Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Is Quebec a Nation?

I watched with interest this weekend when Mr. Harper stepped in it in Quebec when he refused to call Quebec a nation. Leaving aside the politics of his refusal it is an interesting question.

Note: I realize that this post is a little late but finding the time to write my own blog is challenging.

I have read many of the other blogs on this where some have said yes and others have said no. One commentator even had the courtesy of giving us the Webster's Dictionary definition of nation.

For those who said no it was a matter of equating nation with country.

For those who said yes it was a matter of Quebec having a distinct language, culture and history.

I have problems with both arguments.

There are many different people living in Canada and Quebec who have different languages, cultures and histories from Canadians. Recent and first generation Canadians do not share the same history and culture as Quebecers or Canadians who have lived here for generations. Are they part of the Quebec nation or do they constitute their own nation within Quebec? Do Jamaicans living in Toronto constitute a nation within Canada? Do Chinese living in BC constitute a nation? For that matter do WASPs like me constitute a nation within Canada?

As well I find the concept of a nation has been cheapened.

Fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs call themselves the Leafs Nation.

Not to be outdone, fans of the Ottawa Senators have begun to call themselves the Sens Nation.

And my personal favourate is the Honda Motor Company inferring nationhood on Honda Civic owners by calling us members of the Civic Nation.

So for me the whole concept of nation has become archaic and meaningless.

So is Quebec a nation? No.

Are Quebecers a distinct people within Canada? Yes. There is no denying that they have a history, culture and traditions that are different from those Canadians that live outside of Quebec. However, unlike some francophones I include anglophones within the "people of Quebec". No matter how much some francophones want to deny it anglophones have been an integral part of the development of Quebec culture and history and cannot be separated from it. As well, recent arrivals to Canada and Quebec are only adding to that culture and history as they share their lives with their new neighbours.

The same can be said of Quebecers and Canada. Canadian culture and history are infused with the traditions and experiences of Canadians from all parts of the country. That is a reality that cannot be denied as the shared culture and history of francophones and anglophones within Quebec cannot be denied.

So that brings me to the million dollar question. Is the distinct nature of Quebec history and culture grounds for a separate Quebec country? No. Carving out countries based on a distinct culture and history is opening a Pandora's box that once opened would lead to disaster. Not just in Canada but worldwide.

Of course, none of the above will stop Quebecers from calling Quebec a nation but that is just an indication of a particular hangup that Quebecers have that would require another post to explain.

So Mr. Harper, from a theoretical point of view you are correct in not calling Quebec a nation. However, from a political point of view...


Blogger Czar Fran├žois said...

one of the problems is that we (federalist) have left the definition of Francophones to the separatist, we are always playing catchup. I for one would like us to concentrate on other pressing issue in Canada, but that by no means mean leaving the separatist to their own device

June 27, 2006 8:39 PM  
Blogger Carrie said...

Very well said. This "nation" issue is highly irritating and offensive. Quebec needs to either accept that they're a province, or...well, the separatists are welcome to leave. I'm so fed up with this distinct identity garbage holding the entire country hostage. Enough!

June 28, 2006 8:19 AM  

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