- Quebec nationalism
Quebec nationalism is a contemporary nationalist movement in
Canadasimilar to what is found in other multi-ethnic and multi-lingual regions of the world. This article aims at presenting a historical overview of the evolution of Quebec nationalismfrom its origins until now.
"Canadien" liberal nationalism
Canada was first a French colony. Jacques Cartier claimed it for France in 1534, and permanent French settlement began in 1608. It was part of
New France, which constituted all French colonies in North America. Up until 1760, Canadian nationalism had developed itself free of all external influences. However, during the Seven Year's War, the British army invaded the French colony as part of its North American strategy, winning a conclusive victory at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. At the Treaty of Paris (1763), France agreed to abandon its claims in Canada in return for permanent French control of Guadeloupe. From the 1760s onward, French-Canadian nationalism had to develop itself within the constraints imposed by the British Crown. Immediately following the British conquest, French-Canadians, who were forbidden by the Crown to connect with France, were in protest against British domination to protect their own rights and not to be assimilated by the English minority. However, in 1774, the British government drafted the Quebec Actwhich guaranteed the restoration of French civil law and guaranteed the free practice of the Catholic faith. Although detrimental to Britain's relationship with the Thirteen Colonies, this has, in its contemporary assessment, been viewed as an act of appeasement and was largely effective at dissolving French-Canadian nationalism in the 18th century (especially considering the threat and proximity of American revolutionary ideology) yet it became less effective with the arrival of loyalists after the revolutions. [ [http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0006592 Quebec Act ] ]
1800s - 1880s
1776to the late 1830s the world witnessed the creation of many new national states with the birth of the United States of America, the French Republic, Haiti, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Belgium, Greeceand others. Often accomplished militarily, these national liberations occurred in the context of complex ideological and political struggles pitting European metropolisagainst their respective colonies, often assuming the dichotomy of monarchists against republicans. These battles succeeded in creating independent republican states in some regions of the world, but they failed in other places, such as Ireland, Upper Canada, Lower Canada, and Germany.
There is no consensus on the exact time of the birth of a national consciousness in
French Canada. Some historians defend the thesis that it existed before the 1800s, because the "Canadiens" saw themselves as a people culturally distinct from the French even in the time of New France. The cultural tensions were indeed palpable between the governor of New France, the Canadian-born Pierre de Vaudreuiland the General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, a Frenchman, during the French and Indian War. However, the use of the expression "la nation canadienne" (the Canadian nation) by French Canadians is a reality of the 1800s. The idea of a "nation canadienne" was supported by the liberal or professional class in Lower Canada: lawyers, notaries, librarians, accountants, doctors, journalists, and architects, among others.
A political movement for the independence of the "Canadien" people slowly took form following the enactment of the
Constitutional Act of 1791. The Act of the British Parliamentcreated two colonies, Lower Canada and Upper Canada, each of which had its own political institutions. In Lower Canada, the French-speaking and Catholic "Canadiens" held the majority in the elected house of representatives, but were either a small minority or simply not represented in the appointed legislative and executive councils, both appointed by the Governor, representing the British Crown in the colony. Most of the members of the legislative council and the executive council were part of the British ruling class, composed of wealthy merchants, judges, military men, etc., supportive of the Tory party. From early 1800 to 1837, the government and the elected assembly were at odds on virtually every issue.
Under the Leadership of Speaker
Louis-Joseph Papineau, the Parti canadien(renamed Parti patriote in 1826) initiated a movement of reform of the political institutions of Lower Canada. The party's constitutional policy, summed up in the Ninety-Two Resolutionsof 1834, called for the election of the legislative and executive councils.
The movement of reform gathered the support of the majority of the representatives of the people among Francophones but also among liberal Anglophones. A number of the prominent characters in the reformist movement were of British origin, for example
John Neilson, Wolfred Nelson, Robert Nelsonand Thomas Storrow Brownor of Irish extraction, Edmund Bailey O'Callaghan, Daniel Traceyand Jocquelin Waller.
Two currents existed within the reformists of the
Parti canadien: a moderate wing, whose members were fond of British institutions and wished for Lower Canada to have a government more accountable to the elective house's representative and a more radical wing whose attachment to British institutions was rather conditional to this proving to be as good as to those of the neighbouring American republics.
The formal rejection of all 92 resolutions by the Parliament of Great Britain in 1837 lead to a radicalization of the patriotic movement's actions. Louis-Joseph Papineau took the leadership of a new strategy which included the boycott of all British imports. During the summer, many popular gatherings ("assemblées populaires") were organized to protest against the policy of Great Britain in Lower Canada. In November, Governor
Archibald Achesonordered the arrest of 26 leaders of the "patriote" movement, of which Louis-Joseph Papineau and many other reformists members of parliament. This instigated an armed conflict which developed into the Lower Canada Rebellion.
Following the repression of the insurrectionist movement of 1838, many of the most revolutionary nationalist and democratic ideas of the Parti patriote were discredited.
1840s to 1950s
Although it was still defended and promoted up until the beginning of the 20th century, the French-Canadian liberal nationalism born out of the American and French revolutions began to decline in the 1840s, gradually being replaced by both a more moderate liberal nationalism and the
ultramontanismof the powerful Catholic clergy as epitomized by Lionel Groulx.
In opposition with the other nationalists, Ultramontanes rejected the idea that the people are sovereign and that church and state should be absolutely separated. They accepted the authority of the British crown in Canada, defended its legitimacy, and preached obedience to the British ruler. For ultramontanes, the faith of Franco-Canadians was to survive by defending their Roman Catholic religion and the French language.
Contemporary Quebec nationalism
Understanding contemporary Quebec nationalism is difficult considering the ongoing debates on the political status of the province and its complex public opinion. [ [http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060201/sovereignty_support_060201/20060201/ CTV.ca | Sovereignty support drops after Tory win: poll ] ] [ [http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=M1ARTM0012765 Polls May Show Separatism Rising ] ] No political option (outright independence,
sovereignty-association, constitutional reforms, or signing on to the present Canadian constitution) has achieved decisive majority support and contradictions remain within the Quebec polity.
One debated subject that has often made the news is whether contemporary Quebec nationalism is still "ethnic" or if it is really "territorial" as is Canadian, American, or French nationalism.
The notion of "territorial nationalism" (promoted by all Quebec premiers since
Jean Lesage) gathers the support of the majority of the sovereignists and essentially all Quebec federalist nationalists. Interesting debates on the nature of Quebec's nationalism are currently going on and various intellectuals from Quebec or other parts of Canada have published works on the subject, notably Will Kymlicka, professor of philosophy at Queen's Universityand Charles Blattbergand Michel Seymour, both professors at the Université de Montréal.
People who feel that Quebec nationalism is still ethnic, have often expressed their opinion that the worldview of Quebec's nationalists is insular and parochial and concerned with preserving a "pure laine" population of white francophones within the province. These accusations have always been vigorously denounced by Quebec nationalists of all sides and are generally considered as unrepresentative of the intellectual and mainstream political movements in favour of a wider independence for Quebec, seeing the movement as a multi-ethnic cause. However, there are those in Quebec, in particular many non-Francophones such as
Anglophones, First Nations, Inuit, and Allophones, who do not consider themselves to be part of a Québécois nation of any sort. [http://www.uni.ca/library/si_index.html] [http://www.uni.ca/dialoguecanada/trent_guide.html#4b]
There is little doubt that the post-1950s era witnessed a remarkable awakening of Quebecers' self-identity. The rural, conservative and
CatholicQuebec of the 19th and early 20th centuries has given way to a confident, cosmopolitan society that has many attributes of a modern, internationally recognized community with a unique culture worth preserving. In recent years, however, this has often been manifested in the reasonable accommodationdebate, even or especially at official levels.
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