Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ The Quebec Card

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Nov 27, 2006

The ridiculous saga of the 'Quebec as Nation' debate is reaching a frenzy (at least in the media) as the Liberal leadership convention approaches.

For the record - and only for the record - I am happy to recognize the Quebecois, the people, as a nation. In Canada we have plenty of precedent for such a designation, so much so I am surprised that there would be any debate about this.

Has everyone in the media, for example, forgotten about the First Nations? Among whom we would include the Six Nations? The ones with whom we as a country negotiated a series of treaties? How about the Inuit, over which Canada negotiated governance of the territory of Nunavit? And have we also forgotten the Dene Nation?

There will come a day, I suspect, when we (quite rightly and properly) recognize the Chinese (who, after all, built large sections of our national railroad, the link that forged the country) as a founding nation. No history of Montreal would be complete without a nod to the Jewish nation and even the United Empire Loyalists who constitute, in part, my own ancestry. And I could go on.

No, what should be remarked upon at this juncture is not the substance of the debate, for there is none. Rather, it is the playing, once again, of the Quebec Card.

The Quebec Card is, of course, a pale understudy for the ultimate card, the Race Card. It is a tactic that is pulled out by politicians, usually from the right (because they seem to have this thing about race), when they are losing an otherwise more typical debate or contest.

That is why it comes as no surprise to me that Michael Ignatieff played the Quebec card. Though relentlessly promoted by the national media (who, remember, gave us Paul Martin) Ignatieff was nonetheless losing the leadership race. That is why, for no other apparent reason, he raised the question of Quebec nationalism.

"I speak for those who say Quebec is a nation, but Canada is my country,'' Ignatieff said, falsely (as he most certainly does not speak for me) and unnecessarily. And - I might add - unclearly (the best way to stir up a debate is to be murky about which side of it you're on). Perhaps this will obscure his support for the Iraq war, something only his long residence in the United States or his conservative leanings can explain.

It is of course no surprise to see the other conservatives take up the Ignatieff play, raising the proposal by a motion, sowing chaos into the Liberal debate, and not incidentally, the Canadian political landscape.

The Conservatives, after all, had just slipped behind the leaderless Liberals in the polls, having totally botched the environment portfolio and having lost ground on issues as diverse as gay rights (which they oppose), capital punishment (which they support) and the Afghanistan war (where they wish they could be). They can't even get free speech right. Much less media relations.

It's a shame we have to witness this, once again, and a shame our corporate media is ready and willing to whip this into a frenzy. Most likely, Canadians are not fooled by the Quebec Card any more (though the Bloc can be counted on to leap like a walleye to the lure).

If I had my druthers, we'd all nod in bored agreement and then get on to some things that matter. Like the war, say. The environment. Education, health, poverty. Energy, the economy and regional development. And a few dozen other matters Canadians place at a much higher priority than stupid word games being played by stupid people.

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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