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French-English Relations in Canada A clash of paradigms.

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Presentation on theme: "French-English Relations in Canada A clash of paradigms."— Presentation transcript:

1 French-English Relations in Canada A clash of paradigms

2 Language cleavages are politically explosive  Closely tied to culture and religion  Fundamental to identity  Governments cannot disengage from language as they can from other cleavages  Communication is fundamental to democratic politics; language is central to communication

3 Demographics (2001 census) Mother TongueHome LanguageBiling EngFrOthEngFrOth Quebec ROC Canada

4 Realities of language in Canada  Most of Canada’s Francophones live in Quebec  Linguistic minorities tend to be small in most provinces (except for New Brunswick)  The “bilingual belt”  Process of linguistic assimilation of linguistic minorities  English is a socially powerful language

5 Canada is a federal state  Only a small proportion of the world’s countries (less than ten per cent) are federal nations  Canada is one of the oldest and most successful federal states in the world  Federalism can be used to accommodate diversity  Canadian federalism reflects the ways Quebec was different in 1867  The emphasis was on Quebec’s Catholicism, not its language

6 Two paradigms for accommodating linguistic diversity Territorial approach Language of public life contingent on where you live Idea is to provide a sense of linguistic security for minorities Bilingualism typically limited to national organizations

7 Two paradigms for accommodating linguistic diversity Personality approach Language policy defined in terms of rights Language rights are attached to individuals, not to territories Emphasis on personal mobility and personal bilingualism Bilingualism pervasive

8 Two theses  French-English relations can best be understood as a clash between these two paradigms  Because federalism was the institutional solution designed to resolve the problem of accommodating Quebec, much of the debate centres on Quebec’s place in the federal system

9 The Quiet Revolution  Associated with government of Jean Lesage ( )  A period of modernization in Quebec  The provincial state replaced the church at the heart of Quebec’s political life  Linguistic division of labour  Quebec’s provincial government became more assertive about Quebec’s place in Canada and federalism  Quebecois, not French Canadian

10 What did Quebec want?  Full control over provincial jurisdiction  The federal government to extricate itself from provincial jurisdiction  Greater provincial power  Increased say over federal institutions  Recognition of “special status”

11 The federal response  Rights-based approach to national bilingualism  Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Prime Minister from ,  Official Languages Act (1969)  Re-making the federal public service  Promoting linguistic minorities and personal bilingualism  A rejection of any special recognition of Quebec  Quebec’s response was Bill 22

12 The rise of the sovereigntists  Parti Quebecois (PQ) founded by dissidents who left the provincial Liberal party  Led by Rene Levesque  PQ grew steadily in support  Won the 1976 provincial election with 41% of the vote and a majority government

13 Etapisme: taking it slow PQ settled on a step by step approach to sovereignty 1. Govern well (Bill 101) 2. Call a referendum to get a mandate to negotiate with Ottawa 3. Negotiate with Ottawa 4. Have the outcome of the negotiations ratified in another referendum

14 The 1980 referendum  A soft question: asked for a mandate to negotiate sovereignty association  Bitter, divisive campaign  60% “Non” – 40% “Oui”  Economic fears loomed large in the vote  PQ may have miscalculated in its referendum strategy  PQ re-elected in 1981

15 Constitutional negotiations  Canada did not control the amendment of its own constitution  Trudeau wanted to patriate the constitution with a Charter of Rights  8 provincial governments, including Quebec’s opposed Trudeau  Compromise reached, but Quebec did not agree

16 Constitution Act, 1982  Applies to all of Canada, including Quebec, even though Quebec did not agree  Charter of Rights enshrined personality approach to national bilingualism in the constitution  Enhanced the idea of provincial equality: Quebec did not achieve recognition of special status or increased power

17 Change at the top  Brian Mulroney takes over as Prime Minister in 1984: wants to bring Quebec into the constitution  Now a Liberal provincial government, led by Robert Bourassa  Bourassa outlines five conditions for Quebec to sign the constitution

18 Quebec’s five conditions  Recognition as a “distinct society”  Limitation on federal government intrusion in provincial jurisdiction  Role in appointing justices to the Supreme Court of Canada  Increased power over immigration  A veto over any constitutional change

19 Meech Lake Accord (1987)  Mulroney wins agreement of all ten premiers to change the constitution  Enshrines Quebec’s five conditions in the constitution  Ten provincial governments and the federal government have to ratify the agreement within three years  Newfoundland and Manitoba fail to do so by 1990: the Accord dies

20 Charlottetown Accord (1992)  Much anger in Quebec  Sovereigntist sentiment on the rise  Again, federal government and provinces agree on constitution package, called the Charlottetown Accord  Defeated in a national referendum: 55% No, 45% Yes  Defeated in Quebec as well

21 Reinvigorated sovereigntist movement  Bloc Quebecois forms as a national political party in 1990, wins 54 of Quebec’s 75 seats in Parliament in 1993  Parti Quebecois wins the 1994 provincial election  Announces a referendum in 1995  Narrow victory for the federalists: 50.6% Non, 49.4% Oui  Federal government weak in referendum

22 Federal Response: Plan A  A shaken federal government tries to respond to Quebec’s historical demands  But limited because there is no appetite for constitutional reform in Canada  Passes Parliamentary resolutions to recognize Quebec as a distinct society and to give Quebec a veto

23 Federal Response: Plan B  Legal challenge to constitutionality of Quebec sovereignty  Supreme Court of Canada in 1998 rules that it is unconstitutional for Quebec to secede without the consent of the other provinces, but if Quebeckers vote in a referendum to leave, the rest of Canada has to respond  Clarity Act sets out the rules for Quebec secession

24 The current situation  The essential problem remains unsolved  Quebeckers and much of Canada conceive of their country in different ways Quebec: Quebec is distinct and may require different powers ROC: all provinces are equal  We’ve papered over the differences

25 The future?  Sovereigntist sentiment is currently in decline  Parti Quebecois lost the 2003 provincial election quite badly  Bloc Quebecois’ support is in decline  Demographic change in Quebec  Evidence that Quebeckers have grown tired of the debate over sovereignty  55% (63% of those under 45) do not identify themselves as sovereigntist or federalist (CRIC)

26 For further reading Kenneth McRoberts, Misconceiving Canada: The Struggle for National Unity (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1997).


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