Key concepts to understand Quebec politics

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Imperialism

Imperialism is the extension of a State's policies to a conquered or annexed territory. This practice has existed since there were States and still continues to exists today, although in the last century, the progress of human rights, which include peoples' rights, has limited it's use by stronger nations.

Quebec was conquered militarily in 1760 and made a province of the British Kingdom in 1763. In 1774, the province's borders were extended to correspond to approximately what they were under French rule. That is, they included the whole of the Laurentian valley plus the whole of the Pays d'en Haut that were North and West of Montreal. It is important to note that in the Pays d'en Haut, the only French settlements were at Detroit and Michillimakinac. As a result of the American War of Independence, the southern part of the Pays d'en Haut fell outside British control. In 1791, the province of Quebec was divided in two provinces. A new provinces, Upper Canada, was created on the territory that was North and West of Montreal, as a result of the British Loyalist settlements in the Ottawa region in 1785. The already inhabited part of Quebec along the Québec, Trois-Rivières, and Montréal axis was renamed Lower Canada. In 1840, Lower Canada, was annexed to the neighbouring province of Upper Canada following the military repression of political emancipation movements in both provinces. The policies favouring the interests of former Upper Canada began to be applied to former Lower Canada and the majority of the population of Lower Canada became subjected to the imperialism of two nations at the same time: Great Britain and the young British nation born of the British colonization in Quebec.

Colonialism

Related to imperialism, colonialism is the ideology that attempts to justify the implantation of settlers inside the territory that is outside of borders of a given State. This territory may or may not be inhabitated by a human population.

After the British Conquest of Quebec, itself a province born out of French colonization, the new sovereign decided that assimilation would be the faith of the peoples inhabiting the new territorial acquisition.

Early attempts at implanting a British population in Quebec proved difficult.

Colonial Indirect Rule

England's and Holland's rule over its former colonies is said to be indirect whereas France's or Spain's is considered as direct. In an indirect rule system, the colonies are given a considerable level of internal autonomy whereas in a direct rule system, the metropolis directly administers the colony itself.

Read more on this subject in our Indirect Rule page.

Sovereignty

The Parti Québécois defines sovereignty as "the power for a given State to levy all its taxes, vote all its laws and sign all its treaties". Quebec sovereignists claim that sovereignty is what gives a people the ability to elaborate and enforce its own economic, social and cultural policies. Therefore, sovereignty is what allows a nation to evolve independently, or in other words, what allows it to freely choose its destiny.

Equality of Peoples

The principle of the equality of peoples is at the heart of the independentists's political philosophy. Indeed, if we believed that some nations did not deserve to have the same level of political autonomy as some others, there would be no logical reason for us to promote the idea of a sovereign Québec.

Collective Rights

Collective rights are rights which belong to human communities. For Quebec independentists, collective rights almost invariably refer to peoples' political, linguistic and cultural rights. The rights of peoples to govern themselves freely and democratically and the right of peoples to safeguard and even promote their own language and culture. These can be thought of as fundamental nationality rights. Quebec independentists want a free Republican State for the Quebec nation. In this new country, all citizens will have the same rights without regards to their origin, religious belief, gender, language etc. Also recognized will be the self-determination rights of Quebec's 10 Amerindian nations and the Inuit nation.

Language rights

Republicanism vs Monarchism

Nearly a taboo subject in Canada, republicanism is a political concept that has fascinated Quebecers since the birth of the American Republic in 1783 and the French Republic in 1792. Supporters of republicanism are called "radicals" in Canada and Quebec.

Collective Memory and Identity

Collective memory, as applied to a nation, can be defined as "the knowledge that society has on itself". Every generation that is born inherits the society that was built by the previous generations. Through its communicative works (literature, story telling, theatre, film, television, radio etc.), its traditions, and its institutions, a people keeps a record of its existence. This collective memory encompensates numerous events, ideas, opinions, and values which constitute the cultural references from which the future generations will relate to the world. In a way, every generation sees the world through the eyes of the previous generations of human beings who left trails behind them in their passage through life. In order for this very natural bond with our past to even exist, human societies need for the future generations to be able to understand the language spoken and written by their ancestors.

Taken for granted in many societies, the right to pass its own cultural heritage to the future generations has in fact been a though battle for many peoples. For example, the Jewish people only recently resurrected its ancestral language, hebrew, on the homeland of their ancestors. Thanks to the determination of Eliezer Ben Yehuda and followers, there exists today a living hebrew-speaking nation on our planet, something most people would have thought impossible only 100 years ago, when the language was considered dead like latin, because it no longer was the native language of a human community.

Beyond the purely political questions, Quebecers' desire for independence is motivated by their unconquerable determination to ensure the perpetuation of their language and culture in human history.

See also