Wednesday Night #725

Written by  //  January 24, 1996  //  Reports, Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

The following excellent Report was retrieved from paper(!) files and, sadly, we cannot ascertain its authorship.

Ten guests gathered for what was to have been the usual Wednesday evening discussion. As it turned out, it was neither usual nor normal, but highly educational in the material and original ideas presented, as well as in the diversity of opinions.

The topic was Canadian unity. For the occasion, Brent Tyler explained the views of the Special Committee for Canadian Unity, presented below in capsule form, as understood by the author. In order to provide some continuity, the frequent interruptions, contradictions and harsh words are either omitted or mentioned following the account of Mr. Tyler’s thesis. In truth, the debate, for a debate it was, was so fascinating that I found it difficult to take notes, engrossed by the intensity, sincerity and logic of the arguments presented. More frightening however, was the realization that as a microcosm of the federalist Quebec community, we were totally divided as to the explanation of the success of those seeking separation of Quebec from Canada as well as to the path to be followed to prevent separation from happening.

The Committee for Canadian Unity bases its strategy on the belief that the independence of Québec from Canada can only be achieved legally through constitutional change, or illegally by unilateral declaration of independence, in other words, by revolution. In accepting separation subsequent to a narrow majority vote by Québec citizens, Alan Rock is trivializing the rule of law.

The Committee does not advocate partition, nut believes that if Québec succeeds in separating from Canada through what it believes to be an illegal process, those ridings in which the majority had voted to remain in Canada would be within their rights to partition Québec, in effect remaining in Canada.

Mr. Tyler suggested that the strategy of the Québec Liberal Party since the era of Jean Lesage, had been to constantly demand more, threatening to separate if those demands were not met. The government of Canada has been bowing to these threats in an attempt to appease successive Québec governments. The appeasement policy has not only not worked, but has in fact contributed to the feeling of the soft=core separatists that the hard core is right. These are the people that can be reached by a tougher attitude.

Among the alleged illegalities is a major flaw in the Quebec Referendum Act that offers different treatment to employers, unions, the Québec government and Canadians in the rest of Canada. The ROC should and must be involved in discussions on Canadian unity. Union leaders are currently so involved in government that they set the agenda, restricting participation in the debate by employers and Canadians in the ROC.

Partition is a poison pill to be used only in the event that the separatists repudiate the rule of law. No one really wants to live in a divided Québec. The idea is to speak with friends who are soft core separatists and explain this to them. They must come to understand that far from having been humiliated, they have participated fully in a great country. What they must liberate themselves from is the separatist mythology.

It is intended that this message will be spread by local committees throughout Québec.

The wisdom of Brent Tyler’s strategy was questioned and passionately debated.

While acknowledging that they might be misguided, a senior municipal politician emphasized the sincerity and integrity of union leaders. He suggested they were quite right in questioning the behavior of some CEOs  of publicly owned corporations, who receive excessive salaries as caretakers as opposed to risk-takers. The rights of the shareholders have been subverted by the naming of directors by the CEO, when those directors in turn hire the CEO. He stressed the importance of Montreal to both Québec and Canada, and the need to redefine the position of the city in the light of the shift over the years from a rural to urban economy. The struggle that is currently taking place is much more one of rural versus urban (the tyranny of the rurality) than it is of Francophone versus Anglophone, or Canada versus Québec.

Great concern was expressed that the proposed strategy would have the opposite effect to that expected by the Committee: that separatism would become further entrenched. No Francophone would accept being separated from his friends and relatives in other parts of Québec. A parallel was suggested with with Chechnya, where a very small percentage of revolutionaries succeeded in bringing a heavy-handed response from Moscow, so angering the bulk of the population that they too gave their support to the revolutionaries.

The federal government must act by becoming directly involved in countering some of the false and exaggerated statements made by spokesmen of the Québec government. People in rural areas have been brainwashed by the 20% hard-core separatists without anyone countering their claims. Prime Minister Chrétien has been a disaster, actually contributing to the loss of votes for the No in the Referendum. Jean Charest, the only credible voice for federalism, was sidelined.

Do things have to get worse before any improvement takes place? Do people need to suffer before they accept a realistic approach?

As the tense debate  drew to a close, there were only two points of agreement; namely that appeasement is no longer appealing as a strategy; and that a significant percentage of the population that had voted for separation could be persuaded to vote for Canada. But there was no agreement on how to reach those individuals.

Peter Trent and Vladimir Slivitzky offered their thanks in terms that brought the entire evening into perspective, expressing appreciation for the positions of all those present.

Relevant Links
February 12 1996 Ottawa Endorses Québec Partition
Is partition inevitable?
Brent Tyler says partitionists are not confrontational in the least

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