Archive for December 2007
In the 1970’s the Black Panthers, the Weather Underground and many other black power and student movements turned to violence, kidnapping and bombings in their struggle against, among other things, the Vietnam war. The US government fought these movements (often illegally) with police forces and the judicial system.
In the 1970’s the Front de Libération du Québec, a group of canadian students turned to violence and kidnappings in their struggle against, among other things, discrimination against french-canadians. The Canadian government unilaterally suspended all civil rights of all residents of the province of Québec, arrested without warrant hundreds of citizens and sent the army in the streets of Montréal.
What good are rights that can be unilaterally suspended as they were in the case of Canadians of Italian, German and Japanese descent during the world wars? Or as they were in the Province of Québec in 1970?
A few years ago the Royal Canadian Mounted Police assisted the United States in illegally transferring Maher Arar to an axis of evil, Syria, where he was tortured. Omar Khadr’s has spent the last 5 years in Guantanamo awaiting military trial as an enemy combatant. His Canadian passport has not been of much use to him in Guantanamo. If he had an American passport he would have been allowed a lawyer and a trial in a US jurisdiction where the constitution applies.
This week we learn that a Canadian citizenship doesn’t even mean you are allowed to work in Canada. In a Montreal Gazette editorial published on december 26th we learn that Canadian companies who have contracts with the United States Military are not allowed to hire Canadians if they happen also hold the citizenship of such countries as Haïti, Venezuela, Cuba and Iran.
The companies who have these military contracts and who therefore enforce the US State department rules are Bombardier, SNC-Lavallin, Pratt & Whitney Canada and Bell Helicopter Textron. The companies that are legally allowed to discriminate against Canadian citizens are all massively subsidized by all levels of government.
Omar Khadr, Maher Arar and all those of us who happen to hold dual citizenship with countries that the United States government doesn’t like would have more rights and protections if we were US citizens than we do as Canadians.
So what’s a Canadian passport good for anyway?
Justin Trudeau is absolutely right. The recognition of Québec as a nation by the House of Commons last year was a bad idea. He made the comments in the Parc-Extention News, a local newpaper in the Montréal riding where he plans in representing the Liberal Party in the next federal election.
The motion is the equivalent of placing the Québécois on Canada’s endangered list along with the Metis, Algonquin, Abénakis and Mohawks. We are now just one step away from the reservation. It’s the trading of ancestral rights for a bottle of whisky.
I don’t want to be part of a Nation. I don’t even know what that means. I want to be a citizen. I want to be the citizen of a country that doesn’t treat me like a second class citizen. I want to be the citizen of a country that will represent my culture and my values in international forums and on the world stage. I’d like to be the citizen of a country where I can speak my own language when I call my embassy. I’d like to be the citizen of a country where all citizens earn as much, regardless of the colour of their skin, their gender or the language they speak. That country is not Canada.
Justin Trudeau is right once again when he says the concept is an antiquated one from the 19th century. It does raise the question of who is a member of this nation. All the residents of Québec or only the « Québécois de souche »? All residents of Canada are in theory equal. All residents of an independent Québec would be in theory equal. If you don’t like your country, you are free to change it by participating in the political process, or to leave it altogether by moving away. You can’t do either of these things in a Nation.
I agree with Justin Trudeau that the House of Commons motion recognizing the Québec Nation is wrong. I totally disagree that the kind of Canada he represents and that used to be peddled by his father is any better.
In Justin’s father’s bilingual and multicultural federation 50% of Canada’s french speaking population outside Québec has been disappearing with every generation. Canadians of colour born in Canada are among the lowest earners in the country. Natives still live in conditions somewhere between those of pre-civil rights movement blacks in Alabama and India’s untouchables.
Nothing can guarantee that an independent Québec would be a more Just Society. Like most countries it will probably fall short of the grand goals it sets out for itself. But if America’s french-speakers wish to increase their political power at home and in the world, political independence of the only state that is their own is something concrete they can do about it.
A House of Commons motion that recognises the « Québec Nation » is just another broken mirror used to buy off a defeated nation.
I used to work with an anglophone called Mike. He was actually an Italian from St-Léonard but, although his French was fine, Mike thought and talked in English. One morning Mike came in to work in the morning absolutely furious. The night before Conan O’brien had aired a show taped in Toronto in which the American comic had amused his Ontario crowd by making ridiculing French-Canadians. « Did you see Conan O’brien last night? », asked Mike, in English, when he came to work. « Did you see the way he talks about us? »