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Archive for March, 2014


Rex Murphy: Canada’s separatism fatigue

| March 15, 2014 | Last Updated: Mar 14 6:57 PM ET

It’s no more ‘Please don’t go,’ but instead ‘Well … if you want to go, go, and have done with it’
It wasn’t quite Wordsworth’s exalted “bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,” but I do remember the birth and progress of the ancient Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism in 1963, set up to counter the rising forces of Quebec nationalism. Many people forget Canada was bi before it was multi, and that attention to the language and culture of Quebec was, during that time, an immense emotional and patriotic focus for very much of — this became the designated phrase — the rest of Canada.
Pauline Marois took a dig at Bob Rae Friday, telling him to “mind his own business” after she was informed the former federal Liberal leader said a Quebec civil servant or trade unionist voting for media magnate Pierre Karl Péladeau is “like a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders.”
She also said that Canadians shouldn’t be afraid of the outcome of next month’s Quebec election.
The Parti Québécois leader said relations between Quebec and the rest of Canada have been good for the past 40 years, regardless of whether her pro-independence party or the federalist Liberals have been in power.
I recall as well the buzz around its real goal, finding a lasting and real accommodation with Quebec and Quebecers. On the far eastern campus of Memorial University in St. John’s, earnest meetings were set up by concerned student associations, and many the young Newfoundland brow was furrowed with anxious thoughts of how best to assure the continuation of our country with Quebec a contented and eager province continuing within it. “What can we do?” was the common cry on campus and off — and not just among the young.
Even Joey Smallwood lent his patriot voice to the spirit of the times, asking “What does Quebec want?” — not as a piece of rhetoric but as a serious prelude to acting generously.
I knew students who took up French language studies just out of that concern, some becoming so bilingual that they later found jobs at Montreal’s great 1967 Expo. The attitude among most Canadians in those dawn moments of the Quebec question was, as Smallwood’s: Tell us what is necessary to do, Quebec, and we will do it.
Well, there has been a lot of turbulent water under the separatist bridge since then. The persistence of Quebec separatism, the great ugliness of its extreme manifestation under the FLQ, its standing as a priority item on the national agenda over four decades, the emergence in the national parliament of a separatist party (the Bloc Québécois, be it remembered, was once under Lucien Bouchard the country’s Official Opposition and government-in-waiting) and two referenda — all these have induced, year by year, an ever-expanding sense of weariness and distaste in English Canada for the subject of separation.
Some of this is due to the sheer longevity of the issue: Everything gets boring and even irritating after a while. More of it is due to the “rigged dice” of the referenda campaigns, whereby the separatists get to write the question, and refuse to acknowledge the finality of the result regardless of how often it goes against them. Finally, the rest of Canada — if I must resort to that annoying descriptor — has grown weary of professing its wish and will to understand and accommodate the separatist case.
We are so much past the rush of concerned sentiment, the drive to “save the country,” that was taken up by federalists during the 1995 referendum, the one during which the ferocious charisma of Lucien Bouchard — separatism’s only leader to match its first real champion, René Lévesque — brought the country to the very precipice of fracturing. The October 27, 1995 Unity Rally in Montreal, which took place three days before the referendum, attracted Canadians from B.C. to Newfoundland. They arrived by bus, car, train and airplane to Montreal.
That won’t happen again. Damien Penny, a blogger from Nova Scotia, Tweeted this week: “I went to Montreal for the ‘please don’t go’ rally in 1995. I will not be going again.”
That’s where ‘separatism’ now stands in the other provinces. English Canada has exhausted its sympathies and energy for the topic. It’s no more “Please don’t go,” but instead “Well … if you want to go, go, and have done with it.”
Between the time I recall at university, to now — with separatism’s latest star avatar, Pierre Péladeau, arriving to revivify the moribund movement — the issue has lost its driving power in many Canadians’ hearts. The citizenry no longer see it as their responsibility to placate Quebec. They no longer see separatism as resulting from defects in Canada, or an insufficient level of respect for Quebec, its culture, customs and tongue. They perceive the dynamic of Quebec separatism as ever-so-much a one-way street, and are tired of it.
Yes, these fresh separatist stirrings by Premier Marois and her new co-partner in the current provincial election campaign will make headlines and roil the punditry. But Canadians themselves, the ones outside Quebec at least, have simply moved on. Mr. Péladeau will spark a passing excitement, but he’s joined the party after most of the guests have left.
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Throughout the long and often ugly process which pitted our local community in Prince Edward County against wind developers and elected government (Queen’s Park just to be clear, our local politicians have been mostly supportive of the community in which they live and work), what has been missing from the stream of arguments pro and con regarding the building of industrial wind turbines is the following. That our morals and ethics have degenerated to the point where law, as evidenced in the ESA (Endangered Species Act) condones actions which “kill, harm or harass” the Blanding’s turtle or any species for that matter, sickens me. For us to assume the power of God and enshrine it via such disgusting language in law reflects an arrogance and self assumed superiority over all things living, that we are truly in danger of spiraling into a very dark and destructive abyss. How any agency, be it private or elected, can use such horrendous legislation while positing that green energy will somehow benefit society, is a hypocrisy that astonishes me. If it has become acceptable to “kill, harm or harass” on the way to reaching this illusory dystopia of a “green planet”, how safe do you feel as a citizen objecting to the enormous power of big business and big government? The midnight knock at the front door is the next step, is it not? Ostrander Point may very well be the cross road that determines not only the future of green energy, but the future of our society. It must be stopped.

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