“Made in Quebec”
In light of the continuing discussion across Canada of the nature of our confederation and the power and responsibilities of each member, I present historical data on Quebec’s role in the construction of our nation, Canada. This list is provided on the letters page in French by former Bulletin editorialist Antoine L. Normand. (Please forgive translation errors of legal terms on my part.)
Apart from multiple legal accomplishments during New France, the Conquest, and constitutional conventions (the Treaty of Paris, the Quebec Act, the Constitutional Act, the Act of Union, the British North America Act, the Constitution Law) and other accords, it’s clear Quebec has been at the heart of the project to construct a new nation from the beginnings of European conquest.
Quebec has provided significant heads of state for Canada: Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine, Georges-Étienne Cartier, Wilfrid Laurier, Louis St-Laurent, Pierre E. Trudeau, Brian Mulroney, Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin (plus the present PM). Many laws, programs, agreements and accords over the years that are crucial to Canada’s definition began under their initiative.
Federal laws on official languages, repatriation of the constitution, incorporating the Charter of Rights and Liberties, the national anthem -- and NAFTA -- came about under PMs from Quebec. Nation-building agreements on immigration, manpower training, daycares, and parental leave, initiated by Quebec, now benefit all provinces.
Also significant in the definition of Canada is the Council of the Federation which, over the long term, will permit a better dialogue and synergy among the provinces and federal government. This already includes agreements on the financing of health care and other federal-provicial agreements that reply upon the notion of asymmetry, which facilitates our federation’s functional flexibility.
Asymmetry replaces the “opting out” formula which allows funding agreements across the country without violating constitutional guarantees of provincial powers – the most recent the agreement on daycares. Again, due in large part to Quebec representation and leadership.
All of these are positive contributions in defining Canada and keeping it united. One might also add a list of challenges to the existence and democratic nature of Canada and which originated in Quebec – from the War Measures Act, the conscription crisis, to several independence referenda – which, far from showing a malign influence, confirm Quebec’s position at the heart of Canada’s creation and continuing evolution.
Clearly, citizens of all political stripes take differing messages from these events and agreements, but they do demonstrate the critical role of our province throughout Canada’s history. To see Quebec as a negative force, or one best set free from the confederation, would be a misreading of history – to our detriment, as the very “150” celebrations indicate.
That is, assuming we wish to see a strong and united north continue, in the face of new threats today, some from our former strongest ally. If Canada is to continue to flourish as a multi-cultural model, mustn’t we agree on our differences as well as our accomplishments? Mustn’t we read our own history ?