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Harper isnt sure who’s a Quebecois and who isnt.

I almost find this comical – almost:

It’s impossible to precisely define who belongs to the Québécois nation, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says….there is no exact definition, so it’s up to an individual to decide whether they are Québécois.

So then Harper goes on to try and define it. First this :

“Obviously, this idea is linked to the French language. For that reason, if you’re speaking of a Québécois nation you’re speaking of French,” he said. “You’re speaking of the Québécois, not Quebecers.

Well… what about English-speaking Quebeckers?

“I think some anglophones and some ethnic groups identify with the Québécois nation. Maybe some don’t,”

Ok.. so its optional for them, maybe they are, maybe they arent. What about all those francophones living outside of Quebec, like in Acadia or Manitoba or wherever – since they speak French, are they part of the Quebecois nation, since French seems to be a requirement?

“I’m not sure,” Harper said, speaking in French

Great.. so we have a Prime Minister who’s filed this Quebec is a nation motion, (and now revised it apparently to say it actually is The Quebecois are a nation) but he’s not exactly sure who belongs to it and who doesn’t. Apparently, if I move to Montreal tomorrow (and I loved visiting Montreal when I was there), I could start calling myself part of the Quebec nation, or the Quebecois nation (whatever terminology is being decided is the proper one to use) if I wanted to. Cool.

23 comments to Harper isnt sure who’s a Quebecois and who isnt.

  • Jason, your point that my definition is the worst possible definition for unity is reasonable. It is also exactly the what I was trying to illustrate. Polls suggest that large numbers of Canadians outside of Quebec consider “Quebecois” to mean French Quebecers whereas Quebecers consider it to mean all Quebecers.

    Well, here’s the thing – defining them as French Canadians (arguably, ethnically) ala Lawrence Cannon, or defining them as everyone in the province, ala Jean Charest, are both fair viewpoints. What I say is, define it like “Spaniard.” You – as in, yeah, you – can become a Spaniard. But how much of a Spaniard you become – how much you belong to that nation – will depend on the eye of the beholder and the degree to which you participate in Spanish cultural/national life. Ditto Breton, ditto Québécois. That, to me, is a pretty understandable, rational way of approaching the question in real terms, rather than political ones; it isn’t a poofily meaningless concept, and it isn’t some blood-and-soil racial insanity. It addresses the fact that Québec has now, and has had for years, all of the characteristics we define nations by. That is an important reality in Canadian political life, and once Duceppe put forth his motion there was no dodging the issue any longer.

    You mentionned to Scott that your posts are not convincing. I’d say that your perspective is relevant and worth hearing. This thorny issue speaks to symbolism and patriotism so convincing anyone is unlikely but it is still important for all of us to consider your side as part of this debate.

    Well, I believe strongly in what I’m saying, I didn’t mean to be falsely modest or self-pitying or something. I just feel like this issue touches people’s emotions so readily, and is so tied up in partisan and intergovernmental politics, that it’s hard to debate productively.

    I had the feeling, a year ago, before any of this happened, that Canada’s political/cultural elites – chattering classes, if you will – had come to terms with the idea of Québec nationhood. Liberals, for all that we venerate Trudeau’s memory, had realized that his vision of singular Canadian nationhood had come from a vanished cultural context of a Québec still dealing with the quiet Revolution – saying Canada is a single nation today, to a francophone Québecer, is effectively asking for a conversion.

    Perhaps I was wrong – or perhaps I was right, and it was just the political context and the public hue and cry that made this whole business so controversial. I am optimistic, however, that people like M. Dion – who, after all, recognized Québecois nationhood in print years ago – will quietly get on with the business of talking to Québec’s intellectual elites from a viewpoint of mutual understanding.

  • Jason, your point that my definition is the worst possible definition for unity is reasonable. It is also exactly the what I was trying to illustrate. Polls suggest that large numbers of Canadians outside of Quebec consider “Quebecois” to mean French Quebecers whereas Quebecers consider it to mean all Quebecers.

    Politicians will not share any definition of the term Quebecois because they know that it will be divisive. If it means Quebec then it may be interpreted by the courts to bestow special powers or treatment for Quebec (which is exactly what Quebec politicians demand). If it is a meaningless or symbolic declaration then Quebecers may feel disappointed or humiliated. Either way, the rushed motion was irresponsible and risky.

    You mentionned to Scott that your posts are not convincing. I’d say that your perspective is relevant and worth hearing. This thorny issue speaks to symbolism and patriotism so convincing anyone is unlikely but it is still important for all of us to consider your side as part of this debate.

  • I’m talking over-all, not just Iggy stuff or “nation” stuff.

    One thing I think you need to do (and this is my free advice): dont take blogging too seriously and dont let criticism of any of your points be taken to heart.

  • Well, I don’t seem to have done a lot of convincing here; and raising the issue just ‘continues the controversy’ on the blog aggregators. Plus, a lot of people know I supported Ignatieff, and I’d probably just be introducing the ABI trolls to the anti-nation trolls.

    And FWIW, Chantal Hébert has made the case better than I can in several columns, particularly “Duceppe’s Humiliation.”

    When I linked to it on Calgary Grit she got labeled a ‘Québec nationalist.’ If that’s ‘federalism’ and not just ‘blogosphere federalism’ we’ll have some maps to amend in 20 years.

  • I’m still waiting Jason, for you to put some of these good debating points up at your blog, and not just as commentary on other blogs :em19:

    You write too well to not be using your own blog as a forum for these viewpoints (though obviously I encourage you to comment here as you feel compelled to).

  • We can be reasonably confident that anybody who is not of original Quebec French blood is excluded by the “fuzzy edges” of any motion that declares the “Quebecois” to be a nation.

    No, you certainly can’t. That’s the worst possible definition, and not one, for that matter, that any political party in Canada would give you. It certainly isn’t what I was talking about above; for heaven’s sake, I wonder what I typed all that up for if this is your conclusion.

  • We can be reasonably confident that anybody who is not of original Quebec French blood is excluded by the “fuzzy edges” of any motion that declares the “Quebecois” to be a nation. It is hardly a politically correct hat tip to Quebecers. It is segregationist and divisive. The political fallout is yet to be seen, but it may ultimately promote the separatist cause.

  • The fact is that Québécois are a nation if the rest of Canada polls 99.9% unfavourably; ask historians, sociologists, or anyone else with an academic interest in nations. Ask, much more importantly, Québébecois. Symbols are not meaningless just because they don’t have the force of law; symbols matter. Especially in Canada’s national issue, which most of the reset of Canada is very happy to ignore 90% of the time.

    I just wish people would either pay attention to it 100% of the time or ignore it 100%. It is the people who have an emphatic but uninformed opinion only very rarely, without bothering themselves with the details, that always cause the anti-Québec backlashes. I don’t speak of anyone here or with a mind to be offensive, but some of the debate on the blogosphere was so utterly, disgustingly chauvinistic.

  • Jason Townsend,

    This issue surely plays into Duceppe’s hands but that is Harper, Dion and Layton’s fault. Had they bothered to ask their constituents they might have learned that many Canadians don’t like this Quebecois nation idea being shoved down our throats.

    The spin that the Bloc feeds to Quebecers needs to be countered with logic and fact, not meaningless declarations.

  • Why does the fact that nations have fuzzy edges make the issue of nations unimportant, or the Québécois nations’ recognition unimportant? I don’t find the notion remotely confusing or ‘ill-defined’ – it is as defined as it can be, it is important, it was a good step.

    I wouldn’t dream of stifling your right to free debate and I’m sure you don’t mind hearing me sell this. But the point of this gesture was essentially this: We, the rest of Canada, have gotten over our little “Meech issue,” and since noone noticed Chrétien’s distinct society bill and Stéphane Dion’s calling Québecois a nation years ago, we’re saying so in the house.

    That action deflates some of the spin that the BQ feeds Québec – that the Rest of Canada are still the Prussians Next Door from the Manitoba Schools controversy, the conscription crisis, the patriation of the constitution controversy, and the Meech/Charlottetown flaps.

    What the resulting attempts to bring this up do – even in the laudable service of beating Stephen Harper over the head – is make it easy for the Bloc to spin that once again, the rest of Canada is balking at the idea of formal respect for Québec. It’s classic ‘loyalty/pandering’ politics inside both Québec and the rest of Canada.

  • And Jason to say that this issue needs no debate and that it is insulting to Quebecers to do so, yet to sit here and debate it at the same time, is quite ironic isn’t it? The fact is no one knows what this motion means. I don’t want the government in this country to be passing motions unless they understand the implications.

  • If the corners are so fuzzy, then there was no need for the house to adopt a motion to recognize Quebec as a nation. If Quebec has different meanings to different people, then for the Canadian government to say that Quebec is a nation means nothing and everything at the same time.

  • The point, “sharp definers,” is that any “sharply defined” edge to a Québécois nation will exclude people who are a part of it, for no good reason. Antonio A. at Fuddleduddle considers himself Québécois, while some ‘sharp definers’ here might not; alternatively, if he and all people like him were sharply defined as Québébecois, many people in similar circumstances to him would find it ridiculous.

    I don’t think I’m ‘snowing’ or ‘fudging’ a concept just because it properly has fuzzy edges; there are all kinds of parameters you can place around the reality that is Québébecois uniqueness, but ‘nation,’ in the sociological sense, is the best one, provided one doesn’t try to input it into a graphing calculator and get it to spit out who is and isn’t a member of the club by rules. I mean, why? Is there a “no ambiguous concept” rule in Canadian politics? If so, we have worse problems than constitutional affairs.

    And, I am emphatically glad that no more than 15 voted against this motion; I was disappointed that as many did.

  • Unfortunately for Harper ‘nation’ needs to be defined in this case because ‘Quebecois’ seems to have two different implications in English and French. Of course Quebecois to the French means all Quebecers… it’s essentially the French word for Quebecers. However that’s a problem because in English Quebecois seems, at the very least, to give the impression we’re only talking about French Quebecers.

    It’s dangerous to not have greater clarity attached to the federal motion. I’m all for recognizing the historical signigicant sociological nations of Canada (Acadians, Metis, Inuit, Anglophones, etc.). I’m against recognizing only one, above the rest and for political reasons, and leaving the definition undefined and having it lack clarity between the English and French versions. Why do you think Duceppe, in the end, supported the motion? Mr. Harper isn’t helping a situation, though relatively calm at the moment, can explode at any time.

  • [quote comment=”193″]Good thing that the Liberals voted against that silly motion eh?….oops[/quote]

    Fifteen of them did, and I wish more had as well.

  • colino

    Good thing that the Liberals voted against that silly motion eh?….oops

  • Good grief. Don’t Canadians have other things to obsess about? What a luxury for a country to go nuts about semantics…

  • Tim Webster

    The people of rural Canada are actually misunderstood by the urban population. The funny thing is suburban people who like that think they are more rural than urban people cause rural people the most problems.

  • Tim Webster

    Quebecois are the people of Quebec. At least thats my friend who live in Quebec says. He just happens to be very found of his french culture. To be honest, I like it too even though I have forgotten most of my french and don’t live in Quebec.

    Jason Townsend you do have a point that Quebec is a product of its french heritage and has a distinct french culture. Other areas of Canada are also products of their heritage and have distinct cultures. The question I must ask is, how many nations are there in Canada? First Nation Indians, Quebecios, Metis, etc. My travels through Canada have shown me there is more difference between urban and rural in each province, than there is between provinces. And this includes Quebec, Montreal is very much a multi-cultural city. I think the difference how the critical mass of our uniqueness is spread across the country. If all the rural people where in one province, I am sure they would feel miss understood by the non-rural people. If you ask me about suburban people, I think they are bunch of misfits. lol, Please don’t take this too seriously!

  • So who do you think is a Quebecois and who isn’t, Scott?

  • As a supporter of the nation motion, I think there is something to be said for an open and inclusive definition. A characteristic of a nation is self-identification as such, and these things don’t have sharply defined edges. In order to participate in the cultural life of Québec, French fluency is sort of a necessity; but surely not family heritage.

    Let’s take another example, a nation state – Spain, say, or France. Can I be a Spaniard or a Frenchman? Or am I forever limited to being a Spanish citizen or French citizen, with my own national characteristics? To an extent, some people would always say I was not entirely a Frenchman or a Spaniard. But if I made a point of adopting not just the citizenship but the culture, society, national life of one of those countries, I could become quite a reasonable Spaniard or Frenchman. That makes a difference, as compared to an ethnic definition, say.

    I wish that people wouldn’t try to redefine sociological and cultural realities to use them as political brickbats, simply because a recognition of said realities became a political necessity for Canada. Québecois are a nation in every sense that the Basque or Bretons are, and like the Basque or Bretons, they probably don’t appreciate other people having rather nasty little debates about whether or not recognizing their existence as entities is a terrible mistake. We have, as a country, benefited a teensy weensy bit from having gotten this behind us, when you consider the many decades of not having our respective histories of Canada even remotely the same in Quebec vs. the other provinces. I wish people would really go talk to some francophones – inside and outside Quebec – before deciding that they need right-angles and semantic exactitudes in every bloody intergovernmental love note.

    We have about a century’s worth of shooting ourselves in the foot every time Québec’s national questions have come up; every conciliatory gesture has been accompanied by a corresponding reaction; from Orange Order idiocy then to people trying to channel Trudeau’s ghost ad-lib today.

  • This is simply too much :em20:

    To quote Monsieur Chrétien, “a proof is a proof ….”, and this qualifies as proof that Harper is not fit to be PM of this … nation.

  • The lack of debate on this issue should be unsettling no matter which side one is on. Especially when the prime minister admits openly that he doesn’t even know what his own motion means. We’re dealing with Canadian unity, and the man is playing politics with it.

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