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.