Quebec Issue Essay Research Paper The Canadian

Quebec Issue Essay, Research Paper

The Canadian unity crisis involving Quebec has been a controversial

issue since before the country^s confederation. Surrounding the

seemingly unsurpassable dilemma of unity there are three main

obstacles. The significant lack of action for Canada on the part of

many francaphone Quebecois, prevents any profound attachment to the

country on their behalf. A mood of intransigence on the part of

Canadians outside Quebec serves to alienate and anger the individuals

within the province. A perceived leadership vacuum throughout Canada on

behalf of its citizens contributes to a widespread feeling of

hopelessness (Reid, 1991). The complexity of, and speculation towards,

the Canadian unity crisis masks the infallible truth that while

presently, there is no solution to the problem there is some hope for

the future. Within the province of Quebec there is a significant lack

of patriotism or any real attachment for Canada. In 1995, The Angus

Reid Group asked a national sample of Canadians to describe how they

personally felt about Canada. Four options were given:

* I am strongly attached to Canada-I love the country and what it

stands for;

* I am attached to Canada, but only so long as it provides me with a

good standard of living;

* I am not attached to Canada and would prefer to see it split up into

two or more countries; and

* I would prefer to see Canada amalgamate with the United States.

(Reid, 1995)

Outside of Quebec, there was evidence of a high level of patriotism

with over 85% of Canadians saying that they are deeply attached to the

country and what it stands for. In the province of Quebec, only

one-third of the population and only 20% of the francophones, displayed

this level of affection for Canada. While there is debate over the

cause for these statistics, some individuals believed that the

statistics were as a result of lingering wounded pride because of the

failed Meech Lake accord in 1991. Many Quebecois were insulted by the

way that many Canadians outside of Quebec trivialized the situation,

and the province^s demands. Others believe that this problem is

indirectly the result of Canada^s official bilingual status. The

reasoning behind this is that biligualism serves to even further

alienate and differentiate the French within the country. This poses a

difficult conundrum. Bilingualism can not be abolished because while it

serves to alienate, it is also perceived! by the French as preserving

their unique culture and identity. One hope is that through Canadian

media a new stronger more unified identity can be achieved. Arguably,

the CBC is this best forum for this shift in values because of its

status as a Canadian symbol. This concept is further validated by

Gerard Veilleux, president of the CBC in 1996.

Today in Canada, no one is sure what values all Canadians do share in

common. That uncertainty obviously makes it harder for the CBC to do

its job effectively. But I would also argue that at a time like this, a

strong CBC is even more essential than ever, to assist in redefining

and rebuilding the nation-to be one of the principal forums for this

national process of soul-searching and consensus-building. It is not

entirely unfeasible to think that the CBC has the potential to unite

Canada through its dedication to no particular province in Canada but

instead the entire country. The lack of patriotism within Quebec is

directly reflected in the inflexibility of Canadian citizens outside of

Quebec. Quebecois are further alienated and exasperated by the mood of

intransigence on the part of other Canadians. This desensitization and

refusal to acknowledge the severity of the issue at hand provokes

Quebec^s feelings of neglect. The Maclean^s 15th annual poll found that

in Quebec the ^percentage of respondents saying it is likely Quebec

will be a separate country within the next 50 years^(Macleans, 1998)

was 56% compared to that of 38% in the rest of Canada. This startling

statistics indicates an inability on the part of the rest of Canada to

acknowledge the seriousness to which Quebecois regard the issue. Their

inability to fully acknowledge the issue severely trivializes a cause

Quebecois deem most important. Former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau

believed that a mood of intransigence ^provides little room to maneuver

between a single constitution which would affect all Canadians equally,

and the formation of a completely independent Quebec state with few

ties to the rest of ! Canada.^. (1991) This intransigence is best

exemplified in the treatment by the rest of Canada towards a proposal

by the Quebec Liberals in 1991, known as the Allaire Proposal. Allaire

suggested a shift in some powers from the federal government to the

province of Quebec. Under Allaire, Quebec would be solely responsible

for such responsibilities as: health, agriculture, unemployment

insurance, energy, the environment, and language among others. Allaire

also suggested a sharing with the federal government of other powers

like, native affairs, justice, taxation and revenue. Allaire was

immediately refuted as being too generous to the province of Quebec.

Many politicians and citizens spent little time on the issue of Allaire

before quashing it. Although the full terms of Allaire could probably

never have been agreed upon, it is not entirely unfeasible to think

that some compromise could have been reached. One which neither would

have insulted the Quebecois nor left the rest of ! Canada feeling

violated. Certainly what is most important is not the final result of

such a proposal but instead the government^s treatment of it. This

concept is a key determinant in the future of Quebec as a part of

Canada. If the rest of Canada can find a way in the future to show more

respect to the Quebecois there could be a way to amicably satisfy both

groups. One barrier that prevents this process from taking place is the

way with which most of Canada regards their leaders.

The perceived leadership void throughout Canada advances the prevailing

feeling of discouragement. When those polled in the Maclean^s 15th

annual poll were asked, ^How satisfied [they] are with the job Prime

Minister Jean Chrtien is doing?^ (1998), only 7% of Canadians were very

satisfied. As Canadians consider their potential and their futures,

there are many different paths open to them- all of which appear

equally difficult. Without faith in their leaders, Canadians have

become immobilized while the rest of the world moves on. Canadians are

aware of this fact and it only serves to dishearten them further. It is

Canada^s leaders who are primarily responsible for all facets of

national unity. Without effective leaders who command the respect and

confidence of those whom they represent any attempts at finding a

solution will be ineffectual. Few leaders are able to have any national

effect because they are only seen as preachers of the biases which they

hold. Richard G. Lipse! y, a professor of Economics at Simon Fraser

University, commented on this at the President^s 25th Anniversary

Lecture Series at the University:

What we need is a statesman who can communicate to the people in a non

partisan manner that they have problems, not just on the budget but

also on all of the other problems [national unity] that I have

discussed. We desperately need a leader not just a consummate


This is perhaps the best solution to the question of Canadian

leadership, it is however too idealistic. The majority of Canadians do

not feel that he/she is in any political position at this time, and so

another unsurpassable problem presents its self. Canadian unity is an

issue which, is most deserving of attention but which also has no

present solution. The lack of attachment and patriotism for Canada

within the province of Quebec prevents the Quebecois from having any

affinity to a unified Canada. The mood of inflexibility and

stubbornness outside of Quebec only contributes to their feelings of

animosity and neglect. Many Canadian citizens hold the belief that

there are no suitable leaders within the country who hold the people^s

best interests at heart. It is perhaps so unpleasant an idea that

politicians would rather debate, argue and lay blame, rather than come

to terms with the fact that presently there is no solution to this

problem. Change is the key to finding a solution. By repeating the same

actions Canadians cannot expect to get different results. As the

millenium approaches, Canadians can only hope that by offering and

trying new methods, the conditions needed for a solution to be found,

will present themselves!

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Canadian Speeches/Issues. Vol.5, Num.2, April, 1991. Electronic Library.

Maclean^?s: 15th Annual Poll. December 28th, 1998.

McNicoll, Tracy. The Toronto Star: No escape from politics for Quebec youth. November 24, 1998.

pearson-shoyama/Archives/archive.htm Archives. Reuters Online. Statistics Canada Online.

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