Why Quebec No Longer Is Separatist

As Europe reignites with separatism, as the British exit the EU, Quebec will, in a typical example of Gallic contrarianism, do the opposite, and probably finally settle down into accepting the Canadian federation.

As an American, in my youth, I was taught rather erroneously in geography class that French was a second language in Quebec. During a class visit to Montreal in my early teens, I was soundly disabused of this. It was the first language in Quebec. Even those who could speak English, made a point of refusing to do so.

Of course, this was the time of a resurgent Quebec nationalism, inflamed a few years earlier by Charles de Gaulle’s famous July visit to Montreal's World Fair - Expo '67 - where he uttered the (in)famous words:

“Vive le Québec! Vive le Québec Libre!” - Charles DeGaulle

from the City Hall balcony.

The French-speaking crowd roared with applause.

De Gaulle, chiefly a right wing quasi-authoritarian who aligned himself with France's Republican ideals, should have been anathema to the young Montrealers.  At that time, Quebec was breaking ties with its traditional past and the Catholic Church during Quebec's 60's Quiet Revolution.  This was the age of hippies and free love. A fossil like de Gaulle should not have attracted them.

De Gaulle was upset that the British [Les Anglais] had won the French and Indian Wars two hundred years earlier in the 18th century, and that France had to abandon her children in Canada to the English. He decided to get a shot in favor of Quebec nationalism.

Apparently, no one informed the General that France had gotten even about 16 years subsequently during the American Revolution when France would prove instrumental in England losing America [Amérique]. Payback with interest. There was no need to even a score that was already in France's favor.

But, France felt humiliated after WWII, and overshadowed by Les Anglo-Saxons [America and Britain]; and so, to prove France's independence, de Gaulle led France on some rather self-destructive foreign policies just to show the world that France had a mind of it own, even if de Gaulle's own mental clarity was suspect. Frankly, he was just acting petulant and childish.

Canada was not pleased and wanted de Gaulle out of the province ASAP. A resurgent French identity had been asserting itself for a while in Quebec - it had always been there - but de Gaulle's comments were fuel to the fire. They were intended to be.

The history of Franco-English relations in Canada is mixed.

Yes, the English abused the Francophones in Canada. There had been the ethnic cleansing of the French from Acadia, which landed a lot of them in Louisiana.  Yes, the Anglo-elite of Quebec had looked down on the French and treated them as peasants. Yes, the French language was starting to die out to the weight of English influence by the 20th century.

But there was another side to the story.

When England absorbed Canada in the 18th century, she tailored a set of laws to make the Quebecois happy. These were called collectively the Quebec Act, which established the Catholic Church in Quebec, and allowed Quebecers to live under French civil legal practices, rather than English common law. On top of that, Quebec was granted provincial claims down into the Ohio valley.

Think about it. Intolerant Protestant England awarded the Quebecers a set of concessions that were granted nowhere else in their empire. Had England made such concessions to the Irish, half of the Anglo-Irish wars would never have occurred.

Of course, America's Protestants were furious at this concession to the Catholic Church, and scared that that their civil rights and protections under common law would be taken away. Worse yet, Quebec would be ruled by appointees rather than elected representatives. Finally, Americans were not going to surrender the Ohio Valley, which they had recently fought against France to acquire just a decade earlier, back to the Quebecois, who might as well be the French.

The Quebec Act was sheer deceit by Britain, which framed the law to weaken the increasing strength of the English Colonies. It was meant to ensure that should the Colonies rebel, Quebec would remain loyal, which it did, as was demonstrated at the Battle of Quebec City in 1775, which, sadly, America lost. The Quebec Act had purchased Quebecois’ loyalty; and the Catholic clergy, which prospered by it, were keen to cultivate a pro-British attitude, selling out their culture for privileges they did not enjoy in Britain. No wonder American considered the Quebec Act one of the Intolerable Acts.

The clergy had betrayed Quebec's chance at true liberty. Clerical privilege would come to haunt the Quebecois when news broke out about decades of hidden child abuse in Catholic institutions in the 20th century. The Quebcois would finally come to rue the concessions given to the Catholic Church; and by the 60's they were fed up of clerical influence, and secularized the province during the Quiet Revolution.

The Quebecois would end up keeping the French identity without the strong Catholicism - essentially arriving at the same social arrangement that France had started in 1789 during the French Revolution, two centuries earlier; which is what the Catholic clergy and the British had originally connived to prevent.

In spite of real social differences, Canada's Confederation Act of 1867 allowed for either English or French to be used and accorded equal rights. Yet, Quebec would remain a small thorn in Anglo-Canada's side for the subsequent century, with ethnic tensions and draft dodging being popular during World War II.

The Quebecois, however, would not discard their French identity. They demanded French language preferences in Quebec and a host of concessions from Canada, such as bilingual packaging in Canada.

The decline of French was arrested, but at the cost of Anglophones leaving the province.

The study of young anglophones and francophones also suggests that anglophones are more likely to report having been victims of discrimination on the basis of language than members of the French-speaking majority.  - Montreal Gazette

The worm had turned. 78% of Quebecois are native in French. Only 8% are native in English, though bilingualism is common among 43% of the population.  Arabic - Arabic?! - yes, Arabic is in third place at 2%, with Spanish a slight bit behind. Don't panic yet.  A good portion of those Arabs are probably French speaking Lebanese Christians.

The majority of Canadians of Lebanese origin are Christian. In 2001, 42% of the Lebanese community in Canada said they were Catholic, while 11% belonged to a Christian Orthodox sect and another 10% belonged to a Protestant denomination or other Christian group. - Statcan

Canada has had six prime ministers who were native speakers of French - one in the 19th century - three more who were fluent in French, and five more who were passable.  This is not a record of strong prejudice.  At one quarter the population of Canada, Quebec is well represented.

Yes, there was some prejudice in the past. Manitoba, though founded by French Metis, had only English only laws until 1985; but to be fair, Quebec laws still insist on preferences for French.  It is true that the Orangemen, descendants of Anti-Catholics from Northern Ireland, had some clout; but now there are more Catholics in Canada than Protestants. And millions of Anglo-Canadians are now taught French in school.  So who really won the culture wars?

Separatists lost an independence referendum in 1995 by a very small margin. However, since then, even through separatism is growing all over the world, it is dying out in Quebec. The Quebecois are sitting pretty. They are masters in their own province; and absolutely equal outside it.  There will always remain a separatist base, but it is no longer significant.

Most importantly, the Quebecois are subsidized by the rest of Canada.  Maybe not the worst case on a per capita basis, as some maritime provinces are highly subsidized.  But still, Quebec is subsidized by English-speaking Canada.

I think the Quebecois realize that staying in Canada for all its faults - historical and otherwise - has far more positives for them than negatives. They are in control of their language. Religious prejudice is dead. Things look good for them. Why fix what is no longer broken?

The epic collapse of Quebec separatism - Macleans

I wish more polities around the rest of the world were so wise.

Mike Konrad is the pen name of an American who wishes he had availed himself more fully of the opportunity to learn Spanish in high school, lo those many decades ago.

As Europe reignites with separatism, as the British exit the EU, Quebec will, in a typical example of Gallic contrarianism, do the opposite, and probably finally settle down into accepting the Canadian federation.

As an American, in my youth, I was taught rather erroneously in geography class that French was a second language in Quebec. During a class visit to Montreal in my early teens, I was soundly disabused of this. It was the first language in Quebec. Even those who could speak English, made a point of refusing to do so.

Of course, this was the time of a resurgent Quebec nationalism, inflamed a few years earlier by Charles de Gaulle’s famous July visit to Montreal's World Fair - Expo '67 - where he uttered the (in)famous words:

“Vive le Québec! Vive le Québec Libre!” - Charles DeGaulle

from the City Hall balcony.

The French-speaking crowd roared with applause.

De Gaulle, chiefly a right wing quasi-authoritarian who aligned himself with France's Republican ideals, should have been anathema to the young Montrealers.  At that time, Quebec was breaking ties with its traditional past and the Catholic Church during Quebec's 60's Quiet Revolution.  This was the age of hippies and free love. A fossil like de Gaulle should not have attracted them.

De Gaulle was upset that the British [Les Anglais] had won the French and Indian Wars two hundred years earlier in the 18th century, and that France had to abandon her children in Canada to the English. He decided to get a shot in favor of Quebec nationalism.

Apparently, no one informed the General that France had gotten even about 16 years subsequently during the American Revolution when France would prove instrumental in England losing America [Amérique]. Payback with interest. There was no need to even a score that was already in France's favor.

But, France felt humiliated after WWII, and overshadowed by Les Anglo-Saxons [America and Britain]; and so, to prove France's independence, de Gaulle led France on some rather self-destructive foreign policies just to show the world that France had a mind of it own, even if de Gaulle's own mental clarity was suspect. Frankly, he was just acting petulant and childish.

Canada was not pleased and wanted de Gaulle out of the province ASAP. A resurgent French identity had been asserting itself for a while in Quebec - it had always been there - but de Gaulle's comments were fuel to the fire. They were intended to be.

The history of Franco-English relations in Canada is mixed.

Yes, the English abused the Francophones in Canada. There had been the ethnic cleansing of the French from Acadia, which landed a lot of them in Louisiana.  Yes, the Anglo-elite of Quebec had looked down on the French and treated them as peasants. Yes, the French language was starting to die out to the weight of English influence by the 20th century.

But there was another side to the story.

When England absorbed Canada in the 18th century, she tailored a set of laws to make the Quebecois happy. These were called collectively the Quebec Act, which established the Catholic Church in Quebec, and allowed Quebecers to live under French civil legal practices, rather than English common law. On top of that, Quebec was granted provincial claims down into the Ohio valley.

Think about it. Intolerant Protestant England awarded the Quebecers a set of concessions that were granted nowhere else in their empire. Had England made such concessions to the Irish, half of the Anglo-Irish wars would never have occurred.

Of course, America's Protestants were furious at this concession to the Catholic Church, and scared that that their civil rights and protections under common law would be taken away. Worse yet, Quebec would be ruled by appointees rather than elected representatives. Finally, Americans were not going to surrender the Ohio Valley, which they had recently fought against France to acquire just a decade earlier, back to the Quebecois, who might as well be the French.

The Quebec Act was sheer deceit by Britain, which framed the law to weaken the increasing strength of the English Colonies. It was meant to ensure that should the Colonies rebel, Quebec would remain loyal, which it did, as was demonstrated at the Battle of Quebec City in 1775, which, sadly, America lost. The Quebec Act had purchased Quebecois’ loyalty; and the Catholic clergy, which prospered by it, were keen to cultivate a pro-British attitude, selling out their culture for privileges they did not enjoy in Britain. No wonder American considered the Quebec Act one of the Intolerable Acts.

The clergy had betrayed Quebec's chance at true liberty. Clerical privilege would come to haunt the Quebecois when news broke out about decades of hidden child abuse in Catholic institutions in the 20th century. The Quebcois would finally come to rue the concessions given to the Catholic Church; and by the 60's they were fed up of clerical influence, and secularized the province during the Quiet Revolution.

The Quebecois would end up keeping the French identity without the strong Catholicism - essentially arriving at the same social arrangement that France had started in 1789 during the French Revolution, two centuries earlier; which is what the Catholic clergy and the British had originally connived to prevent.

In spite of real social differences, Canada's Confederation Act of 1867 allowed for either English or French to be used and accorded equal rights. Yet, Quebec would remain a small thorn in Anglo-Canada's side for the subsequent century, with ethnic tensions and draft dodging being popular during World War II.

The Quebecois, however, would not discard their French identity. They demanded French language preferences in Quebec and a host of concessions from Canada, such as bilingual packaging in Canada.

The decline of French was arrested, but at the cost of Anglophones leaving the province.

The study of young anglophones and francophones also suggests that anglophones are more likely to report having been victims of discrimination on the basis of language than members of the French-speaking majority.  - Montreal Gazette

The worm had turned. 78% of Quebecois are native in French. Only 8% are native in English, though bilingualism is common among 43% of the population.  Arabic - Arabic?! - yes, Arabic is in third place at 2%, with Spanish a slight bit behind. Don't panic yet.  A good portion of those Arabs are probably French speaking Lebanese Christians.

The majority of Canadians of Lebanese origin are Christian. In 2001, 42% of the Lebanese community in Canada said they were Catholic, while 11% belonged to a Christian Orthodox sect and another 10% belonged to a Protestant denomination or other Christian group. - Statcan

Canada has had six prime ministers who were native speakers of French - one in the 19th century - three more who were fluent in French, and five more who were passable.  This is not a record of strong prejudice.  At one quarter the population of Canada, Quebec is well represented.

Yes, there was some prejudice in the past. Manitoba, though founded by French Metis, had only English only laws until 1985; but to be fair, Quebec laws still insist on preferences for French.  It is true that the Orangemen, descendants of Anti-Catholics from Northern Ireland, had some clout; but now there are more Catholics in Canada than Protestants. And millions of Anglo-Canadians are now taught French in school.  So who really won the culture wars?

Separatists lost an independence referendum in 1995 by a very small margin. However, since then, even through separatism is growing all over the world, it is dying out in Quebec. The Quebecois are sitting pretty. They are masters in their own province; and absolutely equal outside it.  There will always remain a separatist base, but it is no longer significant.

Most importantly, the Quebecois are subsidized by the rest of Canada.  Maybe not the worst case on a per capita basis, as some maritime provinces are highly subsidized.  But still, Quebec is subsidized by English-speaking Canada.

I think the Quebecois realize that staying in Canada for all its faults - historical and otherwise - has far more positives for them than negatives. They are in control of their language. Religious prejudice is dead. Things look good for them. Why fix what is no longer broken?

The epic collapse of Quebec separatism - Macleans

I wish more polities around the rest of the world were so wise.

Mike Konrad is the pen name of an American who wishes he had availed himself more fully of the opportunity to learn Spanish in high school, lo those many decades ago.

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