Like Fiery-Sunrise Slashing through the Dim-Blue Dawn…

René Lévesque & Pierre Trudeau - not the work of the author

Separatism is dead. Sovereignty is dying. I’m concerned about the latter; the former is still pointless.

These terms have unfortunately come to be somewhat interchangeable in Canadian political discourse, particularly when it comes to the perennial ‘Québec Question’, though in my eye – and in political/philosophical terms – they are exceptionally different. I would like to devote the rest of life to ensuring each individual citizen comprehends the fundamental importance of the latter, and further ensuring that each individual living in our collective society understands the suicidal lunacy of the former. We are a particular nation – the sovereign collective, the collectively sovereign – and it seems to me that our lack of self-awareness, our seeming lack of a socio-cultural foundation lie somewhere deep in this political reality. We shirk from our responsibility to understand ourselves more fully, feeling ourselves to be presently and perhaps forevermore, a mere accident; Europe’s wasted effort.

Canada is not a nation. We are a collective of nations. We have no Nationalism – and why would we? Destroying the greatest evil Nationalism ever created propelled us from Imperial Backwater to World Power in six years. Nationalism was the 19th century’s mistake, and we were justified in turning our backs on it. We did this years ago. We made ourselves post-national and post-modern back in the 1960s. The good work done then lasted us well into the first part of the last decade; no matter Stephen Harper tells you or makes you think, the Canada you live in is an inherently progressive country. Our laws, enshrined in our Constitution and Charter, make us a leading liberal social-democratic nation. And it was no accident.

I’m not going to whitewash things. We’re not perfect. But we have relatable foundation documents. We have modern foundation documents. No “Tea Party North” will re-interpret our Charter – it’s meaning and intent is clear, and it, like our Constitution and the thirty years’ worth of legal proceedings since its repatriation, remain clear, progressive, inherently liberal. Despite some stand-out historical abuses of power which have marred our country’s reputation, we have managed to create a unique and exceptionally powerful example of a liberal democracy with a social-justice bent.

But we can’t take it for granted.

The Orange Crush of May 2nd 2011 demonstrated a sea-change in Canadian and Québec politics. Québec decided with one vote to forego the continued widespread support of a regionalist-bloc party and instead threw their support behind the dedicated agent of social-democratic change in Canadian federal politics. In essence, the people of Québec indicated that they are prepared to work with all Canadians to ensure Canada does not deviate too far towards neo-Conservatism. This event has heralded the end of sectarian/regionalist federalist parties: no longer can the CPC play the old Tory Populist card of appealing to Conservative rural voters in Québec and the West. The CPC is an alliance of regionalist, non-integrationalist thoughts and perspectives, manifested as a political entity. It is a party of division that succeeded by re-enforcing division. And yet from this we find unison, and surely the Tories could never have expected almost all of Québec to decide, almost overnight, to throw their support behind the NDP. Neither could they have imagined NDP support would grow – nationally – to the point where Jack Layton would retire his two main rivals. He is the undisputed leader of the national opposition, and his powerbase is primarily in Québec, though curiously all of the major cities as well. The May 2nd election was an event of national importance: there are indeed ties that bind and unite this nation. The cities are pan-nationalistic. Québec is the minorité-majeur. The NDP is the future of Canada and the sovereignty of all Canadians is the only major national concern moving forward.

Separatism must die – and it seems that this is the case. The Bloc is a shell of its former self, and péquiste stalwarts are dropping like flies. It’s no longer in vogue for the young and it’s losing whatever academic or economic credibility it once pretended to have. And at the end of the day it is not about whether or not it’s just for the people of Québec to have their own stolen piece of Aboriginal land, their own coins or trade agreements. It’s about what each of us owe to the other in the land we share. It’s about biting the bullet and getting involved, paying your taxes and working hard to support the welfare-state that keeps us safe and secure. It’s also about recognizing where these ideas come from, what their genesis was, and why we live the lives we do.

Canada wouldn’t exist without Québec; neither in our past nor our future. And in this relationship, where Québec sits as a kind of first-amongst-equals with regards to the other provinces, Québec has serious responsibilities – to lead, to mediate, to demonstrate the ancient wisdom of our people, to demonstrate our intractable nature and commitment for the betterment of all Canadians. A separatist is fundamentally a nationalist-capitalist, disinclined to share. A sovereignist by contrast seeks to establish a confederation where sharing is the law, and we all take a little to maximize our collective freedoms.

And as we hit the mid-point of 2011, with news-reports coming in at an increasing rate of police abuses and contested civil rights from all corners of the decadent West, we must ask ourselves just how separate we really want to be. Because, when the state turns fascistic – even if only by a small degree – it is the collective sovereignty of the people that is fundamentally threatened. And the response can never hope of succeeding if it is divided.

This article was originally posted to Forget the Box.

2 thoughts on “Like Fiery-Sunrise Slashing through the Dim-Blue Dawn…”

  1. Well!

    To begin. I’m half-English Quebecer and half-French Québecois – pur-laine going back to 1673. Your bit about how I can’t understand other cultures is a mere insult – the ignorance is so outlandish I can’t take you seriously. And you chose to open with that?

    I’ve spent the better part of last five years studying the cultures and societies of the World, and have a degree which says as much. So be careful when you make ridiculous accusations, it only makes you seem illogically hostile. And if I’m not mistaken, not only did France once have an empire which oppressed and enslaved millions of people (including ourselves, the people of Québec), which they in turn gave up to the British so they could focus their schemes on Haiti? Did we not gain significant rights, liberties and institutions as a British Province? Do you know what ‘Je me Souviens’ refers to?

    Lévesque was trying to gamble with Trudeau in `82, and he lost (Québec did not lose – our laws are based in part on the national constitution, the national charter of rights and freedoms). The collective, ie – the Canadian People (all of us) benefited immensely then and now with these documents. They are liberal-progressive in orientation and there’s almost nothing Harper can do about it. But because you wish to be separate, you also wish to deny your brother the same rights and liberties you have.

    Also, Québec is partly a British/Tory concept. It was the British who determined our political borders and gave rise to the modern Québec State, and it was Stephen Harper who recognized Québec as being a nation – though this word was never defined, and who would want to be made a ‘nation’ by Stephen Harper anyways?

    If there are multiple nations in Canada, then I would say that Francophone Canadians constitute a nation, complete with Québecois, Acadiens, Brayons, Francoténois etc etc. And there would be a pantheon of various Anglophone-Canadian nations, inasmuch as there Aboriginal nations. Canada is no longer an empire, nor is it the vestiges of an old empire. We’re sovereign, we’ve separated from them. We are a unique American poly-nation, and it is more valuable to the peoples of the world that our vision of social-democratic multiculturalism (or interculturalism) succeeds, to show that a functioning model exists. A great many Canadians, on reserves, in orphanages, in boarding & residential schools, in churches, under government care, in Québec, in Ontario, in Saskatchewan, BC and Manitoba have all been damaged by the State as it existed in the past. But such is not the present, and today Canada works, even when being actively undermined by a fascist like Harper, we are still a united, social-democratic country. What some of the People of Québec expect to one-day remove from Confederation, they must be willing to put in. And if you don’t like Harper, then find common cause with other Canadians who don’t like him either and work with them. The Progressive approach doesn’t seek to end unions and pit people against one another.

    Which is entirely what you seem to be doing.

    Do you honestly feel this much hate? Because if you do I feel you should seek psychiatric assistance. There was nothing of substance in your post, no contribution – neither in opinion nor fact.

  2. ಠ_ಠ

    Don’t presume things.

    As an english, from my experience, you (that’s a personal “you”) do not understand other cultures, especially those you (that’s a collective “you”) colonize and dominate. Your post is pretty much proof of that.

    Québec may have voted NDP (it’s a fluke. Really. Read on), but that’s definitely not the death of sovereignism (we’ve always been “separate” — we’ve been kept so by the colonizing english; kept separate from the political process, and kept separate from the economic sphere, by careful design).

    Make no mistake: the NDP is the most anti-Québec party there is; even more so than the liberals. The NDP voted for the unilateral repatriation of 1982, they did not blink an eye about the kitchen accord, they were against both Meech & Charlottetown, they voted for the“referendum clarity act” and were against the recognition of Québec as a nation.

    Furthemore, as an internationalist socialist that had no anti-colonialist orientation, they do not recognize the existence of nations, but only proletarians -vs- bourgeois. It’s not a bunch of rookie backbencher “poteaux” that’s gonna change that — already, several newly-minted MPs have been slapped by Laytoon because they have stated to be “separatists”.

    The majority Harper Government™ coupled with an official oppositino party that is, by design, totally clueless about Québec, is absolutely guaranteed to spew forth laws and policies that will resolutely be anti-Québec, to a degree that the liberals can only dream about, and that will re-ignite the flames of sovereignty, unless the NDP explodes and a new Bloc emerges, just as the Bloc emerged from the old (true) Tory party 22 years ago.

    Québec sovereignty has always been driven by the utter cluelessness of canadians, and this time is no different. Except that the next referendum will be the winning one.

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