Newcomers to Canada have a different take on the question of Quebec separatism

There are three groups of people who view Quebec separatism differently: English Canadians, French Canadians and new Canadians.

The first two groups have been debating the issue for some time. The last has joined the debate recently. (Another group I did not mention, Native Canadians, may be out of the picture on this issue, due to lack of political power.)

New Canadians bring in a new dimension to the discussion. They have the ability to personally relate to conflicts in their own country and those in Canada. And they certainly get confused with the issue of Quebec separatism. Why would people think of separation in a peaceful country? For them, when a comparison is made of their two worlds, the Quebec problem seems minor.

Let’s take a country like Sri Lanka, where ethnic conflict has been an issue since the 1950s. Tamil separatism started in a democratic way and ended up as an uprising against the state. In 2009, a brutal crackdown by the army brought an end to the rebels.

Sri Lanka paid a very high price, with 120,000 lives lost, and serious property and economic damage.

What made Tamil youths take up arms and seek separatism? I am told that Tamils faced a point system to enter universities, job discrimination in the civil service, communal riots, human rights violations and so on. These are some of the reasons they fled, many in rusted boats, for countries like Canada.

As Canadians, do we see any similarities between Canada and Sri Lanka? Do we give Quebecers a cause for separatism? Do non-Quebecers label Quebecers as terrorists because of different views? Well, I think we are on more of a political roller-coaster than a denial of justice.

Do Quebec separatists realize the benefits the rest of Canada have given them? Without the support of the rest of the provinces, an independent Quebec would find it difficult to survive. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it would be hard. Independent Quebecers would need to figure out how to build their own trade, create jobs, undertake currency negotiations and deal with immigration.

The international community would not agree to a free trade deal with a small province like Quebec, nor would the U.S. open its borders easily to an independent province.

Quebecers yearning for independence have to understand that some inside the province would move out, just like when Pakistan separated from India. Riots did follow and that relationship has been rocky ever since.

As Canadians, we are free to raise our voices. We can even criticize our prime minister. We cannot say the same of many other countries. Iran and Syria, for example, would lock you up, and you wouldn’t see the sun for the rest of your life.

That’s why newcomers to Canada view separatism from a different angle than other Canadians. They have seen the other side of the coin relating to justice and human rights violations.

It is naive for Canadians, and not just Quebecers, to think that separation would only bring minimal changes. To quote Indian nationalist leader Mahatma Gandhi: “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

Canada is a peaceful country and Canadians should not take life for granted.

Lakshmi Sivakumar is a student at Cameron Heights Collegiate Institute in Kitchener.

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2 Responses to Newcomers to Canada have a different take on the question of Quebec separatism

  1. One of the best ways to understand the concept of Quebec separation is to talk to some of them. I’m a proud Canadian, and I hope Canada stays intact, but I understand why there are a large minority of people within the province who believe that separation is necessary. One thing is certain is that there is no consensus as to what Quebec separation means. The movement is more divided now than it’s ever been. That’s why in the last Quebec election there were 3 separatist parties, when there only use to be one.

    What does the idea of Quebec sovereignty mean? What does an independent Quebec mean? Is there a difference?

    Does sovereignty means an independent Quebec, with no sharing of Canada Post, Canadian Army, Canadian dollar etc…complete independence?

    Does sovereignty means an independent Quebec that is still associated with Canada, sort of like the European Union. Sovereignty-association that Ottawa will negotiate with Quebec? What sort of leverage will both sides have in those negotiations? This will determine if and how Quebec secedes, if it votes to do so.

    Does sovereignty means an autonomous Quebec within Canada, but having control of certain federal jurisdictions, where the federal government controls things that need a lot of land, have a lot of inventory and cost a lot to run like a postal service, military defence, airports, trains, seaways, etc..

    Will an independent Quebec be a social democratic state or will it be more American in it’s societal structure? The left-wing separatists and the right-wing separatists see things very differently.

    These are important questions that people who support separation struggle with, and it has become very divisive. Just a casual reading of the French media and the comments after the articles will reveal that French Quebecers are more polarized now on the issue of separation and on typical left-right issues than they have ever been.

    French Quebecers are wrestling with how to hold on to their language, while at the same time using English as a way to participate economically and geopolitically in what is largely an English North America, with 112 million Mexicans and over 35 million+ and growing hispanophones in the America. The question most French Quebecers struggle with is if sovereignty is needed to hold on to the French language and culture and what exactly that sovereignty should look like. This choice would be much easier to make and figure out if there were more than just 6.4 million French Quebecers. So unless they plan to procreate or immigrate en masse anytime soon, they will continue to struggle with the question of sovereignty.

  2. Johnny says:

    Let me respond to both the article and comment.

    First of all it is true that today Quebeckers and french canadian people do not face a point system to enter universities, job discrimination in the civil service, communal riots, human rights violations, however at one point in history, quebeckers did face job discrimination in the civil service, (befiore official languages for one), where generally discouraged to gain access to any job that had them in a financial role of responsibility, as french candians were told that they simply were not genetically able to handle finance, that the english were good at finance, even the minister of finance for the province was always english speaking for the longest time, the quiet revolution of course changed these things and more.

    Furthermore, one can argue that quebeckers did face human rights violations during the war measures act, where thousands were arrested whitout warrant or due process for suspicion of being involved in the terrorist FLQ.

    Second, about the moving out of population, yes there probably would be some, but this argument is always used by the elite to scare those that would want separation, but in the end the effect is usually minimal, If businesses left every country that had a political uprising, the world economy would have come to a halt long ago.

    Third, about the meaning of sovereignty I invite anyone interested in the subject to read Levesques Sovereignty association document published in the 70’s , it oultines quite clearly the process outlined to gain independance, a referendum victory only means an obligation by the federal government to begin negotiations on the conditions of separation, demanded and represented by the majority of the population of quebec through the referendum.

    In Conclusion, even though i myself have come to not want separation from Canada, the similarities between that movement and others, such as the tamil, is stronger than some might suggest. Indeed, while the quebec situation may seem rather quiet in comparison today, it is the result of a historical struggle, that can be viewed back to the ARMED rebellion of 1832. If the tamil can get to a point where their indepedannce is demanded fairly, whitout violence and democratically expressed, even if the attempt fails, it is ultimately a more desirable model to attain independance.

    Just food for thought, and wanted to present a counter argument.

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