Revolution and separatism: Canada revisited
Saturday, Aug 02, 2014 06:00 am
Maybe we are doing something right at last. Support for separatism in Quebec has dropped to 18 per cent with even lower levels of support among the younger voting sector.
Getting to this point in our history has not been easy. But we now seem to have a “now generation” of Quebecers confident that there is a future for them and their children in being part of Canada. The Battle of the Plains of Abraham is settling into a period of peace.
In reviewing our modern times, Canadian historians will certainly name Rene Levesque as a unique revolutionary – keeping our feet to the fire in dealing with francophone Quebec’s emergence from linguistic and cultural isolationism. He stoked the raging fires of the extremists who, for a time, tried to bomb and kidnap their way to success. Levesque failed because his message was negative and isolationist. His overall impact was minor.
Rather we should more highly recognize Premier Jean Lesage as the true leader of Quebec’s Quiet Revolution. As the directive role of the church on family life declined in Quebec, and the impact of the Second World War on Canadian society and industry took hold, he campaigned under the banners of “il faut que ça change” – things have to change, and “maitres chez nous” – masters of our own house. He drove the reformation of Quebec society economically, educationally and politically as Quebecers became more urbanized, more highly educated and involved in business, science and social infrastructure. His actions led to a secularization of Quebec society and control by the state of education, welfare and health services.
Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s controversial leadership merits special recognition. The Official Languages Act and its spin-off impact in our educational system played a key role in keeping this country together. His political skill in preventing Premier Levesque’s attempt to be the spokesperson for all francophones in Canada was critical for national integrity.
So why talk about this now? The world seems to be going the other way. Iraq and Syria are destroying themselves. Ukraine is fighting a sectarian civil war. Children are being targeted in struggles for power in Nigeria and Central America. Spain is threatened with the breakaway of Catalonia and the breakup of Britain is being voted on in September. Respectful sharing of political power, access to quality education, breaking down barriers to communication and equality of opportunity are essential components of a healthy society. Where these fail, political compromise becomes paralyzed and nations collapse.
Scotland in particular, with its recent petroleum based wealth, needs to take a deeper look into the pitfalls of separation. The glitter of cocktail parties in Brussels and NYC will soon fade when they find their currency has little value on world markets. The term Royal and Ancient has long been associated with the St. Andrews Golf Links. It may soon be the motto for the country if separation occurs.
Makes the annoyance of transfer payments to shore up Quebec look minor compared to the alternative.
Alan Murdock is a local pediatrician.