My Canada Includes Quebec

Par Beryl Wajsman le 2 juillet 2013

There has been a troubling undercurrent recently by some in the non-francophone communities that proposes that one is either a Canadian or a Quebecois. This proposition is historically inaccurate, morally reprehensible and patently hateful. It evidences a rejection of our history, an ignorance of our laws and a disdain for the truth. My Canada includes Quebec!

It includes Quebec not merely as a physical territory, but as a moral patrimony. A patrimony which if lost, would leave Canadian values bereft of the best of us.

Quebec, like any society, has had - and does have - it`s black periods. Forty years of culture wars grounded in nationalist revisionism and minority marginalization is proof enough of that. But at no time in the past forty years have so many francophones come together with non-francophones to raise the standard of our brightest dawns not our blackest nights.

As Canadians we value respect for minorities. Louis-Joseph Papineau led the fight for emancipation of all, twenty years ahead of England. As Canadians we value transparent, responsible government. Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine and Robert Baldwin created the first responsible government in the British Empire. As Canadians we value adherence to equal law for all. It was Thomas D’Arcy McGee who proclaimed that, “There is room in this Northern Dominion – under one flag and one set of laws – for one great people. There is no possibility for that greatness – under that same flag and those same laws – if we succumb to squabbling particularities.” As Canadians we value an internationalist vision. It was Sir Georges-Etienne Cartier who instilled that vision in the Fathers of Confederation. As Canadians we value respect for individual personal choice without the moral yoke of religion. It was Sir Wilfrid Laurier who fought for that and declared, “I am proud to have been condemned by Protestant parsons and excommunicated by Roman priests.” As Canadians we value liberty of thought and expression. It was Sen. T.D. Bouchard and Jean-Charles Harvey who thundered at Duplessis that, “Liberty cannot accommodate a mindset that tells people what to think and how to think.” As Canadians we value respect for divergent opinions. It was Rene Levesque who famously warned that, “A society is judged by how it treats it’s minorities.” And as Canadians we value our essential rights and freedoms that are sacrosanct. It was Pierre Elliot Trudeau who instilled them in our national Constitution and Lucien Bouchard who formulated them as Quebec’s basic law. 

Out of the crucible of Quebec came the essential values by which we define ourselves as a people. As Canadians. Without Quebec -  without the thinkers and leaders weaned on the liberating ideals of Descartes’ logic and Rousseau’s passion – what would we have for a national, progressive political patrimony? Little more than Tommy Douglas’ historic universal health care. That gave strength to the national body, but Quebec’s ideals created the national soul. They are worth fighting for. But fighting for respectfully.

I am a federalist. And I will fight hard to keep a dream alive that this nation, born from the imperial ambitions of two European monarchies, can show the world that there is more that unites its citizens than divides them. But at the same time - as much as I reject the demands of some Quebec nationalists for auto-emancipation of the majority but auto-abnegation of the minority – should there ever be a successful vote for secession, a vote with a clear question through a democratic process, I will stay and continue to help build this society. The self-determination of a people is not a concept foreign to democracies.

Furthermore, as much as I reject state intrusion into private lives and domains, I sympathize with French Quebecers desires to protect and promote their language and culture. But that can be done without compromising the universal – not just national – civil rights of all Quebecers, majority and minorities alike. That means inspectors can examine the public square to assure predominance of French over English, but not go into private domains to look at menus, and yogourt spoons and listen in on the talk in lunch rooms. That cheapens us all. It also means an end to the paternalism that dictates to French and English parents what language to educate their children in. By all means assure French instruction, but we cannot allow the future of Francophone children to be compromised because nationalist administrations in Quebec City seeking votes through fear, ghettoize and segregate eighty per cent of Quebec.

Canada is a flawed constitutional construct. Quebec's Charter for instance is better than the Federal one because it recognizes private property rights and the protection of minorities from language discrimination. Though not always applied, it is there.  The great ideas and ideals of this nation have come out of us – the Quebecois. And yes that includes all of us who live here regardless of origin. That was the dream of Papineau and Lafontaine and McGee and Cartier and Laurier. It is the dream of all of us whose parents and grandparents came here seeking one thing above all. Freedom! It is a dream worth fighting for. Those who built Quebec have given us the ammunition. Their faith and their principles. A progressive, political patrimony forged in the nineteenth century and unequalled in North America since the genius of the Continental Congress produced the American Constitution. We can build on that. We must build on that! That is why my Canada will always include Quebec


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