Quebec Nationalism 2 Essay, Research Paper
The question of whether Quebec will secede from Canada to become an independent nation has been a hot topic in the country for several years now. It dates back to the abortive rebellions of 1837-38. In 1980, a referendum to secede was rejected by a 60-40 margin. Since then though, the numbers of Quebeckers that want to become sovereign has significantly increased. There is so many questions of what will happen if this does happen. In this paper I plan to take a deeper look at this situation and try to figure out what it would actually be like if Quebec was its own country.
The premier of Quebec, Lucien Bouchard has been attempting to separate from Canada for quite sometime. If he had it his way this topic would be old news by now. His main problem is the Federalist, English speaking citizens of his province. They have been very vocal on their stance to stay apart of Canada. They have sent around several resolutions stating this. It all started in Allumette Island East, which has a population of 458. It has since spread to municipalities along the borders with Ontario and the United States, and in the Montreal area. Unfortunately this means very little considering the fact that these municipalities only represent approximately 6% of the province s population. When the Parti Quebecois government called for the first referendum on secession in 1980, only 40% were in favor of separatism. When the party took over control again in 1995 the approval rose just about 49%. The fear of the PQ is that if several of the floating voters out there feel that a sovereign Quebec must mean a partitioned, patchwork Quebec, the separatists might well fall back to 40% if that.
One group of Quebeckers with the strongest-and geographically the widest claims for self determination, the Cree, Inuit, and Innu who occupy the resource-rich northern two-thirds of the province. The views of these nations oddly enough seem to go unmentioned. During the 1995 attempt to secede these three groups all voted by more than 95% to stick with Canada.
People outside of Canada are baffled at how Canada ended up in such a state of affairs. Canada as a country has a lot going for it. A high GNP, and high per capita income in international terms. It is ranked at the top of the list by the United Nations for quality of life. Canada is also considered a constructive member of the international community. They take part in just about all international organizations in existence. Don t get me wrong, there are also many problems within the Country. For instance the rocky relationship between the majority and the indigenous people. There is also a great differential of wealth between regions, and inequalities in personal incomes. Despite all of this, many feel that this is not the reason for Quebec secession.
Quebec has 24 percent of the total population of Canada, and 25 percent of its Gross National Product. The majority of Quebec s population is of French descent and language. It reaches approximately 83 percent of the entire province. About 60 percent of the French voted for secession in the 1995 referendum, at a remarkably high turn out, 94 percent of the total electorate.
It is noteworthy that of those francophone Quebeckers favoring federalism were the older group over 50 years of age. However, in the younger age group pro-secessionists had the majority. The anglophones, allophones, and the indigenous people were all strongly against secession. The premier of Quebec Lucien Bouchard has in fact stated that there will be another referendum. Although under Quebec Law this cannot take place until another provincial election has been held. However, the Government is now more concerned with rebounding Quebec s struggling economy which has struggled as a result of the political uncertainty. The drive for secession is currently on the political back burner in the province for the moment.
Most Quebeckers see themselves as having two identities, first as Quebeckers, and then as Canadians. The Parti Quebecois has concentrated on the politics of reassurance. Their goal is to make citizens feel stable if in fact they were to secede from Canada. An independent Quebec would still be able to continue to use the Canadien dollar, Canadien passports, and have a mutually beneficial economic association with Canada.
The core argument still remains that the French speaking Quebeckers possess a common language, history, culture, that they formed a people, and that they could only feel comfortable if they were to have their own state. There is no doubt that the economy has been greatly affected by the talks of secession. Unemployment has also increased as a result of this. Montreal which was once the leading city in Canada, now has an unemployment ranking of 12%. Its share of private capital formation has dropped to 15%. Quebec is also in high governmental debt and budget deficits and is now only beginning to work on these problems. There have been several studies done based on secession. It is felt that if Quebec did in fact secede from Canada they would suffer in the short term.
If Quebec wanted to enter the NAFTA Trade Agreement several of their economic practices could be called in to question by the United States. It is thought that if Quebec were to use the Canadien dollar it would only be for the short term. Eventually they would be better off with there own currency. Jeffrey Simpson feels that Quebec would suffer for some ten years or so from separation, but he personally felt that Quebec could become a viable economic state.
The majority of Canadians do not want Quebec to leave. However, many feel that Quebec is the spoiled child of the confederation. Would Canada be able to keep together if Quebec were to secede? If Quebec secedes, how would the international community react? It will be interesting to see if the United States would accept Quebec s secession, or would they wait to see Canada s reaction?
So far in this paper we have seen the effect that the secession of Quebec has had on the economy. Now we are gonna take a deeper look at why exactly they so desperately want to secede from Canada. The main fear in Canada is that the separation of Quebec will lead to a domino effect in the country, which could result in a bunch of small countries. This could eventually lead to North America unraveling. Ironically, both the Quebec government and the Canadien government in Ottawa feel that even if Quebec were to secede the rest of Canada will remain united. Several outsiders feel that the secession of Quebec would be good for Canada. This is because of all the money that is spent on bilingualization and transferred needlessly from rich province to poor province in an effort to keep Quebec inside the confederation that after separation both Quebec and English-speaking Canada would be better off, financially and otherwise.
The proposal to secede was defeated by a mere 53,000 voters, out of a constituency of 7.5 million, defeated the sovereigntist. It is obvious that secession is of great importance to Quebeckers. A phenomenal 94 percent of registered voters showed up to voice their opinion. No one expected that the vote would be this close. An enormous last minute rally in Montreal by the no vote halted the separatist charge. Most polled after the vote said that if there was another referendum they planned to vote the same way in the future. To fulfill Quebec s desire for separation, Prime Minister Jean Chretien has proposed 3 things: acknowledgment that Quebec is a distinct society; creation of a veto against constitutional change, usable by every region including Quebec; and Quebec control over worker retraining.
In a poll conducted late in 1995 it was found that there was a massive discontent among the English-speaking citizens with such attempts to save Canada. Eighty-three percent of the respondents across Canada did not want Quebec to have a Constitutional veto. It was the same percentage that disagreed with Quebec nationalists on the issue of whether Canada is composed of two founding peoples, preferring to think of Canada as ten equal provinces. Some 61 percent said that Quebec should not even be constitutionally recognized as a distinct society.
Quebeckers as a whole reject this because they would not be embedded in the constitution. They cannot be faulted for being skeptical that the legal reforms will ever be constitutionally entrenched. The bottom line is neither French speaking or English speaking Canada, in the end accept the terms of these initiatives.
In the end, it is a win/lose situation. No matter what happens in Quebec someone will be left unhappy. A lot has to be cleared up before any decision can be made. There are still several questions that are pending. It is unclear how a seceded Quebec would deal with money, or relations with other countries especially Canada. A decision should be made soon because as we all wait with great anticipation to see what will happen. The Quebec economy is suffering. Unemployment continues to increase. With all the focus being on becoming a sovereign nation, the citizens are suffering.
I understand where the French-speaking Canadians are coming from. With the majority of French Canadians residing in the province of Quebec they feel like they are different than the rest of the country. As it stands now, Quebec is one of the more prosperous provinces in Canada, and I wonder if secession were to take place what would happen? We all know that it would take time to become successful, but who knows if they would ever return to the way it is now. Is the price too big to play? With the opposing sides at almost equal size it is important to come to a final situation. Before possible violence breaks out within the province.
Doran, Charles F. Will Canada Unravel? in Foreign Affairs. Sept-Oct 1996 v75 n5 pg97
Quebec Divisible in The Economist(US) December 6,1997 v344 n8046 pg 36
Bowen, Bruce Jeffrey Simpson: Will the Quebec Secessionists Succeed? in New Zealand International Review, May-June 1997 v22 n3 pg 30