Independence of Québec:About
Independence of Québec : Resource Centre for the English-Speaking World
This website provides a starting point for English speakers who wish to know more about Québec's independence movement. The political status of the Canadian province of Québec has been the subject of a fundamental debate in Québec's French-speaking society for the past 50 years, and arguably a lot longer. For many English speakers, including those who live in Canada and even in Quebec, the subject is a complete mystery. This site wants to help its visitors in developing their own opinions on the subject by enabling them to access 1) the facts which constitute the premises in the arguments of those who advocate independence or major constitutional reforms, and 2) the opinions of those same advocates, unaltered, unfiltered, straight from the original sources. Whenever possible, English language resources are provided, and to this end, we provide our own original translations.
The facts section contains links to locally-store documents or external resources on other web sites where facts can be found. We do not claim these external sites nor the documents themselves to be free from inaccuracies or opinions. With the external links, added to our own copies of some key documents, we only try to point out resources where factual information can be located. Visitors are expected to exercise judgment in order to figure out what is true and what is false, what is a fact and what is a point of view on something.
With the exception of the Con arguments page, the opinions section attempts to point out a certain number of valid sources that could lead visitors to understand and ultimately sympathize with the movement for the independence of Québec. There, the visitors will find many opinions by Québec's nationalists, autonomists, sovereignists or independentists, as well as some basic notions and concepts to help them understand the reasoning behind these opinions. Unfortunately, most of the good texts we would like to put on our website are in French only. They are being (slowly) translated by volunteers. If you can read and write French and English and would like to help us, you can send us an e-mail at englishATrepubliquelibre.org .
Origin of this site
What convinced us to start working on this site is a wonderful text by journalist Jean-François Lisée, published in the University of Toronto Press in 2002. The text in question is a review of the book "Why Canadian Unity Matters and Why Americans Care - Democratic Pluralism at Risk" by Charles F. Doran. As intelligently written by Mr. Lisée, despite Doran's credibility and obviously excellent research on the subject, the work includes the usual quantity of outdated informations and regrettable inaccuracies on Québec, which totally nullify the value of his exercise.
Indeed, Québec's sovereignists, independentists, and nationalists have published countless documents over the past 40 years, the overwhelming majority of which were written in French and were unfortunately not always translated to English. Meanwhile, for about 40 years also, English-speaking Canada also published many documents in reaction to the movements in Québec and this is what English speakers tend to read first if not solely.
However, the documents published by English-speaking Canadians were often read and sometimes translated to French by Quebecers, a fair percentage of whom are bilingual French-English, and this contributed to enrich the discussions and the debates that generally goes on within the French-speaking community. Extremist and grossly delusional positions were reduced if not eliminated by the confrontation of the points of view of both French speakers and English speakers, whether partisan of or adversarial to the independence movement. The whole set of facts and opinions are being considered when comes the time of the analysis and the formulation of the theses. The result of all this is that, within Québec, in the community of those who speak French as first or second language, there is an actual debate on the question of Quebec's political status, in which the opinions of partisans of as well as opponents to independence are accurately represented and articulated through a rational discourse. Such is generally not the case in English-speaking Canada, because the representation of the Quebec nationalist and secessionist points of view are literally censored or, at best, presented in a very biased manner. Part of it has to do with the political agenda and the anti-separatist strategy adopted by some of the players, but also because the essential material is not available to people who do not read French very well. Consequently, unilingual English speakers or English speakers whose knowledge of the French language and Quebec culture is inadequate, discover the question on Quebec's political future through the appearance of a debate which really is a national soliloquy between aggressively anti-Quebec Canadian nationalists and moderately anti-Quebec advocate of the constitutional status quo, with here and there the odd "marginal" opinions of Canadians sympathetic to Quebec's quest for political equality and even more odd opinions of Quebec's independence advocates.
We concluded that there really should exist a one stop Internet site where the fundamental arguments, theses and opinions of Québec's sovereignists, independentists and other nationalists could be found. Here we are now, adding more and more information to this site on a (somewhat) regular basis.
If you find a broken link, or come across a spelling or grammar mistake, please report it to us. If you wish to add a new link to this site, feel free to send us an e-mail at englishATrepubliquelibre.org .
An old communication problem
January 2007 update
We believe that this site tries to address a communication problem that turns out to be, upon further research, much older than originally believed.
The difference of language produces misconceptions yet more fatal even than those which it occasions with respect to opinions: it aggravates the national animosities, by representing all the event of the day in utterly different lights. The political misrepresentation of the facts is one of the incidents of a free press in every free country; but in nations in which all speak the same language, those who receive a misrepresentation from one side, have generally some means of learning the truth from the other. In Lower Canada however, where the French an English papers represent adverse opinions, and where no large portion of the community can read both languages with ease, those who receive the misrepresentations are rarely able to avail themselves of the means of correction. It is difficult to conceive the perversity with which the misrepresentation are habitually made, and the gross delusions which find currency among the people; they thus live in a world of misconceptions - in which each party is set against the other, not only by diversity of feelings and opinions, but by an actual belief in utterly different set of facts.
The Report on the Affairs of British North America, although a seriously flawed document (which we suspect is in fact a collection of various botched drafts originating from different people for its severe inconsistency in logic and language), nevertheless highlights a certain reality of the press which still exists today. Durham is wrong in that he underestimates the number of bilingual people among the literate French-speaking class and Lower Canadians in general. The leaders of the Parti canadien, Pierre-Stanislas Bédard, James Stuart and later Louis-Joseph Papineau were well versed in the French and English languages not to mention Latin. Any person wanting to be of any real use in the parliament had to know English to read the English laws and French to read the French laws. Any person who wanted to be a lawyer had to be bilingual, unless they wanted to limit their practice to certain cases. Moreover, the patriotism of the Canadiens commanded them to learn the English language to the level of fluency. We are very much convinced that those who "live[d] in a world of misconceptions" were monolingual English speakers who refused to pay any attention to the Montreal Vindicator, the sole English-language paper that was not owned by adversaries of the majority of the people, but run by Irishmen sympathetic to the patriotic cause of Lower Canada, their adoptive country.
The steady flow of calumnies professed against the majority of Lower Canadians, their representatives, their language, laws and institutions, in the Montreal Herald is reported by Louis-Joseph Papineau in his History of the Insurrection in Canada in refutation of the report of Lord Durham published in Paris in May 1839:
[...] Of all the men odious to the Canadians, not one who was such with a righter honour than the editor of the newspaper the Montreal Herald. An impetuous Tory, this man, named Adam Thom, had for several years been dragging in the mud the names of all the whig ministers including that of Lord Durham. But the John Bull, unable to provide enough libellous anecdotes to feed the malignity of Adam Thom, his personal correspondence, real or simulated, made public the turpitudes, true or false, of the majority of the outstanding men in the liberal opinion. The news of the nomination of Lord Durham, which mystified whigs and radicals applauded in a manner that appears so strange today, created an incredible overflow of insults. The barking of the Cerberus tore the ears of Lord Durham so painfully, that he hastened himself to throw it the soporific cake. And a few weeks after the pompous disembarkment of the viceroy, and because he had outraged him, Adam Thom became his commensal and his adviser. This man, who was but an impassioned partisan, of poor talents, daily excited by the abuse of strong liquor, when he treated of English politics, was turning insanely furious, when speaking of the French Canadians. When exalted by the thirst for blood, his hatred was limitless. For several years, insults against the whole nation and reiterated incitations to assassinate the most popular representatives had each day soiled the pages of his newspaper; [...]
This phenomenon was not limited to just one newspaper. In his Second Manifesto, published on May 15, 1848 in the Montreal newspaper L'Avenir:
Nothing would be more compromising for an honest man than to be often and highly praised by rascals. Nothing would tend to ruin the reputation of political integrity, of devotion to the cause of justice, of liberty and the rights of peoples of a man faster than the receiving of a word of praise, of a good compliment from the Transcript, or any other section of the tory press of Lower Canada as it has been since its first page in the Mercury to the last elucubration of the Courier. [...]
About the partisan lies that were daily featured in an important part of the English language press, it is interesting to note that they resemble, in substance, those that today are part of the phenomenon known as Quebec bashing. The "French" majority of Lower Canada then, the "French" majority of Quebec today, is accused of disloyalty, of lack of intelligence, of entertaining hatred of other nationalities, and other degrading generalizations made against them on the account of the origin of their ancestors, the minute they dare to show a little self-respect for themselves or if they defend their rights and liberties as human beings and as citizens.
Last but not least, the calumnies professed against the representatives of the popular party in Lower Canada caught the attention of no other than John Stuart Mill who wrote about it in an article entitled Radical Party and Canada: Lord Durham and the Canadians, published in the London and Westminster Review in January 1838:
Let us first get rid of the language of mere abuse, which men so inflamed by passion as to be lost to all perception of the most recognised moral distinctions, have heaped upon the insurgents to render them odious. They are styled rebels and traitors. The words are totally inapplicable to them. Take the matter on the testimony of their bitterest enemies, and what do those very enemies impute to them? Simply this, that it is a contest of races; that being a conquered people, they cherish the feelings of a conquered people, and have made an attempt to shake off their conquerors; is this treason? Is not this the conduct with which, when other parties were concerned, Englishmen have been called upon to sympathize, and to subscribe their money, and to proclaim their admiration of the sufferers and their abhorrence of the conqueror to every region on the earth? On the showing of their enemies, what have the Canadians done other than the Poles? We do not compare Lords Dalhousie and Aylmer to the Grand Duke Constantine, or the administration of our colonial office to that of Nicholas, although even of Nicholas it must be remembered that we have not his story; we have but that of the “rebels” and “traitors,” as they are called in his vocabulary; and does any one think that Mr. Papineau or Mr. Morin would have any difficulty in making out a case against us, to the satisfaction of a sympathizing audience in a rival nation, without our being heard, or having any opportunity of contradiction? Of the injuries inflicted by a foreign government, the people that suffers them, not the people that inflicts them, is the proper judge; and when such a people revolts, even improperly, against the foreign yoke, its conduct is not treason or rebellion, but war.