1. Canada has one of the highest standards of living in the world. Why would you want to risk jeopardizing all that you have by separating from Canada?
There is no denying that Canada is one place on Earth where the standards of living is very high. According to UN statistics, Canada has fallen to 8th rank in 2003 after being number one for a few years. Number one place goes to Norway, which was always a close competitor along with the other Scandinavian countries. How can Canada, Norway or Sweden manage to beat much bigger and richer countries like the United States, France or the United Kingdom when it comes to the standards of living you may be wondering? Essentially, because the wealth is more equally redistributed among citizens in these smaller countries, known for their generous (and expensive) social programs. When the UN ranks countries on their standards of living, it takes into account such things as health and education along with the average salary, spending power, and GDP per capita. The Americans have higher salaries and a higher GDP per capita than Canadians. They also have a superior spending power and a stronger currency. Yet, the citizens of Norway and the 10 provinces and two territories of the Canadian federation have a higher standards of living. To have a closer look into this, I recommend you visit the website of the United Nations and read all the statistics. Now that it has been demonstrated that Canada is a good place to live in, let's come back to the question of Québec's independence. Why separate under these conditions?
First, because Quebecers will not loose any of this by separating, provided the whole North-American economy doesn't collapse the day after! Indeed, Canada beats the US, France, and Britain on the areas of education and health, primarily because of universal public services dispensed by... the government of Québec (and that of the other provinces). Whatever services are provided by the federal government will not apply to Quebec anymore, but in return, Quebecers will not be sending more than half of their tax money to Ottawa, the federal capital, located in the richest and most populated province: Ontario. The tax money of Quebecers will not be spent by a federal government which is seen as the only national government by a majority of (English) Canadians. This tax money will instead be added to the revenues of the Québec State and will be used to provide equivalent services.
In an independent Québec, the government of Québec will finally be able to make coherent national policies, decentralize some of its powers to regional governing bodies and municipalities, and manage its budget according to the priorities set by the National Assembly of Québec, in the name of the sovereign people of Québec. Tons of duplicated programs, created because for about 40 years, the government of Canada and the government of Québec fought with each other to be seen as the sole national government in the hearts of the Québec population, can be eliminated.
2. What is this law in Québec regulating the use of languages on commercial signs?
Ah! my favourite subject! Read the legislations page to get the facts on the Charter of the French language. It took me a long time to understand the reasoning of all these people convinced that promoting the French language in Québec is something terribly wrong. In the end, I concluded that in order to believe this, you must assume the following to be true:
- 1. French is not a second class language in Canada anymore (or never has been).
- 2. Although Canada was technically a colony of Britain, Quebecers never suffered from this unlike all the other colonized peoples on Earth.
- 3. Canadian federal laws on bilingualism effectively protect French not only in Québec, but in the rest of Canada. It has always been like that. Québec is evil because it makes French the only official language on its territory.
- 4. When two linguistic communities coexist within a single State, they do not compete with each other at the social, cultural and economic levels.
- 5. The English language does not have world wide imperial status and influence right now.
- 6. English is the international language of commerce, science and cinema and people who don't like it are just jealous or French.
- 7. Language and cultural identity are two separate things. In fact, they have nothing in common.
- 8. Language is an individual choice, not a collective right.
- 9. Collective rights are for already independent nations only, not the other small ones.
Before I begin deconstructing these fallacies, I want to first remind my readers that I am a French-speaking independentist, writing in English, my second language. I am, like a lot of my compatriots, one of the many bilingual Québécois living in the Montréal area. I believe that mastering two or more languages is, besides being really difficult, an invaluable personal enrichment to one's own individual culture. Still, Québec has the right to be as French-speaking as the rest of Canada, the United-States or England are English-speaking.
- 1. French still is a second class language in Canada except in Québec where proper legislation effectively promotes its use in public life. Have a look at the legislations page to read Bill 101 yourself.
- 2. The consequences of British colonization in Canada were disastrous for the Québec people. Discriminations of all kinds, social exclusion, collective as well as individual impoverishment, exile etc. Quebecers' resistance to assimilation is a great lesson of courage and determination for all small nations on Earth.
- 3. Canadian federal laws on bilingualism effectively prevents Québec from functioning as a normal French-speaking society and fails at slowing down the assimilation of French-speaking communities outside Québec. Have a look at the statistics page. Many countries have only one official language: Italy, France, Greece, the United States, Spain, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, Vietnam etc. A large number of countries also have non-interventionist linguistic policies, which often means that the dominant language is indirectly favoured.
- 4. When two linguistic communities coexist within a single State, they compete with each other at the economic, social and cultural level. As a conquered nation, then as a minority nation as of the 1850s, Quebecers sought to have their nationality, their language, their traditions and their faith recognized and secured in law by both the British colonial government and later the Canadian federal Dominion. From their very long experience of being subjugated to a foreign power, Quebecers know that when two languages with unequal prestige and influence are set "equal" in law, the big fish inevitably eats the small fish. As very eloquently put by I can't remember who exactly: "In Québec, to put both tongues (French and English) afoot in law is the equivalent of putting both feet on the same tongue."
- 5. The English language has imperial status and influence world wide as I write these lines. It became a reality after the Second World War and this phenomenon is the single most serious threat to cultural diversity in the world, especially in North America where Quebecers live.
- 6. English is an international language as it is a language shared by many nations. The same goes for Spanish, French and Portuguese, all of which used to be imperial languages promoted by European powers. Eventually, the citizens of France, Britain, Spain and Portugal dismantled their old shameful colonization machines. Despite the efforts of the British people to dismantle the British Empire, the English language remains disproportionately influential today, mainly because of the economic and demographic power that constitutes the United States of America and the heritage of British colonization on all 5 continents.
- 7. Every language gives access to a culture and a vision of the world. The only way to understand it is to experience it. Have a look at the links on the diversity page.
- 8. A language needs a living community of speakers to be kept alive and as such is very much collective in nature. Humans are social animals as we say. Read the Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights.
- 9. By ignoring the ideal of equality among nations, yes, we can be satisfied with small non-sovereign nations being left biting the dust. Since this is for certain not what you personally think, you may enjoy visiting the equality section of this site.
Today's Québec nationalists are against what is called "institutional bilingualism". We are against the idea of Québec being made more English than it already is, while what remains of the French-speaking minorities outside Québec is being assimilated at an ever increasing rate.
Today, in 2003, French is the language of the majority in only one province: Québec. As such, one would think that French could be the legitimate public language of this provincial state, especially considering the formidable efforts made by its population to safeguard it so that it does not experience the same faith as elsewhere in North America, which saw millions of French speakers be gradually assimilated to the dominant language and culture. That, since the 1970s, is an opinion widely supported by French-speaking Quebecers. French being the language of less than a quarter of the total Canadian population and, on top of that, Canada being neighbour to 300 million Americans, there can be no questioning the concerns Quebecers have regarding the survival of their language. How did the French-speaking population of Canada go from being a sound majority to an ever shrinking minority? What can we say of the evolution of the French language in Canada since the British takeover? To learn more about it, read on the minorization of French speakers in Canada and visit the history section of this site.
3. How different is Québec's French compared to the French of France?
Think of the difference in the pronunciation and in the vocabulary that exists between the English of let's say Manchester, England and Texas, USA and you are still not even remotely close to it. :-) You can read a little on the history of Québec French in the history section of this site or read some books on the subject.
4. Canada is already a democracy with an enviable reputation on the international scene. What else do you want?
Canada is far from being an exemplary democracy. All countries of the Earth are very far from the ideals of democracy. Read the democracy section on this site to educate yourself on modern systems of "representative democracy".
5. Assuming Québec becomes a sovereign State, what will it look like then? How different will it be?
At this point in time, it is hard to speculate on the future state of Québec. Only a majority of the citizens can decide the shape of the new country. However, you can safely consider these few facts:
- The most progressive forces behind the independence movement have been pushing for a republican form of government with clear separation of powers and a National Assembly elected "à la proportionnelle". The independentists are hugely favourable to proportional representation systems and are quite jealous of the Scots since the devolution. Like all new parties, the Parti Québécois of René Levesque found out the hard way about the fundamental flaws of the first-past-the-post voting system used in all of Canada's 11 parliaments. In 1973, the party obtained 30% of the popular vote, yet ended up with less seats in the assembly than with the 26% it had won at the previous election! In 2003, the Estates General on Democratic Governance organized by the National Assembly recommended that Québec (as a sovereign country or not) adopts a regional form of proportional representation and fixed-date elections among other things. Although only time can tell what Quebecers will choose, it is almost assured that Québec will abandon its questionable voting system, which in fact is still only in use today in Britain, Canada and the United States and some other former British colonies.
- The English speakers of Québec will remain the most privileged minority in the world. For as long as Anglo-Quebecers demand it, the Québec government will keep financing a complete network of English language educational, social, and cultural institutions.
- Economically, Québec has a hugely underdeveloped potential. You can expect an accelerated and steady growth as a consequence of the massive restructuring that Québec will undergo. Montreal will be confirmed as the main economic metropolis, but no longer will it be as the expanse of the other regions, mainly the Quebec city area.
- Québec will remain a land of immigration. In recent years, Québec has been more successful than ever at retaining new citizens on its soil. Thanks to the Charter of the French Language and modern immigration policies, Québec is increasingly multi-ethnic while remaining French-speaking.
- It is a fact that Native American cultures survived best in Québec than in other parts of North America. The reason is quite simple. It is not because the Québécois are more this or less that than their English-speaking neighbours, it simply is because the French-speaking society of Québec does not exert the same level of cultural and social pressure on the native population and because most Native Americans have settled away from urban areas. The French-speaking society acts as a kind of "buffer" protecting native cultures from suffering direct assimilation. The right to self-determination of the native peoples is already recognized by the Québec State, however, "Indian" affairs being a federal jurisdiction, this recognition is more symbolic than concrete in nature. An independent Québec would be responsible towards its native peoples. See Articles 3-2 and 23 of the Québec Constitution that was proposed by Daniel Turp, a Bloc Québécois MP in 1995, just before the referendum.
6. Why did Québec refuse to sign the 1982 Constitution?
Because the 1982 constitution is the 1867 constitution, patched with a weak Bill of Rights to make it pretty and an amendment mechanism to make it unmodifiable in the future. After the deal was closed, Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau declared: "As of now, good fortune will favour the Canadian government. Even a united front of 10 provinces will not be able to force the Canadian government to move: by assuring a creative balance between the provinces and the central government, the federation will be able to last 1000 years." Read the page on the constitutional saga to know the history behind the repatriation of the constitution.