Monday, February 16, 2009

Like It Or Not, There's More to Canada Than Just Quebec

Nicolas Sarkozy stands by his pro-unity stance

Even in the wake of criticism from Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe and Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois, Nicolas Sarkozy is standing his ground.

Sarkozy has offered no apologies to Duceppe and Marois in the face of feined outrage at recent comments in which he denounced "sectarianism" and "self-confinement". Sarkozy reportedly did not mention Quebec separatists, but it's fairly clear what he meant.

In typical fashion, Marois and Duceppe responded with an angry letter to Sarkozy.

"Never has a head of state shown such a lack of respect towards the more than two million Quebecers who consider themselves sovereigntists," the two complained. "Would France agree to stay in a European Union that imposed a treaty that unilaterally reduces their sovereignty on questions of identity without even putting it to a referendum?"

Of course Duceppe and Marois may want to double check their definition of the word "unilateral". Their insistence that the Constitution was imposed unilaterally on Quebec treats the rest of Canada as a monolithic entity, as opposed to what it actually is -- 11 separate provinces.

"We don't know where you got the idea that we detest Canada," they continued. "Despite our important differences, we respect this country, their values and their population. We think an independent Quebec will put to rest the bitterness and the exhaustive debate that has marked our history here in Canada."

Except that it won't. There remains marked division within Quebec around the separatist issue. As during the 1995 sovereignty referendum, a future referendum would inevitably bring the question regarding whether or not Quebec itself is divisible. Certainly, many federalist, aboriginal, anglophone and ethnic regions would hastily separate from Quebec given the option.

"We are not sectarian, we are not closed in on ourselves, we do not detest Canada," Marois would later elaborate. "We want to live in better harmony, and sovereignty would allow us to establish links and a better relationship with the rest of Canada."

Of course, however Marois believes Quebec could live in better harmony with Canada by leaving Canada is likely a matter for further quetioning.

Furthermore, one simply has to consider that there would be differing roles for separatists and federalists within a sovereign Quebec. No one expects the separatists to try to make another play for Quebec sovereignty until they firmly hold the reins of power and have reason to believe that they can expect to keep hold.

This is before one even considers the highly questionable relationship between the Quebec separatist movement and ethnic, anglophone, and aboriginal communities.

If Duceppe and Marois are truly so troubled by Sarkozy's remarks it's likely because they come too close to the truth for comfort.

Nicolas Sarkozy owes Quebec separatists no apologies.

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