Accommodations for an Accommodating Nation
The debate in Quebec over reasonable accommodations is, in reality, one of national identity and how to both construct and integrate this young, still-evolving nation. Never before – at least in recent history – has the tension between the Canadian model of multiculturalism and Quebec’s pursuit of the intercultural model been as strong.
Strategy for Sovereignty of the Nations of Quebec
On November 27, the Canadian Parliament adopted a motion recognizing the existence of the Quebec nation. Quebec’s minister of intergovernmental affairs, Benoît Pelletier, expressed the hope that this recognition be translated into changes in the Canadian Constitution. He was, however, unable to specify how and, especially, when these changes might take place, given the lack of openness and political will in the ROC (Rest of Canada) to reopen constitutional negotiations. For Mr. Harper, the adoption of this motion does not entail any legal or constitutional consequences. It is undoubtedly a bit early to say whether this superficial political move will lead to any historic gains.
In Quebec the Public-Private Partnership Agency, currently studying different PPP scenarios, will submit its report this December. One hot issue for the end of Premier Jean Charest’s tumultuous mandate is therefore likely to be the controversy ar-ound Quebec’s biggest construction and investment project – the two university hospital centres.
Québec Solidaire’s Electoral Challenge
Québec solidaire, the new progressive political party formed by the merging of the Union des forces progressistes and Option citoyenne, faced its first electoral trial during the by-election on April 10. The general elections expected for fall, 2006, or at latest spring, 2007, will without a doubt be a colossal challenge that will force the young and growing party to face matters head on, while still seeking to do politics differently.
Quebec Left Takes Another Historic Step
Over the past ten years, the Quebec Left has been consolidating, building unity and building its strength. Now the Left has taken another important step in the construction of a progressive party that will be a true alternative to neoliberal parties. A new party, Québec solidaire (QS), created by the fusion of the Union des forces progressistes (UFP) and the Option citoyenne (OC) movement, emerged in an atmosphere of celebration among the 1,000 people present for the founding congress held in Montreal from February 3 to 5. With five to six thousand members in all regions of Quebec, QS will enjoy an organizational network capable of mobilizing and initiating a new wave of recruitment. The party will only have two years to develop its electoral platform and its organizational structure in view of the next provincial election rendezvous in 2007.
Just Another Election Amidst the Canadian Impasse
Where would we be today if the Canadian government had responded to the 1995 referendum with a constitutional amendment recognizing the Quebec nation and conferring the concurrent powers? If, at the same time, Canada had at last signed a sustainable agreement with First Nations concerning their territorial and ancestral rights and their right to self-determination? If, while they were at it, Canada reformed its taxation laws to make them more equitable? These changes, we know, did not take place. Neither are they on the current agenda.
Strategic Choices for the Quebec Left
Is it in the interests of progressives to put their energies into the big neoliberal parties, trying to influence them? Or is it better to patiently build an alternative party? Quebec’s autumn political scene offers the occasion to see the fruits of both strategies. On the one hand, the PQ shores up its coalition with trade unionists and progressives for a Free Quebec (SPQLibre). On the otherhand, we have the emergence of a new autonomous party on the Left, as the Union des forces progressistes (UFP) and Option citoyenne (OC) pre-pare for their upcoming fusion.
Electing a Constituent Assembly
In the struggle for Quebec independence, the Constituent Assembly, proposed by the Patriots in 1837 and by the États-généraux of 1966-69, seems more pertinent today than ever.
The PQ attempts to monopolize the struggle for sovereignty, despite the repeated failure of its strategy and the undeniable political plurality of the sovereignty movement. At last June’s PQ congress, numerous voices demanded a clear rupture from the “good provincial government” strategy that holds that once the “winning conditions” are attained, a referendum on sovereignty should be held. Instead, the congress more or less reiterated its referendum strategy. A sovereigntist coalition is envisaged, but only after the election of the PQ and with the purpose of supporting the referendum campaign that would ensue. Under this strategy, the government and, therefore, the PQ, reserve control of the overall process.
The Sovereignty Movement and the Sponsorship Scandal
Québec’s political conjuncture currently favours the integration of the struggle for national independence with other progressive social struggles. We may be headed for a historic rendez-vous that – this time – people will sure not to miss. For this to happen the different components of the sovereignty movement must agree on a common strategy and forge a national (Québec) alliance reflecting all elements of the population without any one party trying to monopolize the process. Will the principal actors concerned – beginning with the Parti-Québécois – be able to take on this historic task?
Why Quebec Says No to War
Just over half the Canadians polled this past November strongly opposed missile defence. In Quebec, opposition to Star Wars was stronger by far: nearly two thirds were strongly opposed. This popular opposition, in addition to being co-opted by the Bloc Québécois, also managed to break the ice with the Liberal Party and won the support of the Quebec section of the federal Liberal Party.
On March 15, 2003, 250,000 Montrealers responded to the call from the “Échec à la Guerre” (Block the War) Collective. They marched through downtown crying out their opposition to the Washington’s war of aggression against Iraq. Elsewhere in Quebec, a further 40,000 people were mobilized. Many sectors of the Quebec population rejected this war and came out into the streets.
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