Policy Position: On Canadian Unity

The past few days has been filled with bluster and rhetoric regarding the seperatist movement in Quebec and Canadian Unity in general. So, no better time than now to discuss this issue more fully.

There is no doubt in my mind that more so than any other issue affecting Canada, National Unity has the power to truly cripple and destroy our great nation. Wars, crashed markets, and natural disasters can all take their toll on our day to day lives.. but they also serve to bring the country together and in effect make us stronger. A break up of Quebec, or any other province, however, would have far reaching effects that would strike to the very heart of this nation and likely destroy it… or at least make it utterly strange from what it is today.

Indeed, there are disenchanted voters and regions from Coast to Coast to Coast. Alberta, The West, the North, the Atlantic Provinces, Quebec, Newfoundland and I’m sure many other sub-regions all have their gripe with the federal government. All these issues are fair and deserve the same amount of care (or lip service as those affected might call it).

However, I think if you ask Canadians what region was most likely going to split from Canada or cause true division within Canadians, it would be Quebec. And that is why the Quebec sovereigntist movement must be addressed and resolved. Quebec must be brought into the Constitution as a full and equal partner in Canada. Otherwise, our nation as we know it would be fractured both physically and emotionally. Instead of being the beacon of tolerance, acceptance, and multiculturalism, we would be just another nation-state struggling for a definition Our voice and footprint on the International stage would be (even more) confused and weak. Our economy would literally be cut in half. What we must all realise is that we already have a definition. And that definition is Canada. A land of many voices, many regions, many landscapes. We are a nation with a history unique in the world… our bilingualism speaks to the legacy of those who colonized North America and founded our country.

Our current crop of politicians are using the Naitonal Unity issue as a stump speech and nothing more… I don’t believe any of them actually care about the issue… the sovereigntists see only the political “glory” of a sovereign Quebec, and the federalists want only to be the hero for Canada for a day. This is disgusting… and a disgrace. This issue deserves real action. The last Prime Minister to do it was Brian Mulroney, so we have a good indication of what a future politician would be up against were he to seriously tackle this issue again.

Paul Martin talks a lot about standing up for Canada and such, but he doesn’t do much to really make me, or I think Quebeccers, really believe it. If he is so concerned and “cares” so much about national unity then why has he not been spreading his message to Quebeccers. Why has he refused Gilles Duceppe’s challenge to a one-on-one debate on National Unity?

It is clear where his party stands on National Unity, they see it as a cash cow for their own coffers and Quebeccers know this better than anyone else.

Stephen Harper has accepted the challenge, but clearly only because he is trying to actually get on Quebeccers radar screens.

Perhaps in the coming weeks we will see some substantial talk about what to do about National Unity, but in an election campaign, “substantial” is not generally the word used to describe the discourse.

No, I expect more of the same… and so we will continue to blindly march down a road toward another unnecessary referendum. All the while ignoring, or too frightened, to deal with the issue itself.

2 replies on “Policy Position: On Canadian Unity”

  1. Canada does have a unique definition – and multiculturalism is a large part of that definiton. The difference between multiculturalism and assimilation is an understanding by all sides with multiculturalism, and no need to understand any culture but the dominate one with assimilation. Therefore, we have to understand the conflict between english and french Canada to understand the grievences behind what essentially a fight between Ontario and Quebec. This need for understanding our history and how it has led us to this present impass is not being addressed by our politicians, and I find this disguisting. Instead of taking the hard (and beneficial) road, the political parties are walking the easy street which will most likely lead us to a disaster: the break-up of Canada into multiple nation-states.

    As you’ve said, there are many geographical and cultural regions within Canada (and I must rib you for leaving out a very important cultural group of Canadians – the first nations. The long and storied history of British dominance over aboriginal people outdates the english/french clash, outshines in terms of abuse and horror, and has drastically outlasted and will continue to outlast the english/french divide.) that have their grievences. With Quebec gone, what’s going to keep the Conservatives under Stephen Harper from becoming the next seperatist party? They represent the West, and the West does not like Ottawa. What’s to keep Acadia from seperating or joining in a pact with Quebec? More promises of jobs that’ll never come? Laughable.

    I think our best idea is to reevaluate, as a nation, with all sides equally included, our stance as a nation. Our system of government is one that is very unified, giving the leadership more power than they apparently can handle. I’d like to see a union of some sort – a union of equals. Not modelled after the US, but instead taking our cue from our multiculturalism – the very thing that defines us. I agree with you that we have to address this important question on unity, and I believe the sides taken (unity for the nation or soverignty for France) do not fully encompass all of Canada. Unity with the current system does not benefit Acadia or First Nations. It creates conflict with Quebec. Soverignty for Quebec will erode our national identity. I would prefer something else – and I suspect many other Canadians do so as well.

  2. I agree completely with what you said and I absolutely deserve the jibe for leaving the First Nations out of the list… they would have to be a large part of the new discussion on unity because without them we would again be left without our true identity. (Indeed, it was the Iroquois word “kanata” that led Jaques Cartier to refer to what would be Quebec City and it’s surroundings as Canada…)

    Wouldn’t it be so perfectly ironic if after winning a referendum the sovereigntists demanded to use Canada as their name rather than Quebec.. after all… who had it first?

    I left the native people out perhaps because when one thinks of forces that could break up Canada, the aboriginal population is not one of them… and that speaks much more on our history (past and present) of injustices against them rather than any lesser

    Anyway, I have yet to see any politician in any of the parties come out with any sort of conviction about this (or anything else for that matter) so i expect this will continue to fester and threaten our nation.

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