Canada recognises Quebec ‘nation’

The Canadian parliament has recognised Quebecers as a nation within a united Canada after backing a proposal that had already led to the resignation of one minister in the minority Conservative.

The House of Commons, voted 266-16 on Monday in favour of the motion which the government sees as a way of placating French-speaking separatists.

But critics said the proposal could actually bolster the pro-independence opposition.

Michael Chong, the minister for intergovernmental affairs, resigned over the vote and said the separatists would use it to sow confusion.

The opposition Bloc Quebecois has already said it would use the change to demand extra powers, including the right of Quebec to speak at international meetings.

“I believe in this great country of ours, and I believe in one nation, undivided, called Canada,” Chong, whose cabinet brief included Ottawa’s ties with the Canadian provinces including Quebec, told a news conference.

Rising tensions

“They [the separatists] will argue that if the Quebecois are a nation within Canada, then they are certainly a nation without Canada.”

Chong’s resignation does not threaten the survival of the conservative government, but highlights political tensions over the status of Quebec, which has previously held two failed referendums on independence.

The parliamentary motion was drafted last week by Stephen Harper, the prime minister, in response to one from the Bloc that recognised Quebecers as a nation, but did not include the words “within a united Canada”.

The news for Harper did not improve later on Monday when Conservative candidates did poorly in two by-elections to fill vacant seats in parliament.

Government threat

As expected, the bloc easily retained control over its stronghold of Repentigny in Quebec, winning 67 per cent of the vote compared with just 19 per cent for the Conservatives.

Chong said he remained a Conservative member of parliament and was loyal to Harper.

He resigned after the government said it would dismiss cabinet ministers if they did not vote for the proposal.

Quebec already calls its legislature the Quebec National Assembly and calls Quebec City its national capital.

Author: Stephen

Cork born and bred, proud European and Irishman. Involved in many organisations and politics. Also writes for and UCC Express.

One thought on “Canada recognises Quebec ‘nation’”

  1. Harper thinks we should all be cool about his little side deal to haul in Quebec votes and patronage. We’re all supposed to think its just acknowledging the obvious. He assumes we have all been brain washed by Mulroneyesque blarney and BS over the years into believing the myth that Quebec was created “distinct” by God and his holy angels, and that the rest of our provinces are merely wannabees in the distinctiveness stakes. Unfortunately he’s been given free rein to exploit that gullibility to the max, and if you rock the boat by denying the current Gospel according to St Stephen you will be labeled uncool and one who doesn’t get it.

    Well a lot of us do get it. This is a very stupid move, that will simply goad on Quebec ambitions within Canada, quite aside from separatist ambitions outside of Canada. Now they will never agree to just sit at table with the rest of us without having the silver spoon included in their cutlery. After all they are now a nation and the rest of us are provincial rubes. Their flag and symbols are the outward evidences of a nation, our tawdry provincial emblems are so clearly down market by comparison.

    The power of this stupid, stupid power play lies in its symbolism – and the dynamite sewn into the lining won’t be neutralized with semantics. The word “within” is completely irrelevant when it comes to the power inherent in this nation-within gambit.

    It’s like saying “look we know you guys are a nation, so hey have a trial run at our expense and with our blessings. We all dig you so very much (vote here).”

    After a few years of doing the nation thing within Canada thanks to Great Compassionate Leader, it will suddenly not be enough. Quebec voices will emerge that will claim they have been diminished as a consequence of being designated a mere nation-within-a-nation. Thanks to Great Leader they will have created all the necessary conditions to take the nationhood model to the next inevitable stage. Moreover they won’t be attempting it as abrasive and intimidating separatists, they will be doing it with class courtesy of the leg-up offered by Harper.

    The Tories are all about political survival, and many don’t care if the country is balkanized so long as their sacred power base is in place. They are playing fast-and-loose with Canadian unity, and the pro vote was high only because none of the other parties want to be seen as anti-Quebec by default.

    This is a machiavellian move that is being passed off with a shrug and a wink by some people who are only interested in short-term gain, but it opens up the prospect of a Quebec independence drive that can now claim the aura of respectability.

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