Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois pretends that separatism is still an option for Quebec. Separatism is a bankrupt idea when you examine history.

Trudeau's rigorous presentation against Separatism 
made separatist arguments look small and petty.

Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois blames the monarchy for Quebec ills. The Marois grasp of the historic  place of Quebec in the formation of the Canadian federation is clearly lacking. Her separatist rhetoric glosses over 250 years of combined history.

Even in death former Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau makes the hearts of Quebec separatists skip a beat. Pierre Trudeau of course thought that Quebec separatists were bankrupt of any positive ideas but as a Canadian constitutional expert he held this view in a historical context.

Certainly the role of the British monarchy in the formation of Canada was a seminal change for Quebeckers. In 1763 the British Monarchy was part of the package that came with the Treaty of Utrecht. That treaty set the Canadian state in motion, first as a British colony and later as provinces operated by responsible elected governments.

The British Crown was at the core of all these changes and since Canada to this day remains a constitutional monarchy, the Quebec National Assembly is an integral part of this development. They have a Lieutenant Governor, who represents the Queen and who opens parliament like any other Canadian province.

The Treaty of Utrecht ended the war between England and France and one of the side events of that treaty was created by the outcome of the war waged in the St. Lawrence river valley that gave Britain Quebec after the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759. The 1763 treaty however provided  the following assurances to Quebeckers.

First they were guaranteed their language and culture. Second they got to keep their system of civil law rather than having to adopt the British Common Law, and lastly they were guaranteed their freedom to be Roman Catholics, which given the British internal wrangles on this front in 17th and 18th Centuries, was a very reasonable concession.

Pierre Trudeau always reminded Quebeckers of their connections to the Treaty of Utrecht that they have always been seen as a special case within the British system. In addition, all these rights were folded into the British North America Act (BNA) in 1867 the act of the British Parliament that created Canada.

When Trudeau brought the BNA home by asking the British Parliament to release it into Canada's parliamentary care, Quebec refused to sign for its repatriation. Trudeau felt that over time Quebec would see the virtue of bringing the BNA home. 

However, the BNA was brought to Canada and that includes all the history that goes back to the Treaty of Utrecht. So the question is how distinct can a Canadian province can be from the rest of Canada and be in the Federation? Quebec is clearly the model. 

When politicians at the federal and provincial level wanted to toy with the provisions of the BNA with wishy washy provisions such as the Meech Lake Accord, Pierre Trudeau, naturally was opposed. All that makes Quebec unique is contained in the BNA which of course is the Canadian Constitution.

Pauline Marois must know that Quebeckers retain their separate civil law, they maintain their language and culture which is enhanced by Canadian bilingualism at the federal level. The fact that they have turned away in droves from the Catholic Church is a choice they have made, and they of course, have the right to make that choice.

So when a separatist attacks the monarchy as a way to generate contempt for the Canadian federation, they should do so realizing that their parliamentary system and their democracy is guarded by the monarchy and that has been the case since they experienced British traditions and compromise that preserved their language, law and if they want it Roman Catholicism. 

Pauline Marois, the current Parti Quebecois leader, of course denies anything that makes her bankrupt notions of separatism look flimsy and without value. She and her separatists resort to Quebec Nationalism which is well known for its flag waving but lack of logic and historical sense about Quebec's association with the British Crown and its parliamentary institutions.

Separatism at its core is an idea without merit. It tends to use emotional appeals and senseless arguments to make its points. It always forgets the provisions of the BNA.  Separatists always rely on the propaganda that Quebec has been held down by the rest of Canada. 

That doesn't mean that in the past there have been problems but now we have grown up in Canada and no one of any consequence can support a separate Quebec because all issues can be dealt with by the democratic institutions we have all developed as Canadians. 

© Copyright 2012, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved. 

1 comment:

  1. Very direct and to the point. A succinct overview useful for both old and young Canadians entering the debate or lack of debate.