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Quebecois nation
November 28, 2006 11:36 AM   Subscribe

Quebecois now a nation. Arguably, this all started with Liberal Party leadership candidate Michael Ignatieff opening the Pandora's Box of Quebec nationhood earlier this fall, pondering whether the French-speaking province of Quebec should be granted some sort of special status. Canadians old enough to remember Meech Lake and the Charlottetown Accord feared the worst. Before you knew it, the Bloc was arguing that Quebec ought to be viewed as a "nation without conditions". Prime Minister Steven Harper then presented a motion to Parliament recognizing the Quebecois as a nation. The controversy raged, both from the Conservatives and the Liberals. Yesterday, the House of Commons overwhelmingly voted for the motion. Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Michael Chong has resigned. His statement. How will this change the country? How do nations operate within other nations? Who is a Quebecois anyways? How does this work? Could other groups in Canada be recognized as nations? And what about those separatists? Looks like they already want their own hockey team.
posted by stinkycheese (120 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Quebec is a nation. The Quebecois are the people of that nation.
posted by arcticwoman at 11:42 AM on November 28, 2006


A nation is a group of people.
posted by four panels at 11:46 AM on November 28, 2006


Ah, if it were only that simple, arcticwoman.

You see, many -- esp. anglophone Quebeckers and some 'pur et dur' francophone Quebeckers -- think Quebecois/e refers to the ethnically francophone population of the province. It is deeply offensive, to me, that the Federal Parliament should recognise one province's dominant ethnic group as 'a nation' while remaining silent on other groups. What of the Mohawk? The James Bay Cree? Anglophone townshippers? Each has lived on their territory for ages; each has a culture specific to their place. Why are they not recognised?

Turning to Quebec: Mr. Harper's motion is pure politics, designed to beat the Bloc Quebecois to the pass and (mixing metaphors furiously) throw a grenade into this weekend's Liberal Party of Canada leadership convention. It might make federalists warm and fuzzy to have passed his motion -- witness the self-congratulatory back-slaps all 'round after his speech last week -- but what of the details? What does this motion mean? Best case, frankly, is that it is just empty symbolism. For the other possibility -- that is meant to signal a new round of constitutional negotiations -- is too horrible to think about. Shoot me now.

Paul Wells, as usual, has an excellent take on the matter:

On the substance of the motion, my own view is... complex. (I'm dead set against constitutionalizing the recognition of a Quebec nation; furious at anyone who dances the Meech dance of "accept this particular amendment, or the country doesn't deserve to survive"; and saddened that the Prime Minister of Canada has managed to get this far without feeling any need to name and celebrate a Canadian nation. But going back to my days at The Gazette, I've often written that Quebec can be considered a nation. When the question is called, starkly and without adornment, what do you say?)

But one element of the motion seems to me entirely unacceptable: the use of the French word "Québécois" in the English text. When an anglophone switches into French to speak of "the Québécois," it almost always means he is referring to French-speaking Quebecers exclusively. Andrew Coyne is angrier than I am at the very notion of calling Quebec a nation, but I agree with just about every word of his explanation of just how pernicious the use of the word "Québécois" in the English text — which was also the subject of widespread comment among francophone analysts when I was in Montreal this weekend — really is.

It seems to me to be a minimal gesture of good faith for Stephen Harper to amend his motion so that it calls Quebecers (Quebeckers, if you like to add the 'k' — how about "people of Quebec?") by their English name when he refers to them in English. Or to offer a damned good explanation for his baffling linguistic choice, if he won't change it. This is a delicate business and there is no room for mucking about.

posted by docgonzo at 11:52 AM on November 28, 2006


"The Quebecois Nation" works, just like "The American Nation" works. But "American is a nation" doesn't, neither does "Quebecois is a nation."

Good post though, please forgive my nitpickiness.
posted by arcticwoman at 11:52 AM on November 28, 2006


The fact Harper's motion used the word "Quebecois" rather than "Quebec" or even "Quebeckers" is at best confusing, and at worst a burning fuse.

Since the "nation" of Quebecois (French-speakers born in Quebec) does by definition not include the English-speakers of Montreal, does this mean that Montreal can now petition to be a nation within a nation within a nation?

Can the Italian quarter of Montreal, then, now be a nation within a nation within a nation within a nation?

This is cool. I can't wait to see all the new money.
posted by rokusan at 11:53 AM on November 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


Well said, docgonzo, I agree with you wholeheartedly.
posted by arcticwoman at 11:55 AM on November 28, 2006


(and by "works" I mean semantically, of course. I can't comment on how well, if at all, either of those nation works.)
posted by arcticwoman at 11:56 AM on November 28, 2006


By giving it away instead of waiting for it to be wrenched from their hands, the government partially defuses the power of those few racist nutjobs in the Bloc.
posted by CynicalKnight at 11:56 AM on November 28, 2006


On preview, DocGonzo said it less snarkily. :)
posted by rokusan at 11:57 AM on November 28, 2006


This is such crap.

-Is Charest more important than the other ministers?
-Does Quebec get it's own money?
-Does Quebec get a special veto?
-Does Quebec have undue influence in the parliament?
-Does Quebec get a seat at the UN?

The answer to all these questions is no. What do they get? They get more pissed off when they find out the only thing this will bring is a new generation of political cartoonists perfecting their pictures of babies with sashes that say Quebec on them and milk bottles filled with "Sovereignty".
posted by jon_kill at 11:59 AM on November 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


Just goes to show, the Quebec question rears its ugly head every time you think it's been settled.

This is just bound to fuck it up further. The ironic double-edge of a sword naming Quebec a "nation without conditions" is that it specifies nothing. What are the rights of the Quebecois nation? Who belongs to it? What responsibilities do Quebecois have as Canadians? Does this mean separate hockey teams, separate money? Does it mean separate tax collection? It certainly doesn't seem to mean separate military and separate foreign policy, but that leaves a rather large gray area. It's a victory for the sovereigntist faction, who by definition fail to get everything they want with each successive agreement to remain within Canada, but what are the implications for the rest of Canada?

This raises more questions than it settles, which makes it a bad move in legal and constitutional terms, even if it proffers temporary political advantage.
posted by dhartung at 12:02 PM on November 28, 2006


Very well done post.

This is such crap. Does Quebec get it's own money?

Uh, well, they do get their own immigration laws and their own legal system.
posted by GuyZero at 12:03 PM on November 28, 2006


Does this mean separate hockey teams, separate money?

I love, love, love the priorities there. :)
posted by rokusan at 12:04 PM on November 28, 2006


Je me souviens.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:06 PM on November 28, 2006


As I put it to a visiting friend from Ottawa, it's almost like Stephen Harper saw Gilles Duceppe trying to whack at a hornet's nest with a stick and immediately thought "wait a minute, I'll hit it before Duceppe does!"

Did anyone really think it was a good idea to bring up the idea at this time? I can't find anyone here (anglo or franco) that does.
posted by clevershark at 12:07 PM on November 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


Wish #1: that the Quebecois would call this what it is: a ten dollar blowjob.

Wish #2: that the Quebecois would get the sovereignty they crave without the rest of Canada having to foot the bill.

Wish #3: or having to pick up the pieces afterwards


None of these wishes is ever likely to come true.
posted by unSane at 12:09 PM on November 28, 2006


'Quebecois' is just 'Quebecer' in french. And it doesn't sound so hickish.
posted by Flashman at 12:11 PM on November 28, 2006


A nation is a group of people.

A nation is obviously more than just a group of people. There are other implied rights.
posted by bshort at 12:13 PM on November 28, 2006


If they get their own hockey team will they shut up?
posted by unSane at 12:13 PM on November 28, 2006


[insert whatever you want here] will they shut up?

No.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 12:16 PM on November 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


Flashman, hickish? I'd rather sound hickish than wrong. These words have loaded and distinct meanings around here.

Quebecois = french quebec resident.
Quebecer = english quebec resident. In fact, it could be argued that this group includes any quebec resident who isn't francophone.
posted by jon_kill at 12:16 PM on November 28, 2006


those few racist nutjobs in the Bloc.

I suggest that on the issue of racist nutjobs (Myron Thompson, c'mon down!) the Bloc and the Refooooooorm Party, the Progressive Conservatives, the United Alternative, the CCRAP, the Conservative Party of Canada are about even. (And not far back are the Liberals, thanks to Tom Wappel, Joe Volpe, Jim Karygiannis, et. al.)

In fact, except for the secession question -- which is beloved by large parts of both the left and right in la belle province -- the Bloc is the most consistently progressive party in parliament.
posted by docgonzo at 12:17 PM on November 28, 2006


How many referendum defeats will it take for the Bloc, PQ and others to stop their plans of seceding from Canada once and for all?
Vive le Canada uni!
posted by ArunK at 12:18 PM on November 28, 2006


It's easy to sort out the difference between "nation" and "state". Nation implies a kind of tribe writ large, and state implies a governing mechanism that may or may not overlap with the subtleties of a nation.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:20 PM on November 28, 2006


Without any real examination of what this form of "nationhood" really is, I suspect that this little gesture is gonna be a thorn in the side of Canadian constitutional law and self-identity for years to come. Harper, I suspect, figures that without constitutional changes to back it up, this is just a meaningless but nice rhetorical gesture, but something tells me the separatist crowd will view this as ammunition for future arguments at the least.

I wonder, though, does Harper actively want Ignateiff to win the Liberal leadership? When Iggy announced his "Quebec is a nation" statement, I thought it amounted to some form of political suicide--by mainstreaming that notion, he must look that much stronger compared to his rivals.
posted by arto at 12:20 PM on November 28, 2006


A nation is obviously more than just a group of people. There are other implied rights.
posted by bshort at 12:13 PM PST on November 28 [+] [!]


Unfortunately this is wrong, and it is why this pronouncement reeks. 'Nation' has no particular legal meaning and denotes a group of people of similar ancestry, language, culture and perhaps religion who usually share a homeland of some sort (which they may or may not still occupy).

In particular 'Nation' is not synonymous with 'country', 'land' or 'state', or 'administrative territory', or in fact anything of any legal significance.

The motion's brilliance (or horror) lies in choosing a word which means much less than it sounds to most people that it does.

Parliament: Okay, Quebecois, now you're a nation!
Quebecois: Great! What do we get?
Parliament: You get to call yourselves a nation!
Quebecois: What else?
Parliament: Nothing.
Quebecois: But...
Parliament: Learn to read the small print, fuckers.
posted by unSane at 12:24 PM on November 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


When does the civil war start?
posted by b1tr0t at 12:27 PM on November 28, 2006


Isn't Harper just trying to save his ass with this?

I say vive la Quebec et la Quebecois! : >

Look at Wales or Scotland--they're not really nations either but people think of them as countries--they're all part of the UK, which is officially just one country.
posted by amberglow at 12:28 PM on November 28, 2006


I took this from the roof of the Berlin Reichstag on Friday
Interesting, huh?

(jon_kill - I know, I know... I just wish it were so, I guess)
posted by Flashman at 12:29 PM on November 28, 2006


Scotland, England and Wales are all nations. Heck, they're countries. What's the big deal?
posted by thparkth at 12:31 PM on November 28, 2006


amberglow writes "they're not really nations either but people think of them as countries"

Actually you got that bit backwards :-)
posted by clevershark at 12:36 PM on November 28, 2006


What docgonzo said, and upon preview, what docgonzo said again. This is political flanking on the part of a minority government that is seen to have little reach in the more progressive province of Quebec and has very little bearing in the greater picture of a united Canada. I will give him kudos though for expediting this so quickly much to the chagrin of the Mulroneys, Turners and Manitoba legislatures out there, even if it's more of an olive branch than anything substantial. The fact remains that Quebec truly is a distinct (and far from uniform) society.

Proof? I present to you Têtes à claques (the Willy Waller one is probably the most accessible one for English Canadians and pokes a little tongue in cheek about being French in an English continent...good luck if you're not used to the Quebecois accent on the other skits)


Upon re-preview, holy fuck docgonzo is former Montreal Hour editor M-J Milloy! Neat-o! When you coming back to the 514?
posted by furtive at 12:37 PM on November 28, 2006


Amberglow, Wales and Scotland have more of the trappings of independent countries than Quebec currently has, certainly -- their own parliaments, representation at international sporting events -- which have developed only in recent years, as acceptance of the idea of their nationhood has grown. While being a nation doesn't bring with it any specific rights, the conflation of nation and state in the popular mind is such that it will surely lead to expectations that calling the Quebecois a nation will mean something on a fundamental level. And when the conversation unSane describes happens, people get upset.
posted by nickmark at 12:43 PM on November 28, 2006


Scotland, England and Wales are all nations. Heck, they're countries. What's the big deal?

The big deal is what it leaves out. So Québécois are a nation: What about non-francophone Quebeckers? What about francophones outside of Quebec?

And what about what's dismissively call the R.O.C. (rest of Canada). Where's our national seat of government? It isn't the parliament in Ottawa; that's approximately 25% controlled by the new nation of Quebec. And it isn't in any other provincial capitals; none of which are in "nations". So who speaks for us?
posted by timeistight at 12:45 PM on November 28, 2006


Excellent post, stinkycheese.
posted by nasreddin at 12:48 PM on November 28, 2006


I was thinking of making a post about this, but I realized that it would be the entire front page once I was all done, and I couldn't really deal with trying to get enough context in one post to make it make sense.

Helpful facts and links (this became really long, sorry, I just wanted to contribute; I've been following this very closely):

- The Conservative party refused to attach themselves to any one definition of "nation", during House debates, nor explain precisely why they used the word "Québécois" in the English version of the motion.
- Generally, from the homme-sur-la-rue (that means "man-on-the-street", I'm being clever; apologies) interviews that CBC's The National has been showing recently, I think that the people of Quebec realize that it's definitionless, but they're generally pleased with the symbolic recognition. As far as I know there have been no actual polls done, however.
- The Bloc Québécois (federal-level secessionist political party) and the Parti Québécois (Quebec-level secessionist political party) both took a day or so to figure out what this meant, and they originally were against the motion before deciding to support it.
- The BQ motion, which was made irrelevant in the eyes of the other political parties by Harper's motion (the one that passed), read, "that this House recognize that Quebec is a nation."
- The Conservative motion read, "that this House recognize that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada."
- Andrew Coyne, a widely-read and respected political columnist, has a blog which highlights most of the arguments against the motion.
- Some very spiriting arguments were made in support of the motion, last night in the House. My favourite, though I wasn't actively watching for the entire debate, was that of Marlene Jennings. [link to Hansard1, 6:15pm last night]
- The new leader of the Liberal party (which was in power for more of the 20th century than the Communist party was in China or Russia, but is currently out of power for many reasons) is chosen on Saturday at their convention. It's a four-way race; Michael Ignatieff, the frontrunner, started this whole thing, Stephane Dion was consulted by Harper on his eventual motion and supports it but thinks it's generally meaningless but symbolic, Gerard Kennedy made a strong statement yesterday against the motion, and Bob Rae... I forget what Bob Rae thinks, but he's there too.

There's a lot more, the repercussions of this are very wide-ranging in the Canadian political world, and the issues that it raises are complex and tricky and I'm not sure what I think at all, yet. My basic opinion at this point, however, is close to that of Mr Wells, quoted above. This is far too ambiguous and momentous to be done this way. These things should be defined and the direction we're taking should be clearly delineated. (We had to pass the Clarity Act for a reason!) We should be thinking about this before we do it. But we did it anyway, so we'll see what happens.

It immediately felt to me as though Harper was playing fast and loose with parliamentary motions to make Quebecers feel good and to score points and look smart, basically reducing the concept of nationhood in and of Canada to a political joke, which is absolutely not what a Prime Minister should do. Sure, okay, I can believe that it means nothing legally, but then why is he doing it at all? The Parliament of Canada is not supposed to be a place where we screw around with undefined words on issues this serious. Oh, and Ignatieff is a tool.

1 - Hansard is the official transcript of debates in the House of Commons. They've made it rather speedy and electronified these days, it's quite useful.
posted by blacklite at 12:49 PM on November 28, 2006 [2 favorites]


Best case, frankly, is that it is just empty symbolism. For the other possibility -- that is meant to signal a new round of constitutional negotiations -- is too horrible to think about.

It's #1. Who the hell would the Conservatives have doing Constitutional negotiations? The Conservative party brass might as well negotiate with Botswana for all they know about the issues at hand.

If anything, I think it's purely timed to make the Liberal leadership candidates mess up. Because after the Liberal convention is over, the gloves are off and the Liberals will take the first opportunity to bring the government down.

(Not that it makes me particularly happy, but I can't see why they wouldn't)
posted by GuyZero at 12:49 PM on November 28, 2006


Maybe by recognixing only the Quebecois (and not the rest of Quebec) they are preparing a counter-argument to further issues of secession.

Q: We want to secede! You said we are a nation, let us be independent!

P: No, no, no, we didn't say the PROVINCE is a nation, just some of the people in it. You can't secede because the rest of your provice is not a part of your nation.
posted by arcticwoman at 12:58 PM on November 28, 2006


Oh, I should correct myself: the Bloc motion originally said "That this House recognize that Quebeckers form a nation." There was, after Harper's motion, a Bloc motion to amend the earlier Bloc motion (bear with me) by adding the words "currently within Canada." In French, that was "actuellement au sein du Canada", which at least to me is less patronizing and contingent-sounding than the word "currently" is in English, but of course with all of these things it is mostly handwaving.
posted by blacklite at 1:02 PM on November 28, 2006


Thanks nasreddin.

And blacklite, yes, I'd been thinking of doing a post about this for awhile. I just figured someone else would beat me to it so I kept procrastinating - until I saw that Chong had resigned this morning.

As he is my MP (though I don't vote Conservative), I took that as a sign it was time to try & make sense of all this. The CBC (first link) has a lot of good background if anyone is utterly confused. As slapdash as Harper's approach to all this has been, it's a pretty huge deal in Canada, and should resonate for a long time to come.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:04 PM on November 28, 2006


I love, love, love the priorities there. :)

The push to keep Quebec within Canada isn't for geographic, cultural or economic reasons. It's because we need goalies.
posted by Adam_S at 1:07 PM on November 28, 2006 [3 favorites]


Isn't the precedent set by providing sovereign status to the Native 'Indians' (First nation) of Canada similar to the rights that would be granted to the sovereign nation of Quebecois? Or in otherwords. Gambling, gas and cigarettes...
posted by Gungho at 1:07 PM on November 28, 2006


I know this is of critical importance to he country where I live, but...all the same...MEGO.
posted by you just lost the game at 1:07 PM on November 28, 2006


furtive: those Têtes à claques skits are hilarious!

J'en ai pas d'pop-tarts!
posted by arcticwoman at 1:13 PM on November 28, 2006


Adam_S writes "The push to keep Quebec within Canada isn't for geographic, cultural or economic reasons. It's because we need goalies."

So, kinda funny that the Habs's two goalies are a Frenchman and a Swiss guy.
posted by clevershark at 1:16 PM on November 28, 2006


the Bloc is the most consistently progressive party in parliament.

I would vote for them myself, if they ran outside of Quebec, and weren't in favour of secession. If they ever decided to put together a national union of secessionists, running as the Provincial Union of Blocs, or something, we would be in big trouble; each provincial wing of the party could tailor themselves to what the electorate wanted as far as left-right goes, and be stridently in favour of devolution of powers and eventual breakup of confederation and a move toward some sort of EU-type situation instead, we'd be in big trouble.

But would that actually be bad? I can't decide. There are secessonist feelings in most provinces. The EU seems like it does alright. We could be the Canadian Union, keep the dollar, etc. But it still feels wrong to me, and I'm not sure if that's because I just don't like how it sounds (am I getting old?) or because it is actually a bad idea on the face of it.

The root of the entire secession issue is defining the raison d'être of states entirely, and being able to justify the existence of Canada at all. We became independent from the UK, was that justified? If so, then why not go all the way? If not, if that was a mistake, then perhaps we should ask to be part of the EU (since it is the largest functional multinational union of states, and all.)

There is just so much to figure out here, which is why, I imagine, it is so difficult for us to ever make any headway on this. Trudeau found nationalism abhorrent, and wanted to make Canada a multi-ethnic, equal, just, liberal society; a state that transcends the old concept of 'nation'. I've always thought that was a beautiful idea, and a noble goal, but maybe the nature of humanity is such that it's unworkable.

If it is workable, though, we need someone to start making it work again.
posted by blacklite at 1:19 PM on November 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


I find it weird to be so removed from the opinions of people like docgonzo and jon_kill, who (I think) move(d) in similar Montreal circles that I used to, and who come from a similar perspective. Namely - I think the Tory motion is pretty excellent. I think it's largely symbolic, and meaningless, but an act of recognition of Quebec culture that the disenfranchised of that province really crave. And a willingness to give them something like this - small, meaningless, - can go a long way towards changing the assumption that the rest of Canada is ambivalent or hostile towards Quebec. (And this, of course, is a blow against sovereignty.)

I do think that Harper should explain what he means by "Quebecois", however.

I'm an Ottawa-raised anglo who speaks french and used to live in Montreal. And I always use "Quebecois", not "Quebecers" - have done for as long as I can remember. For me it's a way of showing respect to the Quebecois linguistic majority. (Unlike in the case of, say, Germany, Finland or Spain, Quebec feels that anglo Canada doesn't respect it, and so this courtesy is worthwhile.) I guess not unlike the way I'd always use "Inuit", not "Eskimo", even if there was a small gang of Inuit who said they prefer "Eskimo". And "Quebecois" for me does not exclude anglophones in any way - it's just the better name for the people of Quebec.

BUUUuuuuut, of course I now see how some anglos could interpret it that way, and I can understand why they're mad. And so yeah I think Harper should say something.
posted by Marquis at 1:25 PM on November 28, 2006


Not Canadian, just speaking from my sixth grade social studies teachings...

A true "Nation" must have three inherent qualities. Land (with some sort of clearly defined borders), A clearly identified citizenry, and sovereignty.

Land - as long as they're identifying it as the Quebecois Nation, it doesn't seem to clearly refer to the territory of Quebec, and if it did, this would be a much bigger deal than what we're discussing. So no land, really.

Clearly defined Citizenry - the closest they come, but even here it becomes iffy, due to "nationality" being defined by ancestry to another estabilshed country and which language you choose to speak. There are infants being born in that region as we speak who speak no language as of yet, and who knows who their ancestors were. Of which "Nation" do they belong?

Sovereignty - essentially none, or at least none that isn't known already in U.S. Statehood, which I would count as minimal.

This is much like the "Indian Nation" in the U.S., but without even the reservations. Personally, I'm entirely in favor of piecemeal North American nations. I wish that more people had gotten behind the Texan Separatist movement a few years ago. Texas has more than enough resources to support itself as it's own nation, and it would keep any backwards views on how politics should be rendered insular (I grew up in Texas.) Quebec seemingly has much more cause, in that they're theit own identity, though I admittedly don't know any more than that.

So I'm not opposed to Quebec as a nation, but I just feel like this ruling is lip-service at best.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:30 PM on November 28, 2006


WELCOME TO QUEBEC!
It's a real country, anyway.
posted by Anything at 1:36 PM on November 28, 2006


Metafilter: Learn to read the small print, fuckers.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:39 PM on November 28, 2006


I get the plan here: Let them become their own country, allow them to slip into economic disparity, then invade them and annex their territory.
posted by tehloki at 2:08 PM on November 28, 2006


I consider myself Quebecois, although I am an allophone son of immigrant parents, now living in British Columbia. I've moved around a fair bit in my life, I have discovered in the process that I have a strong sense of home and origin and, in the end, that's what I am. I suppose you could say Quebecker, but that sounds "off" to my ear. In any case, the point of all this is that I strongly disagree that "Quebecois" refers only to francophone residents of the province of Quebec. That is, Quebecker is just a synonym of Quebecois. Certainly, there aren't two separate terms in usage in French, so if *they're* (meaning hardline nationalist Quebecois de souche, etc etc.) not making the distinction why do we presume Harper is?

I do, think, this motion is a political move to disrupt the Liberal convention. Essentially, Harper's move means that this is what the national conversation is about these days, and therefore it will loom large in the convention instead of, for instance, environmental issues.
posted by bumpkin at 2:21 PM on November 28, 2006


Just to keep the thread up to date: Liberals won't debate Québécois nationhood at convention.
posted by blacklite at 2:35 PM on November 28, 2006


Don't the western Provinces want more devolution anyway? I've read they want to keep more of their cash and not have to rely on the East's decisions all the time.

Are there actual internationally recognized definitions of what a "country" is or what a "nation" is?
posted by amberglow at 2:43 PM on November 28, 2006


Just to keep the thread up to date: Liberals won't debate Québécois nationhood at convention.

Well, there's not much point doing it now, really. It would be really interesting if Harper's shenanigans ended up sparing the Libs a potentially divisive debate, thus helping the opposition.
posted by clevershark at 3:22 PM on November 28, 2006


As an ex-montrealer living in the hinterlands of Ontario, I'm astonished by the constant refrain I hear that there's something absurd or suspicious about a statement that is "just symbolic".

(This in a country obsessed with with its own special-snowflake status.)

*phew* I'm glad I got that off my chest.
posted by ~ at 3:27 PM on November 28, 2006


Rex Murphy weighs in.
posted by stinkycheese at 4:06 PM on November 28, 2006


(This in a country obsessed with with its own special-snowflake status.)

Not compared to us to your South--even this was handled with kid gloves and very careful wording, i think--and there's no real uproar, just grumbling.
posted by amberglow at 4:07 PM on November 28, 2006


Are there actual internationally recognized definitions of what a "country" is or what a "nation" is?

I'm a political science major at a university in Vancouver, and in my first-year courses they tried to drill these definitions into us. As far as I remember and understood it, a nation is a group of people that share certain characteristics (language, culture, etc., as mentioned above). A country is an area of the globe that is demarcated as being administered by, and/or over which sovereign control is exercised by, a state. A state, in turn, is the collection of governmental institutions that run the affairs of a country. Roughly: nation = people, country = physical space, state = government.

These three terms are often used interchangeably in popular discourse, and even by political scientists, but the textbook definitions are there, at least in Canadian political science.
posted by good in a vacuum at 4:14 PM on November 28, 2006


I dunno about any other Canadians, but for me, the longer this ridiculous obsession continues the more I cease to give a crap.
If they don't want to stay, let them go. Just make sure they take their portion of the debt with them.
posted by nightchrome at 4:41 PM on November 28, 2006


jon_kill writes "Quebecois = french quebec resident.
"Quebecer = english quebec resident. In fact, it could be argued that this group includes any quebec resident who isn't francophone."


I don't quite agree...

In English, 'Quebecois' would refere to francophone Quebecers, generally.
In French, 'Quebecer' probably refer to anglophone Quebecois.

However, 'Quebecer' in English would be no different than 'Ontarian' or 'Albertan'. I.e., someone who lives in that province. Ditto French.

That said, as posted above, I find that 'Quebecois' just sounds better than 'Quebecer'. (I'm an anglophone Ontarian, if that matters).

Turtles all the way down writes "[insert whatever you want here] will they shut up?

"No."


Sad but true. Quebec is that whiny cousin who always gets the window seat on long car rides, and you know will be getting first pick of the spoils when Granny dies, because arguing is just so damn pointless, and yet will continue to whine about how life is so unfair.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:55 PM on November 28, 2006


Necessary comedy backgrounder.

I am most interested to hear what John Ralston Saul has to say about this.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:57 PM on November 28, 2006


nightchrome writes "I dunno about any other Canadians, but for me, the longer this ridiculous obsession continues the more I cease to give a crap.
"If they don't want to stay, let them go. Just make sure they take their portion of the debt with them."


Absofuckinglutely. Remember that referendum back in, what, 93? Remember how Parizeau et al were saying that 50%+1 vote would be enough for secession? Remember that the province voted against secession?

So STFU, Quebec. Either fucking leave, or fucking shut up about it already.

As long as we get to keep poutine. Mmmmm. Poutine.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:57 PM on November 28, 2006


If reserves are first nations I really don't think calling Quebecois a nation is a radical concept in the Canadian Federation - Quebec already has a national assembly for example.

I'm not sure that the UK became weaker when more power devolved to Scotland and Wales and we have plenty of historical and constitutional ties to those peoples and there is not much reason to think it may not work well here. The sports team thing would be a bit sad, but mostly meaningless.

I don't like the idea of Quebec seperation. We've seen Europe grow closer even while many of its leaders remember World War 2 from a front row seat. In fact the amount of blood shed between Canada/England and France/Quebec or any combination of the four identities is not even comparable on a scaled down level to the American Civil War. French textbooks for example don't normally discuss the Plains of Abraham at all, and English schoolchildern may be taught it was a small battle in a greater European conflict; most will never hear of it. The Quebec/Canada conflict is provincial and sectarian in a time that embraces understanding and unity and we really don't have that much to be angry about.

Secondly, if you live in say Saskatchewan or any points West you are much more likely to see a Chinese language sign than one in French and far more likely to overhear bits of conversation in Hindi or Tagalog. The whole concept of French vs English, is symptomatic of a dearly held, outdated, old-world antagonism. The French culture and language meant a lot to Canada's identity from the earliest years and continue to mean a lot in our institutions and history. There is a reason why you can take French immersion courses in most small prairie towns, good luck doing that with any language besides English.

Take the politics and spin out of the Quebec/Canada relationship you will find two cultures who co-exist quite nicely and share a lot of common history and values.
posted by Deep Dish at 5:01 PM on November 28, 2006


Amberglow, I worded that pretty poorly. The reaction that surprises me in Ontario is that Quebec{ois|kers} must be either sneaky or suckers: that either symbolic nationhood is a trojan horse, or Quebecois are simple to be appeased by this trifle.

I don't mean to say anything about the political parties involved or the popular reaction in Quebec, I'm just surprised that in self-interested navel-gazing english Canada so many are incredulous that those in Quebec could find meaning in "merely" symbolic nationhood.
posted by ~ at 5:16 PM on November 28, 2006


I can't wait for the US to federally recognize the Colbert Nation.

Or perhaps the 5% Nation of Casiotone.
posted by Foosnark at 5:18 PM on November 28, 2006


The Nation of MetaFilter.

Nice ring to it.
posted by rokusan at 6:45 PM on November 28, 2006


Great post, and some really great comments (This is how newsfilter should be done).
Thanks!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:04 PM on November 28, 2006


'Quebecois' is just 'Quebecer' in french. And it doesn't sound so hickish.

In Canada, laws are written in both French and English. Harper used the French word in the English version of the law, pissing off Canadian English-speakers. There are many French words in the English language, and they may mean different things or have different connotations. In English Quebecois means "the French speaking people from Quebec". Which means the law sort of leaves the status of the English speakers alone.

That's my understanding. The use of language can upset partisans in unexpected ways. Can you imagine an American politician using the word "Negro" to refer to black people in this day and age? That would be one example.

For the conservative party, this is good, because if Quebec loses it's seats in Canadian politics, then the conservative party (I would imagine) would dominate. I'm not sure though, that's just my interpretation.

Oh well. This whole thing is dumb.

Also, they have their own 'immigration' policy? Does that mean they can prevent natural-born English speaking Canadians from entering?

Anyway what does the UK mean in the context of the European Union? Don't some of those smaller groups use the Euro? What's the point of having an intermediary level of distinction? A Kingdom, obviously, is different then a Union but I doubt that the King or Queen of England could project power outside of England these days, so what's the point?

It really suppressed me when I heard that the British parliament was discussing bar closing times, which would be a State Issue here in the US (although, constitutionally, the federal government could set bar closing times if they really wanted, under the insanely bloated commerce clause, I suppose)
posted by delmoi at 7:21 PM on November 28, 2006


Roughly: nation = people, country = physical space, state = government.

This is pretty much what I learned as an International Studies major.

A true "Nation" must have three inherent qualities. Land (with some sort of clearly defined borders), A clearly identified citizenry, and sovereignty.

This is false. What you're describing is a state, not a nation. The difference, while commonly ignored in popular discourse, is very important here.
posted by scottreynen at 7:35 PM on November 28, 2006


^^ Don't you mean a "country" or "nation-state"?
posted by tehloki at 7:49 PM on November 28, 2006


It really suppressed me when I heard that the British parliament was discussing bar closing times, which would be a State Issue here in the US

The Westminster Parliament is the only one England & Wales has (we'll ignore the Welsh Assembly). In American terms, the whole of England & Wales (and Northern Ireland for that matter) is equivalent to Washington DC and ruled directly by the national government. Only Scotland has true two-tier government similar to the US federal/state system, and those powers are granted to it by Westminster, not the other way round.

Anyway what does the UK mean in the context of the European Union? Don't some of those smaller groups use the Euro? What's the point of having an intermediary level of distinction? A Kingdom, obviously, is different then a Union but I doubt that the King or Queen of England could project power outside of England these days, so what's the point?

- The UK is one country with an irregular way of dividing its powers internally.
- I guess you're talking about Ireland, which does use the Euro but is a completely independent country. The whole of the UK uses pounds, although Scotland and NI print their own banknotes.
- Because it was completely unplanned, and changing it would require civil war
- England has no throne. She's Queen of the United Kingdom.
posted by cillit bang at 8:19 PM on November 28, 2006


I am a Quebecer and a Québécois and once more I am floored by the anger and frustration toward Quebec coming from Ontario or Western Canada.

What do you know? Why do you care? Why do you take at heart such airy political games?

Some cunning politicians clinging to a minority government play desperately with empty words and you bark on command?

WTF? Most people from Quebec that I meet everyday simply don't care. We read the papers and turn to the sport pages, we watch the news and skip, like you do, to a US channel. Yes, sure, we are a nation, so what? Have a beer.
posted by bru at 8:25 PM on November 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


still no love for the Acadians.
posted by dreamsign at 8:29 PM on November 28, 2006


Are there actual internationally recognized definitions of what a "country" is or what a "nation" is?

In a word, amberglow, no. Most international law is basically peer pressure. But within certain contexts, yes.

The UN Charter, for example, uses almost interchangeably the term Members, states, and (obviously) "Nations". Members are self-defining as states which have sufficient sovereignty to enter into a treaty with other states, i.e. becoming a signatory to the Charter. The UN has, on occasion, admitted members who don't have full sovereignty -- Ukraine was a founding member, for instance, though it wasn't sovereign until 1991. By contrast, Taiwan can't join the UN even though in all practical terms it's an independent nation -- it can't even join WHO to get information on SARS.

On the other hand, the UK has the subnational entities England, Scotland, and Wales, which have sports teams, but don't have seats at the UN.

There's a whole raft of different types of dependencies like the Isle of Man, Greenland, and Puerto Rico, which exist somewhere in between. There are subnational regions with high degrees of autonomy like parts of Spain and Indonesia.

Really, although there's broad similarity at one end of the scale (US, Canada, Mexico ...) the countries that are sort of quasi-sovereign have almost as many differences as they do similarities. Maybe they use the US dollar for currency, maybe they subrogate military defense to New Zealand, maybe they erase their borders and customs controls like the EU, maybe they issue stamps but not passports.

At any rate, in terms of Quebec, the closest analog would be something like a highly autonomous region, say Catalunya. They have more autonomy than any other Canadian province right now, but not as much as Catalunya.

Keeping in mind that the Atlantic provinces have only been part of Canada since 1949, though, a split isn't entirely out of the question. But there's so much that would have to substantively happen, as when Czechoslovakia split, that it wouldn't be a vague question in any way. If none of the following are separate, I don't see how it's even open to question whether Quebec is a sovereign country:
* currency
* passports
* foreign policy
* military
posted by dhartung at 8:44 PM on November 28, 2006


Keeping in mind that the Atlantic provinces have only been part of Canada since 1949

wrong.

Nova Scotia 1867
New Brunswick 1867
PEI 1873

and finally

Newfoundland 1949
posted by Deep Dish at 8:53 PM on November 28, 2006


Keeping in mind that the Atlantic provinces have only been part of Canada since 1949...

That is incorrect. Newfoundland did join in 1949, but Nova Scotia and New Brunswick were in at the beginning (1867) and Prince Edward Island joined in 1873.
posted by timeistight at 8:57 PM on November 28, 2006


I get the plan here: Let them become their own country, allow them to slip into economic disparity, then invade them and annex their territory.

I get the plan here: let them become their own country, and then allow the United States to invade and turn into another state.
posted by bwg at 9:03 PM on November 28, 2006


Yes, sure, we are a nation, so what? Have a beer.

A more concise and evocative depiction of what it means to be Canadian I have rarely seen.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:50 PM on November 28, 2006


My gut-level opinions in this matter were largely derived from the opinions of a bunch of anglophone Haw-eaters, in the late 60's. Subtracting the so-called 'racism' (sorry, Quebecois are not a 'race', so stuff that term), it amounted to: "Who cares? Grab the beer, we're going fishing!".
posted by Goofyy at 11:03 PM on November 28, 2006


At this point, I think I can hardly care less what Quebec does. I know I'm tired of hearing about Quebec separatism. Shit or get off the pot already, guys.

Myself, I don't think Quebec has a snowflakes chance in hell of making it as an independent nation.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:27 PM on November 28, 2006


I get the plan here: let them become their own country, and then allow the United States to invade and turn into another state.

How many square kilometers of tar sands does this Quebecois nation have? You see, the invasion would have to pay for itself.
posted by b1tr0t at 12:00 AM on November 29, 2006


How many square kilometers of tar sands does this Quebecois nation have? You see, the invasion would have to pay for itself.

Can they turn maple sap into oil yet?
posted by megamanwich at 12:48 AM on November 29, 2006



I was so very bummed to hear this news.

I was hoping Quebec would continue being a royal pain in the ass for Canada ... and then in time Canada would just be reading to scream. THEN ... they would hear about the murmuring plot to have the U.S. trade Quebec for Hawai'i!! (Oh, please, please take us, Canada!)

I figured the Québécois would do just fine with the Texans ... and Hawai'i has so many Canadians over here all the time anyway. Seemed like a good deal. (And Hawai'i would not be the militarized nuclear weapon capital of the world anymore!!)

It was a dream ...
posted by Surfurrus at 1:35 AM on November 29, 2006


bru: Yes, sure, we are a nation, so what? Have a beer.

An excellent first line for your Declaration of Independence.
posted by kid ichorous at 1:41 AM on November 29, 2006


Marquis said: "I find it weird to be so removed from the opinions of people like docgonzo and jon_kill, who (I think) move(d) in similar Montreal circles that I used to, and who come from a similar perspective. Namely - I think the Tory motion is pretty excellent. [...]

I'm an Ottawa-raised anglo who speaks french and used to live in Montreal. And I always use "Quebecois", not "Quebecers" - have done for as long as I can remember. For me it's a way of showing respect to the Quebecois linguistic majority."


I'm much like you, and I agree with this. Though I'm now living outside Quebec, and will for at least another year, I consider it my home and I will be returning. I'm not offended by this motion nor by the use of the word "Quebecois". I have used it to describe myself and I'm an anglo from the the Maritimes.

Maybe even this has to do with Quebec culture? I stumbled across an interesting article on Quebec English on Wikipedia a couple of weeks ago, which talks about the use of French words in Quebec English. It's addressed under the subhead "First-language English Speaker Phenomena" and might be worth a read.

I am bummed by the negative reaction of English Canada. I'm always so, so surprised by the anger people feel for Quebec (a bit of which has been demonstrated in this thread.) To me, this measure dampens the urgency of separatism and recognizes the reality of Quebec society. I don't support separatism - at all - but Quebec is a complicated, unique society.
posted by loiseau at 1:57 AM on November 29, 2006


I'm always so, so surprised by the anger people feel for Quebec

Why on earth would you be surprised? The last referendum on separation -- what was it, 49.8 to 50.2? -- came terrifyingly near to splitting up Canada, for christ's sakes. I had previously had no strong feelings about Quebec other than a mild pride that I lived in a nation that could be diverse and multilingual and so on.

From that point on, though: well 'fuck those bastards for coming so goddamn close to tearing our country apart' has been the overriding attitude of this multilingual BC boy. And I'm a hell of a lot more touchy-feely wet-warm-sponge inclusive that pretty much everybody I know back home.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:11 AM on November 29, 2006


I am bummed by the negative reaction of English Canada. I'm always so, so surprised by the anger people feel for Quebec.

Don't conflate disagreement and anger over a particular issue with general anger at Quebec. Sure there are plenty of people in the other Canadian provinces who offer knee-jerk feelings for Quebec, but the inverse is no less true: there are plenty of Quebeckers who have little but knee-jerk feelings for "la reste du Canada". One of those knee-jerk sentiments I encountered frequently during the 7 years I lived in Montreal was that "English Canada" doesn't "respect" or "understand" Quebec. I found this broad generalization just as insulting and misinformed as I think many Quebeckers find statements like, "So STFU, Quebec."

I think I speak for others when I say that a lot of the reaction against this motion stems from the ambiguity it purposely contains, and the haste with which it was purposely passed. As Rex Murphy put it, "The Commons hasn't done anything as significant in years," and yet it all happened in an amazing hurry.

Speaking more personally, the reason I would oppose this motion is that I disagree with both of the probable premises of it.

1. If the intent is to recognize the political entity of Quebec as a nation, I don't agree. "Quebec" in this sense is a province, albeit one with a few extra powers over immigration and its own pension plan. However, a great number of its inhabitants would not agree with being called part of a unique Quebec nation. Some of these people have lived in the place known as Quebec for much longer than any European-descendants have.

2. Many, perhaps most, white French-speaking Quebeckers with historical roots in the territory consider themselves part of a nation. This is I think the premise that the House of Commons motions is really addressing.

The reason I disagree with this idea is that I don't think the term "Québécois" is accurate. There are many French-speaking people with similar historical roots throughout Canada. These people, for better or for worse, are French-Canadians, and recognizing only the ones that live in a particular province is both inaccurate and insulting.

But, in Quebec nowadays, the term "French-Canadian" is no longer considered acceptable or desirable. Instead, "Québécois" has come to replace it even though it can also mean more simply a resident of the province of Quebec. Hence people started talking about "pure laine". To be blunt though, not all Québécois are "Québécois". Anyone who believes otherwise is fooling themselves.

I would be in favour of a motion recognizing the French-Canadian nation, but that's not what separatist Quebeckers want, because they don't accept the term "French-Canadian" and because it does nothing to further the cause of Quebec separatism, nor does it address the somewhat separate economic and political grievances (e.g., the "fiscal imbalance").

Unfortunately I don't think this problem is really reconcilable. Either we recognize French-Canadians as a nation of people within Canada or we recognize Quebec as a nation which means acknowledging that the political entity is something more than one of 10 provinces. I agree with the former, and I suspect most Canadians would. I strongly disagree with the latter, and I suspect most Canadians outside Quebec would as well.
posted by attaboy at 3:40 AM on November 29, 2006


Can they turn maple sap into oil yet?


Yes. They use an innovative technique called "Selling It"
posted by srboisvert at 4:45 AM on November 29, 2006


In the immortal words of Julian, Ricky and Bubbles: this is greasy. Gree-hee-heasy.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:01 AM on November 29, 2006


I am a Quebecer and a Québécois and once more I am floored by the anger and frustration toward Quebec coming from Ontario or Western Canada.

What do you know? Why do you care? Why do you take at heart such airy political games?


To paraphrase Rick Mercer, it's one thing for your sister to be you Mom's favorite kid. It's something else entirely to have her write "You're my favorite child" in her birthday card.

Perhaps we're upset that it's Quebec's "airy political games" that have finally gotten them somewhere.
posted by GuyZero at 6:59 AM on November 29, 2006


Necessary comedy backgrounder.

Merci, I enjoyed that.

As for the Issue at Hand: Politicians make vague, meaningless gesture for the sake of popularity. Tabernac! Who'da thunk it?
posted by languagehat at 8:21 AM on November 29, 2006


Trailer Park Boys sighting! Whoot! And nice to see that old commercial from the Edge (back when it had one).

Oh what a sad, sad post to read about. I love reading about my country on the Blue, but a post like this...meh. Sad to read. (great links, though).

I wonder if the 'recognize French-Canadians as a nation of people within Canada' thing would work - how would it work? Are there examples of it in other countries, and how does it fly? Anyone from Belgium in here?

I also can't help but wonder about Bru's funny, yet very true comments. Perhaps the true problem is not only separatism but the politicians who are out of touch with the reality of the lives of everyday Canadians (Quebec included). So many important issues to work on, and this stuff always bubbles to the surface by fuckwits on all sides (separates, Harper, the list goes on). Indeed, take politics and spin out of all of it...

*goes back to dreaming about multi-ethnic, equal, just, liberal society*
posted by rmm at 8:29 AM on November 29, 2006


I am a Quebecer and a Québécois and once more I am floored by the anger and frustration toward Quebec coming from Ontario or Western Canada.

Perhaps you should try living in other parts of Canada for a while. Given our shared French Canadian forebearers were asleep at the wheel the English stroll up the Hill onto the Plains of Abraham I find it stunning that mono-lingual English people (read the majority of Canadians from Manitoba to BC) are pretty much excluded from Jobs in Ottawa because of a bilingualism requirement that the province of Quebec flouts.

Then there is the perpetual leveraging of federal resources via the separatist threat. Plus the us vs them divesiveness that results in French oppression of the english and other minorities in Quebec and keeps the people of Quebec from noticing how crap a job their elected leaders are doing.

I say get it over with. I want to be a dual citizen and be able to visit another country where the dollar will be worth less when I move back to Canada.
posted by srboisvert at 8:37 AM on November 29, 2006


Keeping in mind that the Atlantic provinces have only been part of Canada since 1949...

That is incorrect.


Deep Dish and timeistight, thanks -- I was sloppy and knew that was wrong the moment I hit "post".

I should have written "Newfoundland and Labrador", which is of course the very recently-changed name of the province formerly known as Newfoundland. suckup

I do try to know a bit about Canada. Your prime minister is Jean Poutine, right?

When does the civil war start?

1963.
posted by dhartung at 11:11 AM on November 29, 2006


Myself, I don't think Quebec has a snowflakes chance in hell of making it as an independent nation.

Why not? They are a hell of a lot more independent, in several important measures, than the rest of Canada.

Quebec has a vibrant and self-sufficient cultural sector; books, CDs and movies made by and for Quebeckers regularly top the charts there. Save Ricky, Julian and Bubbles -- peace be upon them -- when is the last time the rest of Canada produced a TV show worth watching and watched by more than just the people who got lost flipping over to CSI, Survivor or Deal or no deal on Global? Economically, they are no worse off than the majority of the rest of Canada. They have a vast and profitable resource sector, more cheap electric power than they know what to do with, and a highly-educated, cosmopolitan and creative workforce in Montreal and Quebec City. Politically, they are the source of or the reason for every good political innovation or leader since 1960. (And, yes, some bad ones -- but I'll see your Bloc Quebecois and raise you the Reform Party; I think we're even.)

My point is slightly more rhetorical than realistic. But having lived in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver -- which, although nice, is really just Fredericton with a view -- I can say that the place where the idea of Canada really works is in Montreal. I will be the first to the barricades when the island declares its independence from both the country and the province, makes the waiters at Schwartz's our militia and appoints the bleu, blanc et rouge as the national team/official state religion.

Hey, a boy can dream, right?
posted by docgonzo at 11:22 AM on November 29, 2006


"The place where the idea of Canada really works is in Montreal. I will be the first to the barricades when the island declares its independence from both the country and the province."

Hahaha! You nail it.
I claim to be a Quebecer only when the province is under fire from outsiders, otherwise I am first and foremost a Montrealer. I half-joke all the time that I am for the independance of Montreal, because Montrealers share a pretty cool art de vivre, and most of us are bilingual and enjoy it.
posted by bru at 1:22 PM on November 29, 2006


Fredericton with a view

Fuck you, eh?
posted by timeistight at 1:26 PM on November 29, 2006


Fuck you, eh?

Oops. Sorry. Shoulda said: "Fredericton with a view. And sushi."

/i kid, i kid. Mostly.
posted by docgonzo at 4:05 PM on November 29, 2006


"Quebec will never get into that."
Parti Québécois leader André Boisclair, who is openly gay, is taking heat for his role in a comedy sketch that parodies Brokeback Mountain with caricatures of Stephen Harper and George W. Bush.
posted by zenzizi at 5:24 PM on November 29, 2006


I find it stunning that mono-lingual English people (read the majority of Canadians from Manitoba to BC) are pretty much excluded from Jobs in Ottawa because of a bilingualism requirement that the province of Quebec flouts.

Who's 'flouting'?

As a(n Anglo) Manitoban in Ottawa, I never experienced this. As would be expected of a linguistic minority, my Francophone counterparts were generally far more capable in English than the other way around -- and had to meet the same bilingualism requirements when required. If anything, there was a 'softening' of bilingualism requirements for Anglo staff, simply because there weren't enough of them with the required linguistic profile to fill vacancies.

Do you have some personal experience with this that you could share? Is this a common viewpoint elsewhere in Canada -- that French-Canadians are getting a free pass on bilingualism requirements? Because I don't see it, and staffing-wise, there certainly isn't a need for it.

It reminds me of the situation in Holland under Phillip II. Civil service jobs will go to bilingual applicants -- speakers of Dutch and Spanish. Non-discriminatory on its face. Yet the Spanish minority were far more fluent in Dutch than the Dutch majority were in Spanish, and would remain that way, so you got a largely Spanish civil service, which lent itself well to the continuing abuses encouraged by Phillip II. (eh, I don't draw a parallel there)
posted by dreamsign at 5:31 PM on November 29, 2006


(post script: "Eh" to be pronounced like the end of "meh", not "Ay".)
posted by dreamsign at 5:36 PM on November 29, 2006


something about Scotland moving toward independence, and maybe a harbinger for Quebec in the future?

...Partition is the new politics, despite being the hobgoblin of centralism. It is through partition that Ireland is booming, Slovakia reviving and the Baltic states prospering. The British government is in favour of it for everyone else, even forcing it on the former Yugoslavia and Iraq/Kurdistan. ...

I think we need a new Hanseatic League of independent citystates.
posted by amberglow at 6:12 PM on November 29, 2006


"English Canada" doesn't "respect" or "understand" Quebec

I daresay most of English Canada "respects" or "understands" Quebec about as much as it "respects" or "understands" any other province.

Which is to say I think most of us don't really care how other provinces operate within their borders, so long as they respect the Constitution and are fair about how much they share with the other provinces. Quebec "we're a nation!" takes nearly 50% of the federal transfer payments, which seems unjust to this BCer.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:21 PM on November 29, 2006


Video of the above mentioned Boisclair sketch.
posted by zenzizi at 7:31 PM on November 29, 2006


I think the solution is for Québec to declare independence and then immediately apply to be come a territory of the US. They can keep their language, local laws, and put off voting for statehood every six years.

What does the US get out of the deal? Another tourist destination without the need to exchange money.

Does this ruling mean Montréal can keep Ave du Parc?
posted by ?! at 8:11 PM on November 29, 2006


Does this ruling mean Montréal can keep Ave du Parc?

Now we're talkin'. Avenue Robert-Bourassa my skinny white ass. Will they allow hot dog vendors on that street, me wonders? Relocate the welfare inspectors there? I hope the James Bay Cree unilaterally announce plans to flood the damn strip and relocate people to Outremont.*

* Sorry. This is prolly too inside baseball for non-Montrealers.
posted by docgonzo at 8:15 PM on November 29, 2006


I agree 100% with five fresh fish (MB here).

Grow a thicker skin, already. Yeah, the francophone culture in Quebec is a unique society. So are a hell of a lot of other peoples in this country. Now go watch Veronique and Wattattatow and revel in just how specialer you are.

The cash and attention - hell, even just a fraction - that has gone into appeasing and quelling Quebec separatism would have been much better spent on Canada's First Nations communities, a truly unique culture which really has gotten the shit end of the stick.

Their mistreatment is already biting us in the ass, and it's going to get a whole lot worse than Quebec's secession could ever be if left unchecked.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:31 PM on November 29, 2006


D'oh, I got Virginie and Veronique Cloutier confused.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:35 PM on November 29, 2006


Who's 'flouting'?

Quebec is routinely flouting bilingualism by imposing language restrictions on all languages other than french. Surely you are aware of this. It is a huge issue which has even resulted in the Provincial Gov't of Quebec being accused of human rights violations by International Organizations.

It reminds me of the situation in Holland under Phillip II. Civil service jobs will go to bilingual applicants -- speakers of Dutch and Spanish. Non-discriminatory on its face. Yet the Spanish minority were far more fluent in Dutch than the Dutch majority were in Spanish, and would remain that way, so you got a largely Spanish civil service, which lent itself well to the continuing abuses encouraged by Phillip II. (eh, I don't draw a parallel there)


Was that sarcasm at the end? It is the parallel. The problem is that French Canadians have practical reasons for being bilingual and have greater exposure to both languages so they are far more likely to be bilingual. Meanwhile Western Canadians are anywhere from 500 to over 3000km away from the nearest significant population of French speakers making it unlikely they would ever be bilingual and making it useful only if they decide to enter the federal civil service.

Western Canada has pretty solid reasons for feeling excluded from the rest of confederation because the circumstances are stacked against them being adequately represented at both the elected and federal civil service levels.

While living in Ottawa I knew several people who other than language issues would have been well qualified for federal jobs that they couldn't even get interviews for. They were told straight up - take french classes. They all moved back west.

I'm French-Canadian and not from out west but I can understand their position.
posted by srboisvert at 1:48 AM on November 30, 2006


your govt should give language classes, i think--if it's causing them to lose good people.

Isn't there already some Ave. Bourassa in Montreal? (or is that named for a different one?)
posted by amberglow at 7:51 AM on November 30, 2006


Isn't there already some Ave. Bourassa in Montreal? (or is that named for a different one?)

Yes. There's a Boulevard Henri-Bourassa (as well as a metro station and federal electoral riding) named after Henri Bourassa (1868-1952). I don't think Robert (1933-1996) and Henri are related, 'tho I could be wrong.

There are also plans afoot to rename a major street in Quebec City after Bou-bou, as well as place a statue in front of the National Assembly.

To be honest, I don't really see why Robert Bourassa deserves any of the accolades accorded him. All the great developments of his time in politics -- roughly 1970 to 1994 -- were actually the work of the PQ and Rene Levesque. He was a failure.
posted by docgonzo at 11:11 AM on November 30, 2006


While living in Ottawa I knew several people who other than language issues would have been well qualified for federal jobs that they couldn't even get interviews for. They were told straight up - take french classes. They all moved back west.

So take French classes! Why is that such a horrible thing to tell someone? It might be strange to hear that if you're from Alberta and you didn't go to school when French classes were part of the standard curriculum, but it is not that much of a hardship. You can get a pretty good handle on French in a year of evening classes, I'm sure, it's very similar to English, and it's everywhere these days if you are paying attention to national politics. Often when I watch The National, I'm glad to see that if they're quoting a Francophone politician, they play the sound clip almost in full, lately, before translating.

I was born in Edmonton, and I have lived there, New Brunswick, Toronto, and the US. Requiring potential employees in Ottawa to know French is completely sensible to me. There are two languages in Canada, and there are definitely two languages in the Ottawa valley.

Ideally what I would like to see, you know, in the next fifty years, is that the majority of Canadians become proficiently bilingual, we can have useful conversations in both languages with the expectation that everyone can speak both, and we can calm the hell down about it all.

The shield on the coat of arms of Canada is divided into five sections, for England, Scotland, Ireland, France, and three maple leaves. We're all in this together. A good reading of the history of Canada shows pretty clearly that we wrestle with this every goddamn day, but we are, absolutely, the better for it.

Having been from one end of Canada to the other, and to every corner of the United States, I am absolutely convinced that Canada forms a 'nation' of people with a lot more in common than they realize, in spite of the language issues. This whole 'nation' thing feels very irrelevant to me, and we're having to deal with it now due to some really stupid ill-conceived politicking. It really annoys me.
posted by blacklite at 1:57 PM on November 30, 2006


Yes. There's a Boulevard Henri-Bourassa (as well as a metro station and federal electoral riding) named after Henri Bourassa (1868-1952).

I knew i remembered seeing it all over. Maybe they could just make all those one big general homage to all Bourassas?
posted by amberglow at 5:02 PM on November 30, 2006


Speaking of French, Howard Dean spoke at the Liberal Convention. In French. (video link; about 1/4 into it). Too awesome. And funny (listen for the comment about Fox News).
posted by five fresh fish at 8:30 PM on November 30, 2006


Opps. Sorry, that was a malformed tag! here.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:31 PM on November 30, 2006


Gwynne Dyer lays into Ignatieff.
posted by stinkycheese at 7:43 AM on December 1, 2006


Saw Ignatieff being interviewed. What an arrogant, condescending ass he is.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:58 AM on December 1, 2006


But did you see him editing on the Mercer Report (sorry for mentioning Mercer twice in the same thread). He's even more of an ass (video link).
posted by GuyZero at 12:32 PM on December 1, 2006


That was the one. Geez.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:20 PM on December 1, 2006


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