Does Quebec Have a Future in Canada? Whose Call is it?

Last week the National Post (one of two national newspapers in Canada that are actually quite focused on Ontario) published a survey asking Canadians to respond to the question of whether Quebec actually deserved to remain in Canada. “Does Quebec have a future in Canada?”

Of course, if you have lived in Canada or North America you likely know that since 1976, when Quebec elected its first separatist government (the Parti Quebecois, led by Réné Levesque) there have been multiple referendums within Quebec on the issue of whether Quebec should separate from Canada. Each time the separatists lost (despite having rigged the 1995 referendum), but the question continues.

The rest of Canada, for its part, has done so much to appease the Quebec population, as well as the numerous governments of the province. Many Canadians feel that these concessions – most of which are financial, but also include language laws that make it mandatory to label products in French in every province.

As a native-born Quebecer (I was born in Montreal, and lived there for thirty years) I have always looked at the issue from the standpoint of a scared Canadian within the province who might be forced to move should Quebec separate. I have always loved Canada, am proud to be Canadian, and would never renounce that. So when I moved to Ontario in 2007 I was surprised and even offended to hear talk radio hosts talk the way they did about my native province. I was sure that they were the minority, and of course trying to rile people up for ratings. I have since realized that I was the one who was wrong.

I have asked people across the country their thoughts on this over the last five years, and a lot of them feel the same way… they would be just as happy to be rid of Quebec. They of course do not have the divided loyalties that I do, caring so much for both and knowing that the situation could improve with time, especially as the generation of young radicals who kept the separatist movement alive for so many years grew up and began to understand the economic ramifications of independence.

Sadly, I was wrong. A new generation of radical Quebec separatists took their place, and so many of the older ones did not change their feelings when they learned the economics. Separatism in Quebec may well be as strong today as it was in 1980, and that scares me. However if you couple that with the other attitudes of Quebecers – note the Black Bloc, the Student Protests, and Stanley Cup (and other hockey) riots – who seem to have no respect for anyone and have grown up with the entitlement attitude born likely of the fact that Canadian governments dating back to P.E. Trudeau have paid a king’s ransom to appease them and their parents, then you have a problem that Canadians not born in Quebec may not want to put up with for much longer.

When I read the responses to the poll yesterday I was not so shocked by the animosity that so many Canadians feel toward my native province as I once would have been… and I realized that they have a real good point. Quebec has, since my childhood, been the spoiled child of Canada, constantly threatening to take their ball and leave the field if everyone doesn’t do what they want. As a native-born Montrealer I would hate to see Quebec leave Canada, but it is time for Quebecers to realize that they are not the only ones with a say in this matter, and if they don’t work hard to change their attitudes – and the attitudes of the extremely spoiled drivers of the separatist movement – then they will find themselves put out of Canada like Fred Flinstone by his pet sabre-tooth. If Canada were to evict Quebec it would be too late to bang on the door screaming for Wilma to let him back in, it would be a permanent schism that would destroy a country – and likely not simply in two.

If it is time to rewrite Canada, then I do not know if it will be as peaceful and easy a rewrite as some may think – Alberta and British Colombia both have made noises about leaving Confederation, and I’m not sure if it would make sense for the Maritimes and Ontario to be a single country separated by a land mass larger than most of Europe.

I cannot fathom the fallout, but I do know that I think the easiest solution would be for Quebec to come to terms with remaining in Canada, but as an equal… pulling its own weight and paying its own share.  Enough with national laws that force cans of tuna sold in Calgary to be written in French, enough of having to sing the national anthem in two languages at hockey games.  I hope that Quebec learns to play nice, because if they don’t… the sum of the shattered parts of this great land will not nearly add up to the whole.

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10 thoughts on “Does Quebec Have a Future in Canada? Whose Call is it?

  1. I’ve always been intrigued and skeptical about the dual-language state of Canada. I understand Quebecers’ rationale for holding on to the French language, as it’s a deep part of the region’s heritage and identity, but when citizens of the same country don’t share the same tongue, it’s easy for divisions to fester.

    Would you suggest Quebecers abandon French and adopt English like the other provinces, Mitch? Is it possible for a nation to successfully have two official languages?

    • Of course I wouldn’t want Quebecers to abandon their language, any more than I would expect the Swiss to abandon Italian. I bring up that example because Switzerland has four official languages, and does quite well. So does Belgium, with French and Flemish. China’s official language is not actually Chinese (which is not a language at all) but rather has several official languages (and non-official languages) that include Mandarin and Cantonese (the best known), and lesser known languages and dialects throughout the provinces.

      In truth there are quite few countries that have multiple official languages. But yes, it can make life more difficult. You just have to work at it!

    • Even if you wanted Quebecers to abandon French they would not and the more pressure you put on them the more they will hold onto it. I believe that this country will become more more and divided until it becomes necessary to split it up….if Quebec does not do it by itself before that.

      • I don’t want Quebec to abandon French. I want them to understand that they are equal – neither superior nor inferior – to the rest of Canada, and start working together rather than on their own and against us.

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  3. Just came across, this I’ve always never understood why still to this day we have this anglophone and francophone divide…after much reading and listening, it’s purely down to ignorance and arrogance on both sides, along with Canada never really having that one unifying leader (most either pander to Quebec or sideline the people of Quebec). I think we should have had no official language i.e like our neighbours down south, but that time has passed. It’s time we pushed for bilingualism in schools from the very start of school to the end of high school, might sound impossible but I think if we’re always going to say leaders/officials should be bilingual all our kids should be too.

    We need to create a system that allows young Québecois to allow them to study out-of-province at a more affordable price. I heard McGill was 1/3 out-of-province students, how many Québecois have gone out to study at UBC, Uoft etc? Probably not that high because of cost and I feel that causes a generation to grow up separately.

    Quebec/Ontario need to realise that there a conservative Canadians and British Columbians and Albertians need to realise we have liberal socialists etc we are a nation of different views, trying to carve out a land because we may not agree is silly, we should constantly bickering politically and striving for a better Canada always. I can point at countless Western countries that have groups with the different political ideologies and languages, Canada varies in landscape and weather what makes us think we should have one uniform view?

    We have to acknowledge our past the good and the bad; that includes how the French-Canadians were at some point mistreated by the Brits/Anglophones. Most of all sorry if your a monarchist I think at some point we need to say goodbye to the British Monarchy (I refuse to call it Canadian Monarch they do not define us at all), I think Canada Day would have a better meaning to all Canadians and even more so to Quebecois.

    After two referendums in which Quebec said they’ll stick with Canada, there has no attempt at real unity. Nothing. Separatism in Quebec creeps up when things are getting tough and because it’s romaticized by individuals along with some media outlets. The medias attitude towards Canadians and Québecois-Canadians is very divisive there is a split and you can see a gaping crack where information is lost, we end up having a perception of each other that is completely wrong.

    Some Canadians may have sentiments or jokes towards Quebec I noticed that some Québecois take seriously, to put it simply your loved like a sibling and your going to get teased like one. Every province takes a hit from individuals it’s not stemmed from hatred just simply that every province is distinct and is renowned for something. I can make a joke about each province, tell you something I love and dislike. One simple thing to non-Québecois Canadians; if you hear someone speak english in a french accent they are Canadian just as that person who speaks English in a ‘north American’. I hate that feeling of someone feeling of someone feeling foreign in their own country! French-Canadians have contributed so much to this great country and Canadian culture.

    Also, finally the most important thing I have to say to quebecois; a culture can not be protected by law, it’s important for the people to retain it and share it! I’ve met fourth generation Chinese-Canadians that speak Mandarin and Cantonese, Canadians of Columbian and Lebanese descent that still speak the native tongue of their forefathers homeland and share to other fellow Canadians that culture, as well as speaking English and French. My family we’re immigrants (like everyone of Canada! We are a country made up of immigrants, let’s not forget that). So when I watch Quebecois complain about speaking english and french or refusing to speak english I roll my eyes. When I watch Western Canadians avoid French and can barely utter a line in Quebecois’ french, I roll my eyes. To be honest I only studied French when my first trip to Quebec was filled with incredibly rude rebuffs when I spoke in English (Although I met some wonderful residents who spoke to me in English with no problem), this superiorty complex with Quebec and the rest of Canada, one side thinks English is above French and the other thinks French is above English is tiring if we want ‘The True North strong and free!’ we’re going to have to work a lot harder and together. Will I see it in my lifetime I don’t know, we have some young peoples perception of the situation through the media that is what I find worrying.

    This isn’t British North America vs New France anymore, it’s Canada from east coast to west coast. Let us move forward and there needs to be tough collective decisions that need to take place. Time to make this ‘nation of nations’ just a nation.

    Sorry for the long rant.

  4. Interesting article. I’m a born native québébois who like you grew up in Montréal, and for most part of my life was a federaliste. But over time i realize something that nobody can’t refuted anymore, is that the canadien family is dysfunctional ; you must admit that the dream to built the canadian federation in 1867 from two different nations who don’t share the same language, culture, history, religion, law… is today a fiasco. It ‘s not the fault of the ROC ( rest of Canada ) or the people of Québec, it’s just basically that we have two nation trying to live togerther who don’t have very much in common. ( beside certain values like free speech, human rights….) Just last week the huge debute that happen is the ROC when the Soccer Federation of Quebec decided to banned the turbans on the soccer field is yet another exemple how it’s difficult between the french and the english to understand each other ( I was for the ban by the way, like 91% of the rest of the Québec population). For that reason, I personnaly think we sould break up this silly country. It will be and occassion for the ROC to start to built a nation that representent more themself ( not american, not monarchiste, but truly themself ) like the people of Québec started over 400 years ago. Just dont forget give us back the maple leaf symbol and the O Canada song that you took from La Société Saint Baptiste:) Vive le Québec libre!

    • Explain to me why you would vote to ban turbans, or any other religioua clothing. Do they pose possible.harm to other players, or do they come in the way of playing soccer? It’s because Quebec does shit like this that you’re frowned upon by many, including me…

  5. Pingback: Stay out of politics! | The World According to Mitch

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