October 19, 2012 · 0 Comments
Pauline Marois, leader of separatist PQ (Parti Québécois) dethroned the Liberals and led her political outfit to victory in Quebec Provincial elections 2012. Having failed to get majority in Legislature she is heading a minority party government and is the first female Premier of Quebec.
Earlier the liberals who ruled Quebec for nearly a decade had gambled on a summer election a year before the end of their mandate. Their game plan to retain power however, failed miserably. Not only were they thrown out of power but the voters rejected Jean Charest, the Liberal Premier of long standing (2003-2012) who was defeated by PQ candidate in his own riding. Students’ unrest over fee hikes and the worsening economic situation in Quebec has nailed political fortunes of the Liberals in Quebec, suggested political pundits.
Call for Cessation
Pauline Marois, after her poll triumph proclaimed, “We want a country and we will have it”. Speaking to “friends and neighbors in Canada” she said that Quebec needs to become sovereign and to non-French speaking people she assured, “their rights would be respected”. A statement like that coming from a premier-designate seemed impulsive and rash because not only her party failed to get absolute majority in provincial parliament but opponents to the Quebec cessation were decimated neither.
But the statement left an impression as if she had won over Sovereignty issue and Quebec was ready to be sliced away from rest of Canada shortly. A simple analysis of poll outcomes would negate such conjectures drawn by PQ after elections. As against PQ’s 54 seats in Parliament Liberals won 50 and were “just short of one per cent from Parti Québécois in the popular vote.” said former Premier Jean Charest. Though he himself lost in poll but his key Liberal associates like health minister Yves Bolduc and public safety minister Robert Dutil won their National Assembly seats and would give her a fight in Parliament in case she pushed her sovereignty agenda there in future. CAO (Coalition Avenir Québec) with 19 seats on the other hand held the balance of power on floor of the Parliament in their hands. Quebec’s cessation therefore wasn’t in sight that immediately as was projected by Pauline Marois and her PQ comrades on the occasion of their victory celebration meet.
It may however be recalled that whenever, separatist political outfits won power in Quebec, they held referendums to seek people’s consent on their move to make Quebec an Independent country. But majority of Quebecers didn’t agree to the idea and Quebec remained the part-and-parcel of Canada, all dissentions notwithstanding.
Even when issue of cessation has raised its head in Quebec after some wild statements had come from Premier Pauline Marois, still many wanted the province to be the part-and-parcel of Canada because destiny intertwined their fate in the past. All Canadians; the French, the British and the first nations defended Canada from armed attacks of the neighbor south of us and foiled attempt to make Canada the 14th colony of America.
Why cessation movement
In order to comprehend Quebec’s current enigma we need to look back at pages of history. After France lost the Seven Year War to Great Britain in the mid-18th century, it ceded all of its North American colonies including Quebec to the British. A century later Great Britain clubbed some of its North American territories like Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick and created Confederation of Canada under British North America Act of 1867. It also gave Canada a Westminster-style constitution and made Canada a British dominion.
Accordingly, the power to enact important legislations including amendments to the constitution rested with the British Parliament and the arrangement continued as late as into 1982. It irked Quebec where movement of cessation in the meantime had taken its roots because their differences with Canada; social lingual religious and political, plagued their ties. After the Constitution of Country was brought home from UK in 1982 it required signature of all provinces to enable Ottawa to enact its own laws without British intervention. All, with the exception of Quebec, signed it. As per some historians Canadian Federal Authorities faltered here, and, without making any serious attempt to bring Quebecers around into the mainstream of Canada, went ahead to implement the Constitution. As a result, Quebec remained upset and is not a signatory to Canada’s Constitution until now, though it abides by it.
Quebec protest was based on the plea that English-speaking majority always imposed its will on the French Quebecer without taking them into confidence and quoted example of USA, where, after the American revolution, the 13 colonies drew up a constitution to which all agreed. This didn’t happen here and the cleavage between Canada and Quebec not only remained but widened with passage of time. Putting the causes of cessation succinctly someone rightly said, “Two national identities: Anglophone & Francophone (English speaking and French speaking) existed in the country that traditionally favored Anglophone. Quebec the heart of Francophone Canada and its leaders have tried to assert their nationalism as a distinct cultural community within Canada”. But we have seen that Pauline Marois talked of sovereignty that meant independent Quebec is not within Canada but without it.
In the end
For centuries, Quebec had overwhelmingly been populated by Catholics, but the influx of non-Catholic immigrants in recent times has exacerbated political problems. Thanks to the existence of various excellent language schools in the Middle East, a good number of Arabs, with adequate knowledge of French, have migrated to Quebec and Arabic now is one of the fastest growing mother-tongues in Quebec. That besides, more and more French or English-speaking Muslims are coming to Quebec also from France as well (which now has a huge Muslim population). After the Second World War ended, a lot of Nazi criminals well-versed in French were said to have migrated and quietly settled here, making Quebec their new home. Similarly, others from South Asia and other parts of world, while coming here carried their inalienable traits along.
With the onset of globalization, Quebec, like any other part of Canada, has therefore, become a confluence of different cultures, languages and faiths and beliefs. As life here steadily but surely is turning multi-cultural and a number of non French-speaking and non-Catholics are on the increase, some opine that with the fast-changing cultural scenario, Quebec’s separation stir may lose its steam in the long run. But nothing is going to happen soon as large numbers of Quebecers, particularly the orthodox rural, refuse to revise their preference only for Whites, who spoke French and were Catholic. The problem is complex and the answer calls for tolerance and patience at all levels.