Why Quebec Labour Supports Independence

By Simard, Monique | Canadian Dimension, July-August 1991 | Go to article overview

Why Quebec Labour Supports Independence


Simard, Monique, Canadian Dimension


The movement towards independence is, in my opinion and according to all the polls and surveys, irreversible. It is not, as Brian Mulroney seems to think, merely superficial -- a 'passing mood.'

On the contrary, it has never been so deeply rooted. It goes far beyond what we lived in the 1960s and '70s.

Why is it happening? Many people will of course attribute it to the failure of the Meech Lake Accord, and the perception in Quebec of rejection by the rest of Canada.

I feel that it goes much further than that. The Meech Lake episode was only a catalyst, releasing a sentiment that had been asleep for ten years.

The loss of the 1980 Referendum provoked in Quebec a turpitude of such magnitude that we could say we suffered a 'national breakdown.' With the loss of the referendum, Quebecers felt that they had lost everything, not only their national aspirations and dreams but also their social, economic, and cultural purposes and aims. The project de societe went down the drain with the victory of the 'Non.'

After 1980, cynicim and deceit dominated political and social activities in Quebec. It was a complete national devastation.

Intellectuals, artists, progressive people, turned away from collective aims and actions to become cynical individuals. The PQ turned against unions and workers, maybe because they somehow held them responsible for the loss of the referendum, and became more anti-union than the Liberal government had ever been. With the loss of the 1980 Referendum, Quebec became an open space for the Conservative party.

It should be understood that Brian Mulroney's election in 1984, was essentially, exclusively I would say, attributable to the national deception of Quebecers and their very harsh sentiment towards the Liberals. Mulroney got elected because of the 1982 Constitution and the 1980 Referendum. Quebecers would have voted for anybody to get the Liberals out. And we all know that all of us have suffered greatly since.

But what needs to be understood about Quebec's voting for Mulroney is that it is yet another example of the fact that la question nationale, which has dominated politics in Quebec since the Confederation, since 1760, has ultimately defined Quebec's vote in every federal election. The national question has always had a major, indeed a final influence on the choice of government and consequently on everybody's life in Canada.

It is simply a matter of numbers. When 25 per cent of the country's ridings are dominated by the national question the rest of the country cannot ignore this issue. The national question determines, to a large extent, who is going to form the federal government.

Progressive Canadians have been mad at Quebecers for serven years now. Mad because Quebec made it possible for Mulroney to be elected twice, a result of which we have the free trade agreement. Mad because every aspect of our social and economic existence is threatened by the Mulroney government. Mad because this government is selling Canada. Canadians feel that it is Quebec's fault, because if it had not been for Quebec, the Tories could never have been placed in power.

I think that we, in Quebec, must understand this anger and its reasons. But I think that you should understand that Mulroney benefited from the exasperation of Quebecers about the national issue.

I personally believe that there has never been a real understanding of Quebec's nationalist aspirations by the rest of Canada, not by Canada's most progressive elements. That is what explains, perhaps, why the NDP has never been able to establish itself in Quebec, and thus has been severely handicapped in general elections. Again, it is simply a matter of numbers.

The perception outside of Quebec is that the independence movement is led by the business community, and is of a more right-wing orientation. Why?

Probably because the most visible advocates of the Meech Lake Accord were business people who saw breathing space for their corporate interests. …

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