two nations under god

if you can feel something in the air, if you can hear something off in the distance, if you come across something that you can't quite put a finger on, it's because history has been written, fundamentally changing the symbolic face of canada.

quebecois is now a nation within canada. symbolically speaking, that is.

prime minister stephen harper introduced the surprise "symbolic" motion on november 22nd in a bid to up the ante on a bloc quebecois motion that sought to declare quebecers as a nation without reference to canada. the motion passed with majority support from all four parties in parliament.

the immediate fallout of this is the resignation of michael chong from the tory cabinet as minister of intergovernmental affairs. chong disagreed with the government's position, and so resigned so he could abstain from voting. when asked about his decision, he replied, "to me, recognizing quebecers as a nation, even inside a united canada, implies the recognition of ethnicity, and i cannot support that." chong himself is the child of immigrants of different nationalities, who found each other in canada and had a family.

the longterm fallout is less certain. some say this will cut some of the leverage the bloc quebecois has with refards to another referendum. others say the wording is not specific enough, that it is too vague. just whom does 'quebecois' refer to? and if the quebecois can be a nation, why not the the first nations people (who arguably have more of a right to indigenous nationality than anyone else)? what about other ethnicities?

the result of all this makes some things very clear to me. 1) the fact that he did not even discuss this with chong, whose portfolio is in direct line with such a motion, before he went public with it, just shows that harper is acting as a one man operation. instead of discussing this topic with the one minister who would be dealing directly with this, he chose to go outside the party and to a different politician who served as the minister of that portfolio in the previous liberal government. this also shows to me that harper, once again, isn't thinking things through. he did this as a kneejerk reaction to the bloc motion, and the consequences of this may be more than what he bargained for. at this point, no one knows who quebecois refers to, and judging from the confusion after the vote, my guess is that not even harper has a clear idea.

2) i was always uneasy with the idea of quebecois being given nation status. chong is right: it implies the recognition of an ethnicity. i would add futher to that statement by saying it implies recognition of an ethnicity above and beyond any other ethnicity. in effect, it says that one ethnicity is better than another, and even though harper still says it is only symbolic, they're still words and i find that once thoughts become word, they become entrenched ideas and these ideas, which are meant to only be symbols, have a nasty way of becoming beliefs, and beliefs tend to divide people, usually for the worse.

3) while i am against putting one ethnicity above another, i am also a realist, and the debate of nationality has been going on for a long time. while i don't think by any mile that this will be the end of the sovereignty debate, i do believe something had to be done, and a compromise had to be made. so if quebecois is to be a nation, at least let it be within a united canada. the last thing i want to see is my country being cut in two. we, or at least my generation has been living for a long time under the shadow of sovereignty, and we'd gotten used to the idea of quebec being different, as the first nations people are different. and because we've been told over and over again that quebecois are different, would it really hurt that much to just say they're a nation? i realize that compromise is what lets people move on, and if this is the first step, then let's see where it leads us. who knows what the consequences will be, because at this point, this motion has passed.

i honestly don't know how to feel about this at this point. it is just too fresh. all i know is that i want a united canada, for every citizen to be considered equal. this motion doesn't do that. but if the alternative means continued aggressive fighting about the topic of sovereignty, and a possible break up of canada... then it may be the way to go. perhaps this is the way it has to be: that in order to get true compromise, one side had to tip its hand first. i don't know. the lesser of two evils? we'll have to see i guess.

all i am certain of, at this point, is that i have much respect for michael chong. whether you agree with him is besides the point. he made a decision based on his principles and you have to respect him for that. at least someone in harper's cabinet has some backbone.

(source 1) (source 2)