Sunday, December 03, 2006

Dion's speech on nationhood

Congrats to Stéphane Dion who was selected yesterday at the new leader of the federal Liberals. It has been a while, but the federal Liberals finally have a leader with a good head on his shoulders.

Watching a Harper-Dion debate will be fascinating, I think. Both are the smartest guys in their parties and became party leaders because of their keen minds, not their charisma.

On the issues, I think Dion and Harper share the same core beliefs on how to battle secessionists. I found Dion's speech from last week on the motion to recognize the "quebecois" as a nation. Once again, Dion breaks it down and explains the issue better than anyone else. I tried to make this point in a previous post, but no one is as clear as Dion on this issue. I suspect Harper would agree with everything Dion said.

Here is what Dion said in the Commons on November 27, 2006 speaking to the motion: "That this House recognize that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada":

Mr. Speaker, the motion that the Prime Minister has put before us reads as follows: Que cette Chambre reconnaisse que les Québécoises et les Québécois forment une nation au sein d'un Canada uni.

In English, that this House recognize that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada.

Before voting on a text that some of our fellow citizens believe will be of great significance, we have a duty to tell them clearly what that text means. In French, according to Le Petit Robert, “nation” has at least three meanings.

First, “Group of men presumed to have a common origin”, the ethnic sense of the word nation; second, “Group of people constituting a political unit, established in a defined territory …, and personified by a sovereign authority”, the state sense of the word nation; and third, “Group of people, generally large, characterized by awareness of its unity and a desire to live together”, the sociological sense of the word nation.

The sociological sense of the word “nation” is also found in Webster's Dictionary. In the first sense, the ethnic sense, Quebec and Canada are not nations, but French-Canadians are a nation, one that is concentrated primarily in Quebec but is present everywhere in Canada.

There are several other groups of people in our country that can also be considered to be nations in ethnic terms. I would therefore vote in favour of a motion that said: In Canada, including in the province of Quebec, there are several nations in the ethnic sense of the word.

In the second sense of the word “nation”, the state sense, the only sense that confers legal existence in international law, Canada and Canada alone is a nation. I would therefore vote for a motion that said: Canada forms a single nation which holds a seat at the United Nations.

In the third sense of the word “nation”, the sociological sense, we, the Québécois, are a nation, because we form a large group—nearly a quarter of the population—and we have an awareness of our unity and a desire to live together. In that sense, it is correct to say that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada. I will therefore vote for the motion that is before us.

However I add that the entire Canadian population is also a nation in the sociological sense of the term. As Canadians, we have the sense of our unity and the will to live together, and there is nothing that prevents the same individual to be part of different nations in the sociological sense of the term.

So I say, in this House, that I am a proud member of the Quebec nation and a proud member of the Canadian nation. I say that these identities are cumulative and indivisible, and that I will fight with every resource that democracy gives me against anyone who wants to make me choose between these two wonderful identities: Québécois and Canadian.

I know all too well the game that the independentist leaders want to play. They want to persuade us that we cannot be part of the Canadian nation because we, the Québécois, form a nation. In other words, they want to slide from the sociological to the state sense of the word “nation” : from the “community” sense to the “country” sense. As usual, they want to conflate the meaning of words in order to sow confusion in people’s minds.

Well, as usual, my country and my 33 million fellow citizens can count on me to counter confusion with clarity.

I know all too well that in the politics pursued by some people there is little regard for dictionary definitions.

Facing this motion, two quotations come to mind.

The first one is from the great Lebanese poet, Kahlil Gibran:Pity the nation divided into fragment, each fragment deeming itself a nation.

This is why the Bloc will vote for this motion. They hopes that it will help them to fragment Canada, but there is another interpretation of this motion, which is not only in accordance with the definition of the dictionary, but also noble and generous. It comes from José Carreras:

[Member spoke in Spanish as follows:] Cuanto màs catalàn me dejan ser, màs espanol me siento.

In other words, in proclaiming my identity as a proud Quebecker today, I am proclaiming my identity as a proud Canadian. Let us work together to make sure that this noble and generous interpretation of the motion that we will vote on today will prevail.

2 comments:

crammer said...

Outstanding. I think this speech is so important that I will copy and paste it to my blog as well, with a link back to this entry. Sincerely, thank you.

Anonymous said...

tee-hee oops. i thought you said "Watching a Harper-Dion debate will be fascinating, I think. Both are the smartest guys in their panties..."
Well, I suppose that's one way to expand the target audience during the televised debates. NakedNewsNorth, anyone?

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