The Canadian unity crisis involving Quebec has been a controversial issue since before the country^s confederation. Surrounding the seemingly unsurpassable dilemma of unity there are three main obstacles. The significant lack of action for Canada on the part of many francaphone Quebecois, prevents any profound attachment to the country on their behalf. A mood of intransigence on the part of Canadians outside Quebec serves to alienate and anger the individuals within the province. A perceived leadership vacuum throughout Canada on behalf of its citizens contributes to a widespread feeling of hopelessness (Reid, 1991). The complexity of, and speculation towards, the Canadian unity crisis masks the infallible truth that while presently, there is no solution to the problem there is some hope for the future. Within the province of Quebec there is a significant lack of patriotism or any real attachment for Canada. In 1995, The Angus Reid Group asked a national sample of Canadians to describe how they personally felt about Canada. Four options were given:
- I am strongly attached to Canada-I love the country and what it stands for;
- I am attached to Canada, but only so long as it provides me with a good standard of living;
- I am not attached to Canada and would prefer to see it split up into two or more countries; and
- I would prefer to see Canada amalgamate with the United States.
Outside of Quebec, there was evidence of a high level of patriotism with over 85% of Canadians saying that they are deeply attached to the country and what it stands for. In the province of Quebec, only one-third of the population and only 20% of the francophones, displayed this level of affection for Canada. While there is debate over the cause for these statistics, some individuals believed that the statistics were as a result of lingering wounded pride because of the failed Meech Lake accord in 1991. Many Quebecois were insulted by the way that many Canadians outside of Quebec trivialized the situation, and the province^s demands. Others believe that this problem is indirectly the result of Canada^s official bilingual status. The reasoning behind this is that biligualism serves to even further alienate and differentiate the French within the country. This poses a difficult conundrum. Bilingualism can not be abolished because while it serves to alienate, it is also perceived! by the French as preserving their unique culture and identity. One hope is that through Canadian media a new stronger more unified identity can be achieved. Arguably, the CBC is this best forum for this shift in values because of its status as a Canadian symbol. This concept is further validated by Gerard Veilleux, president of the CBC in 1996.
Today in Canada, no one is sure what values all Canadians do share in common. That uncertainty obviously makes it harder for the CBC to do its job effectively. But I would also argue that at a time like this, a strong CBC is even more essential than ever, to assist in redefining and rebuilding the nation-to be one of the principal forums for this national process of soul-searching and consensus-building. It is not entirely unfeasible to think that the CBC has the potential to unite Canada through its dedication to no particular province in Canada but instead the entire country. The lack of patriotism within Quebec is directly reflected in the inflexibility of Canadian citizens outside of Quebec. Quebecois are further alienated and exasperated by the mood of intransigence on the part of other Canadians. This desensitization and refusal to acknowledge the severity of the issue at hand provokes Quebec^s feelings of neglect. The Maclean^s 15th annual poll found that in Quebec the ^percentage of respondents saying it is likely Quebec will be a separate country within the next 50 years^(Macleans, 1998) was 56% compared to that of 38% in the rest of Canada. This startling statistics indicates an inability on the part of the rest of Canada to acknowledge the seriousness to which Quebecois regard the issue. Their inability to fully acknowledge the issue severely trivializes a cause Quebecois deem most important. Former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau believed that a mood of intransigence ^provides little room to maneuver between a single constitution which would affect all Canadians equally, and the formation of a completely independent Quebec state with few ties to the rest of ! Canada.^. (1991) This intransigence is best exemplified in the treatment by the rest of Canada towards a proposal by the Quebec Liberals in 1991, known as the Allaire Proposal. Allaire suggested a shift in some powers from the federal government to the province of Quebec. Under Allaire, Quebec would be solely responsible for such responsibilities as: health, agriculture, unemployment insurance, energy, the environment, and language among others. Allaire also suggested a sharing with the federal government of other powers like, native affairs, justice, taxation and revenue. Allaire was immediately refuted as being too generous to the province of Quebec. Many politicians and citizens spent little time on the issue of Allaire before quashing it. Although the full terms of Allaire could probably never have been agreed upon, it is not entirely unfeasible to think that some compromise could have been reached. One which neither would have insulted the Quebecois nor left the rest of ! Canada feeling violated. Certainly what is most important is not the final result of such a proposal but instead the government^s treatment of it. This concept is a key determinant in the future of Quebec as a part of Canada. If the rest of Canada can find a way in the future to show more respect to the Quebecois there could be a way to amicably satisfy both groups. One barrier that prevents this process from taking place is the way with which most of Canada regards their leaders.
The perceived leadership void throughout Canada advances the prevailing feeling of discouragement. When those polled in the Maclean^s 15th annual poll were asked, ^How satisfied [they] are with the job Prime Minister Jean Chrtien is doing?^ (1998), only 7% of Canadians were very satisfied. As Canadians consider their potential and their futures, there are many different paths open to them- all of which appear equally difficult. Without faith in their leaders, Canadians have become immobilized while the rest of the world moves on. Canadians are aware of this fact and it only serves to dishearten them further. It is Canada^s leaders who are primarily responsible for all facets of national unity. Without effective leaders who command the respect and confidence of those whom they represent any attempts at finding a solution will be ineffectual. Few leaders are able to have any national effect because they are only seen as preachers of the biases which they hold. Richard G. Lipse! y, a professor of Economics at Simon Fraser University, commented on this at the President^s 25th Anniversary Lecture Series at the University:
What we need is a statesman who can communicate to the people in a non partisan manner that they have problems, not just on the budget but also on all of the other problems [national unity] that I have discussed. We desperately need a leader not just a consummate politician.(1990)
This is perhaps the best solution to the question of Canadian leadership, it is however too idealistic. The majority of Canadians do not feel that he/she is in any political position at this time, and so another unsurpassable problem presents its self. Canadian unity is an issue which, is most deserving of attention but which also has no present solution. The lack of attachment and patriotism for Canada within the province of Quebec prevents the Quebecois from having any affinity to a unified Canada. The mood of inflexibility and stubbornness outside of Quebec only contributes to their feelings of animosity and neglect. Many Canadian citizens hold the belief that there are no suitable leaders within the country who hold the people^s best interests at heart. It is perhaps so unpleasant an idea that politicians would rather debate, argue and lay blame, rather than come to terms with the fact that presently there is no solution to this problem. Change is the key to finding a solution. By repeating the same actions Canadians cannot expect to get different results. As the millenium approaches, Canadians can only hope that by offering and trying new methods, the conditions needed for a solution to be found, will present themselves!
- Branswell, Brenda, ET all. Macleans: Countdown for Canada. November 30, 1998.
- Branswell, Brenda. Macleans: High Stakes in Quebec. November 9, 1998.
- Canadian Press. Toronto Star: What^Òs up? November 24, 1998.
- Canadian Speeches/Issues. Vol.4, Num.1, March 1990.
- Canadian Speeches/Issues. Vol.4, Num.2, April 1990.
- Canadian Speeches/Issues. Vol.5, Num.1, Mach 1991.
- Canadian Speeches/Issues. Vol.5, Num.2, April, 1991.
- internet.elibrary.com Electronic Library.
- Maclean^Òs: 15th Annual Poll. December 28th, 1998.
- McNicoll, Tracy. The Toronto Star: No escape from politics for Quebec youth. November 24, 1998.
- pearson-shoyama/Archives/archive.htm Archives.
- reuters.com Reuters Online.
- statcan.com Statistics Canada Online.
- Wilson-Smith, Anthony. Macleans: The Patriot Game. November 30, 1998.