Québec to be recognised as a "nation"? What does this mean?

I’ve just seen this brief article in this morning’s paper.

Any ideas what recognising “that Quebecers constitute a nation within a united Canada” might actually mean?

Bush invades!!

Not much. It just makes some Quebeckers feel better and harper hopes they will vote Conservative next time.Canada has hundreds of nations within Canada. They are made up of aboriginal people.

Meh. Semantics. It sounds ike the “Civil Union” of the gay marriage situation; Quebec (well, the Bloc and its supporters) still wants to secede from the rest of Canada but knows another referendum will probably be voted down again, so the government is trying to placate them with a title that lets them feel kinda sovereign without coming down to actually meaning anything.

I heard on the CBC (yay satellite radio) yesterday that there are 600 nations (including Inuit, Native, and Metis) within Canada.

Quebec has also had a National Assembly since 1968.

Well now there will be 601 nations :smiley:

Nationhood is a tricky thing to define, but in essence what it’s saying is that the people of Quebec form a distinct group with its own long-standing identity, history, culture, etc. I would add that we - I say we, because we are talking about all the people of Quebec - have the right that other nations have of self-determination, which I hope will continue to be (and believe can be) a free decision to remain part of the Canadian confederation.

I’d also like to point out that Quebec’s nationhood is expressed in a number of ways outside the purely cultural arena, such as its separate system of civil laws, approach to social programs, and increased control over various aspects of policy, such as immigration – a policy known as ‘asymmetrical federalism.’

Other countries with such approaches include Spain, where the autonomous communities associated with a nacionalidad, such as the Basque Country, Catalonia, and Galicia, have various powers that others, such as Castile-Leon or La Rioja, don’t. (Technically Spain isn’t a federation, but it acts more or less as one.)

Let us explain what it means. Quebec is distinct from the other Canadian provinces, mostly because of our use of French as our common language (which is actually the only official language of the province, even though anglophones are recognized as a protected minority) and our use of a civil law-based legal code. As well, and this is due in large part to the difference in language, there is a rather large difference between the culture of Quebec and the cultures of the other Canadian provinces. Quebec has its own home-grown artists, authors, singers and musicians – and no, I don’t mean just Céline Dion! --, movie industry, etc. that are barely known in the rest of Canada, while the cultural elements that are present in the rest of Canada are for the most part not well-known in Quebec. As a group, we also tend to be more interested in what happens in the province, instead of what happens in all of Canada. As well, the common values of Quebec society are somewhat different from the common values found in the rest of Canada. I know I’ve talked about this before: Quebec society may be seen as more “European” than other societies in Canada – accounting of course for the fact that not all European societies are the same, as the point is made in [thread=396858]this thread[/thread] – in the importance we give to collective rights. This, of course, is to be expected from one of the few French-language collectivities in America.

Our own Governor General, Michaëlle Jean, complained a few weeks ago that Quebecers as a whole seem to look more to Europe than to the rest of Canada, and to her, this compromises national unity. Well, I’ll partly agree with her, but I’ll say that people from the rest of Canada also don’t know much about Quebec and have a lot of misconceptions – just ask matt_mcl what he thought when he first moved to Montreal, or read many of the threads here, or some English-Canadian media – and secondly, I don’t think there’s any way to make all Canadians feel they are part of a single community, and neither would it be a good idea.

Now, to the nation thing. A “nation” is a term that’s rather hard to define, mostly because national feeling is mostly an “imagined” concept (not to be confused with “imaginary”). It develops among groups of people that share something, be it an ethnic identity, a common language, common values, a territory and political institutions, etc. Many kinds of national identities exist, and I won’t try to define them here since I’m not an expert on this anyway. I’ve read the book Liberal and Illiberal Nationalisms, by Ray Taras, and I would recommend it since I think it gives a good introduction to the subject. It also mentions Quebec nationalism, and more precisely the independence movement.

The thing is that most Quebecers consider that our distinctiveness in Canada makes us a nation, in the above sense. All three parties represented in our National Assembly (note the term, as alphaboi867 did) recognize this and have for many years. And this isn’t solely an ethnic thing: ask most Quebecers, and I would wager that they would tell you that anyone can become part of the Quebec nation, by living here and supporting our common values, notably secularity and the use of French as a common language, just to name two important ones. This said, the anglophones in Quebec are probably less likely to consider Quebec as a nation, if only because to them, being part of a majority culture in Canada is better than being part of a minority (even a protected one) in Quebec.

But of course, Quebec as a nation isn’t nearly as popular in the rest of Canada. There are many reasons for this: many in the rest of Canada think that recognizing Quebec as a nation gives legitimacy to the independence movement – it has this legitimacy in Quebec, but less outside – or because of the common English usage of nation, think it basically means country. Others don’t want to give Quebec a recognition that could lead us to ask for special powers in Canada. Still others hold the doctrine of a bilingual and multicultural Canada, which has been the traditional doctrine of the Liberal party since prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau became its leader, and which is anathema to the idea of a Canada composed of several nations. I’m sure there are other reasons too, I haven’t studied them in great detail, and the English Canadians among you may give your reasons if you want. This guy (great site actually) thinks Quebec may be recognized as a “civic” nation because of its shared values, which doesn’t mean anything because there are many civic nations in Canada – I will admit that Quebecers tend to put all people from the rest of Canada in the same bag – but not as an “ethnic” nation, because we contain many ethnic groups. Plus he says that Quebecers don’t merely want empty words, but true actions on the part of the federal government, and I would tend to agree with him.

We now get to this motion by Stephen Harper to recognize Quebec as a nation inside Canada. I would not say it is to “woo Quebec separatists”, as the article pretends, but it is indeed due to the current political situation inside Canada. The Liberal party is currently in its leadership campaign, and frontrunner Michael Ignatieff announced that he would be supporting the enshrinement of Quebec’s status as a nation inside the constitution. The Quebec wing of the Liberal party of Canada (not to be confused with the Liberal party of Quebec, even though many people are members of both) also introduced a motion recognizing Quebec as a nation. The other candidates for the Liberal leadership have attacked Ignatieff on this, while not denying that Quebec is a nation (since they want to eventually be able to get votes here). The debate in the Liberal party is raging on this question, so the Bloc québécois (a party that favours Quebec independence that sits in the federal parliament) decided to present a motion to the effect that Quebec forms a nation, just to force the Liberals in parliament to support or oppose it. But now Harper, the Conservative prime minister, decided to present himself a motion recognizing Quebec as a nation inside of Canada. His idea? Forcing the Liberals in parliament to either support or oppose this motion, forcing the Bloc to either support it even though it says inside Canada, or oppose it which would be kind of odd, and appealing to federalists in Quebec who, after flocking to his party in the last election, have started coming back to the Liberals because they disagree with many of the Conservatives’ positions.

My take on all this? It’s only politics, and I like it. :smiley: This said, I also consider that Quebec forms a nation, but I’m not actually waiting for any acknowledgement of this fact from the federal government. I am, however, looking at the present and near future political events, in Quebec and in the rest of Canada, with great interest.

Is that similar to the way the other nations mentioned above express their nationhood?

severus, great post! I hope for just as great a rebuttal from someone, and if it’s really good, I’ll move this thread to GD. :stuck_out_tongue:

Need to get my plug in and mention that among the federalist parties, the Liberals and Conservatives are johnnies-come-lately to it this year; the NDP recognized Quebec’s status as a nation by something like a 95% vote of our delegates from across Canada at our convention in Quebec City this September, via the adoption of the Sherbrooke Declaration, authored by the NDP-Quebec Section.

Actually, in some ways it may even be broader. For example, I know that Scottish law is different from English law, but I don’t think Catalan law is different from that of the rest of Spain.

Oh, must you? Everyone’s being so friendly here.

That’s the part of being Canadian I’m having trouble with. “Be nice, Frank! Be nice!” I keep telling myself. Well, perhaps after I’ve moved up there I’ll find it easier to be nice.

On review, I think you may have misunderstood me. I meant the Inuit, Native, and Metis nations referenced by GingerofTheNorth.

What’s to rebut? I think severus pretty much knocked it out of the park. I don’t see a single thing to disagree with.

I don’t disagree with severus, but I would emphasize that Canadians outside of Quebec largely consider Quebecois nationalisme to be a question of semantics, even though it is not. Most Canadians, I think, would be satified with Harper’s politically astute “recognition” under a few conditions: that Quebeckers are satisfied with it, that the debate does not become another Meech Lake or Charlottetown debacle, and that special recognition for Quebecois society and culture is not perceived as favourtism at the expense of other provinces (boiling down to money and special powers, natch).

I see that my post apparently captured the spirit of the question (thanks for the compliments, Frank and Gorsnak!). I will follow up on Dr_Paprika’s comment. He is probably right that Canadians from outside Quebec would accept Harper’s motion as it is, which basically means, a motion that has no specific effect. But the problem is that many people in Quebec think that the future of the province inside Canada depends on some devolution of powers. The right to withdraw from federal programs with full compensation is something that I often see mentioned, but there are others. The Quebec government has a list of demands that will have to be met before it signs the Canadian constitution (that, remember, it has never signed because of disagreements but is nevertheless subject to). I’ll try to find them tomorrow.

Another rather large problem, I think, is that most Quebecers consider themselves as one of the founding peoples of Canada, along with English Canadians and the First Nations. People from the rest of Canada, in contrast, see Quebec as only one province, one which is somewhat different from the others, but this is something that can also be said of almost every other province. People in Quebec see no problem with “asymmetrical federalism”, while people outside Quebec see only a favoured province. This disconnect might be hard to solve.

Frank: I can’t say much about the Inuit, Métis and Indians, but they certainly don’t have access to any form of assymetrical federalism, since they don’t form a province. I don’t know what kind of recognition they have. What I do know is that if the Canadian constitution is ever modified, they will have to be mentioned in it, probably with some increased powers. One reason Canadians mostly don’t want to touch the constitution, even though it could be improved, is that it is a can of worms. That was also part of Dr_Paprika’s point.

To follow up regarding aboriginal people, although they don’t form a province, there are various matters that are provincial jurisdiction when dealing with everyone else that are federal jurisdiction when dealing with aboriginal people; health care, for example. Of course, there’s also Nunavut, which gives the Inuit (at least those living in the eastern Arctic) a seat at the First Ministers’ table as well as self-government at the territorial level. In general, though, first peoples have not enjoyed the devolution of power, the resources, or the federal representation they might.

severus, your writing on this subject is just about the best I’ve read. That was much more helpful than any number of the 23-part special series that the Mop & Pail has offered.