Canadians are proud of their country, though it may be said, quietly so. Our history does not have the turmoil or struggle of other lands, and we are accepting of all who come to our shores for a better life. Tolerance has been a key to the growth and maturity of Canada, and it is that tolerance to once again allow an insult to all Canadians be publicly carried out. On September 17th 2012 the freshly elected Premier of Quebec, Pauline Marois took down the Canadian flag from the ceremonial chamber of the national assembly as members of her minority government were sworn in. Standing alone was the Quebec Fleur-de-lis.
This was not the first time that Canada's National Standard had been removed from the Quebec legislature. Regardless of Premier Marois' feelings or opinions the Quebec legislature and its provincial government is a part of a nation. Whether it is Madame Marois or any of her newly elected minority government, each carries a Canadian birth certificate and a Canadian passport. Each took an oath of office under the laws of Canada, and each is responsible to uphold the laws of Canada.
The PQ's desires for sovereignty did in the end bend to hypocrisy and swear allegiance to the Queen. In fact the entire PQ caucus had no choice but to swear an oath to the monarch. Hypocrisy at its finest. No one can take public office in Canada without the prerequisite of swearing an oath to the British Monarch, yet the insult to the nation as a whole was to be tolerated.
Brave men and women carry on their uniforms the Canadian flag, too many have come home with the Canadian symbol draped over them in honour of their sacrifice. In battle the standard of a nation is never allowed to fall and is carried with pride. Yet we here in Canada seem to find an acceptance of such an act as not being anything more than changing the drapes on a window.
Canada's Heritage Minister James Moore's spokesman Sebastien Gariepy had this to say in an email. “We do not believe that Quebecers wish to revisit the old constitutional battles of the past.” (News 25, September 19, 2012). Premier Marois has stressed on more than one occasion that her government will aim to achieve Quebec's separation from Canada, does the federal government believe this to be a lie then? Quebec Liberal MP Stephane Dion was not surprised that the Canadian flag was removed, yet at least Mr. Dion did publicly state that he believed federal politicians should stand up for our national symbol.
We teach our children tolerance in order to develop harmony in their lives, yet we do not teach them to surrender their pride or dignity. There has to be limitations beyond which tolerance is only seen as cowardice.
Canada's Confederation of 1867 brought together three British colonies to become four provinces of the new dominion. "The existing Province of Canada was divided into the new provinces of Ontario and Quebec, and two other colonies, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, also became provinces of the Dominion of Canada” (Wikipedia – Canadian Confederation). All the colonies that became involved in the Canadian Confederation were initially part of New France, and were once ruled by France. The British in 1763 through the Treaty of Paris gained control of New France, which ended the Seven Year War. True our historic connection to France is at our roots, our very birth, yet it was also British and together The Fathers of Confederation saw reason to join together and form a nation.
The sovereignty movement does not look at the retention of historic links, it is a movement that has one motivation, and that is the division of Canada. In the early 1960's former European colonies of Cameroon, Congo, Senegal, Algeria and Jamaica were being granted independence, and advocates of Quebec's independence found a similarity in their cause as those newly independent states. Yet Quebec was not a colony under the possession of British Canada. It was a partner in the union of Canada and a province within Canada.
A jolt in the arm of sovereignty advocates came in June 1967 from the French President Charles de Gaulle. The French president was visiting Canada for Expo 67 and the Canadian Centennial. His famous exclamation “Vive le Quebec libre!,” during a speech at Montreal's city hall brought loud applause from those committed to Quebec independence, though not so much from the Canadian federal government or Canadians as a whole.
In October 1968 the Parti Quebecois (PQ) was born with the merging of Ralliement national (RN), Mouvement souverainete-association (MSA) and Rassemblement pour l'independance nationale (RIN). It is through the PQ that the sovereignty movement has found its voice and strength, to the rest of Canada only turmoil.
Two referendums on the sovereignty issue, one in 1980 and another in 1995 had failed. Both the Meech Lake Accord, where an attempt to provide constitutional recognition of Quebec as a 'distinct society', and then the Charlottown Accord failed. The failure of both referendums and the Meech Lake and Charlottown Accords brought a greater zeal to the sovereignty movement.
Where do we go as Canadians on this issue? How logical can it be to have a nation within a nation? Today's issues of security cannot be ignored and the logistics of such a division are impossible to fathom. For those in Quebec who call for separation a realization must be accepted that all the costs will be their own. The rest of Canada will not, and under no circumstances cannot provide the financial assistance towards separation. How can the Quebec tax basically achieve such a goal?
Still the voices for separation have gained a victory at this time, or have they. The newly elected premier has only a minority government destined to face a road filled with frustration ahead. Premier Marois is quoted as saying “My government is a sovereignist one. We have the conviction that the future of Quebec is that of a sovereign country.” Premier Marois and the PQ hold 54 seats, the Liberals 50, the Coalition Avenir Quebec 19 and 2 for Quebec Solidairie. Coalition Avenir Quebec's platform was based on the belief that the division between federalists and sovereignists paralyses, and the Coalition will promote neither sovereignty nor Canadian unity. Both the PQ and the Opposition Liberal party will court the Coalition's 19 votes and the games begin.
It is Canada as a country that in the end has to bear the bruises. Now weeks after our flag was removed by the newly elected Marois anger has subsided and the act no longer news. What will come next?
Perhaps it is important that we acknowledge and accept our distinct individuality yet it is our commonality of being Canadian which should motivate us toward our future and that of our children and grandchildren.
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