The year 2017 imprints a significant date in the history of Canada as the 150th anniversary.
150 years ago, the Canadian Confederation, called the Dominion of Canada, was created by the unification of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. The 150th anniversary emphasizes the theme of diversity and inclusion. For previous generations, the Canadian Confederation became more of an anglophone country while gradually neglecting its francophone heritage. The French population of Canada, which the majority was generally found in Quebec, felt their own French-speaking population as inferior and a victim of alienation. Through the course of time, two Quebec Referendums took place in 1980 and 1995 (Millette). The Quebec government carried out these referendums to pursue sovereignty-association and a recognition as a ‘distinct society’ (Reference).
Pierre Bourgault, a former leader of the Rassemblement pour l’indépendance Nationale, RIN, and a pioneer of Quebec sovereignty movement, was famous for supporting and advocating sovereignty for Quebec (Lambert). Bourgault clearly stated Quebec’s motive by saying, “We no longer want to be a province that is unlike the others, we want to be a country that will be like the others.”(Lambert). Nevertheless, these referendums concluded as losses for the separatists, resulting an ongoing Quebec sovereignty movement and a lingering question that still remains: “Should Quebec Secede from the Canadian Confederation?” The ongoing Quebec sovereignty movement is an ideology that promotes the sovereignty and independence of Quebec. However, Quebec should not secede from Canada due to the invalidity of Quebec’s secular charter by infringing the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the cost that Quebec will have to pay from secession, Quebec’s unclear motive and questions, and unwanted precedents that will be set from Quebec secession. Quebec should not be recognized as a potential sovereignty-association because of its irrational, secular Charter provisions. The Quebec Charter of Values was first introduced as a proposed bill by the Parti Quebecois. This controversial bill was first officially proposed in 2013.
However, the bill died on the order paper in 2014. As a province of Canada, bills in Quebec ultimately pass through the approval of the Lieutenant Governor, which the Governor General appoints. If Quebec were to be a sovereignty-association, Quebec would be an independent nation-state, and could possibly reintroduce this bill without the approval of the Lieutenant Governor. By reintroducing this bill, Quebec can restore the provisions of the Quebec Charter of Values. The provisions grands the right to amend the Quebec Charter of Human Rights (Les Publications) which include the right to limit the wearing of religious “conspicuous” symbols and to make it mandatory to have one’s face uncovered during state service . Based on an article on the Globe and Mail, nine legal experts weighed into this matter and the majority agreed on that Quebec’s Charter of Values was unconstitutional with its excessive demands as it would limit the freedom of religion, infringe fundamental human rights, and due to the fact that there was no justification will only bring more secular exceptions (Fine). Yet only one out of the nine legal experts believed that the limitations clause made the Charter of Values constitutional and justifiable.
The Quebec Charter of Values also interferes against the UN Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The objective of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as stated by the preamble is to provide dignity and equality which is the foundation of freedom, peace, and justice. According to Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone is entitled to all rights without discrimination based on race, colour, sex, language, religion, and origin (United Nations). The provisions of the Quebec Charter of Values not only infringes Human Right and Freedoms on a national scale by violating the legal conditions of the Canadian Charter (Government) but also violates on an international scale by violating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. If Quebec secedes and reintroduces the Quebec Charter of Values, there will be conflict with the UN on the basis of infringing human rights and liberty. This justifies that Quebec should not secede from the Confederation as Nicolas Berdiaeff, a political philosopher once said, “Liberty is not a right: it’s an obligation.” Quebecois also believe that it would be economically beneficial for Quebec if they were to secede from Canada because of Quebec political parties.
In 2016, a new anglophone sovereignists group in Quebec, called the “Anglophone for Quebec Independence, AQI, presumed that the Quebec independence will enable Quebec to act as an equal partner on the global stage in their own terms. The AQI also stated that the money that was sent to the federal government could be used to boost funding of health, education, and other province-wide projects in Quebec (PostMedia). Nevertheless, a 1997 publication called “The Secession of Quebec and Future of Canada” (Young) and The Globe and Mail Article, “The Staggering Price of Quebec Independence” (Ragan) argues otherwise. These two sources highlight the facts that Quebec will face economic risks of currency and monetary aspects, loss of federal benefits and debt issues.
Firstly, if Quebec secedes from Canada, Quebec could choose to continue to use the Canadian dollar. However, it would have no monetary policy to stabilize the economy. Quebec could also choose to create a new currency and bank. Even though Quebec could choose a new currency, the uncertainty of the market and market pessimism would likely create a large depreciation, which would cause the debt in Quebec to rise. Furthermore, if Quebec separates, Quebec would not receive equal federal benefits and responsibilities from Canada. In 2013, the net debt in Quebec was $175 billion which was equivalent to 49 percent of the provincial gross domestic product (GDP) (Mckenna). Before seceding, Quebec would need to be responsible for its share of federal debts and assets.
This would increase the debt-to-GDP ratio and place Quebec in a huge debt. Quebecers will also not receive benefits from federal programs, such as Employment Insurance and Old Age Security. Once Quebec secedes, it could be taken into consideration that the Quebec government could replace the benefits that were previously provided, but due to the separation, there would be no financial support, placing a budgetary hole on the Quebec government. The next thing to consider on Quebec referendum is whether or not the Quebecois are seeking separation or a special recognition as a ‘distinct society’. John C.
Parkin’s quote, “The problem for a lot of people is that they don’t really know what they want…” best describes the situation the Quebecois are in. In the past two referendums, Quebec emphasized on sovereignty-association and the acceptance of a unique society. During the second referendum, the separatists nearly seceded, but was denied by a slight majority of 50.58 percent. According to an article from the Vancouver Sun, many Quebecers seek independence for reasons that are unrelated to economics and the cost of separating. It seems very clear, that if the Quebecois understood the real cost of seceding, the probability of a referendum would decrease (Crowley). However, during the referendums, the Quebecois were driven by the Quebec sovereignty movement in advocating Quebec sovereignty.
The Quebec sovereignty movement is based around the ideology of values, concepts, and ideas. Quebec wishes to be recognized as a distinct society for their history, culture, and heritage. Quebec also proposed the intention of sovereignty-association, where Quebec will separate from Canada, but maintain the economic ties, to form its own provincial government.
This proposal presents Quebec’s doubts and uncertainties in cutting economic ties with Canada. Based on Quebec’s cost of seceding from Canada, which revolves around the elements of monetary and currency, loss of benefits, and debt issues, it can be safely implied that Quebec is not truly looking to separate from Canada, but rather receive special recognition or additional benefits. Quebecers should consider the costs and contemplate if Quebec should separate from Canada. In 2014, even the Parti Québécois leader, Pauline Marois looked back at the campaign and stated, “There will be no referendum.
.. as long as Quebecers aren’t ready for one” (CBC News). Based on what is given, it is irrational for Quebec to secede from Canada. Therefore, it is not justifiable for Quebec to secede from Canada. Finally, Quebec secession should not happen as undesired precedents will be set not only nationally, but internationally as well.
If Quebec were to separate on the basis of being recognized as a distinct society, there will be complications with the Aboriginals and the federal government. The Aboriginals can argue against the fact that they deserve to be recognized as a distinct society with additional benefits since the Aboriginals have a longer heritage and culture. The Aboriginals deserve more compensation as the federal government mistreated the their culture and heritage throughout the past generations.
An example is the 1969 White Paper, which its main goal was to remove Indian status and all distinct aboriginal rights (Lagace). Also if Quebec secedes, more provinces will have a justifiable reason to seek secession. This will cause more complications within the Canadian Confederation and states from foreign countries could follow this precedent. In 2017, a Catalonia referendum on secession was won by the majority of the separatist party. Although the Spain constitution declared Spain indivisible, the referendum was held. Nationalists in Quebec, who defended the referendum on secession, also suggested it as a good example for Quebec.
This displays the rejection on the rule of law, but rather the preference for anarchy. However there is are fundamental differences between Catalonia and Quebec. Catalonia is a small region and somewhat homogenous (Johnson). However, Quebec is a big region with many Aboriginal nations and the right to be recognized as French Quebec.
Even though Catalonia secedes, it will not set a big precedent as it consists of a smaller region and less diversity. However, if Quebec secedes, there will be a clear precedent for other provinces or states to follow from. These precedents will also bring more economic problems and more focus on reconstituting the federal government.
Therefore, the Quebec secession should not happen as it will bring unwanted precedents.In Greek mythology, a character by the name of Sisyphus was forced to roll a large boulder up a hill, only to watch it come back to hit him, repeating this action for eternity. Through this the word Sisyphean was formed, meaning a task that cannot be completed or useless to complete. Sisyphean labour can be used to describe Quebec’s efforts in secession. Quebec secession is unlikely to happen through the Clarity Act, which was passed by the Parliament of Canada in 2000 which requires Quebec a ‘clear majority’ in order to secede (Flanagan). Even if Quebec secedes, it would seem useless and irrational as there would be many costs and unwanted precedents. An iconic quote, “With much power comes much responsibility” can also be associated with the Quebec secession.
Through a Quebec secession, Quebec as a nation-state will have more responsibility of accommodating the needs of their citizens. Power can often be abused if excessive, and that can be seen in Quebec’s Charter of Values, which the majority can agree that it is unconstitutional. Likewise by separating, Quebec will have to face more costs than expected, which will bring them into a state of debt.
Quebec should also realize the dangerous and inconvenient precedents that will form if the separate from the Confederation. At last, Quebecers should recognize and realize the cost of secession and inquire of themselves if separating would do them any good. Overall, Quebec should not secede from Canada due to the invalidity of Quebec’s secular charter, the cost that Quebec will have to pay, Quebec’s unclear motive and questions, and unwanted precedents that will be set from Quebec referendum.