December 20, 2006
Harper’s motion poses the question: Who is a Québécois?
Henry Srebrnik, [
The House of Commons recently passed a motion, by a vote of 266-16, declaring the Québécois to be a nation within the Canadian federation. Not surprisingly,
The candidates for the Liberal Party leadership, too, were split. Gerard Kennedy was opposed, Michael Ignatieff in favour, and the eventual winner, Stéphane Dion, though a passionate federalist, also voted for it.
Even the terminology that was used by parliament is in dispute. The motion, introduced by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, referred, in both its English and French versions, to a Québécois people.
While the use of the word Québécois in French generally applies to any and all people living within the boundaries of the province of Quebec, regardless of ancestry, ethnicity, or language spoken, in English that term is usually restricted to francophones, and sometimes only to old-stock people of French descent, the so-called “pure laine” French Canadians of Quebec. Others in the province are commonly called Quebecers.
So the English text seems to suggest the recognition of a narrow, ethnic nationalism, while the French version is territorial, and denotes a civic and more inclusive nation. This implies that all citizens of the province can regard themselves as, and be considered, Québécois.
The odd thing, though, is that it is the sovereignists in
Was this intentionally meant to suggest to the rest of
If so, this is a retrograde step, since that archaic form of French Canadian nationalism died in the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s. It would indeed be the height of irony if federalists, rather than separatists, defined Québécois in this manner.
I guess Governor General Michaëlle Jean got it wrong when, at her official installation in September 2005, she asserted that “The time of the ‘two solitudes’ that for too long described the character of this country is past.” I doubt this is quite what she had in mind.