Sunday, September 16, 2007

Not just a 'civic nation' but a 'civic cohesive nation'

Whatever else we are, Quebec is the world leader in pained phrases and awkward acronyms. This is , after all, the place that named the organization that represents the greater Montreal area, CUM.

(There wasn't one English-speaking person sitting around that table who thought of raising his hand?)

In matters of constitutional reform, the phrases get even more, well, unique. The proposed Meech Lake constitutional amendments introduced "distinct society" to our lexicon.

And, this weekend, the governing Quebec Liberal Party met in convention and debated a proposal about whether to "designate" Quebec a "civic cohesive nation."

Does Premier Jean Charest really believe that people who think Quebec is a "nation" will be enthusiastic by the new convoluted phrase? Will this trick anyone into believing the the Liberals are more nationalistic than the PQ or ADQ?

The Charest Liberals are like that slightly nerdy friend who grudgingly goes to the strip club, but makes everyone uncomfortable by saying things like, "Yes, indeed, that female certainly has large mammaries."

But this is Quebec, so these phrases will be trotted out every now and again. Imagine how a Quebec pledge of allegiance might sound?

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of Quebec and to the parliamentary government for which it stands, one civic cohesive nation under God or not, indivisible except in the case of a 50 percent plus one vote in a referendum, with liberty and justice for all, provided the collective rights of the majority and the territorial integrity of Quebec are protected."

Anyway, here's what the Gazette wrote:

'Civic nation' doesn't fly
We are federalists, provincial Liberals insist

Kevin Dougherty
Gazette Quebec Bureau

Delegates to a weekend meeting of the Quebec Liberal Party balked today at a proposal to designate Quebec a "civic cohesive nation," saying it was divisive.

"We are a federalist party," said Yun Bun Korn, rejecting the approach.

"I don't see much on federalism," added Donald Cote, a delegate from St. Hyacinthe. "This could be a manifesto of the Parti Quebecois."

The proposal was presented by one of three Liberal Party task forces, which will tour the province in coming weeks to prepare for a full party convention next March.

It calls Quebec a "civil, open and confident" nation where French is the common language but anglophones, allophones and aboriginals would "participate in our society."

Newcomers to the province would have the duty to learn French, the document says.

Quebec would work out bilateral arrangements with the federal government, restoring Quebec's veto over constitutional changes, and changing the constitution to give the province a say in the naming of Supreme Court of Canada judges and senators.

Delegate Gerard Deschenes said the proposed definition of the Quebec nation was "identical to that (former Parti Quebecois leader) Bernard Landry and (president of the Conseil de la souverainete) Gerald Larose."

Deschnes said the Liberals were entering the territory of the PQ and Mario Dumont's Action democratique du Quebec.

"There is nothing to be gained," he said suggesting the Liberals should focus instead on how Quebec can live within Canada's federal system.

"We are playing with fire," he warned.

Marc Tanguay, who chairs the task force, called the debate "lively" and said his intention was to have a debate on the ideas presented.

"We don't agree on everything," Tanguay said. "As a member of the Quebec Liberal Party I am proud."

A recurring theme was that Quebecers not born in the province don't feel quite at home in Quebec.

More than one delegate said they don't like being labelled as immigrants and some said they immigrated to Canada.

Victor-Manuel Hernandez said he has been living in Quebec for 12 years and is still called an immigrant.

"I am a Quebecer," he said, speaking in French.

Yasmine Alloul said she was born in Quebec. Her parents came from Morocco and she in a Muslim.

"What do we mean by a Quebec identity?" she asked. "Which of our values are different from the rest of Canada?"

David Seto, whose roots are Chinese, said: "I was born in Chicoutimi."

Seto said another part of the proposal on identity, calling for the end of duplicated services between Quebec City and Ottawa, might not be such a good idea.

"I think we are lucky to have two (levels of government)," Seto said.

Genevieve Gougeon said the discussion was "a big therapy," that the party may have needed.

"We are not perfect, but we are proactive," Gougeon said.

Denise Dussault, the unsuccessful Liberal candidate in Sainte-Marie-Saint-Jacques in the March election, said the starting point in any discussion on identity is Quebec's human rights charter and its Charter of the French Language.

"Then we can talk about common values," Dussault said. "I have listened to the discussion and it is more divisive than cohesive."

Premier Jean Charest attended some of the sessions yesterday but did not speak.

Party president Marc-Andre Blanchard said the role of the three party task forces on identity, sustainable development and economic development, is to renew the Liberal program, to develop "an extremely clear vision of the future."

Blanchard dismissed polls showing the Liberals running third, saying that in fact Quebec's three parties are tied for public favour, considering the three-per-cent margin of error in the polls.

"The best poll we have had was the last election," he said. "We were slightly ahead. Do we have work to do? Yes, we have work to do.

"I have no doubt that we will be a very strong force whenever the next election comes."

There was no open questioning of Charest's leadership at the weekend meeting.

"There is no leadership crisis," Blanchard said, renewing his confidence in Charest.

"He is very aggressive, he's inspired and he is inspiring."

No comments: