Canada’s new ‘united’ nation

Earlier this week, Canada’s House of Commons voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion to
recognize the Québécois as “a nation within a united Canada.”

The resolution was put forth by Prime Minister Stephen Harper after adding the words “within a united Canada” to a similar motion presented by Gilles Duceppe and the Bloc.

But the first instance of the nation debate occurred a few weeks ago when Liberal leadership candidate Michael Ignatieff used the term to describe Québec, sparking a fierce debate within the Liberal party and among all leadership candidates.

Canada is already an officially bilingual country, with a separate and unique culture, language and history of Québec fully noted. Why then, was there a need to further the recognition?

Rex Murphy perhaps said it best in his column in last Saturday’s Globe and Mail: “This is a national unity debate that is entirely ‘constructed.’ It did not spring from any crisis of events … Politics, and only politics—in the narrowest and most negative sense of that word—has brought this debate on.”
The vagueness of the resolution also creates new problems because it doesn’t specify who exactly it applies to (are all Quebeckers Québécois?) and isn’t clear on the definition of “nation”.

The entire debate seems more like a political ploy to bolster Conservative support in Québec and stir up dissent within the Liberal party during their leadership campaign than any legitimate move towards equality. With new recognition as a separate nation, Québec separatists may use the resolution as a weapon in future sovereignty debates. Time will only tell.

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