|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 done”1
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 reverse”3
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.
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.