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As ex-Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney has said, it is important that Quebecois look closely at the implications of separation if it is to make a decision about dividing from Canada.
The economic well-being of not only those making the decision, but those of their children as well would be impacted by Quebec choosing to separate. Quebec’s rejection of being a part of Canada started to grow during the Quiet Revolution, but then it became ingrained later in the Quebec identity, as it slowly started to reject the principles of nationalism.
Just after a year of being incepted, the Bloc Quebecois said that Canadian federalism isn’t acceptable to the province of Quebec. Specifically, Bloc Quebecois said the never ending federal deficit that has been evident throughout the years, and the public debt, are hindrances to the province. The federal economic policy isn’t designed for Quebec, the party pronounced. This is because there is inadequate training for federal jobs. Poor federal funding focused on research and development and a swollen and pricey federal public service, as well as an expanding social and regional inequality. These are all hindrances to the prosperity of Quebec, the Bloc claims. The party is so concerned about what they call these shortcomings that they should be given permission to assume the role as a nation state. “This, according to the Bloc, will only become possible when Quebec becomes fully sovereign,” (Nekrassovaki, 2012).
The Bloc Quebecois has said that Quebec needs to become sovereign in order to be able to fully participate in the global economy. The Bloc states that the rules of the international trade are in favour of nation-states. International trade organizations focus only on nations, rather than on provinces, the Bloc asserts.
But the Bloc also believes that the province’s social and economic policies are burdened by being a part of Canada, and the federal government continues to interfere with the provincial government’s initiatives. The federal government is a burden to the operations in the province, the Bloc asserts. Promotional and research and development devices are focused at the federal level and they are not fairly distributed among all of the provinces. Quebec, specifically, doesn’t get its fair share. The Bloc also points out that Quebec receives far less than Ontario gets, as far as federal transfer payments are concerned. However, Quebec is the recipient of high interest rates and the dollar is overvalued, which is caused by the Bank of Canada, and this is highly damaging to the province’s economy, (Nekrassovski, 2012).
In analyzing the reasons why Quebec wants to separate, the Quiet Revolution should also be explored. The Quiet Revolution extended from 1960 to 1966 and this was during the Liberal Party rule of Prime Minister Jean Lesage. In this term, he was coined by a Toronto journalist as being member to a revolution occurring in Quebec, though the revolution was quiet. There was a time period that took place prior to the quiet revolution, and this was called the “duplessisme.” This was supposed to be a time of extreme conservatism, traditionalism and a rejection of the modern ways of doing things. At this time, the province had fallen behind in the times and it had gained a very negative characteristic and it was living through the “les annees noires,” which is a Quebec equivalent to the Dark Ages. Many people have challenged this view, but there isn’t any question that Quebec’s Prime Minister, Maurice Duplessis, and then the election of the Liberal Party’s Jean Lesage, was a time where there was intense changes that were happening. In the end, the accumulation of these events led to what people were calling the Quiet Revolution. “The first major change that took place during the Quiet Revolution was the large-scale rejection of past values,” (Belanger, 2000). The largest among those who were rejecting was Michel Brunet, who was referred to as “les trois dominantes de la pensee canadienne-francaise: l’angriculturisme, le messianisme et l’anti-etatisme.” This means the three main components of French Canadian though were agriculturalism, messianism and anti-statism. In regards to this, Quebec was in a phase where it was trying desperately to modernize. It was more secular and it was gradually moving away from what the federal government was doing. The attitudes were increasingly liberal and the established demographic tendencies were beginning to wane. All of these changes amounted to a revolution. Among all of the values that were associated with the past during the time that Quebec was strongly a part of Canada, only the nationalism continued with any strength at the time. But even that began to change, as became evidenced in the years ahead.
The results of this are expressed in Charles Taylor’s “Shared and Divergent Values,” he discusses the role of Canadian identity and how views of individual cultures have slowly dissipated into an agreement over politics and culture, particularly in Quebec. He said the Canadian government plays a role in shaping the various cultures, particularly that of Quebec and then the rest of Canada, into one consciousness through declarations such as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Policies that are put in place throughout the country, with no consideration for how these policies affect individual groups, have caused cultural individuality to slowly erode. Liberal individualism that Taylor touts, allows for the roots of each person in society to come through. He believes in a middle way, where there is national identity, but also the preservation of an individual’s culture. His theory touches on the very essence of what it means to be Canadian, and that essence is the idea of preserving cultural roots while also following a national identity. In making this argument, Taylor focused almost entirely on Quebecers, because the province is the most important when expressing the multiculturalism that Canada represents.
Taylor rightly argues that the Canadian government hasn’t done a good job at respecting the cultures of this country’s citizens, particularly in Quebec. Instead, there seems to be an integration of the various cultures, whether that is political or cultural. These could be related to social provisions, violence, firearms and about democracy, (1994: 156). But as Thomas points out, this development is relatively recent. Approximately 50 years ago, there were widely divergent beliefs about fundamentals such as the aforementioned political and cultural factors of life. For example, at this time, Quebec and the rest of Canada had different views about things like the treatment of Communists and Jehovah’s Witnesses, (1994: 156).
In trying to explain how this erosion of cultures in Canada into an assimilated culture, Taylor asks about what is the point of a country. He says this is in contrast to asking what people cherish as being good, (Taylow, 1994). In addressing what the point of a country is, he is trying to determine how a country can be internationally sovereign, yet preserve multiple cultures within its framework.
Taylor’s makes his argument about the role of Quebec and of the culture. He gives concrete examples of how the French culture has been fragmented. For example, he talks about lack of sovereignty that Canada gives Quebec. This has eventually caused not only the rebellion among Quebecers, but also the unstable identity throughout the country. In addition, the ignorance of what many Bloc Quebecois people have said about the relationship the federal government has in respecting French culture.
There is also some reference in Taylors work about how the issues in Quebec have translated into issues for other demographics in Canada. For example, he considers people of Western Canada to be a culture of their own, one that is neglected by the federal government because they are too far away. Instead of paying closer attention to the needs of people in Western Canada, initiatives such as block funding are carried out, (Taylor, 1994).
Taylor does explains that the relationship the federal government has with Quebec has contributed to a cultural melting pot. Ex-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau declared Canada as a multicultural nation, and I believe that statement has helped lead this country into acceptance of those who have different cultural backgrounds, though that isn’t the views expressed by the Bloc.
Taylor also relates the issues in Quebec to what has happened with First Nations in laying out his plan for an ideal Canada. While specifying the cultural erosion that has taken place in various forms, he has built a framework around which an ideal Canada can begin to form. The Quebec issue is just part of the problem, and it can’t be solved by providing a hybrid, as Taylor points out, of preserving one’s culture while also abiding by a national identity. Quebec separatists have rebelled against an Anglophone federal government for over a century, and there is no reason why they would now decide to accept a culture where they wave the Canadian flag and then the next minute they find a way to preserve their French identity.
Taylor, Charles. 1994. “Shared and Divergent Values.” Reconciling the Solitudes: Essays on
Canadian Federalism and Nationalism. Ed. Laforest, Guy. McGill-Queen’s University Press.
Nekrassovski, O. (2012). Quebec Separatism. Academia. Retrieved from
Belanger, C. (2000, Aug. 23). The Quiet Revolution. Marianopolis College. Retrieved from