Is Separatism Rearing it’s Ugly Head Again?

Is Separatism Rearing it’s Ugly Head Again?

As far as the title goes, regular contributor, Peter Stuart, seems to think so.

And here’s his take on the current situation:


I keep close tabs on what goes on in the French-language media, especially Radio-Canada, Le Devoir, Le Soleil, TVA, and Journal de Québec. I have the Radio-Canada home page as my home page when I go on Internet Explorer. I get to follow all the latest developments in the French-language media, especially regarding the nationalist mood over issues of language, identity and especially, secession.

Over the last few years, all these issues have slowly but surely started to creep back into the news as the Charest Liberals’ terms in office began to wear on to close to a decade now, and scandal after scandal broke out over everything from the independence of the judiciary (remember Marc Bellemare?), construction scandals, links to organized crime, corruption and favouritism in the awarding of daycare licenses to party-friendly people, and finally, complaints over the creeping back of English into the public landscape on signs and the workplace, in where else but Montréal.

Of course, when the economy is bad, we always end up like the Biblical dog going back to its vomit and falling back onto these tried and true questions of identity, language, and ‘self-determination’. It was the case in 1980 with the first referendum and constitutional ‘patriation’ of 1981-82; we were in a recession then. Same goes for 1990-92 for the Meech Lake and Charlottetown squabbles over the Constitution: Recession. And the economy wasn’t much better in 1994-95 when we had our last fit of referendum madness in 1995: We were in the middle of austerity budgets, deficit slashing and debt reduction and fragile economic recovery.

It was only once these issues were laid to rest and we stopped talking about them for a good long while did things improve economically. The real estate market took off again and investors lost their jitters about investing in the province of Québec somewhat. Now that the economy has tanked again, we’re hearing from the likes of Pauline Marois just how disadvantageous being in Canada is again, that ‘our taxes’ are going to massively subsidize the auto industry in Ontario. That’s funny, there used to be two auto assembly plants in Québec, one in Boisbriand run by GM, and one in Bromont run by Hyundai, but they both shut down!

I guess GM and Hyundai didn’t think highly enough of the business climate in Québec to stay open here despite receiving massive amounts of government money for their plants. We even now have a ‘non-partisan’ travelling road show going all throughout Québec calling itself the ‘Estates General on Sovereignty’  which is promoting its agenda of Québec independence and not giving any concrete evidence of the advantages of being part of Canada.

Nobody seems to point out publically about how Newfoundland has been hard done by by Québec regarding the Churchill Falls Hydro project, and this going back all the way to the late 1960s. Hydro Québec still receives the lions’ share of the income from the sale of the power from Churchill Falls, and turns around and sells it to the USA at greatly inflated prices. Nobody points out that Nova Scotia once wanted to separate from Canada in the 1867-87 period over trade issues relating to the railroad and to overseas trade, but we worked that one out. Nobody seems to mention that Confederation itself was pretty much explicitly designed to benefit the Provinces of Québec and Ontario for over the first hundred years of our history, with the bulk of resource extraction and manufacturing and banking taking place in those two provinces.

The centre of political power was therefore here to support that wealth-creation system and Québecers and Ontarians benefited from it handsomely, with the western part of the country being mostly an agricultural hinterland which was developed by Québec and Ontario for their own benefit through their control of the railroad going out west and its monopoly on traffic going in and out of the prairie, all abetted by freight rates and protectionist external tariff policies which were explicitly put into place to protect jobs and votes in Québec and Ontario.

So when I listen to this secessionist rhetoric it just makes my blood boil. Of course the center of power has moved westward. We all have to deal with it, including Ontario’s declining manufacturing industries and the Maritimes as well. This is no time to be succumbing to old-guard secessionist rhetoric and trying to get the people of Québec all whipped up into a frenzy about essentially non-existent issues.

The people in Québec have never before in our lives had greater access to money, power, property and prestige, credit, capital, freedom of all sorts, while still being part of Canada and having access to a country-wide market of 34 million people with a common currency, customs union, economic union, all facilitated and solidified by a common geo-political union which has been with us for over 140 years and counting.

Now’s not the time to be falling back into old ethnic and linguistically-driven reasons for secession, and the economic reasons don’t stand up to scrutiny either because we’ve had these types of problems in the past as mentioned above but we’ve always worked them out. Nobody has spoken of Nova-Scotia separation since 1887. I don’t hear the Newfies talking about becoming their own country again, like they were in the past before 1948.

We all have a stake in this great country of ours. Let’s not let old ethnic and linguistic bugaboos, exacerbated by economic hardship, spoil our party. This country has been built up by generations of people both English and French, Aboriginal and newcomers, Catholics, Protestants, Jews and Muslims, men and women, who’ve been able and who’ve seen fit to see beyond the narrow-mindedness of either sectarian issues, ethno-linguistic cleavages and have decided that they were not going to become victims or be beholden to what some have told them was the legacy of their history. 

Something very beautiful has the potential to come out of what started out as a very violent and tragic yet heroic military deflagration on the heights of Abraham these nearly 253 years ago now. Something which bears the resemblance to no other nation on earth. Where we essentially hope to agree one day that there was not as such the triumphant victory of the one nor the defeat of the other, but that these two great peoples, with their theatrical, literary and cultural traditions, as well as juridico-legal institutions, military traditions, and economic systems, will have come to terms under the institutions of Constitutional Monarchy, a system having proven itself stable, noble and worthy for over a thousand years.

That something is Canada, the great village, and I’m proud to say that my home province of Québec where I was born and raised and where I hope to die and be buried is now and forever shall be, a key player in this great notion, this great idea that we call Canada, the True North Strong and Free.

Maybe I should start my own cross-Canada travelling road show of ‘Estates General’ on Canadian unity. Now there would be something for the French-language media to cover!……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
About the author:

Peter Stuart is a freelance journalist and writer based in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. He has a degree in Canadian Studies from the University of Ottawa.
He has written Op-Ed pieces for the last ten years for publications including: Le Soleil, La Presse, Quebec Chronicle Telegraph and Impact Campus.
Peter writes in both French and English, and and has published his first book, entitled ‘The Catholic Faith and the Social Construction of Religion: With Particular Attention to the Québec Experience’.

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