conditions onboard ships (where food and water were insufficient), the epidemics caused by the unhygienic conditions of the voyage, the cold-blooded murder of many Acadians, as well as the order given by Lawrence [1] to starve out the Acadians hiding in the woods. The loss for our ancestors was therefore immense: they were dispossessed of their fertile lands, of their goods and possessions and they had to suffer the dislocation of their society, the disintegration of their culture, along with the enormous loss of life. The British used the banal term of “deportation” to describe this crime. We have enabled this distortion by using our own expression of “Grand Dérangement” (Great Disruption) so as to attenuate our tragedy.

On their side, the victors try to rewrite their own history in an attempt to justify themselves in the eyes of future generations. They also try to constrain us, the descendants of their victims, to accept this revisionist history by threatening those who would tell the truth with major sanctions. [2] This threat of sanctions was sufficient to create a silence amongst our people that has lasted for over 250 years. Right up to the present day, our schools offer a very limited view of our history, and this, out of “respect” towards the conquering people. Thus, we don’t speak of the horrors of “genocide” but of a “deportation.” Only the most audacious books speak of an “ethnic cleansing.”

What are the effects of these lies on the evolution of our people? For us, the signatories, the consequence is obvious: we have lost touch with our history prior to 1755, that is, we have been forced to deny collectively the tragic elements of the period from 1755 to 1763. We assert that the Acadian people are suffering from a kind of collective amnesia: we do not celebrate our heroes; we do not commemorate the important achievements of the Acadian people during its colonial period. We don’t insist either on the success of the alliance and friendship between the Mi’kmaq and Acadian peoples, a friendship that survived all of the trials of the conquests and was broken only by the murderous acts of the British authorities. The Mi’kmaqs and the Acadians built a culture from the symbiosis between the two peoples, a culture that existed outside of the monarchist tradition and in an egalitarian context.

The reality of Acadia prior of 1755 has unfortunately been replaced by the myth of Évangéline. This fictitious character, created by Longfellow, reinforced the image of a conquered people. Évangéline is not history, but a story depicting a servile and victimized people, and it’s this image that we cultivate to this day. How else do you explain that the only Acadian university carries the name of one of those responsible for the Deportation with much of the blood on his hands, namely Robert Monckton? Why isn’t there a monument commemorating the 7500 to 9000 dead of the Deportation? These facts can only be explained by the collective amnesia of the Acadian people.

By not recognizing the importance of the Deportation and its consequences, we cannot properly appropriate our people’s history. Such a consciousness of our history is essential, because without it, it’s impossible for us to live our present lives and anticipate our future. The collective memory of the Acadian people can only be recovered if Acadians become intimately aware of the horrors of the events that bloodied the Acadian coasts. The loss suffered by our ancestors was immense: they were dispossessed of their fertile lands, of their goods and possessions and had to suffer the dislocation of their society, the disintegration of their culture, as well as enormous loss of life.

In order to justify their actions, the British authorities went as far as to pretend that the Acadians refused to swear allegiance to the Crown. Documents from the period demonstrate that in fact it was only a pretext for the Deportation. For one, the Acadian people already swore allegiance. For another, Lawrence already clearly indicated his desire to deport the Acadians. In a letter dated August 9th 1755, he affirms: “I will propose to them the Oath of Allegiance a last time. If they refuse, we will have in that refusal a pretext for the expulsion. If they accept, I will refuse them the Oath, by applying to them the decree which prohibits from taking the Oath all persons who have once refused to take it. IN BOTH CASES I SHALL DEPORT THEM.

The reasons explaining the Deportation are multiple and complex. But two motives are clearly invoked by the British to justify the Deportation. First of all, Lawrence’s correspondence explicitly demonstrates that the Deportation was seen as a measure against a people that the British perceived as a dangerous threat to the security of the territory of Nova-Scotia, due to the alliance of the Acadian people with the Mi’kmaqs, its proximity with Canada and its close ties with France. Another British motive for the deportation of the Acadian people was the illegal appropriation of our ancestors’ fertile lands: “if we succeed in expulsing them, such an exploit would be the greatest that the English accomplished in America, for all will say that in the part of this province occupied by the French are the richest lands in the world. We can then put in their place good English farmers, and we shall soon see an abundance of agricultural products in that province.”[3]

But, what entitles us to seek justice is that the Deportation was even illegal according to British law. It is undeniable that the Deportation was illegal for the following reasons:

  1. In 1755, the Acadians were British subjects. In peace time, the law stipulate that their rights cannot be infringed upon.
  2. Still with respect to British law, the theft of Acadian lands constitutes an illegal act.
  3. As a result of Lawrence’s orders, many Acadians suffered significant damages and others were even executed.[4]
  4. Following the armed rebellion of a dozen Acadians, the British decided to punish an entire innocent people, women and children included, thereby turning all Acadians into a nation of rebels. However, according to the law of the time, only those found guilty of a crime should be punished for that crime.

[1] “If softer methods do not work then you shall have recourse to more energetic methods to embark them and to deny to those who flee any possibility of shelter, by burning their homes and by destroying anything in the land that might provide them sustenance (…)” Letter from Lawrence to Winslow, August 1755.

[2] As one example among many others, we can cite the re-francization campaign launched in Moncton in 1934 by certain people in L’Assomption. They wrote letters inciting the Acadian population to demand services in French in stores. In response, the Anglophones of Moncton immediately boycotted stores belonging to Acadians. In view of this, the Acadians were forced to abandon their campaign.

[3] Letter dated the 9th of August 1755, published in the New York Gazette on the 25th of the same month and in the Pennsylvania Gazette the 4th of September.

[4] Lawrence offered the equivalent of $30 for a scalp from an Acadian man and $25 for a scalp from an Acadian woman, child or a Mi’kmaq.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Martin Patriquin's long road to the Senate

Professional liar
Martin Patriquin is Maclean's chief propagandist regarding Quebec and language issues. His job is to distort, misinform and subtly demonize through insinuation. In a recent article, Patriquin looked at a strange phenomenon in which Quebec is supposedly opposing the rights of francophones while purporting to defend them. The title of this article, "Why Quebec is fighting against its rights", suggests that he will provide us with an explanation for this strange behavior but he fails to do so.

The springboard for all this is the recent case which came before the Supreme Court of Canada regarding the Yukon Francophone School Board vs the government of the Yukon Territory. The francophone school board argued that it should be the school board and not the government that decides who is eligible for French education in the Yukon territory. Shockingly the Quebec government did not side with the school board. How can this be? How does this make any sense when Quebec claims to be defending the French language?

Patriquin doesn't give us a clear reason. He does give us a few quotes from Quebec government officials but without any context. Along with these quotes, he basically insinuates that Quebec must be afraid that a ruling for the francophones of Yukon could force Quebec to give anglophones in Quebec the same rights that francophones in English Canada enjoy. The government of Quebec is, therefore, hypocritical when it claims to want to protect the French language. Its real goal must simply be the suppression of English for bigoted reasons and nothing else. 

In reality, Quebec's position on these matters isn't difficult to understand at all, and has been consistent for a long time. But to understand this position, you need to understand the larger context which is something that Patriquin will never give you. But I will...

The reason

From the beginning of Confederation, francophones believed that Section 93 of the Constitution Act 1867 included language rights. Anglophones believed otherwise, and in the decades that followed Confederation they enacted a whole series of anti-French laws which usually culminated in the banning of French schools. The federal government and the Supreme Court remained almost completely silent during this time even when the rights explicitly guaranteed in a federal act (The Manitoba Act) were being violated.

It was only when Quebec passed the Charter of the French language, which limited the use of English in Quebec, that the Supreme Court sprang into action in order to cut it into pieces. A few years later, a new constitution was imposed on Quebec which incorporated a charter of rights that contained several new clauses severely limiting Quebec's power over matters of language and culture.

Given this context, it is completely understandable why Quebec would oppose any further federal encroachment over its jurisdiction on language through Supreme Court rulings. However, since there is no constitutional recognition of Quebec's distinct situation within Canada (as the Meech Lake Accord potentially offered), these battles must be played out in the context of federal vs provincial rights, which sometimes puts it in opposition to francophones outside of Quebec. 

But really, the root cause of this problem is that the premise on which Canadian language policy is based is simply false. It assumes that there is some kind of equality between French and English in Canada when there is not. One language is a minority language with all of the challenges that come with this reality, whereas the other is the dominant, majority language in this part of the world. And speakers of this language enjoy all of the benefits of this majority status even when they are a numerical minority, like in Quebec.

Canada's approach to language also completely ignores the important differences between the history of francophones in English Canada and that of anglophones in Quebec. The historical situation of francophones – underprivileged in education and income, suffering rampant language attrition, lacking public institutions which function in their language and thus the means to maintain their culture, etc – is somehow made analogous to the situation of anglophones in Quebec, where none of these historical indices of oppression were present. 

A lying bag of crap

Well, there you are, the explanation for Quebec's position on these matters with the context. It's really not that difficult to understand. I think Patriquin's inability to comprehend it is intentional and that his real purpose is to mislead his readers. To prove this point I'll focus on one example from this article, Patriquin's description of the Beaulac case and Quebec's reaction to it:

"In 1999, the Quebec government again intervened in the case of Jean Beaulac, a convicted murderer from British Columbia who, the Court ultimately decided, deserved to have his trial heard in French in his home province. 
Following the Beaulac decision in 1999, Parti Québécois justice minister Linda Goupil gave a decidedly bizarre press conference in which she said the case would “limit the collective capacity of Quebecers to protect the blossoming of their language.” She then quoted Voltaire—“The joy of some creates misfortune for others,” she said—and promptly refused to take any questions in English."

The main problem here is that a transcript of the entire press conference is available online and Patriquin's depiction of it is so clearly fraudulent. Here is some of what justice Minister Linda Goupil said: 

"The Court states that administrative contingencies must not be taken into consideration in respect to that right. The State must take the necessary steps to ensure the existence and maintenance of institutional bilingualism of criminal justice in all of Canada. This means, in practice, that a francophone from British Columbia could demand that in a criminal trial, the Crown prosecutor, the judge and the jury must be able to speak his language, i.e. French. 
I can imagine that the government of British Columbia might question the applicability and practice of this judgment on the administration of justice over there. In Quebec, all anglophones already enjoy, in almost all cases, these privileges. Quebec has been offering this service to its linguistic minority for a long time. 
But the Beaulac ruling does has as an effect in Quebec in that it limits the collective capacity of Quebecers to protect the development of their language. In practice, this will mean that any defendant in Quebec may, to the extent that he has a minimal knowledge of the English language, require that his trial be held in English. Consequently, the judge and the prosecution must be able to speak English. 
This is undeniably an extension of the current practice, which is that when the accused is an anglophone, we take steps to ensure that his trial is held in that language. However, this is a situation which is assessed case by case, depending on the real spoken language of the accused. In practice, this means that many trials are held each year in English in Montreal, Gaspésie and Estrie. 
In conclusion, this judgment is reminiscent of the old adage that the happiness of some is the misfortune of others, I am very happy for francophones outside Quebec but in Quebec we did not need the Beaulac ruling to protect our linguistic minority, they already had these rights."

The Deputy Minister for Legal and Legislative Affairs, Louis Borgeat, then added more information about the different laws implicated in this case and how this ruling might affect them. Questions were then taken from journalists including from anglophone journalists John Grant (CTV) and Richard Kalb (CBC). Mr Kalb asked the Minister if she would answer some questions in English. She said that she would rather not, explaining that she was still in the process of perfecting her English. Mr Kalb then said that this would be an opportunity for her to practice, people laughed and the press conference continued. Later on, the Deputy Minister did answer some questions in English.

Basically, it is impossible to read the transcript of that press conference and Patriquin's account of it without coming away with the obvious conclusion that Patriquin is a lying bag of crap. Why is he completely distorting this 17 year old press conference? Well, like all propagandists, he is not interested in informing the public. His goal is to form public opinion in a certain way. This often requires lies and distortions.

Perhaps, in the end, he hopes to follow in the footsteps of other shameless propagandists like André Pratte who was recently rewarded for his years of service with a seat in the Senate.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Economy

For many, Quebec's economy is seen as the biggest obstacle to our ability to become independent. This section does not seek to demonstrate that Quebec is an economic paradise with no difficulties on the horizon. All states of the world, even the most powerful, face challenges of their own. If Quebec is not an economic paradise whose horizon is free from difficulties, nor is it the economic dunce that some try to portray it as. We have everything it takes to become not only a viable independent state but a more prosperous one.

To begin with, we must remember that we have abundant resources that will allow us to easily transition from our current situation to an independent Quebec. Our mining sector ranks among the top ten producers in world. The main minerals being mined in Quebec are iron, gold, copper and zinc. We also produce titanium, silver, magnesium and nickel as well as many other metals and industrial minerals, including diamonds. And that's just the beginning: 60% of our mineral potential remains unexplored. Forestry is also a sector that can contribute to our development.

We also have large reserves of drinking water. Within the context of global warming, this resource will become increasingly important. Moreover, hydro-power also puts us in an enviable position in this regard, allowing us to attract energy-intensive industries or for export in the case of rising electricity prices. In a similar vein, the St. Lawrence River is an important strategic resource since its waterway reaches the heart of North America. As an independent country, we would be able to regulate traffic and impose regulations and tariffs that seem most appropriate to us without having to account for Ontario's needs. Currently, the bulk of maritime traffic through the St. Lawrence is directed to the Great Lakes without any real benefits for us. The benefits are primarily for the Toronto area.

Finally, our main wealth is, and should remain, our brains. Quebec scientists, artists, athletes and innovators are already bringing Quebec to the world. Having a population that is three times as bilingual and seven times more trilingual as anywhere else on the continent also represents an important economic asset for us.

For any state, possessing wealth - natural or otherwise - is not enough, it must be able to develop competitive industries and companies. It must also be able to protect its strategic interests, that is to say, the competitive advantages it has over other states in certain industries. Like other nations of the world, we too must defend our strategic interests. However, our interests do not always coincide with those of Ottawa. By remaining a province of Canada, we are entrusting an important part of our economic levers to another nation which often has other objectives.

First of all, the industries that get support from the Canadian and Quebec governments are not the same. On the one hand, there is the oil and automobile industries, and on the other, there is renewable energy, aerospace and forestry. When the automobile industry based in Ontario experienced difficulties in 2009, the Canadian government invested $10 billion to help maintain jobs, but when at the same time, similar difficulties were felt in our forestry industry, it was essentially our government in Quebec that came to its aid. As for oil, $1.4 billion are invested each year by Ottawa (over $60 billion since 1970). Meanwhile, Hydro-Québec had to be financed almost exclusively by our government and has never had the benefit of any significant Canadian funding.

Oil prices are another example of the divergence between our economic interests and those of Canada. Low oil prices are good for our economy, but they hinder Canadian growth. The fact is, we do not have an oil industry, the benefits to our economy are at best indirect. The disadvantages, however, are extremely obvious because high oil prices lead to a strong Canadian dollar, which hurts our exports. An estimated 55,000 jobs in Quebec's manufacturing sector were lost in recent years due to the strong dollar. Furthermore, significant costs are to be anticipated for the implementation of Canada's goal for reducing greenhouse gases since Quebec, one of the greenest provinces in Canada, will end up having to pay for Alberta's pollution. Worse still, Ottawa has spared no expense in promoting the tar sands in Europe and lobbying to prevent it from being labeled as dirty energy. In contrast, it in no way defended our hydro-power when in 2010 the US Congress decided to consider hydroelectricity from Quebec as not being clean energy.

Our economic weakness as a province of Canada can also be seen in the area of ​​international trade agreements. The global economy is governed by a multitude of trade agreements concluded between independent states. Canada rarely negotiates and signs these agreement with our interests in mind, but rather with those of the larger Canadian economy (mainly that of Ontario and Alberta). The recent free trade agreement with the European Union demonstrated this once again. During the final negotiations, the Canadian government offered Europe the import 17,000 tons of cheese in exchange for the opportunity to export 50,000 tons of Canadian beef. As European farmers are more subsidized than ours, this deal will greatly harm our cheese industry, which represents 60% of the Canadian total. Obviously, the beef industry, based mainly in Alberta, is satisfied with this outcome.

Everyone makes choices according to their own interests. We can't blame Canadians for wanting to defend their economic interests here and abroad. But then why should the people of Quebec have to justify their determination to defend their own economic interests? Unfortunately, it is almost impossible for us to adequately defend these interests as a province of Canada.

As an independent country, we could better use the money we currently send to Ottawa. The Government of Canada spends billions in areas that are of no interests to the majority of Quebecers. Examples are numerous: intensive military spending, subsidies to oil, the Senate, the Governor General, the monarchy, etc. Under military spending, Canada has more than doubled its funding in the last 14 years ($10.1 billion in 1998-1999 to $21.7 billion in 2013-2014). Canada's 2008-2028 defense plan will cost $490 billion. Therefore, Ottawa will require us to spend almost $113 billion on the military while we are being forced to cut spending on health and education. The plan includes more than $33 billion for the purchase of new ships for the Royal Canadian Navy, of which not a penny will be spent in Quebec, despite the fact that the Lévis shipyard is one of the world's best.

Among these examples of forced expenditure must be added the purchase of more than a billion dollars a year of services paid by Quebec to Ontario via the Government of Canada. Since the majority of the Canadian public service is established on our neighbor's territory, they largely benefit from the money we pay in taxes. Independence would enable us to bring home the bulk of this economic activity.

In addition, many Canadian programs or departments spend far less in Quebec than its economic or demographic weight would merit. As an independent country, we will stop paying for the Canadian Wheat Board, which mainly benefits the West. We will also cease to pay for the Canadian nuclear program, whose expenditures are mainly made in Ontario. Canada has 22 nuclear reactors, 20 of which are in Ontario. Quebec only had one, Gentilly, which will be closed for economic reasons. As an independent country, we will stop paying for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, whose expenses are incurred mainly in British Columbia and the Maritime provinces.

Another striking example is the system of Canadian tax credits that punishes us for some of our social choices. For example, our child care program costs us $149 million in tax credits because child care costs are lower in Quebec than is the rest of Canada. The situation is the same for tuition, we choose to keep our tuition low to promote access to school. The Canadian system, organized around the reality of other provinces, deprives Quebec students of $100 million in unused Canadian tax credits.

We must also consider the significant savings that would be achieved by eliminating the duplication of government. As an independent country, we would not have to pay for two Ministries of Finance, Health, Revenue, Natural Resources, International Relations, etc. Canadian officials of these ministries spend a lot of time administering parallel programs that could be streamlined or eliminated if control is passed to Quebec. One of the most absurd examples of such duplication is that of the Canadian Ministry of Health, which employs 9079 staff but only manages one hospital.

To add to all this, several studies have been done on the effects independence would have on the public finances of Quebec. The latest was done by Stéphane Gobeil who clearly showed that the savings would be in the order of $7.5 billion whereas the costs would be of $5.5 billion. So as an independent country, we would save about $2.0 billion in the first year. In the past, other studies on this issue have all demonstrated the benefits of independence. In 1994, Jacques Parizeau ordered a study on costs and revenues of independence from the Minister for Restructuring, which indicated that we would have saved nearly three billion in 1995. In 2005, François Legault's "Budget of the Year 1" estimated that independence would generate more than five billion dollars in surplus.

With the savings generated by independence, our room for maneuver would be wider, allowing us more choices. For example, a more interventionist government could invest in our strategic sectors, a more conservative government could lower our taxes, while a more left-wing government could reinvest in health and education.


Overall, being a province of Canada does not benefit us economically. We have all the potential to become a rich nation, free and prosperous. Already as a simple province, we have a modern and diversified economy which compares favorably with that of many sovereign countries. However, to face the economic challenges ahead and to bring about solutions that truly meet our needs, we need to decide our own economic future. Our political subordination, however, leaves us with very little leeway. Independence will not bring paradise on earth. We will still have to deal with a number of economic issues like natural resources management, public finance management, defending our economic interests, fighting against poverty, improving living conditions, etc. The difference is that we will have all the tools that allow us to face these challenges. We will, in short, have the power to put into action our own economic vision and undertake projects that fit that vision.

Friday, December 25, 2015

How the West Was Won

On December 4th 2003 in Edmonton, Gilles Caron, a truck driver from Quebec but living in Alberta, turned left on a red light. Pulled over by the police, he was given a ticket written in English only. Five days later, Mr. Caron contested the validity of the ticket because it was not bilingual. He also asked for a trial in French. At the same time, a Franco-Albertan named Pierre Boutet initiated the same appeal.

They were no doubt inspired by George Forest, a Francophone Métis from Manitoba who fought right up to the Supreme Court the validity of an English-only parking ticket by appealing to the commitment made towards the Métis upon the creation of the province of Manitoba in 1870. Forest convinced the Supreme Court to declare unconstitutional the 1890 law abolishing bilingualism in Manitoba. That 1979 ruling caused the restoration of French as an official language of Manitoba. 

Strong tensions

We shouldn’t underestimate what the impact of a victory for Caron and Boutet could have been in Alberta. The anti-French sentiment has deep roots in the West. Marie-France Kenny, the current president of the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadiennes du Canada, remembers that “in the 1950’s, the KKK would burn crosses in front of our schools. The nuns would have to teach us French in secret.”

We should also remember that in 1982, when Manitoba was forced by the Supreme Court to translate into French all of its law since 1890, the provincial government tried to come to an agreement with the Société franco-manitobaine (SFM) whereas it would forego that gigantic expense in exchange for improved services in French for certain ministries. The Anglophone population was nonetheless outraged and the offices of the SFM were set on fire.

The then president of the SFM, Léo Robert, and his wife Diane received death threats, followed by an anonymous letter warning them that their children had been followed from school in order to find their address, and that something bad could happen to the kids if the SFM persisted in its demands. To ensure their security, Léo and Diane were forced to leave their home and relocate their children outside Winnipeg. 

The inherent double-standard

In the end, the defenders of French in Alberta were spared such ugliness since the Supreme Court ruled that Alberta had no constitutional obligation to translate its laws into French. It justified its ruling by saying that it cannot “create new rights” in the plaintiffs’ favor. The Court got creative by adding that “linguistic rights have always been conferred in an express manner”. On that, the Court is partly right, because while that assertion is true for francophones, it was never true for anglophones. In their case, “the silence of the law” has always been interpreted as conferring full linguistic rights. There are therefore two irreconcilable interpretations of rights built along Canada’s historic fault line, the goal of which is unquestionably the domination of one group and the inevitable subordination of the other. The Supreme Court has always had the duty to come running whenever Canada’s fundamental double-standard is threatened.

The Supreme Court’s ruling sticks our noses into the harsh reality that the Constitution of Canada is nothing but an unequal contract built on a nineteenth century assumption of Anglo-Saxon superiority. The rights of Anglos were always held to be sacred but the rights of francophones were always negotiable. Section 133.2 of the 1867 Constitution (BNAA), which is still the law today, states that "The Acts of the Parliament of Canada and of the Legislature of Quebec shall be printed and published in both English and French". Quebec is therefore constitutionally obliged to write all of its laws in French and English but no such requirements were forced on to any other province until the 1980s. And these requirements, as the Supreme Court has made clear, do not apply to most of English Canada.

The country that could have been

Manitoba exemplifies the Canada that could have been, but was deliberately prevented from coming into being. Following the Red River Rebellion of 1869-1870, the Parliament of Canada enacted the Manitoba Act. The Act embodied many of the demands that had been made by Louis Riel and the Métis at the time of the rebellion. These demands had been written in a succession of Petition of Rights drafted by the Métis and their Provisional Government at the time of the rebellion.

Essentially, the Manitoba Act created a Métis province. This had been forced on the Government of Canada by the position of strength of the Métis and by support in Quebec for such a move. John A. Macdonald, felt that the creation of a province, out of a part of the North-West Territory, was premature. The territory was not sufficiently populated and the “true character” of the West had not yet been established according to him. Macdonald probably had in mind a territory populated by white immigrant farmers from Ontario and the British Isles. The idea of entrusting the government of a province to Natives was evidently foreign to nineteenth century Anglo concepts of “proper government”. The provincial status was the first, and main, concession made to the Métis. The province was given the name of Manitoba at the request of the Métis. 

Given the concession of provincial status to the Métis, the federal government insisted on two points that were incorporated into the Manitoba Act: 

  1. The new province was limited to a very small size, to an area immediately south of Lake Winnipeg and extending to the American border – hence the term of “postage stamp province” used to describe the size of Manitoba as created in 1870. It appears that by keeping the province small, the federal government was limiting the “potential damage” in having the Métis put in charge of a province. 
  2. All the “ungranted or waste lands in the Province” – essentially the Crown Lands, the natural resources and the revenue to be derived thereof – were vested in the government of Canada, rather than with the provincial government as was done elsewhere in Canada. Such lands were to be used “for the purposes of the Dominion”. Local control over land was removed from Manitoba as it was expected that the (Métis) government of Manitoba might interfere with the process of land distribution and settlement of white farmers in the province. This lack of control over its lands is what partly explains that the Métis lost control over their province by 1873-1875 as the small Métis population was rapidly submerged by the influx into the province of new settlers, primarily from Ontario. This model of withdrawing control of Crown Lands was later followed when Saskatchewan and Alberta were created in 1905. It created an anomalous situation by which an entire region (the Prairies) was treated differently than the other provinces. This lasted until 1930.
In the House of Commons, much debate took place on the model that should be followed in creating the political and social institutions of Manitoba. Many promoted the Ontario model that consisted of a simple form of government – akin to a municipal government –, a single public school system not organized around religious denominations, as well as a single language – English – in the courts and the legislature of the province. This model, popular in English-speaking Canada, was believed to foster unity. 

Others, mostly from Quebec, promoted the Quebec model. This model fostered diversity. It provided for a dual denominational school system – one that recognized both Catholic and protestant schools – as well as two languages in the courts and the legislature of the province: French and English. In this latter model, the parliamentary institutions were elaborate and followed, as in the case of Quebec, the model of the British Parliament with an upper and a lower house. It is clear that the institutions of Manitoba were shaped in the Quebec model. 

Thus, guarantees were extended to the French and the English languages. At the outset of Confederation, Canada chose the model of diversity, mostly because it matched the situation of the Métis who were French and English, Catholics and Protestants, but also because it was heavily favoured in Quebec. Consequently, in the early days of Confederation, a bilingual and bicultural country was emerging, especially if one keeps in mind that the Manitoba institutions were extended by federal legislation to the rest of the North-West in 1875. However, between 1890 and 1905, virtually all the bilingual and bicultural elements created in the West between 1870 and 1877, were abolished once anglophones had gained majority status and could impose their will over others.

Ein volk, ein reich

The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries witnessed the rise of nativist, racist and otherwise unenlightened movements in English Canada. Throughout Canada, French-Catholic minorities were systematically attacked one after the other in an attempt to make them conform to the White, Anglo-Saxon, and Protestant mold. Everywhere, outside of Quebec, minorities, racial, ethnic or linguistic, were hounded. French-Catholic minorities stood as a symbol: their presence said that difference was acceptable and good, that diversity was welcomed. Their eradication would give to all the same message: conformity was what was desired. 

In New Brunswick, in Manitoba, in the North West and in Ontario francophone rights were curtailed. Even where more justice should have been expected, such as in the federal government and parliament, French rights were openly disregarded. Only after long and protracted battles was French accepted on the stamps of Canada or on its currency, things that should have been symbols of the bicultural and bilingual nature of the country; meanwhile, few French Canadians rose in the civil service or in the army, and discrimination was rampant. Some of the laws that were passed in English Canada during this time included:

1871 - New Brunswick: The Common School Act imposes double taxation measures against French Catholic schools. 
1877 - Prince-Edward-Island: The Public School Act puts an end to the teaching of French in schools. 
1890 - Ontario: The Liberal government of Oliver Mowat adopted a law stating that English must be the language of education except when children cannot understand it. 
1890 - Manitoba: Official Language Act banning French, formerly an official language in the province. Premier Greenway diminishes the rights to French school, abolishes its use in the Parliament and in the Courts of the province.  
1891 - Ontario: The minister of education, George W. Ross, bans all French school books in Ontario. 
1905 - Alberta: The School Act of that year imposed English as the only language of instruction, while allowing some use of French in primary classes. 
1909 - Saskatchewan: The School Act makes English the only language of instruction but allowed limited use of French in primary classes. In 1929, a different Saskatchewan law abolished French in public education. 
1916 - Manitoba: The Thornton Act, by abolishing bilingual schools, completely ends the teaching of French in the province. 
1912 - Ontario: Circular of Instructions Regulation No. 17 and No. 18 Forbids the teaching of French above the first two grades of elementary school.
The Supreme Court never said a word about the rights of francophones during this time. If the linguistic rights of francophones weren’t conferred in an express manner, they did not exist according to the Court. But when Quebec enacted the Charter of the French language which limited the use of English in Quebec, the Supreme Court immediately sprang into action in order to cut it into pieces. The linguistic rights of anglophones in Quebec did not need to be explicitly defined, they were always inherent.

Before Canada’s annexation of the West in 1870, official bilingualism had been the rule when the lands were under Hudson’s Bay Company control; at the time, roughly half of the inhabitants were French-speaking. We shouldn’t forget that it was Lower-Canada (Quebec)’s money that allowed Upper-Canada (Ontario) to get out of a crippling bankruptcy in 1840. And it was in large part Lower-Canada’s money that led to the acquisition of the rights to Rupert's Land in 1870. Yet despite this, the federal government made sure that the West would be English only.

The federal government set out to recruit immigrants by the hundreds of thousands to settle 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 recruited large numbers of British, Irish and American immigrants to fill the West. It was plain to see that the federal government did not care about 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).

The name of the game is still empire

Canada only cleaned up its act in the 1960s, when faced with a growing independence movement in Quebec. It is as it has always been. When forced to, Canada makes concessions, but when it has the upper hand, it imposes homogeneity, since this promotes unity. Today, with French declining across Canada, the federal government just needs to push for the wall-to-wall application of the “personality principle” to language and reject Quebec's attempts at establishing the “territorial principle” within Quebec, as it exists in Belgium and Switzerland. Canada is only promoting this type of “bilingualism” because it is now in its favor. The goal posts may have changed, but the game is the same. It is the domination of one nation over another i.e. empire.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Should Quebec be a country?

The book that makes you say: YES
The independence of Quebec isn’t the project of a single political party or generation; it’s the project of a people striving for its freedom. The political freedom we seek is the same that countries such as Canada, Italy, India or any other possess and will not relinquish: simply the freedom to determine for themselves their way of life on their soil and the ties that bind them to other peoples of the world.

An old question?

Political issues don’t become obsolete simply because time passes, like fashion or music. A political issue becomes obsolete when it is resolved, when the problems that created it are definitely solved.

The issue of Quebec’s independence goes all the way back to the 1830’s and still hasn’t found a solution. As we will demonstrate in this work, the problems – economic or environmental, to name just two – that we will have to face in the 21st century only exacerbate the urgency for resolving that issue.

Letting Ottawa make our political and economic decisions will always be to our disadvantage whenever our interests conflict with those of the Canadian majority. It was true in the past and it’s just as true now, and will remain true as long as we don’t make Quebec a country. Whatever the party in power in Ottawa, this dynamic is inevitable. In the Canadian system, this dynamic is normal and even legitimate; but it’s not to our advantage. In the words of Miron: “as long as independence is not accomplished, it remains to be done1

Obviously, our independence will not guarantee absolute freedom. The peoples of the world don’t live in a vacuum, but in increasingly interconnected political and economic systems. Even independent countries don’t always get to do what they want. They have to take others into account and, ideally, get along with them. They’re subject to strong pressures from external economic and political powers, multinational companies and various lobbies. However, for a people just as for an individual, greater freedom is always desirable since it opens up possibilities and frees them from the hegemony of others. Independence is the best means for standing up to global forces putting pressure on us.

What is independence?

When it comes to the independence of Quebec, we mean political independence. The political independence of a state is its capacity to make all of the laws applicable on its territory, to manage all of the taxes and revenues collected from said territory, and to negotiate all treaties binding it to other peoples of the world. Laws, taxes, treaties: these form the cornerstones of a country’s independence.

A state that does not possess these tools does not fully govern itself and is not free to institute all of the policies necessary to serve its national interests. Who would deny the legitimacy of the freedom that the Brazilians, Congolese or Germans have to determine their own fate? This freedom that we recognize as legitimate for others is legitimate for us as well.

In 1946, the UN had 55 member states2. Today it has 193. Since the 1980’s alone, around forty states have acquired their independence. Amongst all those new countries, few benefited from an economic and social context as favourable as ours and none seem to regret their newly acquired liberty. If self-determination for those peoples were possible, then ours is even more so.

A country can do everything a province can, but not the reverse3

Independent, we would keep all the powers we currently possess. But our powers and responsibilities would increase, and the proportion of taxes and revenues that we control would increase to 100%, like any other country in the world. We could therefore do everything we did before, and more.

Essentially, making Quebec a country will open up new possibilities. It means repatriating our political responsibilities, which would come entirely under the control of Quebec’s democracy. Currently, a large part of the decisions affecting us are taken by the Parliament in Ottawa, where we account for only 23%4 of the seats. This is the case most notably for decisions taken relating to defence, international relations, the banks, monetary policy, the “Indians and the lands reserved for Indians”, citizenship, criminal law, management of the unemployment insurance, telecommunications, interprovincial rail transportation, the transportation of hydrocarbons, maritime transportation, the ports, the mail, subsidies for the arts, scientific research and many more.5

Furthermore, even in areas that should be exclusively provincial, the Government of Canada has ‘spending powers’ that enables it to invest the money we send to it every year into projects chosen so as to serve the interests of the Canadian majority. This regularly happens in the sectors of healthcare and education, where the Canadian government tells us how to spend the money we send it, so as to serve priorities that have nothing to do with our reality. The example of transfer payments for education will be examined in subsequent chapters.

More centralization, less power for us

Not only does the Canadian regime enormously reduce the power we have over key aspects of our collective life, but its very structure encourages an ever increasing centralization of powers in Ottawa’s favor. Indeed, article 91 of the Constitutional law of 1867 gives to the Central Government all new powers and responsibilities that appeared since its adoption. This article attributes to Ottawa what is called residual power. For instance, it’s because of this power that laws related to the internet, a recent necessity, come under the Canadian government. All future responsibilities, those that we cannot even imagine yet, will come under the exclusive jurisdiction of a Parliament where we have an ever decreasing representation.

Independence: to the right or to the left?

When we look at the idea of independence, we tend to wonder if it’s a left-wing or right-wing project so as to know if it’s compatible with our values. Historically, the Quebec independence movement consisted of an ideologically varied coalition that, overall, tended towards the center-left.

Having said that, the independence project is essentially characterized as a democratic project whose goal is the self-determination of the nation. Quebecers will do as they wish with their freedom, like any other people of the world. One can wish for independence so as to eliminate the useless administrative structures that come with being a part of Canada, just one can wish for it so as to free up the funds necessary to finance a more accessible educational system. In any case, the independence issue doesn’t lie on the left-right axis, but on the horizon of self-determination.

Choosing independence means wanting to govern oneself. To oppose it means accepting being governed by the Canadian majority. That is the issue. The freedom of a people, like that of a person, is valuable in and of itself. Would it have been admissible to oppose suffrage for women on the grounds that they might vote more towards the left or the right? Of course not. We do not judge the value of other people’s freedom based on the use they make of it. Let us have the same respect for ourselves.

Independence isn’t going to solve all of our problems, but it will at least give us the tools necessary to solve them. Whatever kind of country one wants, whether it would be more to the left or the right, it is folly to think that we can build it without total control of all of our laws, taxes and treaties that bind us to other nations. Independence won’t be the end of history, but rather the beginning of a new chapter of it, one that this time we will write ourselves.

The book that makes you say: YES

The goal of this work is provide a rational, accessible and concise presentation of the concrete effects of our independence. It is an introductory work that doesn’t require extensive knowledge of Quebec politics. This book does not pretend to answer all questions about the subject, but will instead try to present a multitude of reasons why Quebec should become a country today.

It is our hope that after reading this work, you will, like us, want to say: YES.

Introduction to Le Livre qui fait dire oui  by Sol Zanetti, leader of Option Nationale

1 – Miron, Gaston. Un long chemin : proses 1953-1996. Montréal. Éditions L’Hexagone, 2004.
2 – United Nations Organization, “Increase in the number of member states from 1945 to today.” United Nations Organization, Member states, 2015. Internet, May 30, 2015.
3 – The quote is from Jean-Martin Aussant.
4 – That proportion was 33% in 1867 and has been decreasing ever since.
5 – Government of Canada, “The constitutional distribution of legislative powers.” Government of Canada, Ministry of intergovernmental affairs, 2015. Internet, May 28, 2015.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Trudeau’s Hero Myth: The October Crisis

Forty-five years ago, on October 16, 1970, in the middle of the night the government of Pierre Elliott Trudeau proclaimed the War Measures Act following two political kidnappings by the Front de liberation du Québec. Under the War Measures Act the Constitution and all civil liberties were suspended. 12,500 troops were sent into Quebec —7,500 in Montreal alone (For comparison, 8000 troops were sent to Dieppe in August 1942, a major Canadian operation; and a no more than 3000 Canadian troops have ever been deployed to Afghanistan.) Nearly 500 men, women, and children were arrested without charges, detained incommunicado, without bail and without the right to communicate with a lawyer.  Many of those arrested were poets, writers, artists, and grass-roots organizers. The combined police forces (RCMP, the Sûreté du Québec and the Montreal Police) entered and searched more than 10,000 homes without warrant. Two days after War Measures were proclaimed, one of the hostages, Quebec Labor Minister Pierre Laporte, was found dead in the trunk of a car.

It is a wonder that Pierre Trudeau maintains the aura, internationally and domestically, of the consummate liberal and progressive. Time has come to reassess his record and the best place to start is his proclamation of War Measures in October 1970. For a starter, people should know that one of the first to congratulate Trudeau was Nixon’s National Security adviser, Henry Kissinger, the man who has admitted that he was already in the process of organizing a coup against Salvador Allende.

To justify the War Measures, the Trudeau government claimed that Quebec was in a state of “apprehended insurrection.” In the speech on television explaining the measures, Trudeau spoke of the two kidnappings, the request for help received from the government of Quebec, and “confused minds” in Quebec. However, the leading police force at the time, the RCMP, was opposed to invoking such sweeping measures as a means to free the hostages and arrest the kidnappers. In an exhaustive study based on hitherto confidential documents, security expert and political scientist Reg Whitaker pointed out that “the RCMP never asked for the War Measures Act, were not consulted as to its usefulness, and would have opposed it if they had been asked their opinion.” It has also been shown that Prime Minister Trudeau’s Principle Secretary Marc Lalonde drafted the Quebec government’s request for War Measures and personally carried the letter to Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa and oversaw its signing. The third reason, “confused minds,” does not even deserve an answer. Since when is “confusion” a reason for suspending the Constitution and all civil liberties?

War measures were devised for war, hence the name of the act introduced into Canada’s political life in August 1914. War measures were invoked in Canada during both World Wars. Under the War Measures, the federal government can use all the powers it deems useful—and it alone is judge—to achieve its goals. The government is not required to obtain authorization from anybody. The measures entitled Trudeau in 1970 to say exactly what Louis XIV said three centuries earlier, “L’État, c’est moi.”

The War Measures suspend civil liberties and judicial rights. Censorship is applied, and suspicion, distrust, and denunciations run rampant. When Montreal morning man Rod Dewar declared on October 16, 1970, “I went to bed in a democracy and awoke to find myself in a police state,” he was immediately suspended.

It becomes easy and common to arrest and detain people incommunicado simply because they have, or are suspected of having, ideas deemed to be dangerous by the government. They have no right to their day in court before a judge or to communicate with a lawyer. That was how Italians in Quebec and Ontario were interned during the Second World War. That was how the federal government settled scores with what it considered to be an ethnically closed community of Japanese on the West Coast: 22,000 Japanese Canadians were sent to camps for the entire war and more, and were never again able to reorganize as a community. The War Measures Act was also used to combat opposition to compulsory military service (conscription) in Quebec. The spectacular arrest and four-year internment without trial of Camillien Houde, the Mayor of Montreal, Canada’s largest city at that time, was a severe warning to anybody who might be tempted to oppose conscription. The War Measures Act is based on unbridled authority, fear, and the threat of violence.

With time, truth will out

Three members of Trudeau’s cabinet have stated that the government had no proof whatsoever of an “apprehended insurrection” when the War Measures Act was pushed through cabinet.

Former Trudeau minister Eric Kierans explained in his memoirs that they made a “terrible mistake” and that “their common sense went out the window.” Another minister, Don Jamieson, said in memoirs that they “did not have a compelling case” and that when they met the police just after War Measures were imposed, they were upset to learn that the police had no evidence justifying those measures. Worse yet, declassified British documents revealed that in November 1970 Canada’s External Affairs Minister Mitchell Sharp told his British counterpart that the government knew “there was no evidence of an extensive and coordinated FLQ conspiracy,” adding that the FLQ was known to be no more than “a small band of thugs; there was no big organization; just a gang of ‘young toughs’.” Yet at that very time, the government was still applying war measures in Canada and telling the population about the “apprehended insurrection.”

When the claim of an “apprehended insurrection” began to appear flimsy, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and his Principle Secretary Marc Lalonde floated a story about a revolutionary provisional government that was preparing to usurp power from the legitimately elected government of Quebec. The man used as a conduit for the story was Peter C. Newman, editor-in-chief of Canada’s most widely distributed daily, The Toronto Star. Newman, however, has provided all the details of what he described as the “meticulously concocted lie” that Trudeau and Lalonde told him. That lie continues to be repeated over forty years later.

Might makes right

Just watch me take people's rights away
In spite of the lies, Canadians still massively support Trudeau’s decision to invoke the War Measures Act in 1970 and at the time support for Trudeau's actions in English Canada was almost obscenely enthusiastic. Journalist Robert Fulford remarked that, “The people of Canada believe, not in civil rights, but in civil rights when they are convenient.” And historian Ramsay Cook has noted that Canadians like “peace and they like order” but that “I don’t think this has ever been a country that had an enormous interest in civil rights.

But why invoke the War Measures Act in the first place? The police didn’t ask for it and it arguably lead to the death of one of the hostages. In fact, if we look at the October Crisis as a simple hostage situation then Trudeau's actions seem heavy-handed and reckless. However, if we consider that Trudeau was elected to do battle with the separatist threat in Quebec then his actions make much more sense. The War Measures Act basically gave the FLQ two options: they could carry out their threats or run. Either outcome was a victory for Trudeau. If they chose to run, they were cowards who would never be taken seriously again, and if they carried out their threat, they were separatist murderers who could then be used to tarnish the entire sovereignist movement. Trudeau also exploited the situation to justify terrorizing his political enemies, Quebec nationalists, by rounding them up in the middle of the night and stripping them of their rights. In the end, Trudeau played politics with other people's lives as much as the FLQ did. He didn't pull the trigger but he certainly shares responsibility for Laporte's death.

What Trudeau did was wrong in every sense. It was wrong in the sense of law enforcement; in fact from that perspective, one could call his performance criminally reckless or at best dangerously incompetent. And it was wrong in a larger political sense; he violated the rights of thousands of innocent people. Rights aren't rights if they can be taken away, they are only temporary privileges.

While Trudeau is falsely praised as a champion of charter rights, his defense of the War Measures Act provides a different story: “There are a lot of bleeding hearts around who just don’t like to see people with helmets and guns. All I can say is, go on and bleed, but it is more important to keep law and order in this society than to be worried about weak-kneed people who don’t like the looks of a soldier’s helmet... So long as there is a power in here which is challenging the elected representative of the people I think that power must be stopped and I think it’s only, I repeat, weak-kneed bleeding hearts who are afraid to take these measures.” A reporter asked, “At any cost? How far would you go with that? How far would you extend that?” His infamous answer: “Well, just watch me.

People who admire Trudeau for his handling of the October Crisis are possibly closet fascists who long for a strong man to take charge and put people in their place, but it is unlikely that they would have supported such actions had they been directed towards English Canadians. Declaring martial law in Quebec, on the other hand, was just the kind of thing Canadians were expecting from Trudeau when they hired him, and he delivered. Trudeau rocketed to the head of the Liberal party in the late 1960s because he was seen as someone who could put Quebec nationalists in their place and he used this crisis like a true Machiavellian opportunist to score political points. Unfortunately, Trudeau's martial law machismo also cost Laporte his life. 

Worse than Watergate

The events that followed the October Crisis are even more troubling. More than 400 illegal RCMP break-ins were revealed by the Vancouver Sun reporter John Sawatsky on December 7, 1976 in his front-page expose headline “Trail of break-in leads to RCMP cover-up”. Finally, on April 19, 1978, the Director of the RCMP criminal operations branch admitted that the RCMP had entered more than 400 premises without warrant since 1970. Among the over 400 admitted incidents were the following:

  • In April 1971, a team of RCMP officers broke into the storage facilities of Richelieu Explosives, and stole an unspecified amount of dynamite. A year later, in April 1972, officers hid four cases of dynamite in Mont Saint-Gregoire, in an attempt to link the explosives with the Le Front de Liberation du Quebec (FLQ). This was later admitted by Solicitor General Francis Fox on October 31, 1977.
  • In 1971, the RCMP chief superintendent Donald Cobb oversaw the infiltration of FLQ cells with federal agents, and the releasing of a fraudulent "Manifesto" on behalf of the La Minerve cell, calling for increased violence.
  • The issuing of 13 false FLQ press releases in 1971 from a dummy FLQ cell called André Ouimet, which claimed responsibility for the firebombing of the Brinks Company office in Montreal in January of the same year.
  • On the night of May 6, 1972 the RCMP Security Service burned down a barn owned by FLQ member Paul Rose’s mother in Sainte-Anne-de-la-Rochelle, Quebec. They suspected that separatists were planning to meet with members of the Black Panthers from the United States. The arson came after they failed to convince a judge to allow them to wiretap the alleged meeting place.
  • The kidnapping of André Chamard, a law intern involved in the defence of the accused FLQ members on June 7, 1972. The RCMP first attempted to recruit Chamard as an informer using a drug case he was involved in as blackmail and subjected him to beatings and death threats.
  • A break-in at the Agence de Presse Libre du Quebec office on October 6, 1972 had been the work of an RCMP investigation dubbed Operation Bricole. RCMP speculated in the media that right-wing militants were responsible. The small leftist Quebec group had reported more than a thousand significant files missing or damaged following the break-in. The RCMP eventually pleaded guilty on June 16th, 1977 to the break-in. A similar break-in occurred in late 1972, orchestrated by RCMP, at the office of the Quebec Political Prisoners Movement.
  • In 1973, more than thirty members of the RCMP Security Service committed a break-in to steal a computerized list of Parti Quebecois (PQ) members, in an investigation dubbed Operation Ham. 
  • In 1974, RCMP Security Service Corporal Robert Samson was arrested planting explosives at the house of Sam Steinberg, founder of Steinberg Foods in Montreal. While this bombing was not officially sanctioned by the RCMP, at trial he announced that he had done “much worse” on behalf of the RCMP, and admitted he had been involved in the APLQ break-in.

In June 1977, the Quebec government, headed by the Parti Québécois, decided to launch an inquiry into the RCMP activities in Quebec, the Commission d’enquête sur des opérations policières en territoire québécois (also known as the Keable Commission). Every step of the way, the Commission met with resistance and obstruction from both the RCMP and the federal government who challenged the Commission’s jurisdiction to examine the affairs of a federal agency, arguing that it was invading the prerogatives of the federal government. The Trudeau government succeeded in having Canadian courts declare the investigation unconstitutional, even though a large number of the dirty operations were directed against the people of Quebec. It charged that the Keable Commission would be violating the Official Secrets Act. Solicitor General Francis Fox, refused to hand over subpoenaed documents, using the “absolute privilege” accorded to the Solicitor General under Canada’s Federal Courts Act, a privilege without any recourse to appeal.

Trudeau immediately setup his own competing inquiry, the McDonald commission. The mandate of this commission was formulated with a view to restricting and controlling disclosures of police activities. The reasons for invoking the War Measures Act were not to be examined on Trudeau’s orders. The final report was, according to former solicitor general Allan Lawrence, a “partial whitewash” in that while there was some embarrassing revelations for the Trudeau government, such as when John Starnes, head of the RCMP Security Service, told Trudeau and some of his ministers during a cabinet meeting in December 1970 that the RCMP had been doing illegal things, there was much that didn’t make it in the report. And, unlike the Keable commission, the McDonald commission did not recommend that any charges be laid against RCMP officers involved in illegal activities. Of all the recommendations the McDonald commission did make, only one was implemented by Trudeau’s government with astounding speed: taking the security services away from the RCMP and giving it to a civilian agency, the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS). But right from the outset, some critics wondered why a civilian agency would be less prone to committing illegal acts than the RCMP? Today, CSIS is overseen, on behalf of Parliament, by the Security Intelligence Review Committee. But since we know that bozos such as the weasel-like Phillipe Couillard and his partner-in-crime Arthur Porter were members of that committee at one time, it would seem that the critics were right.

Empire and ambition

Occasionally, an ambitious politician from a peripheral nation within an empire manages to rise to the top. Stalin, for example was Georgian, not Russian, but he became the supreme ruler of the Russian-dominated Soviet Union and an important event in Stalin's rise to power was something called the Georgian Affair.

After the Russian Revolution of 1917, Georgia declared independence in May of 1918, in the midst of the Russian Civil War. However, in February 1921, Georgia was attacked by the Red Army. Stalin played a decisive role in engineering the Red Army invasion of Georgia following which he adopted particularly hard-line, centralist policies towards Soviet Georgia. Stalin favored the elimination of local nationalism and insisted that all three Transcaucasian republics – Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia – join the Soviet Union together as one federative republic. The Georgians wanted their country to retain an individual identity and enter the union as a full member. Lenin disliked Stalin's policy towards Georgia, as he believed all Soviet states should be on equal standing with Russia rather than be absorbed and subordinated to it.

Basically, Lenin did not want the U.S.S.R. to appear as an empire as Communists were meant to be anti-imperialists. Stalin, for his part, needed to prove his loyalty to this new Russian-dominated empire or "union". Crushing his own people did the trick and having a Georgian invade Georgia deflected  accusations of imperialism. Win-win!

Like the Soviet Union, the Canadian state is an relic of empire and remains a “prison of nations.” The use of repression as an instrument of government policy is rooted in the very nature of Canada. But in an age of democracy and the end empires, it was important to get a Quebecer to implement the hard-line on the rising Quebec nationalism of the 1960s. Trudeau was just the kind of unscrupulous bastard that Canada needed.

As for Trudeau's motives for despising Quebec, we can only guess that he wanted revenge on the closed, conservative French-Canadian Catholic society he knew in his youth, not realizing that it was the product of Canadian imperialism, the net result of the collusion between the Anglo-protestant bourgeoisie and the Catholic church. The Canadian empire gave him the means to carry out his retribution against Quebec. All he needed to do was flatter the Canadians on their supposed greatness and assure them that he will take care of their Quebec problem.

Based on a text by Guy Bouthillier

Monday, September 7, 2015

The problem with Canadian federalism

Survivance versus Ambivalence

The two solitudes in Canadian society have long disagreed on a number of fundamental questions. It thus should not be surprising that Quebecers and Canadians have very different perceptions about the purpose and significance of federalism. Canadians have always had ambivalent feelings about federalism in general and antipathetic sentiments about classical federalism in particular. Canadians have tended to view federalism as a hindrance to national unity, and have thus reluctantly accepted the federal form of government, and only then on the understanding that the federal government would be superior to the provincial governments. Quebecers long promoted classical federalism as the best means to ensure cultural survival in a largely English-speaking country, but their faith in the federal form of government has been seriously undermined by the ambivalence towards federalism in the rest of Canada. Quebecers, historically at least, have always wanted more federalism while English-Canadians have generally wanted less federalism. Asymmetrical federalism has emerged as the two solitudes have pushed federalism in opposite directions. 

Sir John A. Macdonald was a reluctant federalist. In the Confederation Debates of 1865 on the proposed British North America Act, he stated a clear preference for a legislative union, and he accepted federalism only when he was satisfied that the proposed constitution empowered the general government with “all the powers which are incident to sovereignty.” Macdonald assumed that matters of national importance would be the responsibility of the federal government, while the provincial governments would be responsible for all matters of merely local importance. The leader of the opposition from Quebec, Antoine Aimé Dorion, agreed entirely with Macdonald’s characterization of the constitution and consequently rejected it. Dorion argued that “that the Federal Parliament will exercise sovereign power, inasmuch as it can always trespass upon the rights of the local governments without there being any authority to prevent it...We shall be – I speak as a Lower Canadian – we shall be at its mercy.”

While Sir Georges Cartier is largely credited with selling the proposed constitution to skeptical Quebecers, Dorion’s fears were most squarely addressed in the Confederation Debates by Joseph Cauchon, a Conservative backbencher. Cauchon endorsed the draft constitution because, contradicting Macdonald, he claimed, "There will be no absolute sovereign power, each legislature having its distinct and independent attributes, and not proceeding from one or the other by delegation, either from above or from below. The Federal Parliament will have legislative sovereign power in all questions submitted to its control in the Constitution. So also the local legislatures will be sovereign in all matters which are specifically assigned to them." In the end, the draft BNA Act was adopted by the comfortable margin of 91 to 33, but among French Canadian voters in Lower Canada the split was a much narrow 27 to 21.

Dorion and Cauchon sparred vigorously throughout the Confederation Debates in the Canadian legislature. The ferocity of this debate cannot be underestimated. It was far more than partisan politics. At issue was the survival of the French Canadian population in the province of Quebec. Dorion was obviously convinced that the proposed constitution was detrimental to French Canadian interests. On the other hand, Cauchon revealed Quebec’s conditional endorsement of confederation: Quebec could only accept the proposed constitution if it entrenched what we now call “classical” federalism. As far as Macdonald was concerned, classical federalism was the principal cause of the American Civil War, and he was adamant that Canada would have none of it. The character of Canadian federalism has changed since Macdonald’s day, but the government of Canada has never embraced the principles of classical federalism, nor have the citizens of English Canada.

It is frequently argued – at least in English-speaking Canada – that it is impossible to maintain the principles of classical federalism in an age of economic interdependence. Without questioning the merits of that argument, it would seem that the government of Canada has made very little effort to maintain the independence of the two orders of government in its pursuit of the economic and social unions, both of which have their origins in the federal government’s “Green Book Proposals” and the first Conference on Reconstruction in August 1945. Mackenzie King opened the Conference on Reconstruction with reassuring words for the provinces: "The federal government is not seeking to weaken the provinces, to centralize all the functions of government, to subordinate one government to another or to expand one government at the expense of the others....we believe that the sure road of Dominion-Provincial co-operation lies in the achievement in their own spheres of genuine autonomy for the provinces."

Later that day, however, Louis St. Laurent elaborated that the objectives of the federal government’s post-war reconstruction program were “high and stable employment and income” and he stated clearly that the “division of responsibility [in Canada’s federal system] should not be permitted to prevent any government, or governments in cooperation, from taking effective action.” On behalf of the government of Quebec, Maurice Duplessis rejected the federal proposals, saying the “complete autonomy of the Provinces constitutes the best safeguard for the protection of minorities as well as an essential condition of national unity and progress in Canada.” Once again, Quebec’s demand for classical federalism fell on deaf ears.

The conference collapsed after Duplessis’s departure, but most of the shared cost proposals made by the federal government were realized in a more piecemeal fashion in the quarter century that followed. The government of Quebec forcefully resisted most of these initiatives, and in 1953 it established a Royal Commission of Inquiry on Constitutional Problems, chaired by Thomas Tremblay, to investigate the operation of Canadian federalism. The Commission expressed the view that federalism was still the preferred option of a majority of Quebecers, but it endorsed a quintessentially classical definition of federalism as an “association between states in which the exercise of state power is shared between two orders of government, coordinate but not subordinate one to the other, each enjoying supreme power within the sphere of activity assigned to it by the constitution.

The Tremblay report, however, had no impact on the government of Canada and its relations with Quebec. On the contrary, the battles between the governments of Canada and Quebec over pension plans, medicare, and other social policies severely strained the federation over the next decade. In 1968, Lester Pearson outlined the federal government’s position in Federalism for the Future. While he was genuinely concerned with linguistic rights, he noted that “the division of powers between orders of government should be guided by principles of functionalism and not by ethnic considerations” and he proceeded to outline an extensive list of powers he deemed essential for the federal government. This list of powers was excerpted and included as an appendix by René Lévesque in his 1978 autobiography La passion du Québec under the heading “Federal Evangelism.” He offered no additional commentary but his implication was clear: if this was going to be the future of federalism in Canada, Quebec would have no part in it.

For the past forty years, the principal conflict between the governments of Canada and Quebec has been the federal spending power – which empowers to the federal government to spend money on matters that it cannot legislate, primarily matters that fall constitutionally in areas of provincial jurisdiction. Whatever the constitutionality of the spending power may be, it is not compatible with the classical conception of federalism, a point that has been acknowledged by the federal government. In 1969, Pierre Trudeau argued in Federal Provincial Grants and the Spending Power of Parliament that "It can be argued that the Constitution should be contrived so as to avoid any need for a spending power – that each government ought to have the revenue sources it needs to finance its spending requirements without federal assistance.... The difficulty with this tidy approach to federalism is that it does not accord with the realities of a Twentieth Century state." Trudeau insisted that "[t]he modern industrial state is so interdependent, particularly in technological and economic terms, and its population is so mobile, that it has become quite impossible to think of government policies and programmes as affecting the people within the jurisdiction of the particular government responsible for these policies."

Thirty years later, the federal government’s view of the spending power was embedded in the Social Union Framework Agreement, an agreement endorsed by all the governments of Canada save Quebec. So, once again, the English Canadian conception of federalism prevailed.

From the constitutional debates in 1865 through to SUFA, English and French Canadians have viewed the merits and purposes of federalism very differently. Will Kymlicka has argued that “it is almost inevitable that nationality-based units [in a federation] will seek different and more extensive powers than regional-based units.” For Kymlicka, then, asymmetrical federalism emerges as these nationality-based units acquire additional powers. But, he argues, asymmetrical federalism is resisted by English-Canadians because they understand federalism in territorial terms. The purpose of territorial federalism – following the American example – is to divide power between several governments to avoid tyranny. The territorial model of federalism assumes that there are no relevant cultural distinctions among the units in the federation.

The government of Quebec has sensed the resistance towards federalism in English Canada, and they have indicated a willingness to allow the federal government to assume a dominant role in the life of English Canadians so long as Quebec is exempt from federal initiatives in areas of provincial jurisdiction, hence opting-out provisions, footnote federalism, and various policy asymmetries in Canadian federalism. On this point, however, English-Canadians raise objections on equality grounds, as Kymlicka rightly notes. Quebec has always sought to maintain its cultural distinctiveness through classical federalism. English-Canadians, however, reject classical federalism in principle. Canadians seem to believe that once a matter reaches a certain level of importance the federal government should assume a role in its governance for all Canadians, regardless if the matter is one of provincial jurisdiction. As English-Canadians reject both classical and asymmetrical federalism, it is little wonder then that Quebec nationalists have given up on Canadian federalism.

Why sovereignty?

From the very beginning of the federation, Quebecers have accepted the fact they were a nation within a nation (or a nation within a multination state). They have accepted their multiple identities, as Quebecers and as Canadians. But Canadians have always refused to recognize the existence of a Quebec people or nation within Canada, and after the departure of Lester B. Pearson, they began to make this rejection more and more explicit.

The transformation of a French-Canadian nationalism into a Quebec nationalism took place during the 1960s. One result of this process was a series of platforms adopted by various Quebec governments. A few examples of these are the 1962 Lesage government's request that Quebec be granted special status; the position of the Daniel Johnson Union Nationale government in 1966, based on the principle of "equality or independence"; the 1967 position of the Liberal party, which proposed a framework between "Associated states"; and the position of the 1970 Robert Bourassa Liberal government which requested that Quebec be granted a "distinct society" status. All of these repeated requests for more political autonomy met with failure during constitutional negotiations and commissions of inquiry.

All of these fruitless negotiations led to the election of the (sovereignist) Parti Québécois in 1976, which promised to hold a referendum on Quebec sovereignty. This referendum, which took place in 1980, was to conclude a process of national affirmation that had begun in the 1960's. Its purpose was to give Quebec a mandate to negotiate political sovereignty and an economic association with Canada. A victory for the "yes" side would have given rise to a second referendum in which the Quebec people would be given a chance to ratify the agreement. This referendum resulted in defeat for the sovereignists.

The referendum defeat of 1980 was due in part to the promises for change made by the Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Yet these changes did not materialize, quite to the contrary. In 1981, the Federal government went ahead with its plans to patriate the Constitution, which was still at that time in England. This patriation essentially enabled Canada to modify all by itself its own constitution. However, the patriation took place without reaching a preliminary agreement among the provinces concerning a new sharing of powers between the levels of government as Quebec had been requesting for many years.

The new constitutional law took effect in 1982 despite the fact that the people had not been consulted. In addition, the federal government ignored a nearly unanimous resolution put forward by Quebec's National Assembly which rejected this new constitutional order. Indeed, the new constitutional order incorporated a charter of rights that contained several new clauses severely limiting Quebec's power over matters of language and culture. It was also a document that did not reflect Quebec's interests and answered none of Quebec's historical demands. Finally, it incorporated an amending formula which is not applicable in practice. It should be noted that the constitution, which has governed Canada since 1982, was never ratified by the people of Quebec or by the successive Quebec governments (either federalist or sovereignist), and it has never been signed by Quebec.

Following this patriation, Quebec tried in vain to negotiate constitutional amendments that would enable it to sign the Canadian Constitution. It asked Canada to adopt five simple clauses, contained in the Meech Lake Accord that would fulfill the minimal conditions for Quebec's signature. This attempt at reform failed in 1990, since legislatures of two provinces refused to ratify the accord. The inclusion of Quebec in the constitution was refused despite the fact that its five conditions were minimal in nature, and would have partly helped to repair the damage done by the 1982 show of political force. Symbolically speaking, the most important of these was the clause granting Quebec a "distinct society" status, and it was this one in particular that Canada refused to accept in 1990.

At that point in time, opinion polls in Quebec indicated that popular support for sovereignty had risen to nearly 65%. Despite its federalist allegiance, the government of Quebec, in power since 1985, felt obliged to form a commission on the political and constitutional future of Quebec — the Bélanger-Campeau Commission — which heard the testimony of people from all walks of life and representatives from a wide spectrum of opinion. In 1991, the Commission recommended that the Quebec government begin preparation for a second referendum on sovereignty to be held the following year, if no formal offer was made by Canada. At the very last minute a Canada-wide referendum on the Charlottetown Accord was proposed. This accord was based on a new constitutional agreement between all the provinces, including the federalists in power in Quebec. It involved some of the points that were contained in the Meech Lake Accord and some additional considerations concerning decentralization. The referendum took the place of the one that would have occurred the same day on sovereignty, but it was also voted down (NO : 55% YES : 45%).

Between 1980 and 1995, Quebec was thus witness to the illegitimate patriation of the Constitution, the imposition of a new constitutional order, the failure of the Meech Lake Accord and the failure of the Charlottetown Accord. In addition, at the time of the 1993 federal election, the Bloc Québécois, a new federal party working to advance Quebec sovereignty, appeared. The party won 54 out of Quebec's 75 seats in Parliament. In the 1994 provincial election, the Parti Québécois regained power in the Quebec National Assembly by promising to hold a referendum on sovereignty the following year. This referendum finally took place in October 1995. The results were 50.6% for the NO side and 49.4% for the YES side but evidence that the federal government illegally funded the NO side has cast doubt on the legitimacy of this result. What is certain is that the issue is by no means resolved.

What is clear is that Canadians reject the existence of a Quebec people or nation. They have rejected the bicultural aspect of the federation underlined by the Laurendeau-Dunton Commission. They have discarded the asymmetric federalism promoted by the Pepin-Robarts Commission. They patriated the Constitution without the consent of Quebecers and against the will of its National Assembly. They have imposed a new constitutional order which does not recognize the existence of a Quebec people, does not meet the historical demands of Quebec, and does not reflect its interests. They have rejected the distinct society clause that was contained in the Meech Lake Accord. They even tried to deny the moral right of self-determination to Quebec by putting the matter in the hands of the Supreme Court.

Canadians like to portray Quebec as a petulant child, always making irrational demands and never satisfied with what it gets (which usually ends up being whatever Canada decides to impose). But in reality, Quebec's position on constitutional matters and its view of federalism has always been rational and consistent. It is the rationality of Canada's consistent rejection of Quebec's demands that we need to question.

In conclusion: Root causes and necessary effects 

No account of the problems of Canadian federalism would be complete without an explanation of the underlying motives of the protagonists in this little drama. What are the root causes behind this persistent disagreement over classical federalism? To answer this, the importance of Canada’s origins cannot be overstated. Indeed, the modern Canadian state is the end product of a long historical development that begins with conquest. The ensuing relationship between the French-speaking nation and the English-speaking nation in Canada was never a relationship between equals. One nation clearly dominated the other and at times actively sought its disappearance.

It is this unequal relationship that explains all of the acts of legal violence done by Canada against Quebec, such as the imposition of the 1982 Constitution against Quebec’s will. A Constitution that comes with a charter supposedly to protect individual rights but also, by coincidence, reduces the powers of Quebec’s National Assembly. A Constitution that undermines legislation like Bill 101, designed to protect the French language in Quebec. This undermining was upheld by the Supreme Court, whose judges are appointed, also coincidentally, by Ottawa.

The disagreement over federalism therefore comes down to questions of national identity. Quebecers want the classical form of federalism because it will guarantee them a measure of autonomy that cannot be arbitrarily abolished whenever Canada considers it inconvenient. This is the attitude of a people who care about their nation and want to protect its interests. Canadians, on the other hand, want a form of federalism that is ever more centralized, because they know this will strengthen Canadian power and identity. They are also viscerally opposed to any recognition of Quebec as a distinct society, nation or anything else, because they know that such an identity would rival and undermine the Canadian identity in Quebec. On the other hand, a system with a strong central government and the provinces reduced to mere administrative units, a system with no national distinctions, a system under the highly symmetrical but totally unrealistic official languages act, would in the long run lead to the demise of Quebec’s national identity along with the French language.

Quebec as a nation cannot exist within Canadian federalism; this should be abundantly clear by now. However, there are Quebecers who, out of fear or a sense of self-loathing, still blind themselves to this obvious fact and still cling to the idea that a compromise is possible or, as is the case with our current Primer, Phillippe Couillard, don’t seem to have any demands left. This type of complete capitulation is a road to disaster for Quebec. Quebec must declare itself to be sovereign nation in order to break free from this relationship of dominance and exist as a free people. We cannot completely melt into a centralized Canada without losing who we are as a people and assimilating. Canadians have clearly said no to any recognition of a Quebec nation within Canada, so the only logical, realistic alternative to capitulation and assimilation is independence for Quebec.

Based on articles by Hamish Telford, Department of Political Science, University College of the Fraser Valley, and Michel Seymour, Department of Philosophy, University of Montreal