Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Exodus


For the third part of my inadvertent Propaganda Trilogy... Er... Well, in case you missed it, part one was about how Maclean's Martin Patriquin distorts issues and twists words in order to misinform his readers about Quebec. Part two was on the prezel-like über-twisting of Jean-François Lisée's words by the media as part of their never-ending mission to delegitimize Quebec sovereignists by labeling them as intolerant. And now, in part three, I will look at a bit of propaganda that has been repeated so often that it has practically become dogma. I am referring to the Exodus Myth! This myth has recently been recounted once again in honour the 40th anniversary of the PQ's first election victory:
"The impressive bank towers of the famous Toronto skyline, and the city’s unquestioned standing as the heart of Canada’s financial services industry, owe much to Lévesque and the PQ."
But I think a better telling of this myth can be found in this Globe and Mail article from a few years back:
"After the Second World War, Montreal was undoubtedly the country's premier city. It had the biggest population, the best parties -- Expo 67 and the 1976 Olympics -- a lovely historic centre, a vibrant café culture and, most importantly, economic power. With a little effort, it could have buried upstart Toronto. 
Then came Mr. Lévesque's Parti Québécois, with its Draconian language laws and rejection of all things national. The anglo population -- the business class -- took the path of least resistance and fled to Toronto. Large companies, led by Sun Life, followed. Dull, constipated Toronto began to thrive and soon replaced Montreal as Canada's economic and cultural centre, all because of the Montreal diaspora. Toronto should erect a 50-metre statue of Mr. Lévesque in gratitude."
This myth is meant as a cautionary tale. It's the story of a bad little ethnic group that imagined itself to be a nation and thought it could set its own rules, but then all of the money flew away. Poor, stupid little Quebec! The moral of the story is that it's best to keep your head down, go with the flow, and submit to the dominant ideology.


A few facts


It is, of course, a fact that Toronto overtook Montreal as an economic center during the 20th century, but to make the PQ the scapegoat of this economic shift is extremely dishonest.

The first signs of this shift began decades before the PQ came into existence. The Toronto Stock Exchange surpassed Montreal's Stock Exchange in trading volume in the 1930s, and it is a position Toronto never relinquished. Throughout the 40s, 50s and 60s Toronto outgrew Montreal by quite a bit. If you're only looking at the cities themselves then, yes, it looks as though Toronto finally overtook Montreal in the late 1970s, but as an economic unit, Toronto had really been larger than Montreal for many years. This is because Toronto forms the center of a collection of satellite cities and towns, in addition to its suburbs, which is called a "conurbation." Toronto’s conurbation, which curves around the western end of Lake Ontario, has been nicknamed the Golden Horseshoe.

Montreal’s economic growth, on the other hand, was not enough to create a conurbation. It was contained withing the city and its suburbs. That is why it is deceptive to compare population sizes of the two cities and jump to the conclusion that not until the 1970s had they become more or less equal in economic terms. Toronto supplanted Montreal as Canada’s chief economic center considerably before that, probably before 1960. Again, all of this occurred before Mr. Lévesque's Parti Québécois and its "Draconian language laws."

Why did this shift occur? There are many reasons but put simply, Montreal was the gateway to the inner continent and so it became Canada’s economic center. With the development of the inner continent on both sides of the border, the economic center of gravity moved west and Toronto benefited from this. The development of infrastructure like canals, railways and of course the St. Lawrence Seaway made this shift possible. It should be noted that prior to the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959, all ocean-going vessels had to stop in Montreal to unload goods which were then shipped to the Great Lakes on smaller vessels or by rail. The Seaway made it possible for ocean-going vessels to simply bypass Montreal.

We can also point to other culprits like the Auto Pact which helped the automotive industry supplant the pulp and paper industry as the number one industry in Canada. Most of the jobs that resulted from this pact were created in southern Ontario. And so people flocked to the Golden Horseshoe with an estimated 1,000 a month arriving between 1956 to 1961. Between 1965 and 1971, the Toronto Metropolitan Area alone gained 185,530 Canadian migrants. These people came from all over Canada including Quebec.

It is true that there was a spike in out-migration from Quebec following the election of the PQ in 1976, and many of the people leaving were undoubtedly anglophones heading for Toronto, but demographically they were just a drop in the bucket. Their exodus was definitely not responsible for an economic shift that had been going on for decades, nor can we say that Quebec nationalism is the cause of this shift.

The truth is actually the other way around. It was the economic shift from Montreal to Toronto that made a francophone renaissance in Montreal possible and this lead to a new Québécois nationalism. Had Montreal remained the economic center of Canada, all of the people who flocked to Toronto would have come to Montreal instead making Quebec's metropolis an English city and Quebec culture would have remained a museum piece frozen in time as Jane Jacobs described in her wonderful book The Question of Separatism.


Fraser's creative interpretations


Like all good myths, the details often change in its retelling but the moral of the story is generally the same. 

A few months ago a right-wing propaganda mill, the Fraser Institute, produced a study about the inter-provincial migration patterns of Canadians. For some reason, they decided to make it all about Quebec. Their conclusions, which were uncritically repeated in the media, is that Quebec has lost 600,000 people to other provinces since 1971. In the study itself, the authors don't give a clear explanation as to why people seem to be fleeing but they suggest that something is very wrong with Quebec because as the Fraser Institute explains, "The movement of people from one place to another, migration, can be a powerful indicator of a jurisdiction’s success or failure" In fact, the subtitle of their so-called study is "QUEBECKERS VOTE WITH THEIR FEET."

The problem comes when you actually read their shoddy report because it says the following:
"Quebec experienced the lowest level of total out-migration of any of the provinces over the period from 1971/72 to 2014/15. In 2014/15, Quebec experienced out-migration of 3.9 people per 1,000 population while Ontario experienced out-migration of 5.1 people per 1,000 population. The remaining eight provinces recorded out-migration per 1,000 population of between 9.2 (British Columbia) and 23.5 people (Prince Edward Island)."
"Put simply, Quebec had the most stable domestic population in terms of out-migration among the provinces over the period from 1971/72 to 2014/15."

So there you go, fewer people leave Quebec than any other province. Is that a sign of our success? Aren't Quebecers voting with their feet by staying? The problem is that "Quebec also recorded the lowest level of in-migration of any province between 1971/72 and 2014/15" and so their is a deficit (with the other provinces). Overall, Quebec's population is growing, of course. 

The population of Quebec was 6,027,765 in 1971 and is 8,294,656 today. On the other hand, the population of Newfoundland went from 522,100 in 1971 to 514,536 in 2011. And it is predicted that province’s population will fall to 482,000 by 2035. In fact, the population of Newfoundland is expected to shrink more over the next two decades than in any other part of Canada. So why didn't the Fraser Institute decide to focus this study on Newfoundland? I get the feeling the authors were intent on making a point specifically about Quebec regardless of anything else.

In interviews with the media, the authors gave what they believe are the reasons for Quebec's inter-provincial migration deficit and it basically boils down to high taxes, an anti-business environment, and a relatively closed society. The most obvious reason, language, was barely mentioned. But the fact is, 42% of Quebecers are bilingual whereas the same is true for only 9% of Canadians from outside of Quebec. So moving to Quebec and living and working in a French-speaking environment is simply not feasible for the vast majority of them, hence, they don't move here. Case closed! Who knows, perhaps the constant anti-Quebec propaganda in the Canadian media is also a factor. 

The Fraser Institute obviously started out with their own right-wing, Quebec bashing conclusions and then tried to make the data fit, but it doesn't really. They must have felt confident that no one in the Canadian media would challenge them on their bullshit... and they were right! These right-wing ideologues loath Quebec's more interventionist model and so they've basically recycled the old Exodus Myth in order to attack it. The moral of the story is essentially the same: a bad little ethnic group thought it could set its own rules with disastrous consequences. It's best to keep your head down, go with the flow, and submit to the dominant ideology.  


Sunday, November 13, 2016

A more inclusive Bill 101


Recently, there was an opinion piece in the Gazette by Deepak Awasti and Murray Levine which called for a "more inclusive" Bill 101. It's hard to believe that it took two people to write this gibberish but nonetheless the article does contain some of the fallacies that are routinely repeated by the opponents of the Charter of the French language, so it is worth addressing. 


An anglophone minority?


The authors attempt to frame this issue in the context of an oppressive francophone "majority" and a beleaguered anglophone "minority." Quebec, however, does not exist in a vacuum. It exists in a part of the world where English is the dominant, majority language and speakers of this language enjoy all of the benefits of this majority status even when they are a numerical minority, like in Quebec. This fact cannot be simply ignored. It's a rather important detail. Anglophones are a minority in Quebec like white people are a minority in Detroit. It's not really something that marginalizes them in any way.

In fact, when a group of anglophones went before the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations in the 1980s claiming that they were victims of violations of article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Committee observed that "provisions of article 27 refers to minorities in States", which English-speaking people in Canada are not. It stated that the "authors therefore have no claim under article 27 of the Covenant."

But even if we consider Anglo-Quebecers as a real minority, they have an enviable situation compared to other minorities. Quebec anglophones have their own publicly funded schools system, which they control. This includes three English-only universities that get almost a third of all government financing for higher education. There are roughly 15 hospitals in Quebec where you are guaranteed service in English. Most government services are available in English on demand. All laws passed in Quebec are written in French and English. You have the right to use English in the National Assembly. In fact, anglophones in Quebec have the right to demand that all of their court proceedings be in English. Therefore a judge in Quebec must be able to render verdicts and pass sentence in English. 

We just need to compare to see the stark differences. In the Greater Sudbury region of Ontario where francophones make up 28% of the population there is only one partially bilingual hospital where, in the words of Denis Constantineau, director of the Sudbury Community Health Center, you can be admitted to the hospital in French, but you will likely die in English because the more you progress in the system, fewer French services are offered.

A study conducted by the Federation of Francophone and Acadian Communities of Canada concluded that: "…access to health care services in French for Franco-Ontarians is severely lacking in hospital services, community health centers, medical clinics, and home care: these four sectors cover most health care services available in Ontario. Hospital emergency services are often the key entry point to the health care system, yet three quarters of Franco-Ontarians are denied such access in their language. 74% of Franco-Ontarians said they have either no access at all or rarely access to hospital services in French. In fact, only 12% claimed that they could access hospital services in French at all times."

Or as we recently saw in the Caron case, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Alberta had no constitutional obligation to translate its laws into French. So Quebec anglophones have rights that francophones in most of English Canada do not have.

And setting aside the issue of rights, there is the omnipresence of American and Canadian media (magazines, newspapers, music, TV shows, computer software and video games) which means that the English language occupies a prominent place in Quebec regardless of anything else. Two of the twelve daily newspapers in Quebec are published in English. 19% of magazines and other periodicals published in Quebec are in English. There are 15 English radio stations in Quebec (vs. 11 in 1970). And 35% of all movies shown in theaters in Quebec are in English. All of this leads to English having a greater power of attraction over French even in Quebec.

No real linguistic minority has a situation anywhere near as good as this. Anglophones in North America, whether they are in Quebec or not, are simply not a minority. They are part of the overwhelming majority. The real minority in this story are the North American francophones. Trying to remove this fact from the context is dishonest.


The sign law


Quebec's sign law seem to produce most of the hysteria from Quebec's anglophone community. It is their most tangible evidence for oppression. I admit that the original version of this law (the French only version) was controversial even though I don't think it violated freedom of expression which is meant to protect the pluralism of political, ideological and artistic expression and is only remotely related to commercial signs. And even with that version of the law, anglophones in Quebec continued to do business in English. The sign law did not prevent anglophone merchants from advertising in English on radio and television and in newspapers, neighborhood publications, etc. It only affected commercial signs. But why regulate the language of commercial signs?

I often compare Quebec's sign law to regulations which aim to preserve a city's unique architectural heritage. Many cities around the world have regulations regarding new construction to ensure that these buildings are architecturally and contextually compatible with the existing streetscape. The reason for this is that some cities have a very unique architectural style and the people who live in these cities wish to preserve it. If they allow people to build whatever they want, over time, that unique style could vanish. 

Quebec is the only French-speaking society in North America. A majority of Quebecers want to preserve this unique trait and feel that people who do business here should contribute to this uniqueness instead of contributing to the dominant current of cultural homogenization. And so, we have regulations to ensure that the “visage linguistique” in Quebec remains predominately French. 

When the Supreme Court ruled against the "French only rule" of Bill 101's sign law (Ford v. Quebec), it still conceded that the purpose of the legislation —to assure the quality and influence of the French language in Quebec— was a valid one. English had become so commonplace in the “visage linguistique” of the province that it “strongly suggested to young and ambitious francophones that the language of success was almost exclusively English. It confirmed to anglophones that there was no great need to learn French. And it suggested to immigrants that the prudent course lay in joining the anglophone community.” Given this threat to the French language, the court decided that although an outright ban was unreasonable, it would not be unreasonable to require “the predominant display of the French language, even its marked predominance.” So the sign law as it exists now is based on the ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada. 


The idea behind Bill 101


There is no denying that Quebec is unique in that it is the only majority francophone state in North America. It is the only society on this continent where you can do pretty much whatever you want to do in life and succeed at the highest levels in French. But the existence of this francophone society in Anglo North America is precarious given the overwhelming dominance of English. Therefore, certain protectionist measures are justified. The Supreme Court of Canada could see the legitimacy of this and most reasonable people can see it too, but there are some who simply refuse to see it.

In their article Awasti and Levine claim that wanting to make French the common language of all Quebecers is excluding people. I really don't see how. Having French as the common langue in Quebec does not mean that it is the only language spoken here just as English is not the only language spoken in Toronto, but it is the common language. People don't get upset if they have to speak English to get some kind of service in Toronto, it's just normal.

Bill 101 aims to create that kind of normalcy for French in Quebec. But some people feel that it is their God-given right as Canadians to never have to speak anything other than English from sea to shining sea. Of course, francophones can never hope to expect such a thing with French, but who cares about that. Anglophones obviously have some greater value which means that they should never be expected to speak the language of "the other."

Are the authors of this article really motivated by a desire for equality and inclusiveness or could something else be motivating them? Well, as it happens, one of the co-authors (Murray Levine) has visited my Facebook page on a number of occasions, and he made the following comment during a discussion on the possible partitioning of an independent Quebec:

"With 70% against separation and the low birth rate of the Quebecois the point is moot. There is not going to be separation and there will likely be no partition. We are stuck with the pouriture of Amerique de nord until Montcalm rises from the dead and defeats Wolfe!"
Murray Levine, Why Quebec needs independence page, April 4th, 2013

Yes, that's right Murray seems to think that an entire people are nothing but rot ("pouriture" [sic] is French for "rot"). Maybe this explains why he is so vehemently opposed to the idea of French as the common language in Quebec. Maybe it's not really about a desires for a more "inclusive" Quebec after all. Maybe his opposition to Bill 101 actually comes from a much darker place. Whatever the case may be, I don't think we need any lessons on inclusiveness from Murray Levine.


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Jean-François Lisée and the Big Lie

"If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself."

European immigrants are the best

"One candidate for the top job [Jean-François Lisée] defines “perfect immigration” as European" 
Konrad Yakabuski, The Globe and Mail, Oct. 3, 2016
"He [Jean-François Lisée] has also sketched out a vision of “perfect” immigration. Surprise, it hails from primarily white European cities." 
Globe and Mail editorial, Oct. 05, 2016 
"He [Jean-François Lisée] warns about the dangers of immigration and says “perfect immigration” involves bringing in French-speaking Europeans"
Toronto Star editorial, Oct. 16, 2016 

These claims are based on comments made by Jean-François Lisée during an interview with Philippe Teisceira-Lessard of La Presse on September 26, 2016. This is my translation of what he actually said during that interview:
"JFL: I have two proposals. 
The best immigration possible is what we are doing right now with Quebec International and its Quebec days. Employers from Quebec, who are experiencing a shortage of labour, travel to France, Belgium and Barcelona, ​​they have kiosks, receive CVs and meet people who can exactly meet the demands for the job. 
Then, they hire this person and bring them here, they find housing for them, schools for their children... these people are immediately integrated. It is the perfect immigration that responds perfectly to the needs of Quebec's economy and ensures the success of the neo-Quebecer.
This concerns me greatly. If we bring people here, it must be in a welcoming environment. It must lead to their success. 
The second thing that I propose: the immigration of graduates. This is to ensure that we attract to Quebec, in our CEGEPs, our universities, our technical schools, francophone students from around the world and welcome them, integrate them, and graduate them with degrees from here. 
So there will be no debate about whether their credentials are good or not, they are our credentials. It's in this way that we will retain the majority them. 
That is immigration that is win-win. It's win for our economy, and it's a win for neo-Quebecers that are immediately on a path of success. 
Q: So the best immigration is the European immigration? 
JFL: Not necessarily, I'm saying francophones from around the world. That means Senegalese francophones and francophones who have French as a second language but who can study in French. So anyone from Shanghai to Santiago who can study in French is welcome. 
Q: So we need to better choose our immigration? 
JFL: Sure. We must not only choose the best, but create paths to the success of every neo-Quebecers. For me an engineers who drives a taxi, or a specialized technician who serves tables... immigrants with shattered dreams, that does not interest me.
I don't want this to happen anymore. So the more we target, the more we will foster success ... and as I say in my program on foreign students, a young Haitian student who is very good, but is penniless, he must be helped to success.
I am willing to not only pay his scholarship, but also his living expenses, so that francophones from around the world will know that Quebec is a center of excellence, and it is a place where they can succeed in life."

How do we get from these words to the claim that Jean-François Lisée believes that the perfect immigration is white and European? It's obvious that Lisée was using the activities of Quebec International with its Quebec days as an example of an immigration that perfectly fits the needs of the host country and perfectly takes care of the needs of the immigrant. It is therefore the perfect immigration which is a success for everyone. Lisée seems to think that all immigration should be more like this. What a monster!

To be fair to the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star, it was the alleged journalist, Philippe Teisceira-Lessard, of the fanatically federalist La Presse who got the propaganda ball rolling by omitting important details of what Lisée said and reporting his comments as: "The 'best immigration possible' it is the workers that Quebec employers recruit in 'Paris, Brussels and Barcelona' who correspond 'exactly to the labor needs' and who are immediately hired and 'immediately integrated'." But you would think that the Globe and Mail or the Toronto Star could have managed to get their hands on an actual reporter to check up on a claim before printing it as truth. You would think that but you'd be wrong. Any opportunity to delegitimize Quebec sovereignists by labeling them as intolerant is jumped upon, not questioned.


Lisée: far-right, bad for humanity


While the "European immigrants are the best" claim was completely made up, other attacks against Lisée are at least based on actual facts. For example, it is true that Lisée wrote an article asking whether we should ban the burka in Quebec. In this article, he claimed that it is also a question of security as terrorists have used the burka to hide weapons in Africa. The Star found this argument bizarre: "He has mused about forbidding women to wear burkas and niqabs in public, using the bizarre argument that they’ve been used by terrorists in Africa to conceal AK-47s"

Again, it's a shame that the Toronto Star doesn't seem to have any reporters on hand to check these things out. In fact, all that they would really need is an internet connection and a search engine to find out that both Chad and Cameroon have banned the burka following terrorist incidents where the perpetrator had used a burka to conceal his weapon, and Senegal seems to be considering doing the same.

While few people in the west would agree that women should cover themselves up from head to toe, it is perfectly legitimate to criticize a burka ban on the grounds that it infringes on individual liberty or the freedom of religion. However, people often criticize the idea because they say that excluding veiled women from the public space is marginalizing them and so preventing them from being exposed to the idea of equality between men and women. To this Lisée replied that "if our society tolerates the overt manifestation of the oppression of women in the public space, it validates the idea that this oppression is acceptable and accepted in our society." So what is really the more liberal view? It's up for debate.

But to some, questioning Canada's state religion of multiculturalism makes you a heretic particualry if you are a Quebec sovereignist. Philippe Couillard used Lisée's article to claim that he was akin to unnamed far-right political parties in Europe. If Couillard truly believed that wanting to ban the burka makes one a fascist then he missed a golden opportunity to call out French Prime Minister Manuel Valls during his recent visit to Quebec since France is one of many countries that have banned this type of clothing. In fact, there are even Canadian Muslims who are in favor of banning the burka. 

Couillard's reaction is really the knee-jerk reaction of a brainwashed lapdog. He is just parroting the line that Quebec nationalism is ethnocentric but Canadian nationalism is universal, which is itself a form of racism. Canadian multiculturalism is irreproachable and the only opinion that you can have on immigration is that you want more. Any other opinion on the matter makes you racist, xenophobic, inward looking and negative for humanity


Conclusion


Propaganda is the deliberate, systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate ideas, and direct behavior to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist. Since Quebec sovereignists reject the Canadian “national idea” and refuse assimilation into Canadian universalism, the impulse among Canadians is to reduce Quebec sovereignists, with their competing nationalism and their own concepts of universalism, to an ethnic group with racist designs. Quebecers are depicted as a minority community incapable or unwilling of defending individual rights or of claiming universalism. This view is routinely presented in the Canadian media. It is sometimes based on exaggerations or outright fabrications, as seen with the "European immigration" claim. All that matters is the overarching narrative of Canadian moral superiority over Quebec. 

But behind this resentment against Quebec nationalism is a tacit recognition that the continued existence of a Quebec nation with its own national identity is a direct challenge to the Canadian imperial system. For it is clear to anyone who knows anything about Canadian history that Canada itself is the product of imperial conquest, and that Quebec is, in many ways, Canada's colony. Anything that has the slightest whiff of self-determination on Quebec's part is seen as a threat to the legitimacy of the Canadian state. Hence the hair-trigger accusations of racism, the hypocrisy, the double standards and the outright slander...


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Can Quebec unilaterally secede from Canada?

The government of Quebec can decide to unilaterally secede from Canada because it holds a right to pursue secession under Canadian constitutional law, and a unilateral declaration of independence would not be illegal under international law. This is based on constitutional and international law, as determined by the Supreme Court of Canada and the International Court of Justice.

With regard to Canadian constitutional law, the Supreme Court of Canada in its August 20, 1998 Reference re Secession of Quebec unanimously affirmed that: “The rights of other provinces and the federal government cannot deny the right of the government of Quebec to pursue secession, should a clear majority of the people of Quebec choose that goal, so long as in doing so, Quebec respects the rights of others.

Hence Quebec has under Canadian constitutional law a “right” to secede. In addition, and according to the court, “(t)he clear repudiation by the people of Quebec of the existing constitutional order would confer legitimacy on demands for secession, and place an obligation on the other provinces and the federal government to acknowledge and respect that expression of democratic will by entering into negotiations and conducting them in accordance with the underlying constitutional principles.” Quebec’s right to secede thus has a corollary, which the Court presents as the “constitutional duty to negotiate.”

The Court did not rule that Quebec has the right to seek to achieve secession “unilaterally.” In this regard, the judges do state that “the secession of Quebec from Canada cannot be accomplished by the National Assembly, the legislature or government of Quebec unilaterally, that is to say, without principled negotiations, and be considered a lawful act.” However the unanimous judges added:

Conversely, violations of those principles by the federal or other provincial governments responding to the request for secession may undermine their legitimacy. Thus, a Quebec that had negotiated in conformity with constitutional principles and values in the face of unreasonable intransigence on the part of other participants at the federal or provincial level would be more likely to be recognized than a Quebec which did not itself act according to constitutional principles in the negotiation process. Both the legality of the acts of the parties to the negotiation process under Canadian law, and the perceived legitimacy of such action, would be important considerations in the recognition process. In this way, the adherence of the parties to the obligation to negotiate would be evaluated in an indirect manner on the international plane.”

This last formulation suggests that if Quebec negotiated in accordance with the applicable constitutional principles and negotiations were unsuccessful, the issue of secession and, indeed of unilateral secession, would become an issue to be dealt with at the international level. Hence, the state of international law on this issue would become highly relevant. And how does international law deal with a unilateral declaration of independence which is adopted in order to effect secession? In its advisory opinion of July 22, 2010, on the accordance with international law of the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo, the International Court of Justice stated as follows:

(T)he Court considers that general international law contains no applicable prohibition of declarations of independence. Accordingly, it concludes that the declaration of independence of 17 February 2008 did not violate general international law.

On the basis of this determination, the government of Quebec, just like the government of Kosovo, can decide to unilaterally secede. And such a decision would not violate international law.

The successive governments of the Parti Québécois have consistently made known that they intend to negotiate the terms of Quebec’s independence with the government of Canada. A unilateral decision to secede from Canada has thus never been the preferred option for the political parties, movements and citizens who promote independence for Quebec. But Quebec’s right to pursue secession, recognized in Canadian constitutional law, should not be meaningless.

After a successful referendum on independence and negotiations conducted by the government of Quebec in accordance with the underlying constitutional principles, a new Clyde Wells (who torpedoed the Meech Lake Agreement in 1990) might well emerge and refuse to adopt the constitutional amendment required to acknowledge and respect the expression of democratic will of the people of Quebec. Such a refusal would then justify a decision to unilaterally secede from Canada and the adoption of a unilateral declaration of independence would become a legitimate option for Quebec. And it would be legal.


Based on arguments presented by Daniel Turp, a law professor at the Université de Montréal, former Bloc Québécois MP and former member of the National Assembly of Québec, in a debate hosted by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute on the question of Quebec's right to unilaterally secede from Canada.


Saturday, September 10, 2016

​The Problem with Multiculturalism


The problem in general


Most educated people, when they hear the word “multiculturalism”, assume it to be synonymous with diversity. It's not surprising, since the word seems to be a conjunction of “multi” (many) and “cultural” (cultures). So the logical conclusion is that multiculturalism is simply a doctrine that says mixing lots of cultures together is good. However, “multiculturalism” is not the same as cultural diversity. 

In political theory multiculturalism refers to an approach that states adopt in order to negotiate the relationship between specific cultures and other members of society. Multicultural policies are an attempt to build a bridge between the state and minority communities by looking to particular community organizations and leaders to act as intermediaries. Multicultural policies accept that society is diverse but implicitly assume that such diversity ends at the edges of minority communities. In other words, they institutionalize diversity by putting people into ethnic and cultural boxes and defining their needs and rights accordingly. 

Multicultural policies tend to reinforce the differences between groups based on ethnic and religious identities. They grant certain “group rights,” often to the detriment of individual rights. They favor tradition over modernism, and community over fundamental human rights by supporting and emboldening traditional religious leaders.

In a sense, multiculturalism is a rejection of modern Enlightenment values. It's rooted in the belief that universal citizenship, equality before the law, and equality of opportunity are insufficient and that the state must actively work to protect the cultures and beliefs of immigrant communities by granting privileges on the basis of membership in these religious or ethnic groups.

As an ideology, multiculturalism encompasses a variety of approaches, not all of them inconsistent with Enlightenment, liberalism or modernity. However, it does tend to place greater emphasis on diversity than on equal rights and equal opportunities for all. Its advocates often push for value pluralism and moral relativism: the idea that different moral outlooks (both those that respect individual liberty, and theocratic or fundamentalist ideologies that do not) are equally legitimate.

Cultures, however, are not homogeneous but complex. Multiculturalism attempts to describe loose groupings of individuals with similar backgrounds, religions or language as a “culture” and then assumes that the diverse individuals within that culture belong to the same “community”. Far from protecting, say, “all Jews” or “all Muslims” from generalizations, it reinforces the political fiction of cultural or religious unity. 

Rather than appeal to Muslims and other minorities as citizens, multiculturalism assumes that minorities’ true loyalty is to their faith or ethnic community. In effect, governments that adopt multicultural policies are subcontracting their political responsibilities out to minority leaders, who rarely represent their entire community and are usually on the more conservative end of the spectrum. This can lead to absurd situation like when Ontario was considering allowing Muslim faith-based tribunals i.e. Sharia law, in its justice system.


The problem in regards to Quebec


In English Canada, multiculturalism remains a sacred cow. The term is often used in contrast to intolerance or even racism, as if anyone who criticizes it must be a xenophobe who hates immigrants. But in reality, multiculturalism is itself a close cousin of racism – Djemila Benhabib calls it “multiracism” – because it exaggerates the importance of the community into which one is born, to the detriment of one’s individuality.

Multicultural policies essentially encourage immigrant communities to hold on to the culture of the country they left. This can lead to insular and ghettoized communities. Canada has been more immune to the negative effects of multiculturalism than many other countries mainly because it shares a language and culture with the global hegemon. Canadian multiculturalism depends on the dominance of American culture on this continent to keep its multicultural "mosaic" together.

This is simply not true for us in Quebec. In fact, the opposite is true. Our existence is in resistance to the dominant culture on this continent. So Canada's multicultural polices, which ostensibly work so well in English Canada, are not at all suited to our reality in Quebec, but they are imposed on us anyways.

Canada has never been a very well defined country. In fact, there have always been widely divergent interpretations of what Confederation, the founding of this country, was really about. To George-Étienne Cartier, the Attorney General for Canada East during the negotiations on Confederation and the principal leader of French Canada, it represented a pact between two nations. This is clear from what he wrote in La Minerve on July 1, 1867:
"Such is […] the significance that we must attach to this constitution, which recognizes the French-Canadian nationality. As a distinct, separate nationality, we form a State within the State with the full use of our rights and the formal recognition of our national independence."
Others saw Confederation as a pact between the provinces. After all, it's the British owned provinces of North America (with certain exceptions) that got together to create the federal government. However, when the Anti-Confederation League in Nova Scotia won 36 out of 38 seats in the provincial legislature, and 18 of 19 seats federally, not long after Confederation, they found that there was, in fact, no way out after Britain refused their secession. Canada's imperial nature became evident to them at that moment.

John A. Macdonald, on the other hand, was in favor of legislative union, i.e. a unitary state with a single Parliament for all of Canada. He didn't get that but to a large extent, Macdonald achieved the type of centralized federalism that he desired. The powers of disallowance and reservation in Canadian federalism made that perfectly clear.

Nonetheless, in the early days of Confederation, there seem to have been some acceptance of the binational nature of Canada, as seen in the Manitoba Act. But that acceptance was soon thrown out the window as the demographics of this country changed and Canada basically became British Canada which begrudgingly tolerated French in Quebec since we were still the majority there. 

In the 1960s, francophones in Quebec began to reject their second class status and wanted to become "master in their own house." There was also a growing demand for the recognition of the binational and bicultural character of Canada and this was even followed up with the threat of "equality or independence." Canada responded by setting up the Royal Commission on bilingualism and biculturalism, presided by  André Laurendeau, editor of Le Devoir, and Davidson Dunton, president of Carleton University. 

This commission agreed that Canada should formally recognize its binational nature. But instead, Canada adopted a policy of multiculturalism. It must be emphasized that this policy of multiculturalism was adopted in 1971 under Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s government as an answer to the prescriptions contained in the commission's report, and that Trudeau's sudden rise to power at that time was largely due to his staunch opposition to Quebec nationalism. 

One of his goals in adopting this policy was undeniably to drown Quebec nationalism in a sea of multiple cultures, thus replacing “bi” with “multi.” So while multiculturalism was enshrined in Trudeau's 1982 constitution, no mention is made of the existence of a Quebec nation. Canada is described as a single, bilingual, and multicultural nation. By recognizing a multitude of cultures, multiculturalism negates any notion of duality and nullifies Quebec's claim to distinctiveness on the basis of culture.

So, we have gone from being one of the founding nations of Canada (at least, that's how we saw it) to an ethnic minority similar to groups of recent immigrants. It's not that we believe that we are more "special" than Italian or Ukrainian Canadians. But let's be honest, Italian or Ukrainian culture is not being created in Canada. They are living and evolving cultures in Italy and the Ukraine, not in Canada. Immigrant communities are simply holding on to the culture of the old country and trying to pass it down to the next generation like some kind of family heirloom. Multiculturalism encourages this behavior but despite these efforts, each generation usually becomes increasingly assimilated into the dominant culture of the host country.

We are no more French immigrants to Canada than Brazilians are Portuguese immigrants to Brazil. Our culture is a 400 year old French-speaking, North American culture that has always been diverse in its own way. It (or remnants of it) can be found all over this continent. Today, however, it is only in Quebec that it is a living culture that can evolve and integrate newcomers. We were our own distinct nation long before Confederation. We are not just another ethnic tile in English Canada's multicultural "mosaic." This Canadian multiculturalism without any constitutional recognition of Quebec's distinctiveness is an inherently assimilationist policy.  


Sunday, July 17, 2016

Justifying the Means

Money and corruption will save Canada

A country united by a slush fund


Years prior to the 1980 Quebec referendum, former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau put it bluntly: "One of the means to counter-balance the attraction of separatism is to use the time, the energy and enormous sums of money at the service of Canadian nationalism." For Mr. Trudeau and the federal Liberals, all means were justified to preserve national unity.

More than fifteen years later, forces fighting sovereigntists would steal a page from the 1980 referendum when all the stops were pulled out to keep Quebec in Confederation, including slush funds, secret contributions and political infiltration.

Much like in the 1990s, the late 1970s saw obscure pro-Canada committees raising secret funds, a Liberal-friendly ad firm executing Ottawa's visibility campaign and there was also an informant -- none other than the Parti Québécois' minister of intergovernmental affairs, Claude Morin, mastermind of the entire PQ referendum strategy -- who was on the RCMP payroll.

As a paid RCMP informant Mr. Morin (he admitted that fact in May of 1992) would give the Trudeau Liberals every reason to believe that they could succeed in halting the separatist threat. In 1974, Mr. Morin persuaded Parti Québécois leader René Lévesque to introduce in the party program not one but two referendums in order to achieve sovereignty: one to receive a mandate to negotiate sovereignty-association with the rest of Canada and another to approve the deal. The strategy served to put the brakes on the momentum the separatist PQ gained when it took office in 1976.

"It was in the mentality of the Liberal Party of Canada at the time to build a steamroller and use whatever means necessary to avoid caving in to Quebec and to finally crush the separatists," said Richard Le Lay, a former Progressive Conservative organizer who was a founding member of a pre-referendum committee.

"The federal Liberals' objective was to take power, hold on to it and eliminate the separatists."

The Canadian Unity Council was a federal government-funded body founded in the 1960s to promote national unity. Two years before the 1980 referendum, a pre-referendum committee was founded after Mr. Le Lay persuaded leading council figures, Jocelyn Beaudoin (the Quebec government's representative in Toronto until his role in Option Canada was revealed) and Louis Desmarais (brother of Power Corp. founder Paul Desmarais), to begin promoting national unity before the adoption of a new law in Quebec that would prohibit corporate contributions to election and referendum campaigns.

Mr. Le Lay headed a public relations firm called The Communications Associates and worked with ad firms such as Vickers and Benson on a number of national unity contracts. Michel Robert (former Chief Justice of the Quebec Court of Appeal who stated that separatists should not be named to the bench) eventually took charge of the pre-referendum committee, made up of seven provincial and federal parties and many pro-unity groups that received direct funding from Ottawa.

At the same time, money from private corporations began flowing into the coffers of a discreet committee of business leaders called the Pro-Canada Foundation, headed by Montreal tax expert Redford MacDougall.

The list of donors, the amounts contributed, the names of fundraisers and the amounts spent were all kept secret. The money was needed to fund ad campaigns promoting national unity and to ensure the federal government's visibility in Quebec. A report was later leaked to the media, which unveiled that the group alone had received $2.7-million from about 115 corporate donors from across Canada who worked closely with the federal Liberal government to defeat the separatist threat.

"As soon as [Jean] Chrétien and his assistant Eddie Goldenberg took over [the pre-referendum committee] before the referendum campaign, everything changed and we were all excluded," Mr. Le Lay said. "It was obvious that under Chrétien and Goldenberg . . . the end justified the means."

The federal Liberals dumped Mr. Le Lay's company and brought in the ad firm BCP, headed by Jacques Bouchard, a close, personal friend of federal Liberal cabinet minister André Ouellet. BCP created a subsidiary firm, Communicateurs Unis, to launch thousands of dollars in ad campaigns for various federal ministries aptly aimed at persuading Quebecers to vote No in the referendum.

"We never knew how much the Pro-Canada Foundation had truly raised or spent before the campaign. It was never declared," Mr. Le Lay said. The money was never reported as official contributions as was also the case in the 1995 referendum, especially during one event when Ottawa recruited corporate support for a major rally in Montreal only days before the vote. It was estimated that the event cost several million dollars.

In both cases Ottawa argued it was not required to abide by laws in Quebec limiting spending. But the Gomery inquiry has offered a look at the workings of the Liberal Party in Quebec, a structure that also has its roots in the pre-referendum politics.

In 1978, when Claude Ryan, a stern Quebec Liberal with impeccable integrity, took over the provincial party, he never suspected the extent of Ottawa's involvement in Quebec politics but he had had misgivings about some of Ottawa's pre-referendum tactics. His main political organizer, Pierre Bibeau, recalled how a shouting match erupted between Mr. Ryan and Mr. Chrétien, then Mr. Trudeau's Quebec lieutenant, at a meeting he attended with his federal counterpart, Mr. Goldenberg, several weeks before the 1980 referendum.

"Mr. Chrétien argued that the campaign was about the breakup of Canada and wanted Ottawa to play a more prominent role. But Mr. Ryan insisted that under Quebec law he was the boss of the No side and refused to cave in," Mr. Bibeau said. "Mr. Chrétien didn't trust the Quebec Liberal Party."

The mistrust partly explained why Mr. Chrétien funded a parallel structure that gave a greater role to the Canadian Unity Council, which before that had limited prominence. When Mr. Chrétien became prime minister in 1993 he was determined to defeat the separatists. He came within a whisker of losing the country in the 1995 referendum and did not want to let it happen again.

"The visibility in Quebec of the Government of Canada had been significantly reduced from the mid-1980's until I became prime minister," Mr. Chrétien told the Gomery commission. "We would ensure that the threat of a new referendum would be removed... We were going to restore the visibility of the Government of Canada in Quebec."


To hell with the rules *


When Jacques Parizeau was asked about the difference between Chrétien’s methods from Pierre Trudeau’s, he noted "there’s a difference in means, but the spirit is the same. Ottawa looks to prevent at all costs the independence of Quebec whatever it takes. Trudeau went as far as to jail 500 Quebecers (in October 1970) for no reason other than to battle sovereignty and paint it as a violent movement."

As for Chrétien, Parizeau added, "he summed up his vision of things pretty well when he declared in 2002 that results showed that his government acted properly since support for independence was lower than it was back in 1995." In other words, for Chrétien, the end justified the means.

Here's how you screw over Quebec and make money...
What he was defending with polls was the unleashing of a pro-unity campaign of unprecedented scope to increase Canada’s visibility in Quebec and strengthen Quebecers’ identification with Canadian symbols in order to reduce support for sovereignty. This, he hoped, would either abort a third referendum for lack of support or win it, should one ever be held again.

A central aspect of Chrétien’s Propagandagate was the sponsorship program: the corruption and money laundering which sprang from the channeling of $250 million of public funds to sponsor events in Quebec, including $100 million that went to Liberal-friendly communications firms. Given the scope of this scandal and its raison d’être to prevent another referendum, Parizeau said this should prompt sovereignists to reflect on how it might affect their own approach.

"One thing is now clear: Through all these years, we followed the laws adopted by René Lévesque on the referendum and the financing of political parties. We obeyed the law and we were had like children. Now we see that the federal side resorted to illegal means and influence peddling. So we must ask ourselves what to do in order to remain respectful of the criteria of honesty we chose for ourselves while no longer being as naive as we were."


Based on an article by Rhéal Séguin , The Globe and Mail,  May 2005.


* “In Canada two weeks before the referendum in 1995 Yes were suddenly eight to 10 points ahead. It was more difficult for us because it was a provincial issue and the federal government I led could not get involved. But in the last nine days I said to hell with the rules and organised a huge meeting in Montreal in which thousands of people flew in to send a message that we wanted Quebec to stay with us.

Jean Chrétien, Sunday Post, September 21 2014


Friday, July 1, 2016

Competing Nationalisms


CHANGES IN QUEBEC DURING THE 1960s


The transformation of nationalist ideology in Quebec is a well known story. With a new conception of the nation as urban, industrial, and modern that became dominant in the 1960, old constitutional arrangements were no longer sufficient. The Quebec government needed additional powers if it were to meet its responsibilities as the only government in Canada controlled by a francophone majority. By the same token, now that francophones formed a modem society their status within Canada had to be redefined so as to be truly based on equality. Francophones had always believed that their relationship with the rest of the country must be based on equality, but English Canadians clearly did not; in fact few of them were even aware that francophones saw Canada as a compact.  

In short, the 1960s saw growing demands for a formal revision of the Canadian constitution so as both to entrench a dualist vision of Canada and, especially, to secure needed powers for the government of Quebec.  

During the 1960s, there were some serious attempts among political and intellectual leaders to grapple with these issues. In 1963 the Liberal government of Lester B. Pearson created a Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism whose mandate included recommending what steps should be taken to develop the Canadian Confederation on the basis of an equal partnership between the two founding nations.  

As for the status of Quebec itself, during the early 1960s Prime Minister Pearson openly recognized Quebec's distinctiveness with such statements as: 

"While Quebec is a province in the national confederation, it is more than a province because it is the heartland of a people: in a very real sense it is a nation within a nation."  

Moreover, during this period the Pearson government allowed Quebec to exercise a de facto particular status by opting out of a large number of joint federal-provincial cost-shared programmes and even exclusively federal programmes.

Although there may not have been majority support among English-Canadian political and intellectual elites, the "two nations" thesis and a special status for Quebec were viewed as legitimate positions for discussion, and did have advocates in English Canada.


CONSTRUCTION OF A NEW CANADIAN COUNTER-IDENTITY AND A NEW CANADIAN NATIONALISM


By late 1960s, however, this effort to accommodate the new Quebec nationalism had been replaced with a new strategy: to deny outright Quebec nationalism, in fact to seek to undermine its underlying bases. In effect, the new Quebec identity was to be challenged with a new Canadian identity. The primary architect of this new strategy was, of course, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, a Montreal-based intellectual and political activist who became Prime Minister in 1968.  

Within this new Canadian identity, there are at least five discrete components: official bilingualism; a charter of rights; multiculturalism; absolute equality of the provinces and the reinforcement of national institutions. Each of these elements of Canadian political nationality can be directly traced to the fundamental objective of defeating the Quebec independence movement.  


Official Bilingualism


Through official bilingualism the Trudeau government sought to establish the myth that the French language was present throughout Canada. Demographically, this manifestly is not the case, and never has been. The use of French has always varied enormously from province to province. Only in Quebec does the majority (80%) use French; the next largest francophone proportion, New Brunswik’s is only 31 %. Moreover, in all provinces but Quebec and New Brunswick assimilation has been very high. As a result, in most provinces the proportion of the population which uses primarily French at home is now below 3%. Nonetheless, official bilingualism gave French the same formal status as English throughout the country, at least for federal purposes, however marginal it might be to day-to-day life.

On this basis, official bilingualism promised to nullify Quebec's claim to distinctiveness on the basis of language by making all of Canada like Quebec. Canada as a whole, rather than just Quebec, would be the home of francophones. As Pierre Trudeau declared in 1968 if minority language rights are entrenched throughout Canada then the French-Canadian nation would stretch from Maillardville in BC to the Acadian community on the Atlantic Coast:

"Once you have done that, Quebec cannot say it alone speaks for French Canadians... Mr. Robarts will be speaking for French Canadians in Ontario, Mr. Robichaud will be speaking for French Canadians in New Brunswick, Mr. Thatcher will speak for French Canadians in Saskatchewan, and Mr. Pearson will be speaking for all French Canadians. Nobody will be able to say, "I need more power because I speak for the French-Canadian nation""


The Charter of Rights and Freedoms


Reinforcement of language rights was, in turn, the central purpose of the second element of the Trudeau government's pan-Canadian counter identity to Quebec's: an entrenched bill of rights which was incorporated as part of 1982 constitutional revision. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms deals with many other rights than linguistic ones: political, legal, mobility, social, etc... But language rights clearly were its raison d'être. The provision for minority-language education rights is the only section of the Charter not to be subject to the notwithstanding clause.


Multiculturalism


A third element of the Canadian identity is multiculturalism, which the Trudeau government proclaimed in 1971. Canada might have two official languages, but it was to be seen to have an infinite number of cultures. The federal government committed itself to "support all of Canada's cultures". Previously, much of the public discussion had linked bilingualism with biculturalism. It was in these terms that in 1963 the federal government under Lester B. Pearson had established its royal commission to examine Canada's national unity crisis: the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism.

The Trudeau government's adoption of a policy of multiculturalism often is seen simply as a reponse to the demands of Canadians whose origins were neither British or French. Many of their leaders campaigned against the concept of biculturalism. Contending that it necessarily excluded their components of the population, they argued for a more inclusive term. But the Trudeau government clearly had an additional purpose in rejecting biculturalism for multiculturalism: by recognizing a multitude of cultures multiculturalism could rein in the notion of duality and nullify Quebec's claim to distinctiveness on the basis of culture.


The Equality of the Provinces


The Trudeau government's fierce commitment to the principle of absolute equality among the provinces was clearly rooted in its determination to counter the claims of Quebec nationalists.

Insisting that "federalism cannot work unless all the provinces are in basically the same relation to the central government", Trudeau declared on one occasion that, "I think particular status for Quebec is the biggest intellectual hoax ever foisted on the people of Quebec and the people of Canada".


Reinforcement of National Institutions


Finally, this insistence on a uniform federalism was coupled with a determination that the federal government play a significant role in the lives of all Canadians (Québécois included), whether it be through programmes of direct transfer payments, such as Family Allowances, or major national undertakings, such as the National Energy Program. From the late 1960s onwards Ottawa was greatly concerned that its actions be "visible" to Canadians.


CONTRADICTORY IMPACT OF NEW CANADIAN "COUNTER-IDENTITY"


Not surprisingly, the new Canadian identity has not fared well in French Quebec, the population for which in fact it had been designed. Not only has the conception of Canada as a bilingual nation with a strong francophone presence from coast to coast lacked credibility in Quebec, but the principle of formal equality between English and French increasingly has appeared as an obstacle to the types of intervention by the Quebec state needed to strengthen the role of French within the province.

On the other hand, each of these elements of a new "pan-Canadian" identity has had a certain resonance in English Canada. Many English Canadians have embraced them as the basis of their own conception of Canada. In particular, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has become a central element of the dominant notion of Canadian nationhood. Equally entrenched is the principle of absolute equality of the provinces: this was amply demonstrated in the opposition to the Meech Lake Accord.

Trudeau's success in mobilizing the federal government, and a good number of mainly of English-speaking Canadians, on behalf of this new Canadian identity presents some striking ironies. Whereas the strategy had been designed to transform the way in which Quebec francophones saw Canada, instead its impact has been primarily upon another population: English Canadians. In fact, the new Canadian identity that Trudeau helped to formulate has become the basis for a new Canadian nationalism which enjoys strong support in much of English-speaking Canada, although not in Quebec. Yet, Trudeau had always professed a deep opposition to all forms of nationalism. This was the rationale for his fierce rejection of Quebec nationalism and his decision to enter federal politics in order to combat it.

Ultimately, this new Canadian nationalism has rendered virtually impossible any constitutional reponse to the new Quebec identity. As a consequence, rather than leading to national integration, federal dissemination of this new "pan-Canadian" identity has deepened the divid between English Canada and Quebec.


Taken from a text by Professor Kenneth McRoberts, 1995