Myths and fallacies about Québec
Fallacy: An argument, or apparent argument, which professes to be decisive of the matter at issue, while in reality it is not; a sophism. The point of an argument is to give reasons in support of some conclusion. An argument commits a fallacy when the reasons offered do not, in fact, support the conclusion. This is independent of whether or not a conclusion is true or false. For example, it is true that some cats are black, but it will never be true that they are black because Oceania is a continent. In this case, the fact that Oceania is a continent, a true assertion, cannot be the reason why some cats are black, another true assertion.
Sophism: Deliberately invalid argument displaying ingenuity in reasoning in the hope of deceiving someone.
Myth: A fallacy that sticks around for a long time. ;-)
1. Quebecers rejected separation on two referendums and by doing so indicated that they clearly wish to stay in Canada.
Quebecers rejected propositions for constitutional changes by referendum on three occasions: at the 1980 referendum on Sovereignty-Association, the 1992 referendum on the Charlottetown Accord and the 1995 referendum on Sovereignty with partnership. The 1992 referendum was initiated by the federal government of Canada, while the other two were initiated by the government of Québec. To find out the details on these, read the Constitutional saga page. There never was a referendum on the status quo, only a few polls with (unfortunately) vague questions most of the time. The most reliable polls seem to indicate that at best 20% of Quebecers are satisfied with the Canadian federation in its current shape. There is roughly 80% of the population that is not satisfied with the 1982/1867 constitution. This 80% (6 million people) is divided between those who wish to reform the federation (nationalist-federalists) and those who want Quebec to leave the federation and be a sovereign country (sovereignists). Both sides have so far failed to gather a majority of the vote at decisive moments. About one half (of the 80% who wish for a change) wants to give more autonomy to Québec within the Canadian framework through profound constitutional changes, the other half doesn't believe that any such transformations within the current regime could bring justice and equality to Québec and consequently opt for independence. It is a fallacy to claim that Quebecers have expressed a strong wish to "stay" in Canada, because people who voted No are not necessarily people who wish for no constitutional change.
Here's how the logic works: A bicycle is green. A group of people wants to paint it red, another wants to paint it blue and the remainder, a minority, wants to leave it as it is. A majority is dissatisfied with the green color of the bicycle. A referendum is passed. The question is: "Do you want to paint the bicycle in blue?". 40% vote Yes and 60% vote No. Therefore, a majority does not want to paint the bicycle in blue. However, this does not mean that a majority wants the bicycle to remain green! Quebecers have expressed their division between the options of constitutional reforms and independence (red and blue in the analogy). Read the information on Indirect Rule to learn about methods used by colonial regimes to divide the opinion of conquered masses. Québec's national issue is as of today still unresolved.
2. Canada is a bilingual country.
First, "being a bilingual country" is a vague statement. What is true is that since 1968, the federal government defines Canada as a bilingual country in the sense that its administration pretends to offer equivalent services in both English and French, according to the preference of the citizen and where the number of speakers justifies the expense. 9 out of 10 provinces in Canada have a solid English-speaking majority. The exception to this rule is Québec, where about 80% of the population is French-speaking. According to Statistics Canada, 85% of the total French-speaking population of Canada resides in Québec. This normally leads people to think that Canada is bilingual in the sense that parts of the country is English-speaking while another part is French-speaking. That is not what the federal government claims and in fact denies this geographic reality because this would imply a recognition the province of Quebec's unique character as a predominantly French-speaking society.
There is an interesting paradox between the linguistic realities of Canada and Quebec and their respective language policies. On one hand, Canada presents itself to the world as a bilingual nation (whatever that is supposed to mean) while in reality it is very much an English-speaking nation-state which contains an anglicized French-speaking province. On the other hand, while Quebec presents itself to the world as a French-speaking non-sovereign nation, it is in fact the most bilingual part of Canada. To understand how this came to be, we invite you to read the History section of this site. Here is an overview:
For many generations, Francophone Quebecers born under the Dominion flag dreamt of a beautiful idealized bilingual and binational Canada because they saw the "confederation" of 1867 as a pact between two nations: the Canadiens (later Canadiens français) and the "British Canadians" (eventually the "Canadians" alone). They demanded institutional bilingualism (bilingual currency, bilingual public administration, sometimes even bilingual schools) and most importantly, bilingualism throughout the federation just like in Québec.
In the 1960s, a new generation of Québec leaders finally abandoned this idea for many reasons. We recommend that you read on the Quiet Revolution to try fully understand the analysis of the situation that was made back then. One of the most important reasons for the rejection of bilingualism in Quebec can be understood by reading the statistics published by the 1962 Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Binationalism (Laurendeau-Dunton). The socio-economic picture of the Francophone communities of Canada was disastrous. For the first time, Quebecers got a clear picture of the use of the English and French languages inside Québec and inside the rest of Canada. Since the 1970s, successive Québec governments, federalist or sovereignist, support the idea that Québec should be as French-speaking as English Canada is English-speaking. Ironically, it is around that time that English Canada began idealizing institutional bilingualism.
- Laws against French in Canada
- Policy of bilingualism at the Federal level
- Québec's Charter of the French Language
- The Failure of Institutional bilingualism
3. Québec's economy is not strong enough for independence.
Before the 1960s, Québec was your typical British colony. Just like in India or Australia, the economy was mainly in the hands of loyal British subjects and was primarily based on the exploitation of natural resources (and workers). This is no longer the case in Ontario, Québec and to a lesser extend, in Alberta and British Columbia. Ontario and Québec have diversified post-industrial economies. Have a look at the economy of Ontario on the Government of Ontario's website. Also, read the sections dedicated to statistics and Québec's economy. It might also be useful to remind people that many former colonies declared independence under substantially more difficult circumstances.
4. Hundreds of businesses and hundreds of thousands of qualified English-speaking workers have left Québec because of the rise of separatism in Quebec.
Since the beginning of the industrialization of America, migrations from rural areas or declining cities to booming regions and cities is a well studies phenomenon. You can read a great book entitled Grapes of Wrath on the depopulation of Oklahoma in the United States. Montreal city was the metropolis of English Canada from the late 1800s to the end of the Second World War, at the expense of Toronto, the largest city in Ontario. There has always been a great mobility of workers within Canada from the moment they were English-speaking. The same goes for the United States. It can be observed that within a booming city like Calgary for example, a great number of people are from the other Canadian provinces to the point that, together with the immigrants, they form the majority. The interprovincial migration of French-speaking Quebecers is a very different story. Indeed, to them, leaving Québec really felt (and still feels) like moving to another country. In fact, between the 1850s and the 1940s, no less than 900 000 Canadiens-français left Québec for jobs in the United States because of the political situation and its consequences in their home country. (See Laws against French in Canada.)
The case we are concerned with, the interprovincial migration of English-speaking workers from English Montreal to Ontario, can be rightfully studied in this context. The economic decline of (English) Montreal in favour of Toronto began a few decades before the rise of modern Québec. We recommend you read the book Remembrance of grandeur: the Anglo-Protestant elite of Montreal, 1900-1950 by Margaret W. Westley to learn about this. The exile of Anglophones in the 1970s, and 1980s is an overly exaggerated myth. It is a fact that during this period a large number of people, mostly Anglophones, but also Francophones, have moved out of Québec. Most of the time they settled in other Canadian cities where English is the language of the majority, unlike in today's Montréal. The role played by Québec's rising pro-independence movement in this is marginal compared with the socio-economic transformations that occurred in Québec before and during the Quiet revolution. During the modernization of Québec society, the French-speaking majority reconquered its own economy and that obviously caused monolingual Anglophones to leave for places where they would not feel like immigrants by being forced to learn French in what they considered to be their own country. (Something Quebecers know very much about since the British Conquest.) The irresponsible and demagogic English-Canadian medias, which propagated fear of the evil separatists amongst Anglophones undoubtedly contributed to the exile more than Francophones affirmative actions. The presence of Trudeau's soldiers in Montréal during the 1970 October Crisis surely did not help. As for the hundreds of businesses owned by Anglo-American interests that moved out of Québec, they were replaced by other ones owned by Quebecers. That is called a decolonization. This phenomenon has be studies in all parts of the world conquered by the British, the French, the Spanish and the Portuguese.
5. Québec is not a good place to invest money. It is a politically unstable zone.
Canada is a politically unstable country. It will remain so until a) its constitution is reformed to recognize Québec as an equal nation or b) Québec becomes an independent country. Despite this, in recent years, foreign investments have grown faster in Québec than in other parts of Canada. Read the section dedicated to statistics on this site.
6. Québec is not a nation.
Québec is a nation in the sociological and political meaning of the word. In the English language, nation comes from Old French nation which itself comes from Latin natio which means "to be born". This word is unfortunately vague for it can designate different ideas or concepts. Nation can mean a people or a nationality which is a human group who shares some or all of the following attributes: customs, culture, religion, institutions, language and history. That's the definition of the United Nations at least. Another definition is that of the political nation, a human group that is politically organized under a single government, i.e. the government represents the whole people. These two definitions are not in contradiction with each other; as a matter of fact, they often complement one another: you typically have a nation (people) under a national government (state) for example.
For centuries, the Jews were a stateless nation persecuted all over the Earth because they were considered a dangerous minority in every country they settled. After the horrors of the Second World War, the Jews were given a state of their own, Israel, and today there is a solid Jewish majority able to govern itself democratically in this country. For as long as the state of Israel stands, there will be a dynamic living Jewish community in the world, contributing to our planet's richness and diversity. Quebecers are like the Israelites. French Canadians are like the Jews. But the comparison stops there of course. French Canadians are better compared to another famous persecuted people: the Irish.
Another meaning of the word nation in English is an independent country. Often, people will say that Québec is not a nation, meaning that it is not an independent country and in fact is just a province, a federated state. They are absolutely right on this. That is precisely why there is an independence movement in Québec.
7. The French language currently is and always has been well protected by Canadian and British laws.
Please read Laws against French in this site. The French language is alive and (fairly) well in only one place in North America, in Québec where French is the language of the majority. The relative security and stability of Québec French is directly attributable to Quebecers' will to protect their national language and resist the consequences of Québec's position inside Canada.
8. Francophones were never threatened by assimilation in Canada.
The francophones of Canada belong to two distinct populations: the Acadiens and the Canadiens. The Acadian population was deported by the British government in the middle of the 18th century. It was hoped that by dispersing them in the other 13 colonies they would eventually assimilate in order to survive. To escape the deportation, many Acadians sought refuge in Québec, then known as Canada. Between 1755 and 1763, over 10,000 Acadian civilians, 75% of the total population, were deported. These events occurred in the middle of the French and Indian War and are considered to be among of the worst war crimes of North American history. You can read more on this subject in our section dedicated to history.
The Canadiens did not experience deportation. After the Conquest of 1759, there were about 70,000 inhabitants in Canada (modern day Québec). The British authorities believed that this population would be gradually assimilated under the pressure of British immigration from the neighbouring colonies and Great Britain. Summarizing the evolution of the Canadian political system, which directly conditioned the linguistic evolution of the country is almost impossible. Rather, we will again invite you to visit the section dedicated to history and follow the amazing story of these 70,000 men and women. What we can say in a few words however is that if the assimilation attempts were ultimately unsuccessful in Québec, it is solely attributable to Quebecers' will to survive.
9. The Anglophone minority of Québec is oppressed.
The English-speaking community of Québec is arguably the most well-treated "minority" in the world. If the Francophones of Canada had been given the same rights as Anglophones, the entire history of the federation would have been different. One important detail is that even though the Anglophones are technically a "minority" in Québec, they are the majority in every other province, which means that the Canadian federation as a whole is largely English-speaking despite Ottawa's symbolic bilingualism. Anglophones are a linguistic majority inside Canada. It is Francophones who constitution the only linguistic minority among the two "official language" communities. The Québec government recognizes Anglophones' linguistic rights inside the Charter of the French language. The Québec government also finances a complete English language educational system from kindergarten to University. Québec Anglophones rarely get to feel like they are part of a minority, rather they often see Francophones as the minority (of Canada).
Mentalities evolve: today, a good number of Québec Anglophones also speak French as a second language and have no difficulty accepting the fact that French is the legitimate public language of this unique part of the world.
10. Quebecers are not an oppressed people and never suffered from the colonization of their country.
The consequences of British colonization in Canada were disastrous for the Québec people and even more disastrous for all Aboriginal nations. Discriminations of all kinds, social exclusion, collective as well as individual impoverishment, exile etc. Quebecers' resistance to assimilation and political oppression is a great lesson of courage for all small nations on Earth.
11. The French of Canada have no national culture of their own.
Ha! ha! ha! ha!
12. If Québec separates, it will isolate itself from the rest of North America and the world.
With the status of an independent nation, Québec will have a seat at the United Nations and every other international body where only nations are allowed to sit. By opening a real network of embassies throughout the world, Québec will be more present on the international scene and will build strong and everlasting links with all parts of the world. With full control over its economic, social, cultural policies, and the power to sign its own treaties, the rest of the world will know Québec and Québec will know the rest of the world more than ever in the past. Really, we fell this follows from the simplest and most down to earth logic there ever was. How did people start thinking otherwise? Or should we say, who could have propagated such a non-logical idea in the population?