Quebec - Filing for Divorce

By Beichman, Arnold | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 2, 1997 | Go to article overview

Quebec - Filing for Divorce


Beichman, Arnold, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Every national election in recent decades brings Canada closer to that country's breakup. It is an extraordinary phenomenon that a national election, instead of strengthening national unity, should threaten it. The British election in May didn't mean an end to Britain even though Scotland will have its own legislature. The French election doesn't forewarn the world of France's dissolution. Germany's upcoming election won't lead to two Germanys. American elections are a triumph in organization and expression. Not Canada.

Canada's parliamentary election today may lead to the country's breakup no matter what the outcome. The men who lead Quebec are determined, come what may, to become a sovereign republic based on language - French - and culture. They lost a provincial referendum by a handful of votes in late 1995. Another Quebec referendum is scheduled for next year.

During this electoral campaign one fact has emerged. Most of Canada, certainly the voting public in western Canada, is simply tired and bored with the whole debate over Quebec nationalism. Western provinces like Alberta and British Columbia are prepared to let that huge province in Eastern Canada go its way and good riddance. That would leave Canada a unilingual country with no more costly expenditures on bilingualism from cereal boxes to court documents and no more having to bow before Quebec's pre-secessionist demand for recognition as "a distinct society."

In many ways, Quebec already enjoys a measure of independence which none of the other English-speaking provinces enjoys, much to their irritation. Canada is a highly decentralized country whose provinces have far greater power vis-a-vis Ottawa, the Federal capital, than have any of the 50 American states.

What surely must startle outside observers is that the party which seeks the breakup of Canada, namely the Bloc Quebecois, won enough seats in the 1983 national elections to the Federal House of Commons to be recognized, as required by law, the official party of opposition. The separatist Bloc Quebecois won 54 of 75 seats in their home province while the conservative Reform Party won but 52 seats nationally (and none in Quebec) and thus came in third. …

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