Thursday, November 23, 2006

A Nation Of Nations

I've commented on the tactical aspects of the nation resolutions, but I think that it is time to address the national question in a more comprehensive way.

I think that Joe Clark described the composition of Canada best: "We are a community of communities." Unfortunately, he lost the election he said that in to the Austin Powers of Canadian Politics, who then proceeded to open up this constitutional mess.

The fact is simple; Canada is a multi-nation state. I would say that Canadian is a nation of nations. The word community would have been sufficient, but now the word nation is out of the bag so it is time to use that. The two nation resolutions going to the House of Commons are the beginning of the recognition of this fact.

But there seems to be quite a few people that would prefer to impose a single nationality on all of the people of Canada. They say that one can only be Canadian or be whatever nationality. I believe that this is a simple minded view that only serves to cause more fracturing in our society. One hears say on how Canada is a multi-cultural country instead of a melting pot; saying that somebody that lives in Canada can only be one nationality is akin to assimilation.

The thing is, one can be Canadian and Quebecois(e). One can be Canadian and Acadian. One can be Canadian and British Columbian. The sooner that we all recognize that we cannot impose uniformity on Canadians, the sooner that this this country will be more safer from separation threats from places like Quebec, Alberta, and Newfoundland.

Let's have a look at the United Kingdom. It is a multi-nation state, made up of many nations, being English, Scottish, Welsh, and (Northern) Irish. But the people who make up these nations can say that they have another national identity which unifies them all: British. I think that Canada can be very much the same.

Neither is asymmetrical federalism the end of Canada. Let's face it, we already live in a asymmetrical federal state for the simple reason that different areas of the countries have different needs. Quebec has certain powers over culture. The Maritimes have a special deal relating to offshore oil (the Atlantic Accord). Alberta collects its own corporate tax.

I'm also tired of hearing this argument from people: we should recognize Italians, Czechs, and whatever immigrant nationality. I respond by saying that that is a silly example that lacks common sense, and therefore we would not see any recognition of any nationality not based in Canada. It would be like designating Political Science Students a recognized minority next to black and disable people. Sure, we Political Science Students do make up a numerical minority within Canada, but we can all agree that we don't need to be designated like a actually recognized minority.

So for all those people who are saying that Canada is doomed because of these House of Commons resolutions, I say, calm down and take a chill pill. This is only an symptom of growing pains; of Canada become a more mature state; A Nation of Nations.

5 comments:

googleberry said...

To my fellow inhabitants of Canada, French, English and all other varieties: I implore you all to take the opportunity to transform this worn out, yet wholly unresolved ‘National Question’ into a positive direction at long last.

Too long have we as a people found ourselves pinned between entirely human and understandable passions, and the inevitable power brokering of government administration. We all stand on the threshold of either another bout of inflamed emotions and tearing of old wounds, or the infinitely more delicate prospect of setting an example of understanding and cooperation for the whole world. Too long have we let ourselves succumb to the agitation and exasperation of questions of identity being played out on the political stage. As technology continues to erode cultural and geographical boundaries, we all must strive to strike a balance between changing with the times, and preserving our diverse history and culture. To do this we must realize that while politics and politicians are comprised of human beings, with human emotions, the system of government and of politics is an entity unto itself, and even in a liberal democracy, is often motivated by its own ambitions.

There are many of us in Canada who have just reason to be sensitive to the National Question, particularly those who have lived through the events of the FLQ in 1970, and the 1980 and 1995 referendums. While Canada has strived to be an example of tolerance and cultural diversity, it has not always been so. As a Canadian born in Ontario, then living ten wonderful years in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, now residing in Montreal, I have been subjected to, force fed and experienced many different opinions on English and French Canada, and most of them have been far from impartial. Like many, I neglected to take advantage of the opportunity to learn French in school. Growing up in Ontario alongside two Quebec referendums, the Meech Lake and Charletown Accords, I was subject to the propaganda of the day, which particularly in Ontario was and still is, rife with aggravation, intolerance, and decidedly lacking of empathy. It was not until I had the opportunity to interact with and get to know many Quebecoise in the more neutral territory of the Rocky Mountains that the first seeds of objectivism and empathy began to take root. As I now struggle to learn French at thirty-one years old, on the very soil where Canada was born, I see the stirrings of many old vexations and hostilities once again poking out from the woodwork and creeping into Parliament.

Many of us, French and English alike are growing weary of this deliberation, however if we are to evolve beyond this ‘question’ we cannot remain passive. We must not let this most recent reincarnation of the national debate be marshaled by political agendas. In a federated system, like it or not, provincial governments will constantly lobby for more power from the federal government, and the federal government will constantly try to maintain central control. This is their purpose. It is natural for any provincial government to use whatever means at their disposal to rally the support of its constituency, often drumming up emotions on deeply personal issues. This is a normal part of government, however on this issue, French and English Canadians alike must not play into this political mess yet again.

Gilles Duceppe has stated that Quebec is a Nation whether the federal government recognizes it as such or not. Before we get all upset about a nation within a nation, or what about the Muslim Nation, or the Irish Nation, or the Nation of Canada, a nation is simply an aggregate of people united by history, culture and language; we all qualify however you want to break it down so lets all get over it and move on. Where it gets tricky is pushing for this to be defined in government. In addition, if it is an immutable fact as Mr. Duceppe claims, and for the record I agree, then what is to be gained by defining this in Parliament? Now we begin to see the difference between preserving a culture, and gaining political power.

First and foremost we are all human, and the sooner we can start to emphasize this identity, the sooner we can move past personal differences. That being said, I for one would be very proud to be part of a Canada that includes the Quebecois. For Canada to be a country of cultural diversity, then culture must be preserved, all cultures. The most important aspect of cultural identity is language. While Canada is dominated by English, I respect that in Quebec it is I who must learn the French language and not the other way around. If my Canada is to include French culture, than it must include French language. In a global free market economy where English continues to dominate, it is natural for French speaking citizens to be apprehensive about their language and subsequently their culture being phased out. Would any of us feel different if the situations were reversed? What we must not do (yet again) is confuse this natural proclivity with the power struggles inherent in political circles.

In our country’s history, there have been many intolerances on both sides of English and French, people have been hurt, offended, pandered to, and dismissed. All of us must dig down deep to get over the inequalities of the past if we are to find any resolution. To make the task even more difficult, we must continue to avail ourselves of our long and sordid history so that we may understand why we find ourselves where we do. I would prefer, as many Canadians, a united country that includes Quebec. I would love for my children to grow up happily learning (at least) two languages as part of their regular curriculum; this can only make our country better, stronger and more productive. I see no reason not to support preservation of the French culture; just as I think we must all work much harder to preserve the varying cultures of this country. If Quebec truly wishes to go it alone, although I think many Quebecers seek a more constructive solution, I will be saddened for the loss, but part of me is compelled to be sympathetic to their cause. If we look back on the emotion in Quebec when Rene Levesque’s dream of an independent French nation was defeated in 1980, we do not see spoiled children demanding more than their fair share, we see a people unified by passion and like history. The spoiled child only really shows himself in the government power- play, in the FLQ kidnappings and bombings, and in anyone who thinks that Quebecers are a bunch of sapsuckers or English are a bunch of square heads. I would like to think that we as humans, as French and English, as Canadians, we are better that that.

So once again I implore you all, do not let the politicians have this one, do not let them divide us further with their bickering and personal agendas. They have demonstrated their failure, though not for lack of trying. Let them try and balance the budget, and let us as citizens of this great country show them and the world that we can all grow and prosper together, confident in our diversity.

Shawn Rennebohm said...

I'm also tired of hearing this argument from people: we should recognize Italians, Czechs, and whatever immigrant nationality. I respond by saying that that is a silly example that lacks common sense, and therefore we would not see any recognition of any nationality not based in Canada.

Fair enough.. But there are over 600 Aboriginal Nations in Canada, and THEY WERE HERE FIRST SO WHY THE FUCK DOES QUEBEC DESERVE NATION STATUS OVER THEM?

To chill out about this nation question? I'm sorry Northern BC Dipper, but this makes me angry about this exclusion. We spend so much time concerning ourselves with the Quebec question when we have never really dealt with the Aboriginal question. And as someone who's lived thru Meech Lake and Charolettown Accords, I think I have something valid to say. Forgive me for asking, but HOW old were you when Meech Lake went on?

Joe Clark was right about a community of communities, but Joe Clark never said anything about Nations within a Nation. I think this is a notion he would have disagreed with, as he voted for the Clarity Act!

Shawn

Northern BC Dipper said...

But there are over 600 Aboriginal Nations in Canada, and THEY WERE HERE FIRST SO WHY THE FUCK DOES QUEBEC DESERVE NATION STATUS OVER THEM?

Well, first of all Shawn, I am in support of them being nations too, and in fact, they have more recognition of being a nation than Quebec ever did. First of all, we call them First Nations. Second of all, the Entire Part Two of th Constitution Act, 1982, is about aboriginals. I don't see anything similar for Quebec or any other non-aboriginal nations of Canada. Third of all, one of the reasons why we are having treaties with the First Nations is because international law recognizes that first nations had power when they were first here, and that they should be able to negotiate their powers for the future.

I think I have something valid to say. Forgive me for asking, but HOW old were you when Meech Lake went on?

Well, I think I have something valid to say too. It is annoying that people like Warren Kinsella are basically saying that if you didn't live through Meech Lake, you shouldn't talk about constitutional affairs. BS! I say there is no need to worry about the sky falling.

...but Joe Clark never said anything about Nations within a Nation

And I never said he did. Let's look at what I say in my post:
"I would say that Canada is a nation of nations."

Shawn Rennebohm said...

I don't see anything similar for Quebec or any other non-aboriginal nations of Canada.

Actually, the BNA act of 1867 recognizes Quebec as a founding partner of Confederation, and you're talking about the 1982 Constitutional document as if it's the end all be all. It's not. We still need to refer to the BNA for points of reference. And that thing in the Charter recognizing aboriginals? Only time ever. Meanwhile, we have Quebec in the BNA, the Charter, in distinct resolution passed in house of commons after the referendum, and now this one by Harper.

It is annoying that people like Warren Kinsella are basically saying that if you didn't live through Meech Lake, you shouldn't talk about constitutional affairs.

I don't have problem with people talking about their positions, even if they didn't live thru Meech lake, but when they start telling me 'to chill' in a way that I see as paternalistic, and patronizing, well, I guess I'm going to be the same back.

Shawn

Northern BC Dipper said...

Yeah, like the last paragraph of your post on the subject was totally not patronizing and paternalistic.

And I've looked at the Constitution Acts 1867 and 1982 and I don't see Quebec being anywhere close to the recognition that Aboriginals get (which is pretty lacking in itself)