Montréal, le 29 mai 1999
Numéro 38
  (page 6)
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            Vos commentaires           
 by Ralph Maddocks
          A few weeks ago the Bloc Québécois was debating the meaning of the word Québécois, or Québécoise, for the politically correct. It appears that difficulties arose because Mr. Duceppe was unable to persuade his fellow council members to accept his open-ended definition of a Quebecker as being simply someone who lives in Quebec. It isn’t often that I find myself in agreement with our separatist friends, but on this occasion I thought that it was an obvious concession to reality. 
Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated 
          The objectors seemed to be saying that such a definition would deny the view that Québécois are a people and a culture. One dissenter even stated that he considered being called a Canadian an insult, and thought others may have the same view of being called a Quebecker. Another participant thought that Bill 101 was not designed to « assimilate » immigrants but to « integrate » them. A distinction which escapes me and, as far as I can tell, the late Mr. Daniel Webster and his French speaking lexicographer colleagues.  
          Yet another glimpse of the wonderful world of an ethnocentric Quebec appeared earlier still when our dauntless Finance minister reiterated his view that only the « faithful » ought to be entitled to a vote in a Quebec referendum. After obfuscating the issue for years we finally thought we were hearing the true version of the gospel according to St. Bernard. It seemed that the Cree, the Montagnais and Naskapi, the Mohawks, the Inuit and the Mikmaq, plus those of us of Italian, German, Japanese, Arab, Jewish, English, Belgian or other non-Quebec parentage are racially impure and should not have the right to vote in this endless search to create a pure Québécois nation. 
          On this occasion, instead of berating a hotel worker of Mexican origin in a hotel, he made his opinions known in public, via a radio broadcast. Mr. Landry knows that only 40.3% of respondents (61.1% of whom were committed « YES » voters) consider a 50% plus one majority to be a clear majority. Mr. Landry also knows that 73.3% of pure laine voters would be needed to ensure a 60% majority vote. He also understands that to set the bar at 66% would require the support of at least 80.5% of them.  
          Presumably, Mr. Landry could eliminate all doubt and ensure a victory in the next referendum by confining the vote to only those members of the Parti Québécois in good standing. To make absolutely certain that he wins, while appearing to be democratic, he could graciously allow a few members of the Quebec Liberal party to vote as well; provided they were drawn from those who share his bizarre political opinions. 
          In a so-called « explanation » given the next day, the good Mr. Landry repeatedly stated that he was not setting a bar, but that 50% plus one was democratic. Does anyone with an IQ higher than the boiling point of liquid nitrogen really believe that this mantra of 50 plus one is acceptable to anyone other than the PQ and the Quebec Liberal parties of this province? A majority of 1 or 2% in favour of the « NO » side is obviously not a democratic majority; if it were, then after two such majorities we should not be having to listen to any more talk about secession. In the twisted world of the secessionists 50 plus 1 is acceptable only if the answer is positive and supportive of their biased view of things.  
On the Cree side of things 
          Clearly identifiable as a people, Quebeckers are not; but the Cree are. A few months ago, I watched a 90 minute documentary about the Cree and their battle with Hydro-Québec and a series of democratic governments of Quebec. It was an interesting summary of the insensitive mob handed way in which this province, assisted by Big Brother in Ottawa, deals with the original inhabitants of this country. 
          The programme focused very largely on the Quebec government’s attempt to bulldoze the Great Whale project into existence. It was interesting to note the quiet, almost plaintive, way in which the Cree expressed their opposition to a project which without any doubt would have destroyed their way of life for ever. This gentle people’s mannerisms contrasted quite sharply with the arrogant statements of Quebec’s political and business elite.  
 « A 96% aboriginal people's vote of “NO” is presumably less democratic than the 50% plus one vote of a Québécois pure laine people's vote. »
          This film also brought to mind last year’s Supreme Court pronouncement about the way in which secession may or may not occur. This lengthy document, which seemed to me at least, yet another example of the Canadian devotion to resolute compromise, contained several references to the other minority groups in a province like Quebec, bent upon separating from this country.  
          One recalls the October 1995 referendum held by the Cree in which over 96% of them rejected being separated from Canada without their consent. We all remember how the separatists dealt with that result, they stated that the new « Quebec State » would « impose » its authority on Aboriginal peoples, and any others who may oppose secession. A 96% aboriginal people’s vote of « NO » is presumably less democratic than the 50% plus one vote of a Québécois pure laine people’s vote. 
          Although the Supreme Court decision implied that the wishes of the aboriginal people must be taken into account, the Court also said that since the aboriginal peoples were concerned with their status in the event of a unilateral act of secession by Quebec and since their judgement clearly states that Quebec does not have such a right, it became unnecessary to explore further their concerns.  
          The question which comes to mind is will the federal government support them, or other minority groups, in their contention that they are a « people » with the right to determine their own future. When Canada changed the boundaries of Quebec in 1870, 1898 and 1912, neither they nor Quebec took the wishes of the Cree into account. Canada did not insist that Quebec fulfil its 1912 obligation to recognize the rights of the Aboriginal peoples in the former Rupert’s Land. The federal and provincial governments in 1971 both denied that the Cree had any land and resource rights in their territory and obliged the Cree to go to court to defend their way of life. Quebec refused to consider the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement as a treaty even though the courts obliged them to consider the rights of the Cree when they tried to force the Great Whale project through in the early 1990s. Canada adopted a position of so-called « alert neutrality » and abdicated its constitutional and fiduciary responsibilities to protect the Aboriginal rights and territories. While the federal government ought to be defending and supporting Cree rights in Quebec it doesn’t seem to be very active and outspoken about it. 
          So in view of the above, if I were an aboriginal leader I would not be sleeping too well thinking that the federal government was negotiating on my behalf. The secessionists have clearly stated that they would not recognize the rights of an Aboriginal people to secede from Quebec for any reason. The boundaries of the traditional aboriginal lands are not synonymous with those of the provinces which they inhabit. Separatists have answered that a tri-party agreement could resolve that problem. There are no prizes for guessing who might lose out in such a deal. 
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