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Should Quebec Become a Sovereign Nation-State and Separate from Canada?
Transcript of Should Quebec Become a Sovereign Nation-State and Separate from Canada?
The movement for Quebec separation has been long and ongoing. During the 1960s, during a time known as the Quiet Revolution, the slogan of the government at the time was “Masters in our own house.” Several political parties were formed as a result of this time period, including the Parti Quebecois, a party that seeks for Quebec to separate from Canada. Although separatists are usually peaceful, a radical group who sought separation kidnapped two people and murdered one in 1970. In 1980 a referendum was held asking the Quebecois if they wanted Quebec to separate from Canada, only about 40 percent supported the idea in the referendum. In 1995, a second referendum was held and the results were extremely close. Only about 50.6 percent of the Quebecois voted to remain with Canada. The Clarity Act was introduced in 2000 to help structure and set conditions for the secession of a province from Canada. "Our position is clear. Do the Québécois form a nation within Canada? The answer is yes. Do the Québécois form an independent nation? The answer is no and the answer will always be no."
-Stephen Harper A major issue with Quebec separating as an independent nation-state is that legally, this is not a simple task. The Clarity Act was made in 2000, partially in response to the close results of the 1995 referendum. The Clarity Act says that all provinces are to be a part of any negotiations for another province to separate. This ensures that another Quebec referendum couldn't separate the province from Canada, all it could do is begin discussions of the idea within the federal government. Discussions of secession for a province would begin after a clear majority in that province had displayed the desire to separate. However, the Clarity Act allows the House of Commons to decide what a clear majority is, and they can decide after the referendum is complete what they believe a clear majority should be. In deciding what a clear majority should be, the amount of voter turn out will be taken into account as well. This makes the idea of a clear majority more complicated. The Legal Issues with Separation There are multiple issues that could arise if Quebec were to separate, and these reasons are part of why Quebec should remain a Canadian province. Several issues that could arise with an independent Quebec include:
-Population Decrease: It is likely that the population of Quebec would decrease if it were to separate because those who didn't support separation would most likely move elsewhere in Canada. Anglophones who wanted to remain a part of Canada could migrate to another province. In the first five years after the Parti Quebecois won the election in 1976, around 106 300 Anglophones left Quebec. It is likely that if Quebec successfully separated, a large number of Anglophones, as well as others who were against separation, would migrate to other regions of Canada.
-An Increase in Taxes Due to Loss of Federal Government Funding: Quebec would loss 7.4 billion in annual revenue if they separated. They currently get this money from the federal government, but if they chose to separate, they would be without this money. Quebec has a high unemployment rate, and one of the services provided to Quebec by the federal government is unemployment insurance. Funding for services like this would be cut if Quebec were to separate. Taxes would most likely be increased to try and make up for the loss of funding from the Canadian government. An increase in taxes would not be well received by most Quebecois, but either more money would need to be taken in by the Quebec government, or more social services and programs would need to be cut. Issues of a Sovereign Quebec If Quebec’s separation was widely supported among the Quebecois, there wouldn’t be two failed referendums in Quebec’s history. Not everyone living in Quebec supports separation, and because of this, Quebec should remain part of Canada. Quebec is part of Canada because the majority in Quebec want to remain part of Canada, and the province shouldn’t secede against the majorities’ wishes.
-Anglophones in Quebec: 2.4 percent of those in Quebec are only able to speak English, and those that seems like a small number, 10 percent of people living in Quebec speak English in their homes. People do speak English in Quebec, and they need to be recognized and have their opinions heard. Many Anglophones are against separation, in part due to the impact it could have on their language rights. In the past Quebec has created laws like Bill 22, which required companies to have French names, and only allowed children who had proven to speak English to attend English schools. Although Anglophones receive protection and language rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom, if Quebec separated as a sovereign country, the government could make it’s own laws. This is one of the reasons many Anglophones do not support separation. Lack of Support for Separation Although there are people in Quebec who are seeking separation, and there are even political parties representing these people, Quebec should remain part of Canada. The Clarity Act makes it difficult for Quebec to separate, an independent Quebec wouldn’t function as efficiently as it does now, and the majority of people in Quebec do not support separation. For these reasons, Quebec should not become an independent sovereign nation-state, it should remain part of Canada. As a province of Canada, Quebec is part of the nation of Canada and they should not separate from this nation. CBC News. (2012). The native people in Quebec hold their own referendum. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/archives/categories/politics/federal-politics/separation-anxiety-the-1995-quebec-referendum/the-native-people-in-quebec-hold-their-own-referendum.html
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P, Grady. (1991, September) The cost of Quebec’s separation. Retrieved from http://global-economics.ca/costs_separation.pdf References This quote by Stephen Harper was said when he declared Quebec a nation within Canada. However, he acknowledges that Quebec is part of Canada and will never be an independent nation. There are several political parties that are supportive of separation and continue to seek sovereignty for Quebec. The Parti Quebecois is one of the Quebec provincial government parties who have the goal of a sovereign Quebec. Currently in power in Quebec, though without a majority government, this party wants the nation of Quebec to secede from Canada. A federal party that is supportive of Quebec’s separation is the Bloc Quebecois.
If Quebec were to separate, Canada would be severely impacted. If Quebec left, Ontario would have the majority of seats in government, and the population of Canada would decrease by almost 25 percent. Without Quebec, the economy of Canada would drop from the seventh to the eighth largest economy. The gross domestic product of Canada would decrease by 23 percent. If Quebec were to separate, Canada would be one of the nation-states that would feel the impact. The United States could also be affected as they are trading partners with Canada, and if Canada were to divide, trade negotiations could be affected.
Within Quebec there are various groups that do not support separation. Anglophones in Quebec and First Nations people fear the potential loss of cultural and language rights if Quebec became a sovereign country. There are also Francophones who are federalists and would rather remain part of Canada. Some people are opposed to separation due to the consequences it could have on Quebec’s economy, trade, and citizen’s taxes. The issue of Quebec’s secession is a complex one, but it is clear that Quebec should remain a part of Canada. Conclusion
The Act also allows the House of Commons to decide whether a referendum question is clear or not, as there was controversy over the clearness of the referendum questions of 1980 and 1995. The Clarity Act essentially requires the question to break down to a simple yes or no to separation. A structured format has been created for separation with the Clarity Act, and ensures that the federal government, and other Canadians will be involved in the process of a province separating. This process will only begin once the federal government decides the majority of the provinces wishes to separate, though an exact number to make up the majority is at the discretion of the government. The Clarity Act still allows for separation, but it makes the process a long one, and one that requires input from across Canada, not just a specific province. This makes Quebec’s separation extremely difficult, because even if another referendum was held and the federal government agreed a clear majority had expressed the desire to separate from Canada, the other provincial governments in Canada would still have to be involved in deciding if Quebec could separate. By involving other governments and Canadians in a possible separation process, the Clarity Act ensures that the nation of Canada will not be divided without approval from those across Canada. -National and Provincial Debt: If Quebec separated, it would be a new country with a large amount of debt. The provincial debt of Quebec, as well as a portion of Canada’s national debt, would be given to the new country. With almost a quarter of Canada’s population, Quebec would most likely receive about a quarter of Canada’s debt. If Quebec had been successful in separating in 1995, about $195 billion dollars of debt would have been taken, including national and provincial debt.
-Trade Relations: Quebec relies on trade with other Canadian provinces, and these trade relationships would need to be maintained if Quebec separated. Quebec and Ontario trade $40 billion a year worth of product, and 29 percent of Quebec’s manufactured goods are traded with other Canadian provinces. With the separation of Quebec, these relationships could be affected as trade would became international trade instead of national trade. To maintain both Canada’s and Quebec’s economy, it would be important to find a way to work out trading relations with Quebec if the province seceded.
These are just some of the issues that could occur in an independent Quebec. Instead of separating, Quebec should remain a part of Canada and continue benefiting from being a part of the country. Separation would cause issues for both Quebec and Canadian governments, and citizen’s of both countries.
-First Nations: There are around 62 000 First Nations people living in Quebec, the majority of whom are against Quebec’s independence. Like the Anglophones, they fear the loss of language rights in a sovereign Quebec. They also are concerned over the possibility of losing land if Quebec were to separate. In 1995, the Cree and Inuit held their own referendums. The Cree voted on whether they would want to separate from Quebec if Quebec became it’s own nation-state, and 96.3 percent said they would want to separate. The Inuit asked if they would want to remain part of Canada even if Quebec separated, and 96% voted to remain with Canada. In the actual referendum, 94 percent of the Inuit voted against separation. The First Nations people of Quebec express a strong desire to remain part of Canada, regardless of whether Quebec separates.
-Francophone’s: Even some of the Francophone population in Quebec do not support separation. In the 1995 referendum, the French speaking part of Montreal voted to remain part of Canada, and although Quebec City voted to separate, it was only by a small majority. The majority of Francophones who support separation are in rural areas, while many Francophones in urban areas, like Montreal, wish to remain part of Canada.
The evidence is clear. There are distinct groups within Quebec who don’t want to separate from Canada, and the majority of Quebec’s population wishes to remain part of Canada. Both referendums failed in Quebec because the majority didn’t support separation. Quebec shouldn’t separate when the majority of those living in the province do not wish too.
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Canadian flag. (2007) Retrieved from http://www.elcivics.com/canada_photo_tour_1.html By Sydney Proppe Introduction