A Québec that lets its wings open
SUMMARY: This Declaration is initiated by the Nouveau Mouvement pour le Québec (NMQ). In signing it, many Quebecers wish to explain why they want their independent State and in what ways the Canadian context is no longer suitable for Québecʼs ambitions. Three decades after the repatriation of the Constitution, they also want to describe Canada as they perceive it. ONLINE: unnouveaumouvement.org
« Lʼindépendance du Québec se fera. Même ceux qui sʼy opposent savent au fond dʼeux-mêmes que ce nʼest quʼune question de
Lise Payette, ministre dans le gouvernement de René Lévesque de 1976 à 1981
« Y a pas dʼdate limite pour la liberté. »
Diane Dufresne, 24 juin 1990
A year ago, a federal election resulted in the election of a majority government without the support of Québec for the first time since 1919. Thirty years ago, the Canadian Parliament adopted a new Constitution without Québec's consent. These two events reveal a symbolic wedge between Québec and Canada, a clash of identities and national aspirations. They originate in an increasingly Canadian unitary patriotic culture which hurts Québecʼs desire to exist as a nation. A Canadian culture that finds in the Constitution all the means of a unified State, though there are still two distinct social and political imaginative worlds, two nations both yearning for their full capacity to bloom.
The aftermath of May 2nd
Since May 2nd 2011, all sorts of analysis have been put forth to explain Québecʼs political choices. Recently, a conference has even been organized and presented in Toronto about the Québec question. Moreover, the Federal government commissioned a study on “political agitation” in Québec, confirming that they also seek to understand what is happening in “La Belle province”.
One thing is clear: Québecʼs “friable” voting and public opinion ended up touring all of Canadaʼs political spectrum in the last thirty years. Quebecers afforded a majority of seats in the province to three different federal political parties. What other conclusion can we draw other than, whatever the political parties or issues at hand, that of a profound discontent toward the status quo on the part of a majority of Quebecers persists.
That discomfort is deep-rooted and structural. It is also serious since it comes from the clash of our identities. After all, according to Léger Marketing, 71% of Quebecers wish to revisit Québecʼs political status while Canadians are not interested in launching a debate on a Constitution that is... locked for eternity anyway.
Two national constructions
The collective references of Quebecers are different than those shared in the rest of Canada. Quebecers form a people, a full-fledged nation. They are not Canadians, not even French Canadians anymore, but Quebecers. Over time, they have built a national government, capable of promoting their national interests and in charge of making sure that their culture florishes.
Throughout their history, Canadians have built for themselves a country theyʻre content with, a country they can call their own with pride. They built a nation, the Canadian Nation, with its own social and political narative and imaginary.
Many milestones have marked this Canadaʼs nation-building process. Weʼll remember the battle of the Vimy Ridge as a founding moment. The Statute of Westminster and some political figures such as Mackenzie-King, Tommy Douglas and Lester B Pearson also contributed to creating a canadian identity and lest not forget achievements such as universal health care as well. This process went on for 40 years of Liberal reign with the adoption of the Maple Leaf flag, the Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism (Laurendeau-Dunton), followed by the abandon of the later principle if favor of multiculturalism - which became Canadaʼs official ideology. The repatriation and adoption of the 1982 Constitution and the adjunction of the Charter of rights and freedoms not only confirmed this national ideal but also contributed to building this imaginary. Hence, the repatriation made Canada an independent country... without Québec and Quebecers, who were betrayed in the process.
Since their election, the Conservative government is trying to impose a more “conservative” identity, once again without Québec. Its ideological will is transposed into a moral revolution that will assure its sustainability. The destruction of the gun registry, the Young offenderʼs Act, the Kyoto protocol, the instruction to prominently display the picture of the Queen of England and to “royalize” everything are more examples of this phenomenon. The royalist heritage is rehabilitated and the British military heritage is glorified.
All these efforts of Canadians in building their identity are the fruit of their national ambitions. They look to consolidate the “national” character of this country. Indeed, since Canadians realized that they could not continue to exist as a country without forming a nation, they built one, where there wasn't any before. This applies to Québec who cannot continue to exist as a nation without being a country, since it is deprived of the main tools enabling it to affirm its legitimate national ambitions.
Two official languages, one culture
If Canada indeed espoused multiculturalism, it is incapable of accepting the idea that there might exist another national culture within this country other than the Canadian culture, which is mostly anglophone.
The Canadian State officially recognises the French language, but it refuses to admit that it is something else than a simple element of the Canadian mosaic. That it is the cornerstone of a distinct and autonomous national culture. That it is an integral part of Québecʼs identity as a nation and that its expression is crucial to its culture. For the Quebecers, the French language is a common and autonomous impulse, a collective breath. It is on it that our destiny, our hopes and our common will are based. While Canada acknowledges the institutional existence of a linguistic duality, it rejects that of a cultural duality. In a way, it is one sole country with one sole culture, the Canadian culture, indifferent to the Québec culture. So much that the Canadian federation acts as if it were composed of two official languages, but of one culture.
Two national governments
Today, in the Canadian imaginary, Canada is not conceived, thought of or lived, as a federal entity, with its separate parts and its different governments anymore. And for the past 30 years, the Canadian imaginary leans towards a unitary patriotic culture. Institutionally, Canada is still called a federal State but it has always remained a unitary State. Both the imaginary and the institutions participate to the same general centralization process.
But, since 1956, the Québec government has expressed that the basic conditions for accepting Canada rest on theae two basic principles: a really federal union and the equality of the two founding peoples. None of these principles ever existed. Nor is the federal idea.
As a result, our national destinies are moving apart. Even if Ottawa has never been and will never be what London is for the British people or Paris for the French, it is no longer only the seat of the federal government and its Supreme Court, but the place where the national destiny of the canadian people is governed.
The Canadian State is building, defining and imposing itself as the incarnation of the Canadian nation. It became the only voice and the only “official” representation for Canada. All those wanting to speak on their own behalf, like Québec at UNESCO, have no other choice than accepting the line of conduct dictaded by the Canadian majorityʼs interests. But the great majority of Quebecers considers, in its collective imaginary, that the seat of its national government is in Québec city.
The more we move in time and history, the more the tensions accumulate. Two national gouvernments are standing side by side, condemned to confront each other on the numerous issues where their interests diverge. In the Canadian imaginary, the Québec government is more and more seen as a secondary administrative entity. Each confrontation between both national gouvernements is just another long source of frustrations for the Quebecers, since the interests of the majority prevails. These neverending frustrations remind us to what extent both national visions became irreconciliable. Too many public policies are now adopted in Ottawa against Québecʼs interests, but still using their taxes.
Quebecers, as well as Canadians, must realize what they became since 1867. We donʼt have much in common. The “love in” is long gone.
In Historyʼs Limbo
Canadians live with the political illusion of having defeated the Québec sovereignty movement. Yet, the debate on Québec's independence is far from being over, since independence is still to be done. This significant trend has been traveling in Quebecers minds for 16 years now, and will not fade away. It cannot be ignored for long anymore. Let's be clear: it is not the Québec sovereignty movement that has died on May 2nd, 2011. It has been, and for a while, the idea of Québec consciously participating in decisions made for a State where Québec doesn't recognize itself, in a country felt as more and more foreign, estranged in a different nation.
Refusing by close majority the sovereignty project in 1995 does not mean that Quebecers said ʻyesʼ to Canada. Voting NDP does not mean that Quebecers refuse independence. The political discomfort that translates in Québecʼs results of the polls does not mean that the lack of common projects has simply vanished.
The friability we witness in Quebecersʼ political choices simply conveys our deep and powerful anguish of being in historyʼs limbo since 1990, of not being. Quebecers keep wandering and wondering. But next time, they wonʼt let their future slip through their fingers.
A Living Nation
For now 145 years, weʼve been lost in constitutional twists and turns, and we still canʼt seem to find a common ground. Then why should we keep walking the same way, in this blind alley. We know it is a fruitless outcome. Indeed, it would be literally impossible for Canadians today to accept the conditions defined and rejected in the 1990ʼs Meech Lake Accord, and rejected once again in the Charlottetown Accord. For Québec, those conditions were a minimum in Meech, and simply not enough in Charlottetown. Today, none of those Accords would be enough for the Québec nation.
If those constitutionnal compromise projects did not succeed and would no more succeed today, it is because of their incompatibility with the basic principles of the Canadian unitary State. They are even more inadmissible for Quebecers since they ceased considering themselves as just a distinct society and became a full-fledged nation.
Contrary to the Québec nation, the Canadian nation owns a real State in order to pursue its national ambitions. It can raise all of its taxes, adopt all of its laws, and sign all of its treaties. A nationʼs legitimate aspiration is to assure its own governance ant its participation to the affairs of the world. Letting another nation occupy its place equals to renouncing to its own existence.
Our interests in the world
Canada is currently bound by 4,058 multilateral and bilateral treaties, agreements, conventions, and protocols that affect all areas of our society. In many cases, they bind the Province of Québec, like it used to be for the Kyoto protocol, but it is always Ottawa who negotiates.
From banking to environmental crises, from small countries to the Outraged movement, everyone requests better international frameworks and this only goes through a state. It does raise global issues worldwide, to which Québec has nothing to say or can do anything about.
For a long time we took for granted that Québecʼs and Canadaʼs interests were very similar and, therefore, Canada could well speak in our name. This no longer holds true today. More and more, most of what Canada stands for in the international realm as on the national stage, goes against Québecʼs national interests and values. Too many international agreements are now signed – or torn apart – against Quebecers national interests while their taxes are always involved in their implementation. All those who regard themselves as global citizens canʼt do much about it: international relations take place between nations. The national state is our only gateway on the international stage to defend Québecʼs national interest and values. It is Quebecers responsibility to identify what role they want to assume in the world. For all Quebecers, it is much more stimulating than wondering how to shrink in Canada until the end of times.
Two honourable independences
In order to solve these fundamental issues, it will inevitably require that Québec people make choices again. And if there is a choice in particular that it cannot forever avoid, itʼs whether or not Québec should maintain its current relationship with Canada. Two facts shine with all their truth since 30 years: the 1982 Canadian constitution has not been formally recognized by the Québec government, no matter the governing party, federalist or sovereignist, and all the attempts to end this situation were unsuccessful. Although it could work for some time, this situation cannot last forever. Our future as a Québec nation lies outside Canada. There is no Canadian dream for Québec, nor any Québec dreams for Canada. There is no future nor any place for Quebecers within this unitary State, unless they consent to only exist in accordance with the unitary terms established by the patriotic culture of the Canadian nation; unless they accept to bend to only exist as one of Canadaʼs mere element; in short, unless they accept to cease to exist as a nation.
Both our nations must make their own path and end this deadlock with two honourable independences. Theyʼll find a way to cooperate with, for example, freedom of movement for goods, persons and capital.
A new country
Over time, Quebecers have managed to create a space of freedom. It has brought them institutions and economic successes which would be the envy of many nations. But this is a limited space, constantly forced. It does not allow the Québec nation to go to the end of its full potential and dreams.
Québec is capable of holding its own rank on the international stage. The Québec nation has all the means, all the tools, the necessary resources to assume its own destiny and to become one country.
We, the undersigned of this Declaration, let our wings open. Canada and the world recognize us the power and the right to our self-determination. The exercise of two referendums and a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed it.
It is critical that our nation has its own state, at its own image, and lives freely. Two countries had to be built. Only one was created. Therefore, it is our task to put up a new country. An independent Québec.