Canadian history was made on two counts yesterday.
First, the House of Commons, in contrast to the wishes of the vast majority of Canadians, passed a motion to declare the Quebecois a nation within Canada. Most members of all major parties in the Commons supported the motion.
There are many problems I have with this, not the least of which, there was no consultation at all. It was said by proponents that the motion was in effect meaningless, that it was simply meant to defuse a Bloc Quebecois motion to declare Quebec a nation outside of Canada.
The question I have is, if it was meaningless, why have the motion in the first place; why not simply defeat the Bloc motion. If it was not meaningless, and we should be concerned, why was there no consultation? I would submit that there is great concern.
I could very easily see the Bloc presenting a motion to the House asking that the Quebecois status as a nation be constitutionally recognized. How could the other parties say no? If informally, then why not constitutionally?
I think that we could be opening a pandora's box that we could very much regret opening.
Ken Dryden's speech in the House sums of my feelings precisely:
This is pure politics. All this started with the ludicrous concept of having a debate fundamental to the country based on different understandings of the word "nation." In the last few days, it has deteriorated into the ludicrous reality of such a debate in practice.
To those who want to engage the debate honestly, seeking definitional clarity - forget it. Other parties to the debate want none of it. They want to say "nation" means whatever they want it to mean, now and to change definition whenever they decide they want it to mean something different. So they can go to the public and argue and spin, and try to achieve by misunderstanding what they can't by understanding.
When I first arrived in Montreal, it was the pride of Quebecers that struck me. The whole world's being taken over by the English language, American culture; Quebecers had no chance. But they said no, not me, not here. I know what I am. And that's who I'm going to be. Forever.
And Quebecers know who they are. They've had to. They couldn't have made it if they didn't. They don't need any official definers to tell them. And some day we, all Canadians, will get down on paper what Canada really is, what Quebec really is, what together we have made ourselves to be. But it won't happen this way. It can't happen this way.
Does the Bloc really want to engage Canadians outside Quebec so they will agree that "Quebec is a nation"? Not at all. They want the process to be so inappropriate that all such Canadians will reject the question. To grease that slippery slope, so that Canadians inside Quebec will reject those outside Quebec, and the Bloc's cause of independence will be advanced.
The pawn in this game is the public. As Canadians, we feel deeply about our country. Politicians and political advocates for decades have been playing games with our emotions, manipulating them for their/our own purposes. They/we have completely poisoned the well of discussion and debate on this question. No side trusts any other, no citizen trusts any politician.