2.19.2008

kosovo, nationalism, separatism, canada

By coincidence, as Kosovo declares its independence, I am reading about nationalist and separatist movements, in War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, by Chris Hedges. Although this is a slim book, and the writing is very accessible, it's taking me quite a long time to read. I can't pick it up too often, or read too much at once. To really contemplate the brutality of war, and not just read along numbly, I can only absorb it in small doses.

Hedges uses examples from all over the world and throughout history. One frequent touchstone is the former Yugoslavia. In the early 1990s, Hedges witnessed competing nationalist groups re-write history, in order to deny the pluralistic nature of the region.
In Bosnia the Serbs, desperately trying to deny the Muslim character of Bosnia, dynamited or plowed over libraries, museums, universities, historic monuments, and cemeteries, but most of all mosques. The Serbs, like the Croats, also got rid of monuments built to honor their own Serb or Croat heroes during the communist era. These monuments championed another narrative, a narrative of unity among ethnic groups that ran contrary to the notion of ancient ethnic hatreds. The partisan monuments that honored Serb and Croat fighters against the Nazis honored, in the new narrative, the wrong Serbs and Croats. For this they had to be erased.

This physical eradication, coupled with intolerance toward any artistic endeavor that does not champion the myth, formed a new identity. The Serbs, standing in a flattened mud fields, were able to deny that there were ever churches or mosques on the spot because they had been removed. The town of Zvornik in Serb-held Bosnia once had a dozen mosques. The 1991 census listed 60 percent of its residents as Muslim Slavs. By the end of the era the town was 100 percent Serb. Brank Grujic, the Serb-appointed mayor, informed us: "There never were any mosques in Zvornik."

No doubt he did not believe it. He knew that there had bee mosques in Zvornik. But his children and grandchildren would come to be taught the lie. Serb leaders would turn it into accepted historical fact. There are no shortages of villages in Russia or Germany or Poland where all memory of the Jewish community is gone because the physical culture has been destroyed. And, when mixed with the strange nightmarish quality of war, it is hard to be completely sure of your own memories.

When I was younger I was inclined to accept any separatist movement at face value. I imagined these people - whoever they were - were fighting for freedom against a government that sought to oppress them, and therefore, their cause was just.

Certainly those situations exist. Tibet is occupied by China. The movement for a free Tibet is indeed a freedom movement. The Palestinians clearly must have their own homeland.

But I've heard countless people - Americans and Canadians who support the Palestinian cause - refer to Israel as a "fake country," since it was declared by fiat in 1948 on Palestinian land. Like it or not, Israel exists. Israelis exist. They can't be made to disappear, any more than the Palestinians can.

As my political beliefs have matured, and I've come to reject nationalism, my reading of separatist movements has changed. And now that I live in a country with a separatist movement, I have to admit, I see it differently.

Hedges:
The 300 people who arrived in Kljuc on the buses were from the town of Prnjavor. Most had survived more than three years without work since the Serbs took control of their part of Bosnia. Most of them also had endured harassment and beatings and had seen their young men disappear. But in the last week, in the wake of the sweeping advance of the Bosnian Army, the mood got even uglier.

. . . .

Later that day, I wandered the streets of the town. The collective occupation of the houses was unsettling. On Ibre Hodzic Street one light shone from the rows of windows. I knocked on the door of the apartment and found three elderly women, two Serbs and a Muslim, intently listening to the news on a radio. The three friends were struggling, as they had for more than three years, to make sense of the latest diatribes unleashed by the Serbs or the Bosnian government, the political agreements that might augur peace, and the advances and defeats that marked the ebb and flow of war.

But in the end it had come down to this: The Bosnian government had just reclaimed this town from the Serbs, and nothing had changed except the victims. As a result of this reversal of fortune, Dursuma Medic, a Muslim, would now have to watch over her two Serbian friends - who for the last three and a half years had taken care of her.

"We are three old women trying to survive a war," said Burka Bakovik, fifty-two, a Bosnian Serb. "We have been friends since childhood. None of this hatred ever touched us. We all protected Dursuma when the Serbs ruled. Now she protects us. The only news we wait for is peace, and that hasn't come yet."

As we spoke I could see Muslim soldiers busy painting over the slogans left by the Serbs on the walls outside. "Only one Bosnia, all the way to the Drina" and "Victory is our destiny," they wrote.

Who am I to say the ethnic Albanians of Kosovo should not have their own nation? But I wonder, is the population as monolithic as we are told? If it is, how did it get that way? What will happen to the minority Serbs still living within Kosovo's borders?

In a multi-ethnic world, is such separatism really possible? And is it healthy, or will it only lead to more violence? Has "nothing had changed except the victims"?

Here at home, Canada's own separatist movement watches to see if Canada will recognize Kosovo, prepared to pounce on the perceived hypocrisy. But do most French Canadians want to see Quebec as an independent nation? Clearly not.

I used to think, if the people of Quebec want to have their own nation, then why shouldn't they? Now I see that movement as calling for the destruction of Canada.

32 comments:

James said...

But do most French Canadians want to see Quebec as an independent nation? Clearly not.

And don't forget the Cree. During the last referendum, the Cree had their own sub-referendum, voting that, if Quebec were to leave Canada, they would leave Quebec and re-join Canada. The separatists cried foul, insisting that the Cree can't do that, and that it was completely unreasonable for a sub-population to threaten to break up the province.

Of course, the Cree lands were not part of Quebec until Confederation; they had been held by the Crown and were incorporated into Quebec as part of its becoming a province within the Dominion. The Cree argued, essentially, that if Quebec wants to leave, it has to give the lands back.

(This is all as I recall it; I may be misremembering details. I'm sure someone will correct me if I am.)

Scott M. said...

In general, I don't see why separation is acceptable and partition (cutting up Quebec) is not. It all seems very emotional, lacking logic.

"Why couldn't Outouais, Montreal, and points west stay in Canada?"

"That's ridciculous!"

"OK, why?"

"Because they're a part of Quebec!"

"And..?"

"Don't be absurd."

... and that's pretty much the argument.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

I used to think, if the people of Quebec want to have their own nation, then why shouldn't they? Now I see that movement as calling for the destruction of Canada.

I actually don't believe either of those things.

Have you ever talked about these issues with Québec sovereigntists? They're actually seeking what amounts to a far-too-radical solution to a very real concern, i.e., the protection of their language and culture in an increasingly globalized and English-dominated world. The problem is that they think this very real threat from English is about the encroachment of English Canada, but it's pretty clear that the dominance of English and its concomitant cultures has increasingly little to do with English Canada these days. What this means is that granting Québec soverignty wouldn't actually solve the problems they're looking to solve, since separating from English Canada isn't going to make globalization go away unless Québec isolates itself even more than it already tries to (also not ideal!). This is only one of the many reasons why Québec sovereignty would be a bad idea, but it's the core flaw in their thinking. In any case, though, Québec sovereigntists aren't calling for the "destruction of Canada." They don't gleefully rub their hands together in schadenfreude whenever something bad happens to people in other provinces; they just don't think of themselves as being a part of this country. It's about identity, not annihilation.

Besides, even if Québec did separate (which realistically isn't likely--most Québecers continue to prefer to seek a federalist solution to the problems they all recognize as being there), do you really think Canadian culture is still so reliant on the "two solitudes" concept that it would actually cease to exist? There are so many other distinct characteristics of Canadian culture these days that I just don't buy it. The unvoiced fear among anglophones seems to be that without Québec, the rest of Canada would lose what makes it different from the U.S., and we'd by necessity fall right into their waiting arms. And Michael Adams' work, if nothing else, puts a lie to that.

Lone Primate said...

The Cree argued, essentially, that if Quebec wants to leave, it has to give the lands back.

I think the District of Ungava, where most of the lands in question are, became part of Quebec in either 1898 or 1912... probably the latter, but you'd have to check to be sure.

The case takes the wrong approach. It's been unconstitutional since the 1870s for the federal government to amend the boundaries of any province without the consent of that province -- basically, once the federal government cedes land to a province, that's that; there's no takes-back. It's not like Toronto is in "real" Ontario but Sudbury, Timmins, and Thunder Bay are in "fake-ersatz-could-be-taken-back-anytime" Ontario. Ontario is Ontario is Ontario, even though it was grown at the same times as Quebec was.

It's against international law to change Quebec's boundaries once it's a separate country... that's an act of war. So the Cree cannot look to Canada for redress in that matter, either before or after Quebec's separation.

During, however... The one possibility would be for it to be part of the negotiated terms of Quebec's withdrawal from Confederation, though I imagine it would be a hard sell and it might open up all kinds of cans of boundary readjustments, both regarding Quebec and perhaps even elsewhere in Canada once it was on the table. Not something I'm eager to take on, even for the Cree -- I mean, what's going to happen to them? It's not like Quebeckers want to eat them, and only being in Canada stops them or something. That Cree card gets trotted out a lot, up there on the wall behind "In Case of Separation, Break Glass". But there are scores of bands across the country. If it's good enough for the Cree, why not others in other provinces? Why can't they secede from their provinces, or -- to follow Quebec's own lead -- from Canada altogether? And how much land do they get to take with them? Whenever I hear that one, I always want to tell folks to think past how good it would feel to screw Quebec over for separating to the bigger implications. Letting the Berserkers loose must have felt like a great idea till their original enemy was gone and the machines turned 'round on their makers.

...GodDAMN it, I wish there were an edit button on comments in Blogger. >:/

Marc said...

> "Why couldn't Outouais, Montreal,
> and points west stay in Canada?"

Because I may not think separation is the best idea, but I sure as hell am not a Franco-Ontarian. If Quebec ever separates from Canada, I will follow; I don't want to remain as a francophone in a Canada that doesn't even have any reason to possibly recognize the "two founding nations" theory anymore. Especially since, whether I'm a federalist or a sovereigntist -- I'm unsure of which position is the best one for Quebec and Canada -- I'm still a Quebecer first. (I'm from Gatineau, though I'm studying in Sherbrooke right now.)

I think English Canadians tend to underestimate how francophone Quebecers differ from French-Canadians living in the other provinces. I have a friend who lives in Ottawa, who's a teacher in a French-language high school, and who's quite aware and proud of being a Franco-Ontarian, but in many regards she appears to me, for lack of a better phrase, as a francophone English Canadian.

> The problem is that they think
> this very real threat from English
> is about the encroachment of
> English Canada, but it's pretty
> clear that the dominance of
> English and its concomitant
> cultures has increasingly little
> to do with English Canada these days.

Despite this, many countries, some much smaller than Quebec would be, exist and are able to function in their national language, even today. Of course many if not most of their citizens also know English, but knowing English isn't incompatible with the concept of a French-speaking Quebec. (Some would disagree, but note that most intelligent sovereigntists, starting with current PQ leader Pauline Marois, are calling for Quebecers to become more fluent in English.)

What independence would change is that people who move to Quebec would be aware that they are in a country where the official and common language is French, not in a part of Canada (an anglophone country) where those French-Canadians are only more numerous. If you move to Denmark, should you eventually learn to communicate in Danish? Now, if you move to Quebec, should you eventually learn to communicate in French?

Now, I'm not going to start giving many arguments in favour of Quebec independence since I don't know them all anyway. Suffice to say there are plenty of books written on the subject. I'm currently reading the biography of René Lévesque (in four volumes, by Pierre Godin), which I consider quite fair and which gives a good primer on the man's political evolution, including the reasons why he chose sovereignty.

> The unvoiced fear among anglophones
> seems to be that without Québec,
> the rest of Canada would lose
> what makes it different from the
> U.S., and we'd by necessity fall
> right into their waiting arms.

I'm really not sure why many English Canadians think that the independence of Quebec would be the "end of Canada". Maybe the reason is what you say, but what I think is that no country wants to lose part of its territory, so it makes people go a little emotional.

Frankly, English Canadians in general know so little about Quebec that I'm not sure why they consider Quebec as being part of their national identity. This isn't a criticism, Quebecers know very little about English Canada either. To be honest I don't see it as a bad thing. I think the best would be to recognize that, while living in the same country, we are two different nations. Quebec has done that; the rest of Canada appears to still have trouble.

L-girl said...

do you really think Canadian culture is still so reliant on the "two solitudes" concept that it would actually cease to exist?

No, and I didn't mean that it would. I meant the destruction of the Canada that includes Quebec. Canada as it now exists.

There are so many other distinct characteristics of Canadian culture these days that I just don't buy it.

Absolutely. I wasn't selling it.

The unvoiced fear among anglophones seems to be that without Québec, the rest of Canada would lose what makes it different from the U.S., and we'd by necessity fall right into their waiting arms. And Michael Adams' work, if nothing else, puts a lie to that.

I really don't care for Michael Adams, nor agree with much of his assessment of many things, but I agree with you here, for sure.

L-girl said...

Marc and LP (and everyone), thank you for these thoughtful comments. I will read (and hopefully respond) to them later.

No surprise that no one mentions Kosovo, or nationalism in general, only Quebec. :)

L-girl said...

In any case, though, Québec sovereigntists aren't calling for the "destruction of Canada." They don't gleefully rub their hands together in schadenfreude whenever something bad happens to people in other provinces; they just don't think of themselves as being a part of this country. It's about identity, not annihilation.

Obviously I need to clarify! I didn't mean to imply that Quebec sovereigntists are calling for the destruction of Canada in the same sense that some Palestinians call for the destruction of Israel - a literal destruction.

I meant only that I see Quebec separatism as a very sad thing, the dismantling of something wonderful. Destruction only in a metaphoric sense.

L-girl said...

I'm unsure of which position is the best one for Quebec and Canada -- I'm still a Quebecer first.

I can understand this. I was a New Yorker first, and hardly felt like an American at all. I don't mean that to be flip. I grew up in a country from which I felt alienated, but I had a home and a culture and a people, as it were, in New York. So perhaps in that sense I can empathize.

I have a friend who lives in Ottawa, who's a teacher in a French-language high school, and who's quite aware and proud of being a Franco-Ontarian, but in many regards she appears to me, for lack of a better phrase, as a francophone English Canadian.

I know folks like this, too. Even from my vantage point, I can see it's not the same. Language is a part of culture, but it's not the entire culture.

I'm really not sure why many English Canadians think that the independence of Quebec would be the "end of Canada". Maybe the reason is what you say, but what I think is that no country wants to lose part of its territory, so it makes people go a little emotional.

That's closer to what I mean by the end of Canada. Canada - to the rest of the world, if not to all Canadians - is French and English. And perhaps since I'm a new Canadian (although not yet a citizen, soon to be), I see that duality as part of what defines Canada. But I do not think that without French Canada, Canada is just a big US state north of the US border.

Frankly, English Canadians in general know so little about Quebec that I'm not sure why they consider Quebec as being part of their national identity. This isn't a criticism, Quebecers know very little about English Canada either.

This is interesting, but I wonder if it's true. It might be, but I don't know. Is English Canada any more ignorant of French Canada than, say, Vancouverites are of Nova Scotians, or Newfies are of Torontonians, and the reverse? It's a big country, and lots of Canadians don't know anything about how other Canadians live. "English Canada" means a lot of different things.

But that might not be what you meant.

Marc said...

> No surprise that no one mentions Kosovo,
> or nationalism in general, only Quebec. :)

Personally, I was responding to the comments others made. I'm not sure what my position on Kosovo independence is. Kosovo has been outside of Serbia's control since 1999, but it didn't seem to make any waves, so I thought they would play it safe and remain in this "limbo" for longer. I guess they decided that they needed international recognition. I think it's not a bad thing that Kosovo is now independent, but it's worth remembering that there weren't really any "good guys" and "bad guys" in the last war (both Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo committed crimes against the other community), and I think this should have no effect at all on the eventual process of Quebec independence. The situations are too different.

As for nationalism, I think it's a strong and important force that has been wrongfully smeared in this world. Many people take it as a synonym of jingoism, but really this is only a particular expression of nationalism. There are liberal and illiberal forms of nationalism, ethnic and civic forms of nationalism, nationalism exists as a thought current in multicultural countries and in secessionist entities, etc. I consider myself to be a nationalist, but I like to think I'm also quite liberal and that my nation is open to many different people.

Marc said...

> I meant only that I see Quebec separatism
> as a very sad thing, the dismantling
> of something wonderful. Destruction only
> in a metaphoric sense.

And what I question is whether this "wonderful" thing really exists.

You're an American who decided to move to Canada. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you probably consider this grand vision of Canada as a bilingual, multicultural country that has been expounded by the Liberal Party of Canada since Trudeau to be a formidable project, much better than the American "melting pot". Many left-leaning English Canadians hold these ideas. It is, shall I say, an important part of how they view their national identity as Canadians. The thing is, I believe this view is inaccurate.

Canada cannot be a "true" bilingual country. There will always be parts of the country where the two official language communities will coexist -- notably Ottawa, Montreal, Moncton, etc. -- but I will note that it's in fact often in these places that people are least favourable to bilingualism. They view it as too costly, or threatening. As I said, I'm from Gatineau, so I've been able to look at the interaction of anglophones and francophones in Ottawa, and bilingualism isn't such a popular option there.

Also, in every place outside of these few "bilingual" spots, official bilingualism is useless. I've often been told that there are more Mandarin-speakers than French-speakers in British Columbia. BC is oriented towards the Pacific and towards Asia. Why should French be an official language there?

And do tell me: what importance does the fact that parts of Canada have a majority of French-speakers have to you? Does the culture of Quebec have an influence on your culture as a Canadian? How aware of Quebec are you? Or is it only that you find it interesting that this country can have two official languages and support two official-language communities?

> I can understand this. I was a New Yorker
> first, and hardly felt like an American
> at all.

Yes, but that's why you left: you felt alienated. Will you agree with me that, despite all the regional variations in the US, most Americans share a sense of being "American" first? Maybe Texans would say they are Texan first, but they do have a somewhat different history. I won't say that Quebecers, even nationalists, have no attachment to Canada. But our attachment is to Quebec first, and there is always the sense that Canada is trying to rule us in ways that don't appeal to us.

> Language is a part of culture, but it's
> not the entire culture.

True, but what I'm getting at is that francophones in English Canada are minorities and quite aware of it, while Quebecers don't see themselves as a "minority" in Canada. Due to being in the minority, French-Canadians tend to be somewhat culturally assimilated, while Quebecers have their own culture.

Also, I'd say that language is still an important part of culture. It's much easier to share ideas with people you can communicate with in your language.

> That's closer to what I mean by the end
> of Canada. Canada - to the rest of the
> world, if not to all Canadians - is French
> and English.

I disagree. In much of the world, Canada is seen as an English-speaking country. Some see it more as a North American country and some more as a Commonwealth country, but in any case it's English-speaking. Some people are aware that it has a French-speaking minority -- that's minority, not equal founding people or majority in some parts. That is one of Quebec's problems.

And certainly not all Canadians think that this duality between two equal founding peoples is an important part of Canada.

> This is interesting, but I wonder if it's
> true. It might be, but I don't know. Is
> English Canada any more ignorant of French
> Canada than, say, Vancouverites are of
> Nova Scotians, or Newfies are of
> Torontonians, and the reverse?

I know that many English Canadians don't really like the concept of the "two nations", since to them, "English Canada" cannot be a nation, given the amount of regional variation. I will not deny that this variation is very important. But I think that there is still an overlying sense of "Canadianness" that transcends most English Canadians. Note this: you see many people moving from one anglophone province to the other, while the number of Quebecers who move outside of the province is much lower, and most English Canadians who move to Quebec move to Western Montreal, where many anglophones live. I maintain that Quebec is "more different" and isn't merely another region of Canada.

Newfoundland may be an exception, their culture is quite different and they weren't even part of Canada until 60 years ago.

L-girl said...

You're an American who decided to move to Canada. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you probably consider this grand vision of Canada as a bilingual, multicultural country that has been expounded by the Liberal Party of Canada since Trudeau to be a formidable project, much better than the American "melting pot". Many left-leaning English Canadians hold these ideas.

No, that doesn't really describe my vision of Canada, although I'm not radically opposed to it.

I do agree with you that Canada is not really a bilingual country. I end up telling that to non-Canadians all the time.

And do tell me: what importance does the fact that parts of Canada have a majority of French-speakers have to you? Does the culture of Quebec have an influence on your culture as a Canadian? How aware of Quebec are you? Or is it only that you find it interesting that this country can have two official languages and support two official-language communities?

I'm not sure what your intent is here. I am very aware of Quebec. We wanted to move to Montreal, but, not being bilingual and moving up without jobs, it seemed highly risky. We thought our job prospects would be better in Toronto, and that had to be our first responsibility. The last time we were in Quebec, I felt so proud and happy that this beautiful and distinct culture was part of Canada, although it felt like a different world. I'm sorry if that bothers you or sounds shallow. It's truly how I feel.

Yes, but that's why you left: you felt alienated.

An overstatement, for sure. It was part of the reason. If you hated and disapproved of English Canada the way I do of the US, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

Will you agree with me that, despite all the regional variations in the US, most Americans share a sense of being "American" first?

I don't know. Perhaps. But my neighbours in Mississauga all have dual allegiances - to India, Portugal, Poland, China. None of them feel completely Canadian.

I won't say that Quebecers, even nationalists, have no attachment to Canada. But our attachment is to Quebec first, and there is always the sense that Canada is trying to rule us in ways that don't appeal to us.

OK. I can't argue with how you feel. I would never presume to.

I disagree. In much of the world, Canada is seen as an English-speaking country.

I'll tell you what I am basing my statement on.

One, when we went to Peru - our first time traveling outside North America after emigrating to Canada - everyone naturally asked us where we were from. We said "De Canada". The next question was "Canada Frances o Canada Ingles?" (My Spanish spelling may be off.) Their huge tourism trade teaches French specifically for Canadian visitors, and everyone expects Canadians to speak French.

And two, through the email address on this blog, I regularly am asked questions from prospective immigrants to Canada, from all over the world. The number one question I am asked from people not from the US is: Do I need to be fluent in French to move to Canada? Without exception, these people believe Canada to be a truly bilingual country, and are very surprised to learn that there are large parts of Canada where French is not spoken.

Note this: you see many people moving from one anglophone province to the other, while the number of Quebecers who move outside of the province is much lower, and most English Canadians who move to Quebec move to Western Montreal, where many anglophones live.

But if one doesn't speak French well enough to find employment, how could one do otherwise?

I maintain that Quebec is "more different" and isn't merely another region of Canada.

That's fine. I'm not disputing it. As I said, I wouldn't presume to, and don't.

I'm only saying that if the Quebec separatist movement were to succeed, I think it would be very sad for Canada.

L-girl said...

As for nationalism, I think it's a strong and important force that has been wrongfully smeared in this world.

It's strong and important, all right. It's the root cause of untold violence, countless wars, genocide and oppression.

I only wish it were smeared. I think it's a concept that is held in high regard, at great peril to the world. I dream of a time when nationalism is seen as the divisive, regressive force that it is.

I don't see liberal nationalism in the world. The idea is almost an oxymoron to me.

One can be progressive and patriotic, but not nationalistic, I think.

Lone Primate said...

And what I question is whether this "wonderful" thing really exists.

It does to tens of millions of us, Marc. You'll just have to take my word for it.

L-girl said...

It does to tens of millions of us, Marc. You'll just have to take my word for it.

Thank you, LP. I'm happy you said this. People tend to dismiss my feelings about Canada because I'm new here. As if I don't know what I'm seeing, or am living in a dream world. Thanks.

L-girl said...

and there is always the sense that Canada is trying to rule us in ways that don't appeal to us.

I sometimes wonder how much of this is a convenient place to deposit dissatisfaction. The rest of Canada has to work at making the country better. Quebec just gets to blame.

But maybe if I understood the specifics more - how Canada is "trying to rule" Quebec, in ways it is not "trying to rule" Ontario, Alberta or BC - perhaps I wouldn't say that.

Wild English Rose said...

I found the discussion very interesting - particularly with regards to the Cree in Quebec. Whilst I sympathise with their position some of the precedents for partition as part of independence - India/Pakistan, Ireland/Northern Ireland etc. are not encouraging. There is no reason why the situation in Canada would work out in that way - the situation is not currently violent which helps - but partition is a tool that needs to be handled with care.

Marc said...

­­­> I do agree with you that Canada is not really
> a bilingual country. I end up telling that
> to non-Canadians all the time.

All right then.

> I'm not sure what your intent is here.

What I'm trying to say is, if you don't know very much about Quebec, how can you say that the nature of Quebec is an important part of your vision of Canada? Sometimes I feel that some English Canadians have an idea of what Quebec "should" be in their Canada, and don't seem to realize that Quebec isn't actually that.

More generally, I've heard many English Canadians, including some serious commentators, describe Quebec, or offer opinions about things happening in Quebec, and quite often it doesn't have much to do with reality. I find it a bit arrogant.

> The last time we were in Quebec, I felt so
> proud and happy that this beautiful
> and distinct culture was part of Canada,
> although it felt like a different world.

I won't doubt you when you tell me how you feel. But of course this is clearly a romantic attachment. I don't feel a romantic attachment towards English Canada, even though I generally like its culture. To me it could be a foreign country, like the US (the culture of which I also like, even though both of them are different from mine on many points in such a way that I couldn't probably ever really feel at home in English Canada or in the US).

But of course this isn't something we can debate.

> If you hated and disapproved of English
> Canada the way I do of the US, we wouldn't
> be having this conversation.

Well, clearly I don't hate or disapprove of English Canada, but I'm not sure what you mean.

> But my neighbours in Mississauga all have
> dual allegiances - to India, Portugal,
> Poland, China. None of them feel completely
> Canadian.

This may change as they get more integrated, or their children may in time feel fully Canadian.

> Their huge tourism trade teaches French
> specifically for Canadian visitors,
> and everyone expects Canadians to speak French.

Heh, that's interesting. I don't know if there are many Quebec tourists in Peru, but I've heard of a few people visiting it. I'd probably try to use my (very weak) Spanish as possible if I went there, though.

> The number one question I am asked
> from people not from the US is: Do I
> need to be fluent in French to move to
> Canada? Without exception, these people
> believe Canada to be a truly bilingual
> country, and are very surprised to learn
> that there are large parts of Canada
> where French is not spoken.

Really? Because that's somewhat surprising to me. What I've mostly heard about is people who immigrated in Canada, decided to live in Quebec, and then figured out that Quebec was mostly French-speaking, and getting angry because they hoped to improve their English in Canada. I guess the reason why they're asking this question is that they've heard that some people in Canada speak French (without knowing more about it) and are afraid that they'll need to learn the language. Kind of like the University of Ottawa has to convince students from the rest of Ontario that they won't need to learn French.

> But if one doesn't speak French well
> enough to find employment, how could one
> do otherwise?

And here we get back to one of the arguments for independence. People who move to Quebec should be able to learn to communicate in French. French is the official and common language of Quebec. But with Quebec as a province of Canada, many people outside of Quebec don't understand why immigrants should have to learn French. After all, English is an official language of Canada: being able to communicate in English should be enough in Quebec, no?

Maybe you'll tell me that as a courtesy, immigrants to Quebec should learn French. But that's not enough. Knowing the common language of the people who've accepted you isn't a favour you do them. And every time opinion leaders or politicians in Quebec try to find ways to encourage the francization of immigrants, it's decried outside as xenophobic (I have no idea why, the French language isn't an ethnic group), and it often comes to head with the individual freedoms guaranteed in Trudeau's constitution.

> I don't see liberal nationalism in the
> world. The idea is almost an oxymoron
> to me.

Well as I said, many people have redefined nationalism to mean jingoism, so of course they can't imagine it could be liberal. Every time I say I'm a Quebec nationalist, understand that I'm a Quebec "patriot". Or is patriotism only for countries?

If you're interested in nationalism (in the general sense), Ray Taras's Liberal and Illiberal Nationalisms is the book I read. It presents the many types of nationalism (or patriotism, or national sentiment) in currency in the world today, and has in fact a section about Quebec independence, even though it's not dedicated to it.

> It does to tens of millions of us, Marc.
> You'll just have to take my word for it.

I believe you, but I just don't personally see it. I mean, I think both Quebec and English Canada are great nations, but from where I'm looking from the duality between these nations is a myth. It doesn't mean Canada shouldn't exist, of course.

> But maybe if I understood the specifics
> more - how Canada is "trying to rule"
> Quebec, in ways it is not "trying to rule"
> Ontario, Alberta or BC - perhaps I wouldn't
> say that.

The first thing to realize is that, to a large number of Quebecers, the provincial government of Quebec is their true national government. The federal government has an importance, but the provincial is truly the one that is responsible for generating progress in Quebec. It is my understanding that this isn't the case for most English Canadians, and the subjects that I see discussed in most English Canadian political blogs such as yours seem to confirm it.

So, to a fair number of Quebecers, the national policies of the federal government serve to impose on Quebec economic, cultural or other policies that it may not want. This is why, when the provinces where trying to get an agreement on a new constitution in 1981, Quebec gave its agreement to a formula that allowed any province to withdraw from federal programs with full compensation. But the federal government then agreed with the other provinces on a formula that didn't recognize this right. This is one of the reasons why Quebec never signed the constitution.

Also, Quebec has always found it a good idea to negotiate deals with other governments, when it comes to areas of complete provincial responsibility. But in many cases the federal government has considered it an encroachment of its exclusive right to do diplomacy, and has tried to stop Quebec from doing so. When it succeeded, it had the effect of putting blocks in Quebec's development. I don't know what would happen if other provinces tried it. Most other provinces, for obvious reasons, have never tried being as active as Quebec in these domains.

L-girl said...

What I'm trying to say is, if you don't know very much about Quebec, how can you say that the nature of Quebec is an important part of your vision of Canada?

The same way everyone in the world does about their own countries. We all have scanty knowledge of the world outside our own backyards. You used Americans as an example. Do you think Texans know the first thing about how people in San Francisco live, and visa versa? Most do not. I understand you are saying that regional differences are not comparable. But I'm not so sure.

More generally, I've heard many English Canadians, including some serious commentators, describe Quebec, or offer opinions about things happening in Quebec, and quite often it doesn't have much to do with reality. I find it a bit arrogant.

I see this daily about Canada and about the US. The US I see described in Canada's national media rarely resembles the country I am from. Is this arrogant? No. It's the way of the world - generalizing based on a few specifics.

You are doing it throughout this thread, generalizing about English Canada, how the rest of the world views Quebec, etc. Are you arrogant for that? Not necessarily. It just is.

Well, clearly I don't hate or disapprove of English Canada, but I'm not sure what you mean.

You said I left the US because I was alienated. I am saying it was way more than that, and our positions (yours to English Canada, mine to the US) are not comparable.

But my neighbours in Mississauga all have
dual allegiances - to India, Portugal, Poland, China. None of them feel completely
Canadian.

This may change as they get more integrated, or their children may in time feel fully Canadian.


You have assumed the people I referred to were not born in Canada. Many of them were. The children are raised with a dual identity, of which they are proud.

Their huge tourism trade teaches French specifically for Canadian visitors,
and everyone expects Canadians to speak French.

Heh, that's interesting. I don't know if there are many Quebec tourists in Peru, but I've heard of a few people visiting it. I'd probably try to use my (very weak) Spanish as possible if I went there, though.


If you went on your own, you'd have no choice. You can't possibly travel in Peru without Spanish. But if you took a tour of any sort - even for a few hours of a specific site - you would probably want a guide that spoke your language. For Canadians, they stand ready with their French. :)

The number one question I am asked from people not from the US is: Do I need to be fluent in French to move to Canada? Without exception, these people believe Canada to be a truly bilingual
country, and are very surprised to learn that there are large parts of Canada where French is not spoken.

Really? Because that's somewhat surprising to me. What I've mostly heard about is people who immigrated in Canada, decided to live in Quebec, and then figured out that Quebec was mostly French-speaking, and getting angry because they hoped to improve their English in Canada.


This doesn't make sense. You can't emigrate to Quebec without applying directly to the province. To do that, you must speak and write French.

But if one doesn't speak French well enough to find employment, how could one do otherwise?

And here we get back to one of the arguments for independence. People who move to Quebec should be able to learn to communicate in French.


I agree! You said:

"Note this: you see many people moving from one anglophone province to the other, while the number of Quebecers who move outside of the province is much lower, and most English Canadians who move to Quebec move to Western Montreal, where many anglophones live."

And I was responding to it. If you can't communicate in French well enough to hold employment in that language, then you can't move to Quebec. So of course the above-noted observation, how else could it be?!

I don't think people should learn French to live in Quebec "as a courtesy". I wish you wouldn't make assumptions about what I think based on what language I speak or where I live.

L-girl said...

Whilst I sympathise with their position some of the precedents for partition as part of independence - India/Pakistan, Ireland/Northern Ireland etc. are not encouraging.

Indeed. And as James said

"The separatists cried foul, insisting that the Cree can't do that, and that it was completely unreasonable for a sub-population to threaten to break up the province."

this seems pretty false.

Lone Primate said...

But with Quebec as a province of Canada, many people outside of Quebec don't understand why immigrants should have to learn French. After all, English is an official language of Canada: being able to communicate in English should be enough in Quebec, no?

I think you're conveniently putting us way behind the times on this, Marc, seriously. With the tens or hundreds of thousands of English Canadian kids in our generation who were herded into French immersion classes, in all good faith and in hopes for a future of wider, rather than diminished, horizons? The attitude you lament might have flown when "Prime Minister's Office" was still in English-only on the door till Pearson got elected, but we've been through a lot as a country since then. I've done a lot of talking with people on the score and I really don't remember anyone not "getting" why Quebec wants immigrants to learn French instead of English, or for the language of business to be French... not anybody under 60, anyway. No, what WE tend to get upset about is the gratuitous slights to the English language in Quebec. First Bill 101 utterly banished English from signs... the apostrophe on Eaton's was illegal, despite it being the name of a company doing business coast-to-coast... imagine the uproar if every other province passed a law requiring Chez Philippe to front itself as "Phil's Place". Then when that was struck down, it was Bill 178, where English had to be half the size of French. Second, we could understand. But diminutive? What happened to these two founding and supposedly equal nations? So English Canada, in general, didn't mind the strategy of preserving French in Quebec (or even elsewhere in the country). It was these needlessly nasty little rashes it came out in that caused resentment. And then we get blamed for not wanting our language and culture humiliated by a bunch of people who hate seeing their language and culture humiliated. You're reading Levesque's biography... I just got done reading his autobiography, and he opposed shenanigans like that because he understood how it would be received. Sometimes I wonder if such acts weren't calculated to incite an overreaction and backlash; the false flags of an independence without the full courage of its own conviction: a boogeyman helps.

I think the thing that frustrates us, hurts most of all, is that just as English Canada was maturing, was ready to embrace the differences and celebrate them, was ready to make things right, Quebec reached some -- and forgive me, but his word seems apt -- adolescent phase that was all about self-expression and self-celebration that had no room and no desire for love, acceptance, or rapprochement.

Marc said...

You are doing it throughout this thread, generalizing about English Canada, how the rest of the world views Quebec, etc. Are you arrogant for that? Not necessarily. It just is.

Well, for example, back in the 90s, some English Canadian commentators were publishing best-selling books describing how our premier was a megalomaniac intent on manipulating our dumb populace. Others were comparing our politicians to Nazis. I think that's as arrogant as it gets, not to mention terribly offensive. I'm sure that I personally make assumptions about what English Canadians believe, but I recognize that you have a wide variety of opinion and I think I've tried to listen and understand, in this thread and elsewhere.

You have assumed the people I referred to were not born in Canada. Many of them were. The children are raised with a dual identity, of which they are proud.

Okay, I can appreciate this. I don't for a moment doubt the cultural variety of English Canada.

This doesn't make sense. You can't emigrate to Quebec without applying directly to the province. To do that, you must speak and write French.

Not as far as I know. The Quebec ministry of Immigration is responsible for a proportion of the immigrants to Quebec (I think it's 40%). The federal ministry of Immigration admits the rest. And of course, people who are allowed to live in Canada are also allowed to move across the country, so people admitted to Quebec can move away, and vice versa.

To be honest, when writing my post I was thinking of a man who was in the papers a few years ago. He was in fact a refugee (maybe even from Kosovo now that I think about it), which of course is under the responsibility of the federal government.

I've done a lot of talking with people on the score and I really don't remember anyone not "getting" why Quebec wants immigrants to learn French instead of English, or for the language of business to be French... not anybody under 60, anyway.

Well, I've discussed with a few English Canadians on message boards and the like, and many of them are of the opinion that Quebec should be bilingual, or that expecting newcomers to integrate into the French-language community is "xenophobic". I believe you if you say you don't hear it often, but it's there.

the apostrophe on Eaton's was illegal

You know, I've been told the exact same thing by another English Canadian just a week ago, and by others before that. I'm convinced that must be some sort of "talking point" about Quebec in English Canadian culture -- that or the apostrophe in Tim Horton's which I sometimes hear about, probably because Eaton's and Tim Horton's are two English Canadian cultural "landmarks", so to speak.

Keeping in mind that I'm not a legal professional, I'll try to analyse the legal issues. I'm linking to the relevant articles in the Charter of the French language (aka bill 101) -- more precisely, they appear to be articles 63 and 67 (yes, I've noticed the grammar error). The reasoning behind the idea that the apostrophe is "illegal" appears to be that while family names are allowed to be found in firm names per article 67, "Eaton's" and "Tim Horton's" are not names but actually English phrases. But honestly, there are many businesses operating in Quebec under a name that's much more unambiguously an English phrase. I'll name Home Depot, Canadian Tire and Future Shop as an example.

I've not found any court case declaring "Eaton's" to be an illegal name, and reading the law I'm not sure why it would be. My best guess is that the businesses in question voluntarily changed their names, claiming to want to comply with the Charter. This said, it's still possible that there was such a court case, or maybe one of the repealed articles was actually the most important one. If you have more information, I'd like to hear about it.

In any case, to me, the commercial signage provisions in the Charter are actually the least important parts of the law. They were motivated by the fact that before the Charter came into force, much of Quebec's commercial signage, especially in Montreal, was in English only, and it didn't make much sense to have a French-language society with a mostly anglophone outward appearance. But frankly if I'm in a shop where nobody speaks French, whether their signage is in English only or not is the least of my concerns. The provisions making French the official language, the language of business and the language of education (except for the anglophone community) were much more important, and I wouldn't mind if the provisions about signage were repealed.

You're reading Levesque's biography... I just got done reading his autobiography, and he opposed shenanigans like that because he understood how it would be received.

Lévesque was strongly moderate, and during much of his career as leader of the PQ, he tried to slow down his more left-wing or nationalist colleagues. But even if he might not have agreed with everything his minister Camille Laurin -- a rather more radical minister -- put in the Charter, he understood the need for such a law. I haven't read his autobiography, yet anyway, but I can certainly recommend his biography by Pierre Godin to you.

just as English Canada was maturing, was ready to embrace the differences and celebrate them, was ready to make things right, Quebec reached some -- and forgive me, but his word seems apt -- adolescent phase that was all about self-expression and self-celebration that had no room and no desire for love, acceptance, or rapprochement.

Well, of course here I'll disagree. The general opinion in English Canada certainly changed since the 50s or so, but you'll find plenty of people who don't want to "embrace" the francophone part of their country. And to be honest, I don't mind. As a Quebecer, I don't want to be part of Canada's beloved minority, so to speak. What I want is to be part of a modern society that has the instruments to develop itself. It's not about "self-celebration" or anything, it's about taking in our own hands the fact that we're a francophone society in North America and that this will require doing work that will not be required of English Canadian society, for example.

Lone Primate said...

Well, for example, back in the 90s, some English Canadian commentators were publishing best-selling books describing how our premier was a megalomaniac intent on manipulating our dumb populace. Others were comparing our politicians to Nazis. I think that's as arrogant as it gets

What, would this be Jacques "By Jove" Parizeau, the hero of the hour after that last referendum with his little in vino veritas speech about "the ethnic vote" (for which read: "people who aren't real Quebeckers because they're not pur lien, but there was no democratic way to deny them a right to speak out on their own future that would have washed with the world"), the guy who was educated at the London School of Economics, married an ethnic (a Pole), and whose kids learned English (in private schools, skirting the provisions of Bill 101), all the while trying to convince les Quebecois and the rest of the universe that... try not to laugh here... English is a threat to Quebec's future and so it must must MUST separate from the pernicious influence of Canada. Where could some English Canadians have gotten the impression that a guy like that might be a manipulative hypocrite?

But honestly, there are many businesses operating in Quebec under a name that's much more unambiguously an English phrase. I'll name Home Depot, Canadian Tire and Future Shop as an example.

That's how it ought to be, wherever you are in the world. No one with any sense could possibly object to a law that said in Quebec, labels and signs and service must be available in French, period, full stop. It's the blanket prohibitions against other languages, particularly English, that offended people. So long as French is secured, why the need to humiliate or legislate out of existence the presence of others? Frankly, and since you're the one who mentioned Nazis I'll reflect on it – it's not hard to see hints of the Nuremburg Laws in that. Eaton's was Eaton's. If they chose, for their own reasons, to represent themselves as, say, Chez Eaton in Quebec or New Brunswick or eastern Ontario, that should be entirely up to them... so long as when you walk into that store, whatever it's called, you can be assured of service in French.

They were motivated by the fact that before the Charter came into force, much of Quebec's commercial signage, especially in Montreal, was in English only, and it didn't make much sense to have a French-language society with a mostly anglophone outward appearance.

I myself find that objectionable, and support the goals of Bill 101 insofar as you're expressing them here. I agree that in Quebec (and perhaps elsewhere), French should be present, and French should be first if any other language is represented. But the bill went too far.

But even if he might not have agreed with everything his minister Camille Laurin -- a rather more radical minister -- put in the Charter, he understood the need for such a law.

That's true, but when Laurin intended to put into law the complete remove of the rights of the anglophone community to an English-language education, Levesque put his career on the line, and that made a difference to anglophones in Quebec and outside. In the long run, it probably had favourable ramifications for francophones outside Quebec, as well; Levesque was well aware of what it could mean to them.

It's not about "self-celebration" or anything, it's about taking in our own hands the fact that we're a francophone society in North America and that this will require doing work that will not be required of English Canadian society, for example.

Well, like what, exactly? What, necessary to secure "the French Fact in America" and express it, is beyond the capacities of Quebec as a member of a larger federation, in full control of its own education, with powers over immigration shared by no other province, with the ability to opt out of nearly every federal program and yet still get at least some of the money earmarked for them, but with the ability to send representatives (who are not infrequently the Prime Minister) to the larger federation, defraying the costs of defense, communications, and immigration, and enjoying a currency/labour/trade union? Beyond that, the only thing I can think of is, as Chretien said, "driving around the world in a great big Cadillac with the flag of the province on the hood". Finally, the question is how much are the people of Quebec willing to give up – how much are they forcing the rest of us to give up, as well – just to get that?

L-girl said...

Well, for example, back in the 90s, some English Canadian commentators were publishing best-selling books describing how our premier was a megalomaniac intent on manipulating our dumb populace. Others were comparing our politicians to Nazis. I think that's as arrogant as it gets, not to mention terribly offensive.

Indeed. People publish stupid stuff all the time - about Canada, about Quebec, about the US, about liberals, about Jews, about everything.

Those books shouldn't colour your perception of English Canadians. I found the Bouchard-Taylor hearings highly offensive, but I don't assume you're a racist because of them.

This doesn't make sense. You can't emigrate to Quebec without applying directly to the province. To do that, you must speak and write French.

Not as far as I know.


Then your knowledge is incorrect. In order to emigrate directly to Quebec, you must apply directly to the province.

If you use a federal application, you could then move Quebec, since, as you point out, once you're in Canada, you're free to move anywhere. But the federal application makes it very clear that if it's Quebec you're looking for, you should apply directly.

In addition, Quebec immigration makes it very clear that French is a requirement. The federal application demands fluency in at least one of the official languages.

To be honest, when writing my post I was thinking of a man who was in the papers a few years ago. He was in fact a refugee (maybe even from Kosovo now that I think about it), which of course is under the responsibility of the federal government.

Refugees are in a completely different category, and have no language requirements. It wouldn't be much of a refugee system if it required refugees to speak the language.

****

Marc, I have no gripe with you or with French Canada.

If I lack understanding of French Canadian culture, it's not for lack of interest, but merely because one cannot live in more than one place at one time, nor live more than one life.

I also have no gripe with the movement for French Canadian independence. If a strong majority of French Canadians actually want independence from Canada, they should have it.

It's pretty clear that the majority does not want that. But the threat of secession remains an extremely valuable political tool. No group of people with such leverage would ever willingly give it up.

Marc said...

What, would this be Jacques "By Jove" Parizeau

No, I'm talking about Bouchard.

the hero of the hour after that last referendum with his little in vino veritas speech about "the ethnic vote"

I'm not defending Parizeau, but if you ask him what the hell this outburst was all about, he'll tell you that Quebec is the only place in Canada where people must be extra careful when using the "we": in the rest of the country, the English-speaking majority can use the "we" all the time and nobody will blink or accuse them of excluding anyone. And to be frank, he's got a point.

the guy who was educated at the London School of Economics, married an ethnic (a Pole), and whose kids learned English (in private schools, skirting the provisions of Bill 101)

Yeah, so what? (The only thing in this that bothers me a little is the school thing, but it's not illegal -- access to private education is guaranteed in Quebec -- and the explanation is probably that the English as a second language classes in Quebec French-language schools aren't sufficient to make students bilingual, and Parizeau thought it would be necessary for his kids. I agree with him, and the solution is to improve the English language education in public schools. I note that Pauline Marois has coincidentally been talking about this.)

all the while trying to convince les Quebecois and the rest of the universe that... try not to laugh here... English is a threat to Quebec's future

Given that Parizeau first became a separatist for economic reasons, I tend not to believe this. Do you have a cite?

Frankly, and since you're the one who mentioned Nazis I'll reflect on it – it's not hard to see hints of the Nuremburg Laws in that.

Well, given that you're telling me that this Nazi stuff -- which to me is completely preposterous -- is sort of justified, I'll let Jon Stewart answer. ;)

If they chose, for their own reasons, to represent themselves as, say, Chez Eaton in Quebec or New Brunswick or eastern Ontario, that should be entirely up to them...

That's what I'm saying, in all likelihood that's actually what happened.

That's true, but when Laurin intended to put into law the complete remove of the rights of the anglophone community to an English-language education

I think you're confusing him with the RIN leaders (by the way, if you know what that logo is, tell me) who considered the right of anglophones to an education in their language in Quebec to be a privilege acquired by force. This was actually the main reason why the RIN wasn't absorbed into the PQ, and why Lévesque spent the next few years trying to keep Pierre Bourgault as marginal a figure as he could. But in all fairness, in these 60s when francophones in many provinces didn't have access to education in their language -- I think they had to wait the official bilingualism policies, and possibly the Canadian Charter of rights and freedoms, to sort of get these rights, where the numbers justify it --, the rinistes kind of had a point. (Of course, today I think it would be ridiculous to suggest Anglo-Quebecers shouldn't have access to public education in their language.)

What Laurin and other "radical" (in quotes, I don't think he was all that radical) ministers suggested was the "Quebec clause": the children of parents who studied in English in Quebec can go to public English-language schools. Lévesque preferred the "Canada clause": same thing, but the parents only have to have studied in English anywhere in Canada. He rallied to the Quebec clause anyway because most of his ministers favoured it. Ultimately the Quebec clause was struck down and replaced by the Canada clause by the new Canadian constitution. Lévesque was unhappy anyway, because while he thought the Canada clause was better, he thought it shouldn't have been
imposed on him.

What, necessary to secure "the French Fact in America" and express it, is beyond the capacities of Quebec as a member of a larger federation

Well, ask a separatist (as I said, I'm only a politically interested independent) and they'll tell you the Canadian constitution is still built only with individual rights in mind, while Quebec's status as a French-language community in an English-language continent requires some respect for collective rights. They'll tell you that Quebec still has to fight to conclude deals with foreign governments, even in areas of total provincial responsibility (the Gérin-Lajoie doctrine), because the federal government has to defend its exclusive right to diplomacy (and I understand them as well). They'll tell you that the rest of Canada still wants to "drown" Quebec in a large ensemble, while the proportion of Canadians who live in Quebec is constantly decreasing.

with powers over immigration shared by no other province

The other provinces could presumably get them if they wanted. It's not my fault if they don't, because, and that's kind of the biggest point I'm making here, most English Canadians see the federal government as their true government, responsible for the important policies, and the provincial governments as regional administrators, while Quebecers for the most part see it the other way around.

with the ability to opt out of nearly every federal program and yet still get at least some of the money earmarked for them

That was Quebec's main claim in the constitutional negotiations in 1981 -- they dropped their presumed right to veto constitutional changes for this -- and at the end the right to opt out with compensation was only affirmed in a few areas.

I found the Bouchard-Taylor hearings highly offensive, but I don't assume you're a racist because of them.

Of course, what you're hearing about the Bouchard-Taylor commission is what your media wants you to hear. I've heard a lot of very interesting things discussed there, for example discussions of how to promote the French language, and people belonging to ethnic minorities discussing their experiences. I think these hearings were required, and I've heard people suggest that English Canada hold some as well. There are limits to multiculturalism. For example, many provinces (including, I believe, Ontario and Quebec) have closed to door to religious-based arbitration for civil cases, citing the idea that the law should be the same for everyone. I don't think anyone will try to seriously claim that when Quebec discusses the limits of multiculturalism, it is a show of xenophobia, while when Ontario does it, it's a rational discussion of how to coexist in a modern society.

Then your knowledge is incorrect. In order to emigrate directly to Quebec, you must apply directly to the province.

If you use a federal application, you could then move Quebec, since, as you point out, once you're in Canada, you're free to move anywhere. But the federal application makes it very clear that if it's Quebec you're looking for, you should apply directly.


Maybe the federal application suggests to apply directly to Quebec, but what I've said, I've heard from people who know about immigration policy. I'll try to find a cite later.

Also, when trying to find this cite, I stumbled upon this document, which appears to show that a substantial (albeit decreasing) proportion of immigrants to Quebec do not have knowledge of French, and sometimes do not have knowledge of French or English.

If I lack understanding of French Canadian culture, it's not for lack of interest, but merely because one cannot live in more than one place at one time, nor live more than one life.

All right. And the reason why I keep responding is that I believe you or your readers may be interested in my perspective. Do many francophone Quebecers, especially some who identify as nationalists, post on your blog? Do you personally know some? If not, it's a viewpoint you won't be exposed to, and you won't hear both sides of the story.

Do you find my posts interesting, or thought-provoking? If you do, I'll continue the discussion, but if you don't, I'll stop: we're getting far from the subject of your article anyway.

I also have no gripe with the movement for French Canadian independence.

Well, there is no such thing as "French Canadian independence". That's the first thing to realize: we're not in the days of the "French Canadian race", these proud descendents of the French colonists in North America who struggled to find their place in the world. You have French-Canadians (the ethnic group) living in the English-speaking provinces as a minority, but during that time Quebec emerged as a modern society, shaped by immigration (and therefore populated by many people who aren't "French-Canadians"), but still intent on keeping French as a common language. And that's when the desire for independence of some Quebecers appeared.

But the threat of secession remains an extremely valuable political tool. No group of people with such leverage would ever willingly give it up.

If what you're saying is that Quebecers are lying, they don't want independence, they just want to strong-arm the good English Canadians to give them concessions and money, you're wrong. First, that would be immoral, and second, those who want independence do want it, but they have to deal with the fact that a large number of Quebecers are ambivalent about the whole thing. They would like an "independent Quebec in a strong Canada" in the words of Yvon Deschamps, but that's impossible. I mean, that's what I would want, and I'm not the only one. A good number of Quebecers are attached to Canada but also believe that their progress as a society might require getting their own country. So what do we do?

L-girl said...

found the Bouchard-Taylor hearings highly offensive, but I don't assume you're a racist because of them.

Of course, what you're hearing about the Bouchard-Taylor commission is what your media wants you to hear.


I was very aware of that at the time. I thought the media might have been trying to make Quebec look foolish. I tried to read as much as I could from blogs from Quebec, especially those written by French Canadians blogging in both languages.

Unfortunately, I came to the same conclusion. Your thoughts expressed here only confirm that. If such hearings were held in English Canada, I would be out in the streets protesting them.

I have no interest in debating "the limits of multiculturalism" with you. I see this very issue differently than you. This also relates to our different views of nationalism.

Maybe the federal application suggests to apply directly to Quebec, but what I've said, I've heard from people who know about immigration policy. I'll try to find a cite later.

The federal application does not "suggest" you apply directly to Quebec. It tells you that you must do so. It says quite clearly, if you wish to emigrate to Quebec, go directly to the Quebec Immigration site.

First here, then here.

If what you're saying is that Quebecers are lying, they don't want independence, they just want to strong-arm the good English Canadians to give them concessions and money, you're wrong. First, that would be immoral

Oh my! Immorality in politics! Whoever heard of such a thing!

Somehow I doubt Quebecers are the first people to banish immorality from politics.

But I'm not suggesting people are lying. I'm saying exactly what I said, no more and no less.

Re continuing to post here, you are certainly welcome to continue posting if you choose. You're not violating my comment policy, so as long as you want to, go ahead. I don't have a lot to add other than what I've said already, but I'm reading your posts.

Lone Primate said...

No, I'm talking about Bouchard.

I didn't have as much problem with him as I had with Parizeau. At least Bouchard gave it a shot, though I personally feel Mulroney was making a deal with the devil for power in the long term. He signed cheques his ass couldn't cash, and they were due to bounce big time... and did.

in the rest of the country, the English-speaking majority can use the "we" all the time and nobody will blink or accuse them of excluding anyone. And to be frank, he's got a point.

The corollary is that it might be worth asking why "we" is taken as inclusive in English Canada, but in Quebec it's perceived as exclusive. If it weren't, Parizeau might have had something to celebrate that night. Even your point seems to vaguely imply blame rest with "the other", and that's probably the issue right there.

Yeah, so what?

So pardon us for thinking that a guy who's making sure his whole family and existence is safely provided with the potential parachute of landing anywhere in the English-speaking world is, yes, misleading people when the whole point of his politics is that that kind of thinking is a threat to the French language and culture in Quebec and that people have to reject it, limit people's options to it, and even fracture a nation. I don't mind if he wants to embrace a larger identity, or if he wants to be insular and freeze dry Quebec in 1965. But pick one, and live by it. Particularly if you're talking about destroying my country as I've known it all my life... if you're going to do that, for God's sake, at least live by your supposed convictions. THAT'S what.

the solution is to improve the English language education in public schools.

I thought the dependence on English and its ubiquitousness in Quebec was the problem in the first place. So what's the idea now... Quebec needs to separate from English Canada in order to have the power it needs to provide its children with a solid education in English, so they can communicate with or potentially work in a land they're rendered a foreign country?

Given that Parizeau first became a separatist for economic reasons

Pardon me... when he was cursing out "the ethnic vote" that night, I had understood that to mean people of a different linguistic and cultural background from him (you know, the ones you spoke of who, for some reason, seem to feel they don't count as "we" in Quebec... God knows why...). I didn't realize he was talking about the particular currencies they had in their pockets. I apologize for misreading the man's subtleties.

Well, given that you're telling me that this Nazi stuff -- which to me is completely preposterous --

First point: you brought the term into the discussion, not me ("Others were comparing our politicians to Nazis."). I'm just telling you where that perception comes from: burying the public face of other cultures under legislation has that kind of history, like it or not. Secondly, of course it's preposterous to you. You're not on the receiving end of it. But how does it make you feel when English Canadians tell you that the concerns that make you consider separation are preposterous -- to them? I bet the little smiley face goes away pretty quickly when that happens. It often helps to imagine the moment from the other side of the table.

I think you're confusing him with the RIN leaders

No, according to Levesque's autobiography, Bill 101 as originally conceived would have ended the rights of anglophones in Quebec to an English-language education. Initially, it was that radical. Trust me, I read it just two months ago and I found that fact jaw-dropping. It was Levesque and a handful of supporting moderates who secured the rights you're talking about in the bill. At least, according to the man himself.

They'll tell you that the rest of Canada still wants to "drown" Quebec in a large ensemble, while the proportion of Canadians who live in Quebec is constantly decreasing.

I can understand that. Separation won't alter that, though. It will just happen in isolation instead of in a larger country. What's the advantage in that? Quebec has taken some sensible steps to making sure newcomers will merge with the majority culture of the province, and I support that. I think most people do; only truly vicious people could deny to Quebec what we'd want for ourselves. At the same time, most of Canada living today has put a lot of effort into accommodating Quebec. If it can't have everything, it's sure got a lot the rest of the provinces don't already. I realize that simply being in Canada is going to be an issue for some people, forever. But the shortsightedness of it sometimes astounds me. A nation of 33 million effective francophones who require all packaging to be in French (as well as English) has a lot more pull with foreign manufacturers than one of seven million all on its own... a lot more potential for contacts, a lot more presence on the world stage. To break up the country, largely for things that already in Quebec's control, is a pointless diminishment of all us that serves little but to raise a flag one notch higher.

most English Canadians see the federal government as their true government, responsible for the important policies, and the provincial governments as regional administrators, while Quebecers for the most part see it the other way around.

Yeah, and my point is, what about that necessitates separation? As long as you're getting the services you need, what difference does it make who you call mama and who you call papa in this case? Why the need to divorce them?

That was Quebec's main claim in the constitutional negotiations in 1981 -- they dropped their presumed right to veto constitutional changes for this -- and at the end the right to opt out with compensation was only affirmed in a few areas.

Quebec has spun a wonderful home industry of myth around the 1981 constitutional convention. It's self-serving, and most of it based on distortions or untruths. Quebec didn't sign away a veto; the Supreme Court made it clear that no one province, or not even the body of provinces as a whole, had a veto over amending the Constitution. It was legally wholly a federal power to request amendment to the BNA Act of the British Parliament. Having the provinces sign on was a convention, simply so the British wouldn't feel caught between a rock and a hard place. For them, it was an onerous chore.

Another great myth was that Levesque went to bed and was stabbed in the back by the Gang of Eight. He backpeddles hard on that one in his autobiography, but even he had to admit he bit on Trudeau's offer of a referendum on the patriation, and that was what broke the solidarity of the Gang of Eight. With Ontario and Quebec both on board, Trudeau arguably had his conventional mandate, so the others folded and made the best deal they could. Turning that into our fault takes a special sort of Orwellian memory management at which modern separatists seem particularly adept.

Then there's "Quebec never signed". The only Canadian signatures on the declaration are those of Pierre Trudeau, Jean Chretien, and Andre Ouellet. Guess where they're from. Maybe the other nine provinces should complain!

Marc said...

Unfortunately, I came to the same conclusion. Your thoughts expressed here only confirm that. If such hearings were held in English Canada, I would be out in the streets protesting them.

Why? What's wrong with trying to find the best balance between the laws and customs prevalent in a place, and the needs of minority cultures? Because when you get right down to it, that's what this whole debate is about, and it's a pretty general debate to which the solution isn't obvious.

In fact, in itself it's not even about "immigrants". Back in 2006, when this debate reached national levels, there were reports about fundamentalist Christian schools that illegally refused to teach parts of the required curriculum because it conflicted with their religious beliefs. The ministry of Education had traditionally been accommodating with these schools. Still, it raises the question of how do we balance parents' right to transmit their values to their children, and Quebec's duty to ensure children living here are not being mistreated and are given sufficient instruction. The whole thing with immigrants is that they may be people whose values differ substantially from those of the host community.

I have no interest in debating "the limits of multiculturalism" with you. I see this very issue differently than you. This also relates to our different views of nationalism.

I'm not sure what you're trying to imply here. If what you're saying is that you think I'm a racist, then I have no idea where in my posts you might have gotten this idea.

Plus, why don't you want to debate the limits of multiculturalism (with me anyway)? Do you not agree that Ontario's decision not to allow religious arbitration is a recognition that some of its values aren't negotiable?

In a way, this is yet again a restatement of the "individual vs. collective rights" debate. I agree that Quebec's values tend more toward the promotion of collective rights than English Canada's, because of its need to protect its common language. But then again the US is farther in the direction of individual rights than English Canada. There aren't any absolutes here, we have to find the balance that's best for our society.

The federal application does not "suggest" you apply directly to Quebec. It tells you that you must do so. It says quite clearly, if you wish to emigrate to Quebec, go directly to the Quebec Immigration site.

Ah, I think I understand. These links describe how to immigrate to Quebec if you are a skilled worker. But skilled workers aren't the totality of our immigrants: as we already mentioned there are also refugees, and it's also possible to sponsor family members still in the old country. These last categories are, I believe, under the responsibility of the federal government. The report I've linked to before says that around 50% of immigrants to Quebec are economic migrants.

But I'm not suggesting people are lying. I'm saying exactly what I said, no more and no less.

You said that "the threat of secession remains an extremely valuable political tool. No group of people with such leverage would ever willingly give it up." I guess this doesn't exactly say that the desire for independence isn't honest, but it sure suggests it. And what I'm saying is that a large number of Quebecers are ambivalent about the whole thing. They'd kind of like to have their own country and full sovereignty, but they don't want to have to break up Canada in order to do it. We're not dishonest, we're just uncertain.

And if you think Canada is making undue concessions to Quebec because of the "threat of separation" (I'd like to see the reasoning, since Quebec doesn't get anything any other province couldn't get), then elect a government that won't. (I'm not telling you personally to do that, since you can't vote yet, but it's more of a message to all these English Canadians who like to complain about "Quebec".)

The corollary is that it might be worth asking why "we" is taken as inclusive in English Canada, but in Quebec it's perceived as exclusive.

What I was trying to say can be illustrated with this example: if an Ontarian says that official bilingualism is wrong because it costs too much money and prevents people from getting jobs, and therefore is bad for "us", does anyone think that's being inclusive of Franco-Ontarians? Does anyone care?

As for why a "we" would be taken as inclusive in English Canada and exclusive in Quebec, sometimes I think our greatest crime is that we are ostensibly French-Canadians. Even though Quebec is today a rather diverse society in all ways, to English Canadians francophone Quebecers are still "French-Canadians", with all the negative baggage that comes with it. People from the rest of the country can be just as xenophobic, intolerant, or lazy as the stereotypical Quebecer, and they do exhibit it sometimes, but that's not what we expect of them so we don't remember it.

I don't mind if he wants to embrace a larger identity, or if he wants to be insular and freeze dry Quebec in 1965.

Which is which? Is going to the London School of Economics and educating your children in English embracing a larger identity or freezing Quebec dry in 1965? And what would the opposite (presumably, going to the Hautes Études commerciales in Montreal and educating your children in French) be?

I thought the dependence on English and its ubiquitousness in Quebec was the problem in the first place.

The dependence on English was a problem, yes, especially given that it cut a large proportion of Quebec's population from having a say in the economy and governance of Quebec. But now that we've gone a long way and that we've, in large part, been able to make French the common language of Quebec -- though it's still not perfect, and a real sovereigntist would tell you that, for the reasons I've given, independence is still necessary -- there's no reason why we should isolate ourselves. English is still an important language in the world.

See all these little Northern European countries, who keep their language the official language of their country and get immigrants to learn it despite the fact that it's only spoken by a few million people worldwide, but who also almost all know English as well? They're not ashamed of who they are either. That's what many people would tell you Quebec should be.

(you know, the ones you spoke of who, for some reason, seem to feel they don't count as "we" in Quebec... God knows why...)

I'm sure you know that plenty of people from different ethnic backgrounds feel they count as "we" in Quebec. Often it depends on which ethnic background they belong to: some have been more likely to integrate to Quebec society in the past, while others have stayed more apart.

And I'll say it: the Anglo-Quebecer minority has stayed apart of the main Quebec society for long, much longer than francophone minorities in the other provinces, who in a way didn't have that possibility. And they've been apt at integrating other ethnic groups into them. Now that many of them decided that they didn't want to be a minority and left, the rest seems to be more open to the idea.

First point: you brought the term into the discussion, not me ("Others were comparing our politicians to Nazis.").

Yeah, I brought it because English Canadians brought it. And then you told me they were right.

burying the public face of other cultures under legislation has that kind of history, like it or not.

No, rounding up people of different cultural backgrounds into ghettos and extermination camps has that kind of history. Mandating a language of business, including commercial signage, is actually quite common (not that I think all these dispositions are necessary for Quebec).

Secondly, of course it's preposterous to you. You're not on the receiving end of it. But how does it make you feel when English Canadians tell you that the concerns that make you consider separation are preposterous -- to them?

I always try to remember to consider the other's point of view. I like to be able to understand people. That doesn't mean I should let go of my views because some people would disagree. I wish some would give me the same courtesy.

No, according to Levesque's autobiography, Bill 101 as originally conceived would have ended the rights of anglophones in Quebec to an English-language education.

It's not what I recall reading, but I'll check.

At the same time, most of Canada living today has put a lot of effort into accommodating Quebec.

The thing is, many of these "steps to accommodate Quebec" really aren't anything Quebecers care about. So you have French on your cereal boxes. So you're sending your children to French immersion, and singing the O Canada partly in French. Great. Why should I care? English Canadian cereal boxes don't matter to me, and if I go in the rest of Canada I'll speak English anyway, as I should.

All these steps seem to be intended to show the French-Canadian minority of Canada that anglophones appreciate and respect them. But a large number of Quebecers don't seem themselves as the "French-Canadian minority" anyway. What they want is greater powers for the Quebec government to do the things it must do to help Quebec progress. And often these steps (official bilingualism is the main one) are strongly criticized in the rest of Canada, and "Quebec" is blamed for them. But if Canadians want to end official bilingualism, I don't mind. It wasn't for me that it was introduced anyway.

If it can't have everything, it's sure got a lot the rest of the provinces don't already.

Such as? And has any other province asked for it? Now that Alberta is starting to consider following Quebec's lead in taking responsibility for some programs, we may see how this works out.

A nation of 33 million effective francophones who require all packaging to be in French (as well as English) has a lot more pull with foreign manufacturers than one of seven million all on its own...

Quebec is closer to eight million people, and it's an interesting market in its own right. As I said, there are many countries that are smaller than Quebec, with a language that's only spoken there, and who still use it as their common language.

a lot more potential for contacts, a lot more presence on the world stage.

Quebec's government has worked hard to be able to get an international presence. Now it has one, despite the fact that the federal government often tried to stop these efforts.

As long as you're getting the services you need, what difference does it make who you call mama and who you call papa in this case?

You've read Lévesque's biography, I'm sure he mentioned that the federal government often followed policies that went against the good of Quebec (for example in the diversification of its economy). Of course that could be said of the other provinces, but it's what I said: to most English Canadians, the federal is the one who should be doing it anyway.

Quebec didn't sign away a veto; the Supreme Court made it clear that no one province, or not even the body of provinces as a whole, had a veto over amending the Constitution.

The Supreme Court came to this conclusion afterwards. That's why I said "presumed" right: in 1981 everyone considered that Quebec had a veto over constitutional changes, and in fact this presumed veto had caused other constitutional negotiations to fail in the past. Quebec dropped it and when they tried to reassert it before the courts, they couldn't.

Another great myth was that Levesque went to bed and was stabbed in the back by the Gang of Eight. He backpeddles hard on that one in his autobiography, but even he had to admit he bit on Trudeau's offer of a referendum on the patriation, and that was what broke the solidarity of the Gang of Eight.

According to Pierre Godin, the first premiers to break the solidarity were Allan Blakeney of Saskatchewan and Bill Bennett of British Columbia (leader of the Gang of Eight). Blakeney submitted a constitutional proposition that included no veto and no opting out mechanism, while Bennett said he was ready to accept Trudeau's demand to make minority language education available where the numbers justify it (his province wouldn't actually have to open French-language schools).

Then Trudeau suggested his referendum to decide the question, and Lévesque accepted, for three reasons according to Godin: first, he considered the Gang of Eight to be already dead for the above reasons, second, a referendum would postpone for two years the risk of having Trudeau unilateraly patriate the Constitution, and third, if there was actually a referendum held, he was certain he'd win it. Accepting the offer was a strategic gamble. But then Trudeau (under a suggestion from Alberta's Peter Lougheed) submitted a written proposition for the referendum, and Lévesque, seeing this almost incomprehensible text, started to backtrack, knowing he'd made a mistake. Before leaving in the evening, Lévesque didn't entirely repudiate the idea of a referendum, but he certainly wasn't on board with Trudeau. And then Bill Davis of Ontario decided he'd try to write a proposition with the other provinces, excluding Quebec. He was able to assuage their conscience by pointing out, as you do, that many of the federals were actually Quebecers. And we know the rest.

Then there's "Quebec never signed". The only Canadian signatures on the declaration are those of Pierre Trudeau, Jean Chretien, and Andre Ouellet.

I'm not going to take the bait and say they "aren't really Quebecers" or anything of the sort: they are if they consider themselves to be so. I don't know if Trudeau considered himself a Quebecer: knowing his personality, and knowing what he was writing about "French-Canadians" in the 50s, I guess he considered himself a new, better sort of Quebecer, responsible for bringing modern ideas to this little people.

This said, can we say that these people represented Quebec, given that no Quebec government since then has ever signed the Constitution?

L-girl said...

I have no interest in debating "the limits of multiculturalism" with you. I see this very issue differently than you. This also relates to our different views of nationalism.

I'm not sure what you're trying to imply here.


I'm not implying anything. I'm stating what I mean very clearly. I see these issues very differently than you, and I'm not interested in debating them.

If what you're saying is that you think I'm a racist, then I have no idea where in my posts you might have gotten this idea.

I have no idea if you are racist or not. I don't know you, so I can't make that judgment.

Plus, why don't you want to debate the limits of multiculturalism (with me anyway)?

I don't care to debate you, or anyone, about this or almost any other topic. I don't feel the need to defend my views to anyone who happens to show up to read them. I have no time for that and take no pleasure in it.

I prefer to learn by reading and listening, and come to my own conclusions without the argument.

Re immigration, yes, I was speaking of skilled workers, and I realize those are not the only immigrants, but I see refugees in a separate category. As I said above, if the refugee system had a language requirement, it would be pretty useless.

Marc said...

I don't care to debate you, or anyone, about this or almost any other topic. I don't feel the need to defend my views to anyone who happens to show up to read them. I have no time for that and take no pleasure in it.

Fair enough, it's not for everyone. I tend to get into debates so I forget that.

I'm not sure how different our points of view really are though. But it doesn't matter.

L-girl said...

Fair enough, it's not for everyone. I tend to get into debates so I forget that.

I find in the blogosphere it's generally assumed that everyone wants to debate. People are often angry that I don't want to, and attempt to goad me into it. I used to take the bait, and was always sorry. Now I just decline.

I'm not sure how different our points of view really are though. But it doesn't matter.

Given that you said nationalism can be a positive force and that the Bouchard-Taylor hearings were generally a good thing, I would say our views are extremely different.

But don't let me stop you from debating Lone Primate on this blog. He obviously enjoys it and I always learn as I follow along. :)

Marc said...

Given that you said nationalism can be a positive force and that the Bouchard-Taylor hearings were generally a good thing, I would say our views are extremely different.

Well maybe so, but we also don't have the same definition of nationalism. When I call myself a Quebec nationalist, I don't for a moment think that Quebecers are "better" than any other nation. We're not better (or worse), Quebec is only a group with which I strongly identify. You did say patriotism can be a good thing: to me nationalism and patriotism are similar things.

But of course it's also possible not to be a nationalist. If you're, say, a feminist, you can very well identify with other women elsewhere in the world more than with the men living close to you. (It's an example, I'm not claiming it's the case with all feminists.) But it's certain that very often people will identify with others who live close by and have the same language, history, culture. And personally I don't think it's a "bad" thing. I don't intend to draw you in a debate though.

As for the Bouchard-Taylor hearings, what I think is that you consider it negative because it gave some people a forum to air racist or xenophobic thoughts. But I think its effect is positive despite this fact, and I don't think racism is contagious. And that may very well not be the reason why you dislike it.