Sunday, October 30, 2005

Sovereignty - Part 2 - My Viewpoint

I have now been aware of Quebec for 12 years and lived here for two. My wife and my in-laws are franophone, so my knowledge and personal experiences of Quebec have been primarily from them until recently. Now that I live here I am conflicted regarding whether Quebec should become sovereign.

In history, a major reason for a good percentage of conflicts is either one power oppressing another or distinct societies forced to exist together. This was the case in India, Yugoslavia, and to some degree Iraq. I mention Iraq not because of the US occupation, but because it seems there are distinct groups of people within the country who may be better off if they are separated into different areas.

Now I'm not saying that Quebec is extremely oppressed by the rest of Canada, but they are very distinct from the rest. Not only with language, but by their welfare programs and their ideals. To a degree the distinct nature is like Texas is within the US. And if they secede, they can take the president with them.

Now that I live here, I cannot only dwell on the romantic notion of sovereignty. I have a vested interest in the economy, the bilingual culture, and the outlook of this place. My occupation is closely tied to the economy. When things are not good like during the US recession in the early 1990's, work is hard to come by. During the dot-com boom salaries were going through the roof. I love the bilingual culture here. It has made my assimulation that much easier. If sovereignty happens, my worry is the anglophone community will slowly disappear. I enjoy that my wife and I can each speak are mother tongue languages and find outlets in our respective languages. Plus our children will also be able to grow up in this environment. Lastly I worry about Quebec being able to flourish on it's own. I don't deny that there are people here capable of running a separate Quebec. I worry that the transition would cause turmoil.

So that is my current standpoint on the situation. I would really like to hear your feelings on the matter. The next part in the series will cover the events of the last few years and the current situation.

11 comments:

Rachel said...

I think it will cause some turmoil and it won't be easy... but I also think the people of Quebec understand this and think it's well worth the risk for all that they'll gain in the process.

And I don't think Anglophone communities will disappear let alone suffer after Quebec becomes sovereign. In fact, I think they will find themselves even more protected, appreciated and welcome into Quebec than before. After all, it's much easier to relax and welcome other culture's into your own when you sense that your own cultural future is protected from aggressive forms of assimilation.

Frank said...

Rachel, Thanks for your insight.

Another reason for putting up these posts is that although I know that sovereignty is a big issue and there are people who feel strongly on either side, I have not heard any discussions about it from the people around me. I'm starting to understand the stance of Canadians outside Quebec from some of the blogs I have seen. But the anglophone voice inside Quebec was one I had not heard from. Thanks again.

Lucas said...

Frank,

I happened upon your website and I was rather struck by your entry. I am an Atlantic Canadian who has moved to Montréal. I also cherish it's bilingualism and it's unique mix of cultures. My problem with sovereignty is that, from my point of view, Montréal is as distinct within Québec as Québec is within Canada. It's symbols, mottos and population speak of multiculturalism (the 4 nation flag, Concordia Salut, ethnic diversity, etc.,) as opposed to Québec focus on French identity (the fleur de lys, the emulation of the French Republic, etc.,).

Montréal has only suffered from this nationalism, losing much to Toronto - it is not in our best interest. I am also concerned that far from simply protecting French heritage (something which I completely support), Nationalists in Québec want to assimilate and erase the very important English heritage in Montréal. Using Québec's own logic for sovereignty one could say that Montréal should separate from Québec given that we are culturally distinct, economically self sufficient and linguistically unique in our bilingualism. To me, Montréal's openess and multiculturalism are much more similar to Canada then to the relatively monocultural nature of the remainder of Québec.

I also cannot understand the logic of repeated referendums. Doesn't no mean no? Would future Liberal governments of a sovereign Québec be allowed to hold repeated referendums on rejoining Canada until they win?

Anyway, that's my rambling two cents. I really enjoyed the impartiality of your point of view.

- Lucas

Rachel said...

Oddly enough, I can't really offer an opinion as an Anglophone inside Québec. I actually grew up as a Francophone inside Québec. And, though I'm writing in English now and my French is terribly rusty (because I'm living in that "wonderful" bilingual part of Canada where I can't seem to bump into any Francophones who actually want to speak French out loud) I'm in actuality a Francophone "hors" Québec at heart. I've steadily been losing my French for years now, and no doubt a piece of my culture right along with it.

Sometimes that's what happens when you're split down the middle culturally. My mother was a Francophone Québécoise from an active sovereignist family - my father was an Anglophone Irish Maritimer (with family originally from Montreal) who hated "separatists" and moved us out of Québec as young teens. As you can imagine, it gives me a unique perspective on the whole deal.

Though, I've already seen what it looks like when his side wins. My father did his best to forcibly de-Québecois his kids. He moved us out of Québec as young teens (when he most feared losing control over us). He even pressured my brother and I to speak with fake Parisian accents when we were younger. All this to remove our "jouale" dialect. With folks like him, you lose your language and yourself and when you do finally manage to return amongst your own, they don't even recognize you anymore. :(

Oh but my father would spin great tales in defense of multiculturalism if it meant some part of that could be wielded against a sovereign Québec. At heart he was motivated by fear, ignorance and hatred but to the untrained eye he seemed like the very model of a 'rational' Canadian nationalist.

Lucas said...

I actually had a related but quite different experience. My mother was an French Québecoise and my father was an Irish maritimer. They left Québec right about the time English houses in Westmount were being firebombed. We moved to New Brunswick and they insisted, particularly my English speaking father, that I be fully bilingual. In New Brunswick, which is officially bilingual, French Immersion has actually become de-facto streaming and has created a bilingual elite in the educational system. The use of French is encouraged anywhere and everywhere.

My mother would tell me stories about life in Québec - about the stupid bitterness and hate on both sides. She had an English mother from the USA so was not considered "pure laine" and lived in an English part of the city. I came here because I believe in a multicultural Canada and a strong French culture in North America. Only Montréal with it's accessibility and openess is spreading French culture - the areas of Québec motivated my xenophobia and fear are contracting - birth rates are falling, industry is withdrawing and certainly no immigrantion of note is helping them grow.

I am opposed to the idea of Québec seperatism also because it seems based on this myth of "Two Canada's" - essentially English Ontario and French Québec. This is a fabrication and a warped point of view based on the power and population of these two provinces. Newfoundland, the NWT, Cape Breton or the West all have massive socio-cultural, economic and linguistic differences from Ontario - the myth of one English Canada is a lie. Newfoundland was it's own country until 1949 - St.John's is a very distinct city and culture, it might share a lanaguage but it's society is much more different from Ontario's then that of Québec. When I'm standing in Laval, Longeuil, Cap de la Madelaine or Ste.Foy only the French signs give away that I'm not in Kanata, Orleans, Mississauga, Calgary or Surrey.

I have no interest in losing Québec but if independance is simply a means to satisfy some silly ancient grudge or satisfy some pseudo-intellectual wannabe Québec City elite, then I have to say no - let Montréal be a great world city, let the rest of Québec do whatever the hell it wants. I don't think the social policy of Montréal should be set in places which are far less economically, socially and culturally vibrant or important. Imagine if the sociocultural norms of Albany were forced on NYC? Seperatists believe Québec is a dysfunction within Canada - using their same logic, Montréal is a dysfunction in Québec. They must either accept the validity of their arguments used against them, or admit naked hypocrisy. I wouldn't be surprised by the latter.

Anonymous said...

Vous savez J'ai des amies de la finland,Suede et Norvege et tous 3 comprennent que le Quebec doit volé de ces propre ailes et que le francais sera enfin protégé et que l'anglais sera parler par tous une fois pour toute.

You know i had 3 friends from finland,Norway and Sweden and all those friend understand that Quebec as to be a country and french language will become officialy the popular language for all and english will be speaking by all.
everytime i heard peoples who don't want quebec separate is still always New Brunswick et le reste des maritimes and your attitude is same as you refuse your mother divorce from your father just for save your artificial familly still alive.
it's totally selfish and in the last june month Alberta opinions say at 40% they want to separate from the rest of Canada.
all of you are english speaking and only 3% of the english speaking in Canada watch TV or go to english canadian cinema.
You dont care of your Canadian identity.
In Quebec 25% of the french population they pay for Quebecois movies.
Do you know the difference bettween english speaking and us in Quebec?
YOU DONT HAVE YOUR OWN CULTURE AND YOu'LL NEVER GET IT WITH YOUR ATTITUDE!
Canada flag and song have been made by a Quebecois!

you just want to be the side of the stronger and quebecois they just want to enjoy and show the difference how is beautifull.

since i know Chinese cinema it's amaze me (not karate movies i mean)I am so happy to see a different way of mentality in a cinema.

Quebec become better years after years and all culture have to be protect eventhough is the smaller country in the world.

have you ever heard music from Iceland? their rock is fantastic but nobody know because they sing in their own language.
english speaking they thing is not cool if the song is not in english and they dont buy!

The rest of Canada seem much open than Quebec with immigrant but it's totally normal you are all from only one or three generation.
And all of you claim Quebec is just a population like the rest of Canada! because you don't want to understand ours population is the root of Canada.

only scandinavia person from Scandinavia can understand because they know what roots still is!

my wife she is not Quebecoise or Canadienne and the first time i met her she say Quebec has to be a country for is great value of life.
She say in California conversation was how to make money and in Quebec eventhough it's monday peoples like to go in a dance club or activities.

She choose me for my deep culture and i am true inside and she quite California money and empty body.

for her Toronto it's just another state of america.copy cat!

eventhough you'll destroy Quebec identity with your selfish attitude to Keep Canada toguether artificially like your mother and father! In one hundred years, your ancester will hate you for what you did! destroy the last chance of a nice culture to grow in north America.

have a nice artificial life!

Frank said...

Lucas,

Thank you for your comments. They are honest and straightforward. I agree with the point about Montreal within Quebec. The possibility even crossed my mind that somehow part of the city could be annexed to Ontario in order to keep the bilingualism. But that would be silly, make the city like a separated Berlin, and would divide the city instead of unite it.

You make a good point about the differences. The culture in Montreal is so special that I really hope that given whatever the outcome it will be conserved. The same goes for Quebec being one of the last places for French culture in North America. It needs to be preserved. Which solution will do both? Is there a solution that could do both? I am leaning toward some sort of revised federalism with a smaller federal government and larger provincial government being an answer. Your points about distinct Maritime cultures and beliefs also suggest this may be a solution. People’s impression in Quebec of double taxation (federal & provincial) also needs to be resolved.

There has been a trend towards more recognition of Quebec as a distinct culture. I think that has been the reason for pushing more referendums. I think the only way they will stop is if one side wins by 70-30. Also the two referendums point to a trend, 40-60 then 50-50. That last one was so close it probably left the question hanging in their minds.

Rachel,

Thank you again for your insight. It helps enlighten me about the situation. You also have a unique perspective that sheds light on the situation. Either I have been sheltered, naïve, or everyone is shying away from the subject. Because in the two years I have been here, I have really not heard from anyone who feels strongly either way. I keep hearing about it, but not experiencing it first hand. That was one reason for this post. With that said…

Anonymous,

Thank you also for your comments. I get the impression that the bulk of your comments are not in response to things said in the post or comments. I’m not dismissing them. They seem more directed toward the rest of Canada in general. I have also recently seen biting comments from the other side in western Canada directed toward Quebec’s ‘special priviledges’. My hope is that everyone’s animosity could somehow be placated. Your comments demonstrate the anger on the side of the ‘Yes’ vote. It helps me to understand what some of the arguments are for that side. I’m also interested in hearing a strong but reasoned argument for the ‘Non’ vote from a Quebec native. A strong but reasoned argument for the ‘Yes’ vote from a Quebec native would also be nice.

Anonymous said...

Canada and Quebec are much stronger together and both will suffer if seperated. However, if Quebec does split but remains a solid democracy, then I will accept their decision - even after multiple referenda;).

As a former Montrealer, let me say this about Toronto (a city I now live near), it is a wonderful place. Its charms are not as immediately apparent as Montreal's but they exist if you have the time and an open mind to find them.

I think the previous anonymous' view of Canada and Toronto is terribly clouded by hostility and that makes me sad.

ra

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