Globalization renders sovereignty more necessary and urgent than ever

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Globalization renders sovereignty more necessary and urgent than ever
in L'Action nationale, March 1995

Unofficial translation of La mondialisation rend la souveraineté plus nécessaire et urgente que jamais by Bernard Landry, published in L'Action nationale, March 1995


Bernard Landry, lawyer, professor and Premier of Quebec from March 2001 to June 2003

To prevent the globalization of markets from sinking into social and economic anarchy or bring about the government of multinationals, it will have to be placed under the surveillance and control of supranational powers. Since only recognized nations are permitted to take seat in these higher world authorities, power will gradually move away from the citizens of Québec if they do not decide to gain their national independence as soon as possible.

This independence, for so long necessary, legitimate and feasible, could have been realized at the same time and for the same motives as those of the United States of America, sixteen years after the Plains of Abraham. It could also have been achieved later, during the wave of numerous States that achieved sovereignty, in Latin America or elsewhere in the world since then. Our sovereignty would have been justified even at the time of the French regime, since we were already a people in the 18th century. Certain historians are surprised that our liberation did not come sooner, between the two World Wars for example, considering its foundations were already so clear and have been so for such a long time.

A new motivation

Today, all the old reasons remain, but a formidable and new motivation gives our national project a fulgurating modernity and renders it even more pressing than before. Indeed, in the new world context, sovereignty is not only a question of survival, of prosperity and international visibility of peoples, it is the quality of their democratic life that is at stake because of this new given that globalization constitutes.

The right of peoples to govern themselves freely and deal with each other on an equal basis is inscribed since a long time in natural law and confirmed in historical effectivity. For the peoples that are already free and masters of their destiny, the question does not even need to be asked and not a single one of them would renounce their sovereignty, except partially and only through voluntary adherence to real supranational bodies. Never would they accept to sacrifice even a small part of it and surrender to the domination of another people, be it neighbour or remote, friendly or hostile. As for those that are trapped, they do not rest for as long as they are not free. It is the case for Québec or Scotland and before that of the three Baltic States or Slovenia, to name only a few of the liberties left to conquer or already recovered. As for Catalonia, the Spanish democracy would not dare to contest the national status of this people and block its evolution like Ottawa does with us.

The foundation of independence

The basic principal of national independence is everywhere the same and is a well-known one: it rests on natural human solidarity and conviviality, increasingly elective as a matter of fact because of the increased freedom of movement of persons. The great human family, with its five billion individuals and its formidable diversity, linguistic and cultural notably, is too vast for the direct and intimate adherence of each person. Centuries and the nature of things created this essential intermediate relay, that one which we call a people or nation, well supported and accompanied by the irrepressible need for identity and belonging. It is certain that the patriots of Lower Canada in the XIX th century were already inspired by these values founding the freedom of peoples. The same principles influenced the thought of Honoré Mercier, fifty years later, and were of course at the heart of the reflexions of the O'Leary brothers Dostaler and Walter-Patrice, Raymond Barbeau, Marcel Chaput, André d'Allemagne and Pierre Bourgault thereafter.

But it is the founders of the Sovereignty-Association Movement, headed by René Lévesque, who in a clear and formal way firmly tied Québec's quest for independence to modernity. They have conceived it from the beginning as the advanced and free nations live theirs at the dawn of the year 2000. That is to say inside supranational organizations supporting the close cooperation of peoples by the pursue of the four freedoms of circulation (goods, services, capital and persons) and the establishment of common institutions.

It is clear that the Treaty of Rome, signed in 1957 and that seeded all that the European Union has become today, has strongly influenced the reflexion of the sovereignists of Québec. At the birth of the MSA, the disarmament of customs had already been completed between the founding countries of the European Economic Community. It was already acquired that one could decouple the perimeter of political sovereignty of a people and its economic space. Small countries, without giving up their sovereignty, suddenly had the same market as their large neighbours which, by the same fact, were widening theirs also. We know what happened next: Europe became the formidable model of harmonious economic and political relationships between free peoples. In practise, a truck can today leave Stockholm, on the shores of the Baltic, and drive to Brindisi, on the banks of the Adriatic, without stopping at a single customs station, even if it crosses a series of various national borders. The coins of the new Euro currency, the common and single currency, are already made and have been put in circulation to crown the philosopher's stone of economic integration and fluidity in human history.

We should point out that the old Europe paid the high price of two cruel wars and millions of dead - including 6 million Jews sacrificed on the altar of racist fanaticism - to gain the right to teach to others that peaceful relationships between peoples are not to be based on domination, but on solidarity in the pursue of their mutual development.

This way of seeing is now widespread at various degrees on all the planet. The European Union itself, starting from six founding members, does not cease to grow and has probably not finished its territorial evolution: it is not absurd to think that it will one day spread from "the Atlantic to the Ural". In any case, in the surroundings of the Ural mountains, as on the banks of the Baltic sea, peoples have gained back their freedom and cooperate between themselves according to various modern formulae. On all the continents, national liberations thus continued, consolidated as globalization advanced in an irreversible way: both go hand in hand like complements and counterweight.

The importance of peoples' freedom

A revolution of this magnitude has not gone without creating all kinds of problems, felt in a particularly dramatic way in the last few months. The serious infantile diseases of globalization, of which we live the first few sudden shocks, will not find a solution outside of true supranational organizations binding by treaty free peoples which sacrifice a share of their sovereignty to them. For the global market, we need a global regulation by authorities which go beyond nations. It is the only way to effectively stop the striking diffusion, by simple contagion, of various crises born in the weakest links of the system. It is necessary to urgently raise the general level of efficacy of a legislative, lawful and regulating apparatus [to be] truly worldwide. As inside of national borders, one cannot count solely on spontaneous ethics and liberalism to ensure order and peace, and honesty in the daily rapports between the men and women of all countries will now be played primarily on three levels: global supranational, regional supranational, and national. The provincial level, also called sub-national, as in the case of the provinces, all equal, of the same federation [Canada] will become increasingly trivial, in charge of considerable tasks certainly, but completely framed and limited in their action by the various higher levels.

The recent evolution of Québec's status, marked by the combination of the brutal unilateralism of Ottawa in constitutional matters and its obstinate budgetary imperialism, leads it little by little toward the minor status of the implementer of the decisions taken in the true places of power. The same phenomenon obviously strikes all the other sub-national entities of Canada but for Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island, just as for for Rhineland-Westphalia or Wisconsin if we desire to widen the debate, that is no real tragedy. These provincial or local authorities have no national ambitions, nor true specific culture, nor particular language to preserve with relations to the outside. Their economic or social particularisms do not justify that they be members of the OECD, present at the WTO or at UNESCO and indeed none of them shows the least amount of inclination toward it. If necessary, as they have to date no true national past or national identity, their movement would quickly be relegated, it is not an insult to them to recall it, among the most vulgar forms of separatism.

The necessity of a certain level of power

For Quebec, fifteenth economic power of the world, which has its language and culture, very different from that of its immediate neighbours, its own past, its common goals, in a word its national destiny, it is a very different business. What Saskatchewan cannot have nor truly wants, that is to join the concert of nations, Québec obviously can have, has almost formally desired it in 1995 and will clearly want it soon. For Québec, it is an essential means of having its particular interests promoted and to ensure its position in the world while preserving its own identity and its original way of practising human solidarity.

It is easy to see that the globalization of markets more than ever requires a certain level of power, between nations and above them, otherwise the integration will only happen in anarchy along with its quantity of socio-economic risks, or under the control of multinational and transnational firms which are only accountable to their shareholders. These two cases of figure are unacceptable and comprise an insupportable democratic deficit. We have seen in the case of the MAI where a select club, the OECD, but formed only of a small group of nations almost all of them rich, wanted to set the march to the whole planet in essential fields whose responsibility belong to the people through democratic institutions given by the peoples to themselves.

Cases where decisions that affect us in a vital way are increasingly numerous and these decisions will be more and more taken neither in Québec city, nor in Ottawa, but at supranational tables where the central power (Ottawa) will claim to represent us. A Canadian delegation that must put forward, as the Constitution of Canada says, that all provinces are equal and [a delegation] that also openly denies the very existence of the people of Québec, already does and more and more often will speak on our behalf in Geneva or Marrakech, at the UN or UNESCO or later inside continental authorities where will justifiably be seated Uruguay, Chile and El Salvador, but not Québec. It is as unjust as it is absurd and ineffective; its shocks the mind of anyone even remotely objective.

The very specific field of culture recently gave us, in Ottawa, the dramatic example of what our faith will more and more be in all the remaining fields. It is Sheila Coops and not Louise Beaudoin who spoke to the other peoples of the Earth in the name of the culture of Gaston Miron and Anne Hébert. When one unfortunately knows what English Canada thinks, writes and says concerning Québec, to demand the central government to put forward what we are and promote our interests and our image abroad, feels more and more like masochism. Why would their diplomats, even the most honest ones, speak of us in a better way than the English Canadian press, so generally negative about Québec, when it is not simply sectarian and intolerant?

It is necessary to note that in economic matters, we already undergo this fate since a long time with the results that we all know. The Auto Pact which through Ford, General Motors and Chrysler, makes of Ontario the economic heart of Canada and causes the rate of unemployment of this province to always be lower than that of Quebec, was the works of a Canadian diplomacy and an economic public administration that never really bothered to consider and to put forward the fact that there also was, in Canada, another industrialized space, Québec, whose potential is even higher than that of Ontario. They were prompter to intervene when it was time to take away the advantage of the situation to Québec.

Inescapable realities

In this respect, let's brutally ask ourselves the following question: what would occur, in a tight international negotiation, if the Canadian delegation had to arbitrate between the aeronautic and the automobile sectors? Towards which one will the dominating democratic political wind push the delegation if on top of that we find ourselves the day before a federal election? Here are inescapable realities that were true yesterday and will be incommensurably more true in the new planetary context of integration. Obviously, it is not because the Canadians are malicious or even that they want to do us wrong; for the majority of them at least, it simply is that they illustrate, once more, what George Washington once wrote: "There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favour from Nation to Nation".

Even the federalist businessmen of Québec will easily agree that in any international economic negotiation, their own interests would evidently be more usefully served if they were represented by Gérald Tremblay or yours truly than by John Manley or Sergio Marchi. Beyond the persons themselves, the evaluation of the major motivations of the ones or the others and their knowledge of the economic needs for Québec seem to me easy to demonstrate and yet, in the system defended traditionally by a great part of our business class, only the federals are allowed to sit at international decisional tables.

Put aside our status in the Francophonie, won in a tough fight and unceasingly made precarious by federal irredentism, the essential of our formal international representation is dominated by Canada and its spokesmen. The superhuman efforts of the diplomats of Québec cannot compensate the strength of the number and the power of the institutions. We pay out of our taxes an imposing federal diplomatic corps to generally deny the existence of who we are as a people and nation or to ?hawk? abroad the usual ineptitudes of the Canadian press on our behalf. I owe however to justice to specify that there are in the Canadian diplomacy, both anglophone and francophone, noble and rare exceptions: these professionals must work at the limits of disobedience to their instructions in order to present the [Quebec] reality the way it is.

In any case, if we speak of education at the UNESCO, who speaks in the name of our people? Of health at the World Health Organization? Of labour laws, at the International Labour Office? The ministers of Québec, who are indeed our elected officials responsible and democratically designated to manage these matters, have no direct role in these authorities. Our voice must pass through the messengers of the government of Canada and singularly these years of a certain Jean Chrétien whose intransigence is proverbial and whose over-simplification, as for the question of Québec, is well-known here and abroad.

The Québec difference

In other words, the presence of Québec in the Canadian federation, coupled with the fast emergence of an economic, social and cultural apparatus that is increasingly supranational, increases the democratic deficit in a spectacular way, erodes the powers of the Assemblée nationale and more and more moves the citizens of Québec away from the decision-making centres that are important in their everyday lives. Moreover, the more the global dialogue is important, the more Canada seeks to keep us apart in an aggressive way, which makes things even more dramatic.

Ontarians do not have this problem. Their national government is in Ottawa and it serves them very well. They have no need nor desire to leave Canada of which they are the heart and which they dominate from the interior as well as the exterior. For different reasons, Manitoba and Saskatchewan do not see any tragedy in this situation. But for the people of Québec, the new given is already intolerable and will be so more and more. It is a little as if one asked the French, to use an absurd example, to accept that France become one of the German landers, in a federation whose central institutions are officially bilingual but in the majority German. The French citizen would thus be controlled by Paris, provincial capital, Berlin federal capital, Brussels European capital and through this maze, try to influence the WTO or the UNESCO in the direction of their national interests, without the presence of course of an ambassador of France nor even French at the decisional table. An honest Berliner would try in these incongruous circumstances to safeguard French cinema, the aerospace industry, cheese made with raw milk or simply to recover the right to have a team in the Mundial of football to represent the sub-national territory!

This is a model as unthinkable as it is impertinent however this represents the reality that the Canadian regime inflicts to the people of Québec. They must try to control their destiny starting from Québec while passing through Ottawa, then by NAFTA and its institutions, present and future to finally reach the great supranational structures without the right to speak or to have a direct representation. As for taking part in the international hockey tournaments, there only is Guy Bertrand to dream of it! We clearly see, in the small things as in the great ones, that we are moving away from of the democratic ideal at high speed. Power runs away from the people and the provincial status of Québec denies and will keep denying justice as much as simple common sense.

That is why it is pressing and urgent to bring us closer to the emergent supranational authorities that will be increasingly important in our lives. As the participation to these tables is strictly reserved to recognized peoples and nations, our democratic responsibility is increasingly clear if we want to preserve who we are.

An imperious reason

Our time, we can see it clearly, gives us a new imperious reason and an additional responsibility to join the concert of nations: it is urgent because the game is being played under our eyes and without us. Tens of new members of the UN, since 10 years, have understood it perfectly and already live their lives as peoples in the world. Our place awaits us; it must be taken quickly; otherwise we will be very embarrassed to explain to our grandchildren why we let this historical chance slip by us and refused to follow, in dignity, this normal and already traced way for the peoples.

It seems to me that all this is of the most luminous clearness. That is why I take the liberty - in full respect for the reader - to dramatize my thesis with the help of an excerpt from a letter of Régis Debray, written in 1969 to my friend Philippe de Saint-Robert. "A fact is for sure", he wrote "whoever does not understand that the economic and technical unification of planet Earth will go hand in hand with the stressing of its national particularities, whoever does not seize this astonishing dialectic, which is the fabric of our present time, deserves to pass once and for all for an imbecile. Be he a socialist, pacifist or mondialist".

To treat of imbecile he who does not see things as one sees them is a cavalier method from which I dissociate myself formally. However, the course of Debray, from leftism to gaullisme while passing through mitterrandisme, and who wrote these lines before the number of countries at the UN augments by a quarter and the GATT yields its place to the WTO, ought to at least suggest a reflexion in spite of its disrespectful turning. Moreover, in a more sober language, Boutros Boutros-Ghali says the same thing when he affirms that: "to enter in relation with the Other, it is necessary to first be yourself. That is why a healthy globalization of modern life initially presupposes solid identities". Cannot be solid the identity to which we deny the right to speak in its own name.

For my part, it is very simply and amicably that I incite the inhabitants of Québec of all origins who voted "No" in 1995, all the while reiterating my deep respect for their decision, to begin a reflexion now, in the light of these new givens, in sight of "the next one" which will come soon. Indeed, the choice becomes increasingly obvious and exceeds the always central question of patriotism: it is democracy itself, planetary like national, which is at stake now. People of goodwill cannot withdraw themselves from this new examination of the question.

See also

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