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All stories filed under unity...
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Recognising Kosovar independence will have little impact on Quebec separatism
It is a matter of credibility for Canada. Like it or not, we contributed militarily to what amounts to Kosovo's war of independence. To not recognise Kosovar independence now would be a reversal of a position we backed up with our own military.
In 1999, Canada sent 16 CF-18s into battle, dropping a significant proportion of the bombs dropped by NATO aircraft in that war. Canada partook in the bombing of Serbia to drive out the Serbs from Kosovo. The result has been de facto independence for Kosovo for the 9 years since. Now that Kosovo has declared independence, it only makes sense for Canada to recognise what we helped make happen.
The argument that recognising Kosovar independence would affect Canada's relationship with Quebec makes little sense. Quebec is not an oppressed region desperately wanting out by the near unanimous consent of even its majority French population. Even at the height of separatism in Quebec, the province could not even muster 50% support for a negotiation of any sort with Canada in a referendum with a deceptive question.
The FLQ attacks and the October crisis of 1970 hardly merit being called a war of independence, and it certainly did not gain widespread and lasting acceptance by the population as a legitimate means to secede. No foreign countries have felt a need to bomb the rest of Canada out of Quebec.
I see no real parallels between Kosovo and Quebec. The backgrounds are different, the scenarios are different, the relationship between Kosovo and Serbia and the relationship between Quebec and the rest of Canada are completely incomparable.
So let's get on with it.
Congratulations Kosovo on the official declaration of what has been true for almost a decade, the independence of your country.
Thoughts on the Quebec election a couple of days later
It's been a couple of days since the Quebec election and in spite of that time to reflect, I am still unsure of what to make of the results.
Before the election I warned friends to expect the unexpected, as is Quebec's habit, and it sure delivered. Mario Dumont narrowly avoided forming a government, and André Boisclair has placed himself on his stomach on the operating table with no anaesthetics, and Jean Charest is still premier, for what it's worth in the circumstances.
Quebeckers clearly wanted a change in the status quo, as they do about once a generation. I don't believe Quebeckers really knew, collectively, what change they wanted, just that a change was needed. Mario Dumont and his Action Dumontist du Québec party weren't necessarily what voters were looking for, the party was just the only one there ready to accept a concentrated protest vote.
The immediate result is clear: Quebeckers don't want separatism -- either for or against -- as the main policy plank in the party's platforms. Separatism and federalism, I believe, have become two opposing religions in Quebec and what the ADQ offers is a party that doesn't care which of these religions its members are. It's a breath of fresh air from that perspective.
But what Quebeckers may not be counting on is the effects of a move to the right. Having a right wing party in power, with a righter wing party in opposition, with a right-leaning but less-so party bringing up the rear puts the spectrum pretty narrowly up against the right edge. For the province I consider to be the most progressive of all the provinces in the country, it's rather strange.
There are three schools of thought on what the right wing's decisive victory in Quebec means.
The first is the obvious thought: if the ADQ can win so dramatically provincially, then the province must be fertile ground for federal right wingers. The federal Conservatives are enjoying this particular point of view as if true, it means gains in their forecast.
The second is the theory of balance: Quebec now has a right-and-righter set up, with only the most right wing party likely to be in any rush to have another election. Quebeckers, historically, haven't kept the same opinions in power both federally and provincially, and with their rejection of the separatists, this has to be good for the Liberal party in the next federal election.
The third is the theory of low risk: with the PQ way down and a referendum many years off at the very least, Quebec may yet vote in a strong BQ representation in the next federal election. It's a party focused only on their interests, but without an ally with which to break things in Quebec city, so planting the vote there may be safe and productive in the view of many voters.
Ultimately I think all of these have some truth to them and so I cannot for the life of me predict what would happen in a federal election in the province of Quebec were one to be held right now.
If I were advising any of the parties in Quebec right now, I would advise the PQ to do two things: Promise specifically not to hold a referendum in their first mandate, and shift to the wide open and utterly abandoned left wing in the province. These two things would allow the party to regain much of the disaffected vote currently going to the ADQ, allowing even staunch federalists who find their PQ candidate to be the best person to represent them to vote for them.
What will happen to this minority government? I think it will have a longevity that will make the current federal government look short-lived. None of the alliances between the three parties will be natural, but none of the parties will be in any hurry to go to the polls again any time soon. The PQ will almost certainly eat its young leader alive, putting them in a position of being forced to support the Liberal government until they get their leadership sorted out. The PLQ itself may dump Charest, but the loyalty in that party is historically far stronger than in the PQ and this is not overly likely. The ADQ, while it would love another election within a year, has a leader who is smart enough to know that if he wins he will be a one-term wonder due to the total inexperience of his caucus. It will be in his interests to work as a strong and cooperative opposition and government in training for a couple of years.
It'll certainly be interesting to watch.
Nation vote makes international news -- that is, outside of both Quebec and Canada
From my IRC log this morning, I found this three-am conversation between three mostly European Linux kernel folks on the topic of the vote:
03:05 <ahu> Quebec has become a nation!
03:06 * jeffpc wonders what cdlu will have to say about this
03:07 <peterz> uh, city in .ca?
03:07 <peterz> its own nation
03:07 <peterz> whatever for
03:07 <jeffpc> peterz: a province
03:07 <peterz> ah
03:08 <peterz> so now canada is smaller?
03:08 <jeffpc> seems so
03:08 <ahu> it is a nation within a country it appears
03:08 <jeffpc> huh?
03:08 <peterz> like a state, in the united states?
03:08 <peterz> we are but we are not
03:09 <jeffpc> ahu, peterz: I always thought that provinces were much like .us's states
03:09 <ahu> no idea
03:09 <ahu> these things quite often revolve around taxes
Thank you, parliament, for helping to make this matter so clear for the world.
If Quebec is a nation, so am I
While I don't begrudge Harper his motion from a practical political point of view, the notion that the province of Quebec is a nation is rather offensive to me, as a (departed) Quebecker.
Harper's motion is wonderfully fun because it forces everyone in the Commons to vote against a resolution calling Quebec a nation at least once -- including the Bloc. It also serves to head off a Bloc motion calling Quebec a nation without any qualifiers, the purpose of which is immediately clear and emphasised by André Boisclair yesterday holding a press conference to say that you can't have a nation inside another nation. I assume this to mean that a separate Quebec's government has no intention of recognising the First Nations. Duly noted.
There are francophones outside of Quebec in this great country of ours. There are anglophones in Quebec, and not just in Westmount or on the West Island. I grew up in Ste-Agathe-des-Monts as an English Jewish kid with a Scottish family name in a French Catholic area. So to me, drawing Quebec's 'nationhood' on provincial boundaries is, well, a little provincial.
I would have no trouble recognising French Canadians at large as a 'nation'. As people seem to like to get caught up in historical rather than practical matters, it can easily be argued that the three founding groups of Canada - the First Nations, the English, and the French, are each distinct nations, or tribes, within Canada, without requiring us to name every ethnic group in the country a Nation. This would also mean we would have an English Canadian Nation to go with our French Canadian Nation, though with Chinese being the third most spoken language in Canada and the Chinese having been responsible for building the bulk of the first trans-Canadian railway and thus our country, perhaps they, too, should receive this title.
It is all a bit rich, really. This whole word game with nation is intended merely by the separatists in Quebec to trip people up into saying they support Quebec's minority aspiration to separate, and when people don't go along, say 'see? we should separate because they don't agree that we should separate!'
If we want to recognise nations in this country without limiting ourselves to French Canadians, we could always define the word as a "tribe", as it is in the dictionary, and say anyone is free to identify themselves as being a part of any nation they wish, as long as such definition has no legal meaning.
I am tired of the whole "nation" debate, and I place the blame for its resurgence squarely on the shoulders of Michael Ignatieff and his big mouth. It is a huge waste of national time when there are far more serious and relevant issues to discuss. I, for one, don't wish to be inundated by American migrants when the global temperature of the planet submerges much of the eastern seaboard with polar meltwater and renders the South unarable. That would just provide us with one more nation to recognise.