IN MID-NOVEMBER, as voting day in Quebec approached, Henry Milner wrote the Inroads listserv seeking thoughts to include in a talk on the election at the University of Umea, in Sweden, where he was spending the fall term. Milner was particularly interested in the views of people outside of Quebec. Rather than give topical comments, Iistserv members undertook a collective exercise, thinking about the changes over the decades in their views about Quebec and its sovereignty movement.
The listserv began operating in September 1997, as a means to link readers of the journal and others interested in policy discussion. With more than 140 subscribers, it offers one of the few chances for people of diverse views to grapple with social and political issues in depth.
This is an edited excerpt of the November discussions.
From: Reg Whitaker
I can't speak to or provide any texture for what is happening in Quebec, although I might be able to fill in some background regarding the rest of Canada (ROC). All the polls are showing an accelerating shift to the PQ among francophones, and ROC is wincing in anticipation of a defeat for the federalist champion. If there is any sense of engagement in the results, it is a numbing sense of dread, and consequently an averting of the eyes. I was on a Newsworld national TV show the other day. All the callers were from Quebec!
There is a perceptual problem in ROC. English Canadians see any election in Quebec as a referendum on Canada, not as another provincial election. That an incumbent government with as high approval ratings as the PQ and as popular a premier would be very difficult to dislodge in any other province gets lost when sovereignty/federalism seems to be the issue. I have no doubt that if the PQ is reelected with a big majority, the media will furiously redefine the contest as irrelevant to sovereignty.
Reg Whitaker is a professor of political science at York University.
From: Harvey Schachter
I suspect much of English Canada is puzzled and frustrated.
For the past few years the main coverage of Quebec has been of the budget cutbacks and referendum issues, as well as, of course, the decision of Jean Charest to head off to provincial politics and take on the mantle of Canada's saviour.
Traditional thinking is that governments that do nasty things and cut back end up suffering. That's not true -- but it's still the way we think and the frame for media coverage....
When Jean Charest took the Liberal helm and the polls soared, it seemed as if the universe was unfolding as it should: an anti-cutback momentum in a province that didn't want another referendum on sovereignty. Canada was saved.
So it's a nasty surprise that the Bouchard government isn't 20 points down in the polls. As well, in English Canada, Bouchard is seen as duplicitous (to put it mildly). His health care reversals recently add to that sentiment. But in Quebec, clearly he is seen differently and I don't think English Canadians understand that. Perhaps today, as Trudeau coincidentally happens to be back in the newspaper headlines after the tragic death of his son, English Canadians should realize that their generous feelings towards Trudeau are similar to Quebecers' feelings for Bouchard, a man also seen as having substance, courage, charisma, and the toughness to bob and weave politically.
Frustration? Well, as always, there's a feeling that this decides something about our future, yet we have no say. Over time, that's dangerous because it adds to the feeling that there is an Other -- an un-understandable other -- who is acting foolishly, against our interests.
Harvey Schachter is a freelance writer.
From: Henry Milner
Harvey is right about the attitude toward Bouchard, though another analogy comes to mind. Canadians developed a soft spot for Levesque. Why not for Bouchard?
Henry Milner teaches political science at Vanier College and is an editor of Inroads.
From: Louis Balthazar
Best wishes and good luck in your talk, Henry. If your audience has heard of Quebec via the English-language press, you might start by telling them that -- believe it or not -- there are some well-educated, well-travelled, urbanized, fair-minded people with common sense in Quebec who may vote for the PQ and its leader Lucien Bouchard. Will English-speaking Canadians one day understand that Bouchard is a moderate who may never conduct another referendum and will do so only if the rest of Canada continues to fall short from a reasonable accommodation with Quebec's "distinct society"?....
The problem with Charest is that he failed to come out with any serious, valid alternative to the present government.... People here do not see why Charest would do better in attracting investment, creating jobs and managing health care and education. Of course, he would free Quebec from the "mortgage" of sovereignty, but he would also deprive Quebecers of what they see rightly or wrongly as an insurance policy. Even Bourassa liked to have sovereignty in his pocket -- just in case.
And uncertainty about the future would not disappear just because Charest is premier. Jean Chretien and Stephane Dion will still be around to antagonize Quebecers, and draw them to sovereignty.
Louis Balthazar is a professor emeritus in political science at Laval University.
From: Harvey Schachter
Over time, Canadians could of course develop a soft spot for Bouchard as they did for Levesque. Attitudes are always evolving. The difference at this stage, I would think, is that Levesque conveyed in his personal mannerisms a sense of approachability, friendliness and, perhaps most important, honesty. Bouchard is obviously more austere and formal. He always seems to be holding something back whereas Levesque seemed to let it all hang out. Levesque was the kind of guy you would like to have over for a drink and a chat; not so Bouchard.
Ultimately, both made many twists and turns in their political lives.... Ironically, in English Canada Bouchard is the only person who has lost respect by walking away from Brian Mulroney. He was perceived as betraying his best friend (rather than following principles or being betrayed by his best friend, which were alternate explanations).
But at a deeper level, because of those personal characteristics, what Bouchard does is more likely to be cast as negative than Levesque. Not to mention the fact English Canadians are probably less charitable -- to use one of Parizeau's images -- of never-ending visits to the dentist, with a chance that on the next visit they'll end up facing major surgery.
But again, over time, that could change, I agree.
From: Henry Milner
Since I knew Levesque quite well, I can't help but contrast the image, as portrayed by Harvey, with the reality of both men. Despite appearances, Levesque was not especially approachable. This was mainly out of discomfort with the trappings of office. (Hence he was far more comfortable in the U.S. than in France.) Ironically, this made him quite formal in public life (using vous and monsieur to address people who worked with him for many years). And Levesque also had more of a chip on his shoulder about the English than Bouchard ever had. Indeed, Bouchard is personally quite charming in the company of English Canadians -- a fact confirmed by those I know around some of the ROC premiers. I am not sure that one is, or was, more honest than the other. Consider the Mulroney case. Despite the "betrayal," Bouchard ... went out of his way last year to defend Mulroney against what turned out to be trumped-up charges by the RCMP over the Airbus contracts.... Other politicians (including Charest?) were ducking.
What the two have in common is far more important than where they differ.
Both are political moderates and realists, and have much more in common with moderate federalists like Bourassa than with the zealots of the PQ hard-line. This reality came through about Levesque -- but has not about Bouchard.
From: Robert Chodos
I think the difference in English-Canadian attitudes towards Levesque and Bouchard has much more to do with the harsher climate of opinion prevailing in English Canada now towards Quebec matters in general and separatism in particular as compared with Levesque's time, than with any difference in personal qualities between the two politicians.
Robert Chodos is editor of the Canadian Forum
From: Frances Abele
With sadness, I agree with Bob Chodos about the change in attitudes in English Canada during the transition from Levesque to Bouchard. The hardening of views is plain in editorials and letters to editors, etc. Consider these two true stories. I know they're anecdotes, but they're indicative.
1. In 1975 -- I think that was the year -- I stood with many others in a hall outside a huge auditorium packed with University of Calgary students who had come to hear Rene Levesque. Many were there because he seemed to them a sympathetic, romantic leader who "stood up" to the federal government; the rest of us were there because we thought he was some kind of socialist who might ... advance social justice when he came to power. He was cheered wildly. He could probably have been elected king of the university that day.
2. Last Saturday I was accosted outside an Ottawa Tim Horton's by an irate fellow citizen who had noticed the Quebec licence plate on my rusty Toyota. He berated me about how "you people" were always taking advantage of the rest of us, were inconsiderate, and were taking up too much space.... To my relief, he charged away before I could engage him in a discussion of a renewed social union.
In short, I think that the "sovereignty-in-the-pocket" strategy so cogently identified by Louis Balthazar has been very, very expensive in terms of eroding national goodwill.
Frances Abele is director of the School of Public Administration at Carleton University.
From: Bob McLarty
Frances Abele's anecdotes go a long way to explaining my changing attitude to Quebec separatism. I don't know how true it is for others, but the explanation in my case has little to do with the personal qualities of either Levesque or Bouchard, and much more to do with the changing rationale for separatism.
As Abele notes, in the beginning at least, Levesque was arguing for a more egalitarian and socialist society. In response to a question at one public meeting, I heard him say that he was a separatist because he didn't believe Canada would ever move to the kind of society he wanted. He believed a separate Quebec could. Those ... were goals many other Canadians could identify with, and separatism for that purpose was something we could understand and perhaps even appreciate. There was also some emphasis on promoting the French language, but that seemed at the time a matter of fairness in employment....
At some point the emphasis on the goals of an independent Quebec seemed to change. By the time Jacques Parizeau took over, the main rationale seemed to have become some mixture of linguistic, ethnic or even racial pride. This was much harder for me to identify with and appreciate. The role of the state in the Quebec economy became as much to ensure that the "right sort of people" managed the critical institutions as to ensure they were managed in the best interests of all Quebec residents.
So, yes, my attitude towards separatism ... has changed. But I would argue that separatism has changed too. Quebec politics once seemed a struggle of "separatism and socialism" vs. "federalism and capitalism." Now, the programs and policies of Mr. Bouchard don't differ noticeably from those of Mr. Charest, except that one thinks Canada is a drag (for reasons not clearly specified) and the other thinks it's probably not too bad.
I no longer see any appealing reason for Quebec independence. I suspect many other people, once willing to accommodate the aspirations of ... Quebec for a fairer, more equitable society are like me. As we listen to those who support sovereignty, most of us no longer know why they want it; in some cases we think we know why, and don't much like their reasons. Perhaps the man Frances Abele encountered at Tim Horton's was one of those who has reason to dislike their reasons.
Bob McLarty, a retired public servant, has worked on federal-provincial financial relations for the governments of Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Canada.
From: John Furedy
To put McClarty's point more crudely, the two anecdotes reflect different times and attitudes. In the 1970s, the language police and other totalitarian implications of the language laws were only gleams in the eyes of a few. Now they are accepted, and even defended, by most Quebec intellectuals -- and even by many Canadian intellectuals.
Again, in the early 1970s, it was still possible to see Quebec separatism as a struggle for freedom from some old Anglo-Quebec oppression, but now those shackles have been thrown off in exchange for bigger ones that protect the "culture" and the "people." These bigger shackles transgress in a gross way the principles of individual liberties.
These ideas are formulated bluntly only by a few, but I think they explain much of the change in feeling ... toward the Quebec independence cause. When de Gaulle made his famous remark vive le Quebec libre, the remark, though undiplomatic, struck a chord with many. Now, given the language police, etc., the sort of liberte in Quebec is as meaningless as the "democracy" in former East Germany.
John Furedy is a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto.
From: Louis Germain
In reply to Bob McLarty's et pourtant c'est si simple. It is very strange that the simple desire of each people of the earth to form an entity of its own can be invisible, thus ignored and even fought -- sometimes bitterly -- by well-thinking intellectuals, politicians and pundits of all flavours.
The only thing that les souverainistes want is ... a new union, a new contract with the rest of Canada, just like the one Europeans want to achieve among themselves. The difference between Europe and Canada? Europe is regrouping. Countries have decided (by referendums often won by majorities of less than one percentage point) to yield parts of their souverainete to the Brussels parliament (among other institutions) -- but keeping control of their language, schooling and social systems.
Quebec wants to achieve the very same goal, but the starting point is at the other end of the same axis. Thus, it has to gain portions of sovereignty. So the referendum. That quest will never end, as history teaches, so why try to stop it, to crush it, thus creating animosity, unrest, and the rest? The only nations where different people coexist successfully are those where clear lines divide cultural groups. One cannot attend a German public school in Geneva or a French public school in Zurich. By contrast, here in Quebec, we offer both French and English public schools and this will remain so in a Quebec souverain as you all know.
Where is the racism? Where are the ethnic reflexes that so many people affirm to be part now of Quebec nationalism? what les souverainistes want is a government that chooses what powers to share with a federal entity and negotiates a mutually acceptable agreement with the latter. They want to be part of the Canadian space, just like Germany or Spain is part of the European space. We even have the chance to share the currency and the passport. Europeans had to create their common currency and common passport.
And, tell me, what is putting this in jeopardy? The blind and visceral No of most federalists when asked if they would accept to negotiate after a Yes vote! Adamant federalists are the real separatists. As for hoping for a fairer, more equitable society, that will come on top of sovereignty. Both are fundamental, if interlaced. Let's forget that guy at Tim Horton's. The same kind of guy, unhappily, is present at the upper levels of Canadian political society, throwing bombs in our Canadian peace talks.
Louis Germain is president of Caractera Inc., a graphic arts company.
From: Bob McLarty
I understand and appreciate Mr. Germain's point. I wish him well in his endeavours. All I was trying to explain was why my sympathy was less for Mr. Bouchard's efforts than it was in the early days of Rene Levesque's movement. I found it much easier to support separatism when it had clear economic and social goals as well as ethnic and linguistic ones.
This may be because I grew up with a grandmother determined to maintain her own little West Highland nation in the midst of an English society. She did pretty well until she left the farm. After that, she was hell on earth to live with -- especially after my father married out of her accepted group.
While I doubt the Rest of Canada would be able to stop subdividing if Quebec gets Europe-style status, I would be more sympathetic if those who want such status were clearer about the future rules for First Nations and other "ethnics".... I don't doubt Quebec would be as careful and humane with their rights as we have been with Quebec's. I would just like more clarity.
From: Michel Sarra-Bournet
My own explanation of the change of heart in English Canadians towards separatism is that they found Levesque sympathetic because he looked and sounded less dangerous than Bouchard. The perceived threat to national unity was not seen as serious then, even if it was new. That has changed since 1990, and especially since 1995.
Separatist-bashing in Quebec is connected with francophone-bashing in the ROC and with Quebec-bashing abroad. And demonization of Quebec's independence movement often starts with patronizing statements like "my sympathy would grow if ..." When all is said and done, when you scratch the surface of many analyses of the Quebec question, you often find its author to be a Canadian nationalist whose arguments to keep Quebec in Canada are based on a feeling of domination and superiority.
Michel Sarra-Bournet is an historian and author of Le canada anglais et la souverainete du Quebec.
From: Arthur Milner
I too was more excited about Quebec separatism when it seemed socialist. (Of course, I was more excited by socialism then.)
But as separatism became less attached to socialism and as separatist political leaders seemed to become more like, well, Canadian political leaders, I said to myself, "Oh, well. Too bad. But that doesn't change my acceptance of Quebec as a nation and my understanding of why Quebecers want more autonomy."
Bob McLarty may be right that certain Canadians (on the left) stopped supporting Quebec independence as separatism abandoned its socialist project. He apparently supports that view, and he exhibits an impatience -- an exasperation -- that I find patronizing. McLarty's description of his grandmother's experience is an unfair characterization of Quebec society, where now something like 25 per cent of marriages are between francophones and non-francophones and no one seems to complain. He wants more clarity about the future rules for First Nations and other "ethnics." Wouldn't we all. But he's asking the impossible.
For almost 30 years, moderate and hard core separatists alike have shown a remarkable restraint, even patience, and a praiseworthy attachment to peaceful, democratic change. Can't the rest of us do the same?
Arthur Milner is a playwright and co-editor of Inroads.
From: Peter Leslie
Bob McLarty has contrasted the independence movement under Levesque and under Bouchard in an interesting way, and I agree with him. I too remember Levesque saying -- he did so repeatedly -- that Quebec wanted to move ahead in a social democratic direction and couldn't afford to wait indefinitely for the rest of Canada to catch up.
I'd add that in the late 1960s and the 1970s there was another side to the Quebec project, more directly related to a sense of community. In the nature of the case, Canada outside Quebec could not be part of this community. Nor did most Anglo Quebecers want to be part of it and nor do they now. Some of us who felt its appeal ... felt that there was something in Quebec nationalism to envy, something ... we didn't have. We felt a twinge of regret that the 1980 referendum was lost, even though we wanted a federalist victory.
I recall a discussion I had, probably a little before the 1980 referendum, with Hugh MacLennan and a small group of the Eastern Townships Anglo squirearchy. MacLennan, reacting to the sovereignty-association project, said (in a slightly sing-song voice), "I really don't know what they want. Maybe they want a guarantee against conscription." He really did say that -- well, the words are not exact, but the substance is!
I felt like asking, but didn't, "Have you ever been to a concert by Monique Leyrac?" She had recently returned from Paris, where she had won a major prize, and all the leading chansonniers of Quebec staged a hastily organized concert at the Paul Sauve arena. Was there ever another occasion on which one could hear all these people on a single evening? At the end, Leyrac came on and did her version of Mon pays. I had never heard it before, was completely caught up, and applauded wildly; my friend, a francophone, laughed, tugged at my elbow and said, "Watch out, that's a separatist song." I didn't care; I kept on cheering.
I guess this is a ... "crowd behaviour" phenomenon, exactly what frightens onlookers -- except that the people in the crowd weren't doing anything, just enjoying themselves. It was the emotional side of what a government document called un projet collectif. There was a sense of being "us," plus a lot of optimism and joy. If this was totally outside your personal experience, you were like Hugh MacLennan, wondering what they want, maybe fearful of being dragged into somebody else's war.
Is the joy still there? I sense that it's not, and not only due to discouragement. Bouchard appeals to collective pride and dignity, as Levesque did, and there are still teenage girls who paint their faces with a blue fleur-de-lis for the fete de la St-Jean, but I do not sense that the Parti quebecois has the spirit it did in its early days. Independence has become what Bob McLarty described, a movement dedicated to goals you can't resonate with if your interests are not going to be served thereby. What we see is not just a loss of idealism or commitment to a humanistic goal; it's the loss of the sense that all is possible, or soon will be, and we can do it together.
Some people, of course, always regarded this movement as dishonest, and saw in separatism a vehicle for the ambitious. That's what Trudeau said, and what Albert Breton wrote in The Economics of Nationalism.... But I always felt they left out the essence. It's what has always puzzled me about Trudeau: how could he not see, or feel, this?
Perhaps I romanticize what I saw at a more impressionable age, and Trudeau/ Breton were always right about Quebec nationalism. Or perhaps I'm out of touch now. The old spirit is still alive and well in the PQ, but I can't feel what I could feel before: I, not the spirit of Quebec nationalism, have changed.
On the other hand, perhaps there has been a change of spirit, a loss of optimism and joy, the fading of the felt potential (as Renan said) of "being able to do great things together."
Peter Leslie is a professor of political science at Queen's University.
From: Reg Whitaker
I have a somewhat different take on why Anglo sympathy for sovereignty has dried up. I too recall the "first, fine careless rapture," in my case going back to the early 1960s and the beginnings of the Quiet Revolution. As a university student in Ottawa, I recall many trips to Montreal with separatist friends -- to bars, cafes and parties awash with heady ideas about independence and socialism. I can even recall one brief and testy encounter with someone called Pierre Elliott Trudeau, a law prof identified by my friends as a hero in the past but now a bit suspect.
My own attitude was sympathetic, to a degree, but ambivalent. Exciting things were happening, but not in my society. I was just a voyeur. The more exciting things became in Quebec, the paler and duller my own society seemed. Student politics in English-Canadian universities tended to turn on other people's struggles: the anti-segregation struggles in the U.S. South, ban the bomb (but we didn't have it anyway), and Quebec. And among some Anglo sympathizers I detected something I distinctly did not like: a kind of self-flagellating liberalism that demanded constant reiteration of our sins in relation to the blameless Quebec victims of Anglo oppression.
I remember a student conference where the Quebecois kept laying on the historical outrages and the English Canadians kept pleading for more abuse, to expiate their sins I suppose. It was, I remember declaring sourly, the perfect union of the sadists and the masochists.
My point is that collective guilt and cultural envy are very bad bases upon which to build future partnerships (whether inside or outside Canada). My ambivalence disappeared with the infamous de Gaulle speech in 1967. The arrogance of that performance, and the fawning complicity of the sovereigntists, roused in me a deep, visceral anger. My sense of outrage, as a Canadian, made me realize who I was. For all its shortcomings, this was my country and it had been grossly insulted by an outsider and by some within who had no respect for the political community which they shared with me.
To be sure, I was appalled by the behaviour of the Trudeau government during the October Crisis, was involved at the time in protests and have continued to do research into that abuse of power. But when the PQ were elected in 1976, I could no longer feel any empathy. And I was impatient with the Anglo outriders of that era who kept on talking about Quebec's rights and English Canada's obligations. The bottom line had now become for me that this is nothing more than a political power struggle and if Quebec were to leave I want my interests as a Canadian protected.... Giving away our interests in the name of appeasing some mythical collective guilt makes no sense to me.
When I talk to students, the biggest difference I note between my days and now is that there is no empathy with Quebec sovereignty whatsoever. Neither is there any sense of collective guilt for what was done in the distant past (for them, meaning anything more than 30 years ago). There is no cultural envy of Quebec either; Celine Dion is international in a way that Monique Leyrac never was. They see a self-interested group of politicians -- no better or no worse than any other lot -- who want to break up the country for reasons they cannot ... begin to comprehend. If Quebec does go (and that is clearly part of the landscape of possibilities), they see it as a business deal in which they will want their interests looked after. If there are any moral issues here, they lie with the Aboriginal peoples with whom my students tend to show considerable sympathy -- not because the Cree and Inuit want to partition Quebec but because the students sense a more genuinely just cause than among a bunch of fat cat Quebec technocrats.
Frankly, I think these students are right -- even where I differ with them on, say, the Quebec language law, which I have always supported as justifiable and which most English Canadians do not understand. This is a much healthier climate for sorting things out reasonably. I can't help but feel, however, that there are still residual expectations on the sovereignist side of a one-sided game. This comes out with the constant denunciations of Plan B (whatever that exactly is). The sovereigntists have been pushing their Plan B since the early 1970s (sovereignty-association, sovereignty. partnership, sovereignty tout court, etc.) With a threatened third referendum on the horizon, let's cut out the nonsense that any concerted response by the rest of Canada to spell out its bottom line is somehow illegitimate.
Our Plan B is as legitimate as the sovereigntists' Plan B. If you set out to break up a community, you are proposing to break up the web of reciprocal rights and obligations that have tied the parts together. You can't then go on about the other side's obligations to respect your rights; you are showing none for theirs, and are unilaterally renouncing your obligations. New ball game, new rules....
Bouchard rouses hostility in English Canada not because of his personality, as such, but because he stands for an unreasonable expectation that we in the rest of the country can be constantly pushed, but can't push back. That's one difference between then and now: the masochists have gone straight.
From: Henry Milner
Many of us remember fondly the kind of experiences in Quebec in the 1960s and '70s that Peter associates with the Leyrac concert. But it was not only in Quebec that such hopes were generated. I vividly remember listening to Phil Ochs on the Mall in Washington in the spring of 1969. We cannot expect Quebec alone at the end of the century to maintain the zeitgeist of the 1960s.
Reg Whitaker describes long ago breaking with Anglo sympathizers for Quebec because it implied a self-flagellating liberalism that demanded constant reiteration of our sins in relation to the blameless Quebec victims of Anglo oppression. I don't remember feeling any of that. (Maybe because of my Eastern European ancestry, I didn't see myself as a privileged Anglo). But I have long agreed with his general point: collective guilt and cultural envy are very bad bases upon which to build future partnerships whether inside or outside Canada. I add that the same lesson should be taught to the students who show, as he puts it, considerable sympathy for the Aboriginal peoples.
The fact is that we were wrong in the 1960s and '70s -- however exciting "the movement" was (Je ne regrette rien ...). You cannot build good long-term relations between two groups if you define one as the (contrite) oppressor and the other as victim. Neither will live up to their role.
So I agree with Reg that defending a Plan B is just as legitimate as voting for Bouchard to have a referendum as an "insurance policy." And I find little use in reciting Quebec's grievances. English Canadians harbour grievances, as John Furedy in his unique way reminds us.
More than anything else, Rene Levesque talked about sovereignty-association as something natural: a people taking its place among other peoples and, thereby, building or rebuilding appropriate institutional relations with its historical partners. Outside of the heat of an election or referendum, that is all that Lucien Bouchard and other Quebec leaders are saying when they talk about the issue.
European experts writing about Belgium, Switzerland and even about the European Community itself called this approach consociationalism. And it seems eminently sensible to most French-speaking Quebecers. We know who we are; they know who they are; we'll sit around a table after the referendum and sort it out. After all, we like each other a lot more and get along a lot better than do the Flemish and Walloons -- let alone the Germans and the French.
Except that the Flemish and Walloons each know who they are. But English Canada (as opposed to Canada tout court) does not exist either in institutions or (except embryonically) in self-consciousness. That's where Canada's problem lies. That's why we make no progress resolving a problem that is objectively far easier than, say, that of Northern Ireland.
Was this inevitable given the regional divisions in ROC? I'm not sure. Perhaps, had Canada not gone down the road chosen by Trudeau, Chretien and friends 30 years ago in the 1960s.... But that was a long time ago. The only thing I can say now is that nostalgia for the project collectif of a bygone era or appeals for redress of grievances are not the road to follow.
From: Mike Bulthuis
One possible reason for less empathy with the Quebec cause ... among the current student generation is that we've grown up with the constant struggle. I can't ever remember learning Canadian history or politics without their being a Quebec-Canada struggle. Born in the mid-1970s and never having resided in the province, I have not seen or experienced firsthand the passions....
We hear of the debate, but I wonder whether we really know why French Quebecers can be so different from us or how the past can have led to such passionate opinions.... I would appreciate a greater understanding of the case for separatism and sovereignty, but the predominant thing I hear is talk of possible political arrangements, constitutional wrangling, the discussion around the legality of such a division. Indeed, the most interesting aspect of separatism sometimes lies in the gaffes made by the politicians.
I am sure that those issues aren't the heart of the matter. The trouble is ... I don't know what the heart of the matter really is. And, unfortunately, it is political/constitutional wrangles that have formed my understandings of who the Quebecois are. I suspect that my generation's lack of sympathy comes from a lack of understanding.
Finally, my generation may have an easier time finding visible manifestations of harm clone to Aboriginals in Canada. Off the cuff, I would have an easier time articulating reasons for their grievances than for Quebecers'. But how would I explain Quebecois grievances against Canada? That question requires significantly more thought.
Looking back now, I learned about the Quebec-Canada issue in a framework of ambivalence. Yet, I didn't really understand the roots. It seems easier to understand Aboriginal grievances. And on Aboriginal matters things are at least moving, many believe, in a positive direction. With regards to Quebec, the opposite often seems to be the case....
Mike Bulthuis just graduated with an honours degree in political science from Dalhousie and plans to attend grad school at a still-to-be determined university.…