A Canadian's perspective on domestic and international issues. Independent coverage of Canadian federal, provincial and municipal elections and anything of interest in Canada.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Canada is many nations, not just two!

I have to hand it to our prime minister. He’s certainly managed to bury our government’s recent disgrace at the environment conference in Kenya. First he took on the Chinese over human rights, then he comes out and declares Quebec a nation.
There’s nothing like making a big stew over the obvious and apparent to take the voters minds off the changeable.
There’s not a lot we can do about human rights abuses in China, and the fact Quebec is a nation is something we’ve known since the inception of our country, when one of our earliest Governors General went back to Europe and announced he’d found two nations wrestling in the breast of a single state.
There is something we can do about our stand on the environment, but as long as we’re talking about China and Quebec, I guess that’s irrelevant.
So lets talk about China and Quebec.
First, China. We could sanction them, refuse trade, put our economy in a hole in the process, and still not achieve any sort of pro-active resolution to China’s human rights stance. Further, if we go too far down that path, we will be forced to look at our own human rights record which, when it comes to First Nations peoples and the poor, is not so good. China could also press us to apply some of our “holier than thou” rhetoric and criticism towards some of our other trading partners, such as the USA, who have an absolutely horrible human rights record at home and abroad.
China could quite rightly tell us, okay, if you want our trade then we want you to take the same stand with America as you do with us. Talk to them about the fact they have more of their citizens imprisoned, per capita, then we do, talk to them about Quantanamo and Abu Greb.
This must have come out in the conversation somewhere because our PM quickly shut up about it and turned his eyes on the Quebec issue.
So he stated the obvious, Quebec is a nation. Anyone who has ever been there recognizes that. Why such a statement should ruffle Canuck feathers is a mystery. He’s simply stating the obvious again, making a statement no one with any intellect could take issue with.
Nation - community of people of mainly common descent, history, language, religion etc, forming a state or inhabiting a territory.
Faced with the drubbing our current government was taking on the international stage over its snubbing of the Kyoto Accord and its amateurish attempt to use Canadian domestic issues as a springboard or excuse, then agravated by the hypocracy of the China statement, which could well be described as an “International Incident” our PM had to do something. There’s nothing like a statement of the obvious to distract the voting public. Why not shift gears by coming out with a statement that no educated person could possibly argue against?
It worked too! We’ve barely heard another word about the environment or China since the PM made this announcement. Nearly everyone agrees. Quebec is a nation, but is this really anything new or surprising.
Yes, Quebec is a nation. It is made up a common language group who descended from a few hundred families who originated in France and emigrated to North America. They share a common religion, Catholicism, a common history, conquest, and reside in a common territory, along the banks of the St. Lawrence River. All this was recognized by our founding fathers, who gave Quebec special rights within the Canadian state. Fact is, there is nothing new or provactive about this. Our leader is just reiterating what we’ve known all along.
However, there is a problem with it.
Back when Sir John A MacDonald and his fraternity were forging our country they were primarily concerned with, yes, wait for it, here it comes, White People!
Now if our PM really wanted to stir a pot of bees wax up, if he really wanted to challenge Canadians to think about our country in a different light, if he really wanted to kick off a constitutional debate that would force the Canadian people to re-evaluate what Canada is all about, he would have said something else. He would have said, “Canada is many nations in one state,” or more appropriately, “Canada was founded on racist principles!”
Whether you look it up in a dictionary, or in a political science text book, a nation, as I have previously noted, is ‘a community of people of mainly common descent, history, language, religion etc, forming a state or inhabiting a territory.’
Based on that definition, one must accord nationhood to such people as the James Bay Cree, the Six Nations people of the Grand River, the Inuit of the north, the Blood and Blackfoot, the Coast Salish, the Haida, and many other groups that have resided for millenia in common geographical areas, shared common language, religion, history and descent, long before the Europeans invaded North America.
Now, imagine what sort of firestorm the PM would have set off if he’d come out and said, “Quebec is a nation, but so are the James Bay Cree, the Haida, the Salish, the Blood and Blackfoot and many others.”
Now, one might get the impression our PM was trying to give the people of Quebec a fair shake and was trying to recognize and uphold the rights of an idependent people, but that is not what he was up to.
Our current Prime Minister was not out to protect the people of Quebec or give them any sort of special status within Canada. And he most certainly was not acting out of any special concern for the rights of individual peoples within the Canadian state. Our current PM was simply wagging the dog, hoping to take our minds off his government’s recent abysmal international boondoggles.
Its despicable, its an afront to our intelligence, and its racist! To recognize Quebec’s nationalism while ignoring the national rights of Canada’s Indigenous peoples is nothing different than what the Chinese have done in Tibet or the Dutch were doing in South Africa during the apartheid era.
Quite simply, our PM is playing politics with this Quebec statement.
Yes, Quebec is a nation, but it is not the only nation within Canada. There is also a white anglo saxon protestant nation, and many, many, native nations. If our PM is really intent on upholding the rights of independent peoples, then it is beholden on him to open the door to a debate on the basic tenents of the Canadian state.
Contrary to the argument put forth by our earliest citizens, that Canada is two nations wrestling in the chest of a single state, we need to acknowledge that Canada is, in fact, many nations wrestling in the breast of a single state.
How we deal with that fact, whether we redesign the Canadian political landscape to reflect the multi-national interests within the Canadian state, and how we go about accomodating those interests within the our political framework, is the real debate Canada’s parliament should be focussed on. Instead, we’re spending Canadian taxpayer dollars arguing the obvious and reiterating the apparent.
And what’s worse, while we’re so busy hagling over matters none of us has any real issue with, our environment is going to hell in a hand cart and nothing is being done, our Native peoples are living in poverty and without recognition of their national rights, we’re losing respect in the world community, and we have a government more concerned with spin and political capital than good governance.
Once again, while the current Conservative minority government likes to call itself “Canada’s New Government” they are making it quite clear there is absolutely nothing ‘new’ about it.
If Canada is to survive in the world then its high time we got around to giving ourselves a good look in the mirror and finally defining who we really are, a multinational, multicultural, multilingual, multicoloured collection of individuals and groups who reside on common ground. Its not us and Quebec, it all of us together.


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