Bloc Québécois





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QUEBEC... ON THE ROAD TO NATIONHOOD
Dear Friends,
Québec's march towards nationhood is nearing its goal, as the results of the most recent referendum so clearly showed. In a vote held October 30, 1995, close to half the population of Québec opted for sovereignty. For very many Quebecers, this is the only choice for taking their own destiny in hand.
 
Québec is a tolerant and diverse pluralistic society, and will remain so after it becomes sovereign. The sovereignist project, which is founded on demo-cratic principles, reflects this reality. It proposes a new openness toward the rest of the world as well as a new economic and monetary union with Canada. It seeks to end over thirty years of constitutional deadlock that have prevented Canada's two founding peoples from moving forward.
 
Québec aspires to possess all the tools necessary for its economic, social and cultural development. And like for many other peoples before us, this desire to control our future is contingent on the creation of our own country, Québec.
 
The members of Parliament of the Bloc Québécois would like share their project and their motivations with you. This document is a first step. We hope that the enclosed information will help you understand why so many Quebecers are committed to building a country of their own.
 
 
Gilles Duceppe, Leader of the Bloc Québécois
 
Contents
 
Introduction: The Québec Question
 
1. Québec Today
1.1 Demographics
1.2 Political, Social and Cultural Context
1.3 Economic and International Trade Context
 
2. A Look Back at History
3. Québec's Legitimate Desire for Total Sovereignty
4. The Democratic Process: Quebecers, Masters of Their Own Destiny
5. The Legitimacy of a Referendum
6. Sovereign Québec
6.1 Definition
6.2 Respect for Rights and Freedoms
6.3 Respect for the Rights of the English-speaking Community
6.4 Respect for the Rights of Native Peoples
6.5 Economic and Monetary Partnership
6.6 Foreign Policy
 
Conclusion: Québec... on the road to nationhood
 
Appendix : Québec in the World
 
 

Introduction

 
The Québec Question
 
The "Québec Question," i.e., Québec's place in the Canadian federation, periodically makes internationalheadlines. This was particularly the case in 1980 and 1995 when referendums were held on Québecsovereignty.
 
Talk about sovereignty has sparked considerable curiosity outside Québec and Canada for 30 years now.This is hardly surprising, however, given the political stakes involved.
 
Québec is a modern, advanced society that possesses substantial resources. For the people of many origins who call it home, sovereignty is an oppor-tunity and a logical means to take full advantage of these resources. For the people of Québec, sovereignty means building a future as bright as their hopes,acquiring the means and ability to take action on the job front as they see fit, promoting their culture and language, and securing a better future for young and old alike. The sovereignty movement is inclusive, forward-looking, respectful of others, tolerant and peaceful. Achieving indepen-dence by any other than democratic means is unequivocally rejected by all.
 
Quebecers will soon have a new opportunity to vote on their future. The time is thus ripe to explain to as many people as possible, both in Québec and elsewhere, all the implications of this exciting project to transform a society into a country.
 
 
1- Québec Today
 
1.1 Demographics
 
Québec is located in North America. Its modern, rich society boasts one of the highest standards of living in the world, on par with the most advanced industrialized nations.
 
Québec is three times the size of France and five times the size of Japan, with a land area of 1,667,926 km2.
 
Its some seven million inhabitants belong to a variety of linguistic and cultural groups: French-speaking, English-speaking, allophone (mother tongue other than French or English) and native. The population of
French origin forms the majority (74.4%) while that of British descent forms the largest minority (4.2%). Various ethnic groups make up about 20% of the population, the largest among them being those of Italian origin (2.6%). Native peoples account for nearly 1% of the population.
 
The English-speaking community in Québec numbers nearly 800,000, and most English speakers live in the Greater Montral area. In addition to a school system serving its French-speaking majority, Québec has an English-language school system running from Kindergarten right through to university for the educational needs of its anglophone commu-nity. It should be noted that Québec anglophones control their own educa-tional institutions, manage their own health and social service establish-ments and have access to numerous channels of communication in their own language.
 
"The anglophones of Québec are an excellent example of a linguistic minority whose rights are protected." Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Document
7792, April 10, 1997
 
Québec also has a native population of 67,400: 59,600 Amerindians and 7,800 Inuit from eleven nations. The culture, language, customs and modes of life of each nation vary considerably.
 
On March 20, 1985, the Parti Québécois government then in power in Québec became the first in Canada to recognize the legal existence of native nations and their right to self-government. It is generally agreed that the living conditions of Québec natives are superior to those of other native peoples across Canada.
 
 
1.2 Political, Social and Cultural Context
 
1.2.1 Political Context
 
Canada is made up of ten provinces and two territories. Québec is one of the provinces. Canada came into being in 1867 by virtue of the British North America Act. At the time, the new country had four provinces and two levels of government federal and provincial. Although the number of provinces has since increased, the structure of the country has remained unchanged. Each province within the federated state of Canada has its own parliament and adopts its own laws in those areas over which the constitution gives it jurisdiction. Canada uses the British parliamentary system of government, a legacy of its past.
 
Québec has used a parliamentary system of government since 1791, which makes the National Assembly one of the oldest parliaments in the world. The National Assembly the seat of government in Québec is comprised of 125 members elected by the general public for a term of five years. Currently, three political parties are represented: the Parti Québécois, the Québec Liberal Party and Action démocratique du Québec.
 
The federal parliament is comprised of two chambers the House of Commons, whose members are elected by the public, and the Senate, whose members are appointed by the sitting government based on a form of provincial representation. The House of Commons has 301 elected members hailing from every province and territory in numbers that vary depending on population. The seat of the federal government is Ottawa, the capital of Canada.
 
Québec has 75 federal electoral districts. Since 1990, Quebecers have been able to vote for a sovereignist party at the federal level, the Bloc Québécois. The Bloc, as it is commonly called, actively seeks to promote Québec sovereignty and watch out for the interests of Québec voters. At election time, the Bloc Québécois runs candidates only in Québec, as was the case at the last election on June 2, 1997.
 
 
 
1.2.2 Social and Political Context
 
Over the past hundred years or so, Québec has experienced spectacular growth, evolving from a predominantly rural society into a modern, heavily industrialized society where technology is front and
center.
 
Under the impetus of what came to be known as the "Quiet Revolution", a time of profound change in Québec and of new awareness by Quebecers of their place in the world, a series of social measures was adopted starting in the early '60s to promote the welfare and well-being of the public. This was when Québec's excellent education and health care systems were created. This wave of modernization also led to the creation of numerous institutions of an economic nature intended to further development in Québec. The two greatest successes of the time were without doubt the nationalization of hydroelectric power and the creation of the Caisse de dépôt et de placement du Québec (the Québec Deposit and Investment Fund).
 
With its new vitality and its well-educated, hard-working population, Québec made an economic name for itself in North America.
 
Despite this newfound prosperity, Quebecers never lost sight of the values they had always cherished: respect for others, tolerance and solidarity.
 
Dialogue and cooperation are nothing new to Quebecers, the Socioecono-mic Summit held by the Québec government in fall 1996 demonstrated that these values are very much alive and well. At the invitation of the Parti Québécois government, stakeholders from social, economic, cultural and political sectors of Québec life pooled their knowledge, know-how and determination to design measures intended to kick-start the Québec economy and create lasting employment.
 
Québec's incredibly vibrant culture permeates every facet of life in the province. Québec artists enjoy broad success at home, across Canada and around the world, drawing inspiration from the multiple roots
of the society they represent.
 
 
1.3 Economic and International Trade Context
 
1.3.1 Economic Context
 
The Québec economy is based on a prosperous mix of industry, big busi-ness, small companies and self-employed workers attuned to today's econo-mic trends: market globalization; investment in high tech,high value added sectors; and production that maximizes Québec's competitive edge on the international scene. Québec also boasts a highly qualified workforce.
 
The standard of living in Québec is one of the highest in the world. In fact, Québec is ranked 16th amongOECD countries (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) for average per capita income, which stood at $21,408 in 1995. Québec also ranks 17th among OECD countries for the size of its economy.
 
In 1996, Québec's gross domestic product (GDP) stood at CAN $175.4 billion, about 22% of Canada's total.
 
The International Monetary Fund expects the Québec economy to grow by 2.9% in 1997/98. This would be one of the best rates of growth in the industrialized world.
 
Montréal, an international center of business and finance and a city of universities and science, is the economic hub of Québec. The metropolitan area counts 3.3 million inhabitants and over 5,000 enterprises. In terms of economic production, the city represents almost half of the total for Québec. Montréal also possesses one of the biggest inland seaports in Eastern North America.
 
Despite the high concentration of economic activity in the metropolitan area, Québec takes a strong interest in regional economic development. The economy is very diversified in outlying regions, which have long been a driving force for economic growth in the province.
 
Unfortunately, Québec's development is slowed by a persistently high rate of unemployment that is well above the Canadian average. Several structural factors help explain this, including ongoing and unfair distribu-tion of federal government structural spending and investment among the provinces. This results inproportionally lower federal investment in Québec than its demographic weight in Canada would call for.
 
 
 
1.3.2 International Trade
 
The Québec economy is one of the most open in the world. In 1996, exports of Québec goods and services hit $94.7 billion, $34.5 billion of which was in interprovincial trade and $60.2 billion in international trade.
 
In 1995, the main areas of export were electric and electronic products (14%), processed metals (10%), paper (9%), automobiles (7.1%) and machinery (6%).
 
In the past ten years, foreign investors have shown keen interest in Québec, injecting $23 billion into the economy. Nearly half this amount came from American investors, while 38% can be traced to Europe and 13% to Asia and Oceania.
 
Far from retreating to the sidelines, a sovereign Québec would remain a key player in the North American economy. Québec has always been a proponent of free trade. Why would a sovereign Québec be any different? In fact, Québec leaders were instrumental in getting the Free Trade Agreement with the United States adopted.
 
________________________
 
Source: Le Québec actuel, a publication of the ministère des Relations internationales du Québec.
 
 
2- A Look Back at History
 
 
The Beginnings
 
Jacques Cartier set foot on Québec soil for the first time in 1534. Nearly 75 years later in 1608, Samuel de Champlain sailed from Honfleur and foun-ded France's first permanent settlement in the new land. And so began the story of a colony that, from 1534 to 1760, saw its borders stretch as far north as Hudson's Bay and as far south as the Gulf of Mexico, changing and varying as explorers pushed inland, colonists arrived and lands were conquered. As for the British colonies, their development was restricted to the east coast ofthe continent.
 
With the signing of the Treaty of Paris, which put an end to the Seven-Year War between France and England, New France was ceded to England in 1763. The Québec we know today became a British colony. By Royal Proclamation, it was rechristened the "Province of Quebec" and its French political institutions were abolished. Inhabitants of the territory saw French law replaced by British Common Law and the Test Oath, which required Catholics to renounce their faith before assuming administrative duties. At the time, New France was mainly populated by Catholics.
 
In 1774, fearing that the American War of Independence in the British colonies would spill over into Québec, England loosened the rules it had imposed on its French-speaking colony. The Quebec Act restored a number of the rights of the French-speaking majority, reintroduced French civil law, and abolished the Test Oath.
 
The influx of thousands of Loyalists to the British Crown opposed to American independence forced England to alter its relationship with the colony. As their numbers grew ever greater, the English-speaking
inhabitants refused to be subject to a constitution that recognized the French character of the territory.
 
The Constitutional Act of 1791 thus separated the territory in two: Upper Canada (today Ontario) and Lower Canada (Québec). The former, English-speaking, was governed under a British system. The latter, made up of French descendants, had its own institutions. Each would eventually have its own distinct legislative assembly to which representatives were democrati-cally elected, but given very few powers.
 
In 1840, England once again altered the structure of the colonial regime. The Union Act united the two Canadas and renamed them United Canada. In doing so, it made English the sole official language and created a single Chamber of Representatives where French speakers were a minority for the first time.
 
 
The Birth of Canada, the Emergence of Québec
 
The situation in the British American colonies changed rapidly.
In 1867 the British North America Act was adopted after a series of meetings between representatives ofwhat would become the four founding provinces. In a number of respects, this constitution was a pact between two founding peoples the English and the French that sealed the sharing of powers within the new Canadian Confederation between a federal parlia-ment and new provincial legislatures. French speakerswould remain a minority in the federal parliament, but would once again be the majority in their provinciallegislature.
 
Ever since the Canadian Constitution took effect on July 1, 1867, its meaning has been the subject of incessant debate and quarrel, particularly with regard to the powers and roles of each level of government.
 
Over the first half of the 20th Century, major crises like the two World Wars and the Depression made it possible for the federal government to intervene ever more directly in the daily lives of Canadians. However, the powers it won away from the provinces in these times of crisis were rarely ever handed back to them. This explains why the federal government is so active in areas that the Constitution of 1867 defines as provincial jurisdictions.
 
In Québec, successive governments have fought relentlessly to hold on to their powers and achieve greater autonomy. In the wake of the "Quiet Revolution" and the upheavals it brought, a more structured and articulate sovereignist movement emerged among voters.
 
In 1968, sovereignist forces in Québec united to form a new political party, the Parti Québécois, with René Lévesque, a prominent former minister in the Liberal government of Jean Lesage, as its leader. In the provincial election of 1970, the Parti Québécois (PQ) managed to elect its first mem-bers to the National Assembly. Three years later, it became the Official Opposition. This stunning rise in popularity placed the PQ at the heart of political life in Québec and made it a force to be reckoned with.
 
In the general election of November 15, 1976, the Parti Québécois won a majority of seats in the National Assembly, thus forming the new govern-ment of Québec with René Lévesque as premier. During its first term of office, the Parti Québécois government adopted an innovative and original series of legislative measures as new as they were exciting. Among these were the Charter of the French Language, the Act to govern the financing of political parties, the Act to preserve agricultural land, the Referendum Act and the Automobile Insurance Act.
 
 
The First Referendum and Patriation
On May 20, 1980, the PQ government held a referendum on Québec sovereignty. The preamble to the referendum question read as follows:
"The Government of Québec has made public its proposal to negotiate a new agreement with the rest of Canada, based on the equality of nations; this agreement would enable Québec to acquire exclusive power to make its laws, levy its taxes and establish relations abroadand at the same time, to maintain with Canada an economic association including a common currency; no change in political status resulting from these negotiations
will be effected without approval by the people through another referendum."
 
The question was the following:
"On these terms, do you give the Government of Québec the mandate to negotiate the proposed agreement between Québec and Canada? Yes... No..." Debate was fast and furious. The NO side enjoyed the unqualified support of the federal government, with Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Canada's Prime Minister at the time, going so far as to promise that federalism would be renewed along the lines of Québec's demands: "Your NO will be a YES to change," he proclaimed.
 
On referendum day, 40.4% of voters answered YES, while 59.6% voted NO. Despite the defeat, the sovereignist movement saw its popular support increase significantly.
 
One year later in 1981, despite the referendum loss that many had seen as the death knell for the Parti Québécois, the PQ was returned to power with a strong majority. Meanwhile, the federal government was preparing for change that would prove far removed from the promises made to the people of Québec during the referendum.
 
In 1982, the federal government patriated the Constitution from the Parliament of London and added a new amending formula. Patriation came despite the opposition of Québec a signatory to the Constitution of 1867 and one of the founding peoples of Canada and despite the opinion of the Supreme Court of Canada, according to which the procedure that had been launched to patriate the Constitution, while legal, was lacking in legitimacy. Québec was left isolated and powerless &emdash; the British courts had rejected its appeals &emdash; and saw the powers of its National Assembly curtailed in the fields of culture, language and education, areas that the Constitution of 1867 had awarded to the provinces. Furthermore, the Constitution's new
amending formula made it possible for the federal govern-ment to alter the fundamental law of the land with the agreement of only some of the provinces, Québec not necessarily included, and thus deprive one of its founding peoples of its say in the matter.
 
Despite a resolution adopted almost unanimously by the members of Québec's National Assembly to rejectthe new constitutional order, the new constitution entered into law in 1982.
 
For Québec, the forced patriation of the Constitution represented the rupture of the 1867 pact between twofounding peoples and fundamentally changed the vision that Québec and the rest of Canada had of their pact.
 
The federal government and the nine signatory provinces (every province except Québec) opted for a vision of Canada that suited them better: a single, bilingual, multicultural nation where Québec no longer had the status of a founding people and was a province no different from the others. Canada would never again be the same.
 
 
Meech Lake, or Breaking the Faith Anew
In 1984, Brian Mulroney, the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, was elected Prime Minister of Canada. During his election campaign, he promised to bring Québec back into "the Canadian constitutional fold with honor and enthusiasm." In response to this openness, Québec premier and Liberal Party leader Robert Bourassa, who had been elected in 1985, presented the rest of Canada with five minimum conditions that Québec deemed essential for it to recognize the 1982 Canadian Constitution. These conditions were the following:
 
1. Recognition of Québec as a distinct society
2. Veto over any change to the Constitution
3. Guarantees concerning the appointment of Québec judges to the Supreme Court of Canada
4. The right of provinces to opt out of federal programs with full financial compensation
5. Increased powers for Québec over immigration duties within its borders
 
In 1987, these five conditions were incorporated into the Meech Lake Accord1, an agreement in principle signed by the Prime Minister of Canada and the premiers of the ten provinces, including Québec's premier. The premiers committed to having the agreement ratified by their respec-tive legislatures by June 23, 1990.
 
The Accord sparked strong opposition, particularly in the English-speaking provinces where the concept of "distinct society" as a means of designating Québec was poorly received. To salvage the agreement and win the support of Manitoba and Newfoundland two provinces that had gone back on their signatures the federal government sought to limit the scope of the "distinct society" clause, the concept that was the source of the disaffection. Its efforts, however, were in vain. Under assault from these two provinces, this first attempt to reconcile the demands of Québec with the expectations of the other provinces met with failure. In Québec, this unfortunate outcome was perceived as a refusal by the rest of Canada to recognize its uniqueness.
 
The fallout from the Meech Lake episode was serious for the federal government. On May 22, 1990, one month before the death of the Meech Lake Accord, Lucien Bouchard, the Member of Parliament for
Lac-Saint-Jean and federal Minister of the Environment, resigned from the Progressive Conservative Party to protest his government's attempts to limit the scope of the distinct society clause. Several Conservative MPs from Québec did likewise. They realized that Québec's only remaining option was sovereignty and, together, they formed the Bloc Québécois.
 
On August 13, 1990, Gilles Duceppe, the current leader of the Bloc Québécois, was elected as MP for the federal district of Laurier/Sainte-Marie in a by-election. He was the first-ever sovereignist member elected to the federal parliament.
 
In July 1992 following several months of discussions, the provinces and the federal government reached a new constitutional agreement the Charlottetown Accord2. The agreement addressed very few of Québec's
demands and delivered far less than the five minimum conditions set out by Robert Bourassa at the time of the Meech Lake Accord. The new agreement weakened the concept of distinct society and got a very
skeptical reception in Québec. Once again, a majority in Québec saw it as an attempt to negate theiruniqueness.
 
On October 26, 1992, a referendum was held to give Canadians the opportunity to vote on the Charlottetown Accord. The results of this pan-Canadian exercise were telling: 57% of Québec voters felt that the agree-ment did not address Québec's traditional demands and rejected it; else-where in Canada, voters felt that the agreement gave too much away to Québec and also rejected it by 54% margin. The pact was broken for good.
 
"We entered the federation on the faith of a promise of equality in a shared
undertaking and of respect for our authority in certain matters that to us are vital.
"But what was to follow did not live up to those early hopes. The Canadian State contravened the federative pact, by invading in a thousand ways areas in which we are autonomous, and by serving notice that our secular belief in the equality of the partners* was an illusion.
 
"We were hoodwinked in 1982 when the governments of Canada and the
English-speaking provinces made changes to the Constitution, in depth and to our detriment, in defiance of the categorical opposition of our National Assembly.
"Twice since then attempts were made to right that wrong. The failure of the Meech Lake Accord in 1990 confirmed a refusal to recognize even our distinct character. And in 1992 the rejection of the Charlottetown Accord by both Canadians and Quebecers confirmed the conclusion that no redress was possible."
Excerpt from the Preamble to Bill 1 on the future of Québec, 1995
 
*A reference to the two founding peoples
 
 
The Second Referendum: Sovereignty and Partnership
 
On October 25, 1993, for the first time ever Quebecers elected a majority of sovereignist MPs to the federalparliament. The Bloc Québécois headed by Lucien Bouchard won 54 seats over 70% of all those in Québec. As the political party with the second largest number of seats, the Bloc Québécois became the Official Opposition in the House of Commons. The Liberal government of Jean Chrétien was in power. History was made as the sovereignist movement acquired a strong voice on the federal scene.
 
In September 1994, the Parti Québécois, then headed by Jacques Parizeau, won a majority of seats in the National Assembly and formed the government. Its platform called for a referendum to be held on Québec sovereignty during its term of office.
 
To prepare the way for this consultation on the future of Québec, the Parti Québécois, the Bloc Québécois and Action démocratique drew up an agreement on how Québec would become sovereign and on the
negotiating rules for the partnership offer Québec was to make to the rest of Canada. The agreement, signed on June 12, 1995, created a common front of three political parties advocating Québec sovereignty.
 
On October 30, 1995, the people of Québec voted for a second time on their future. The question was the following:
 
"Do you agree that Québec should become sovereign, after having made a formal offer to Canada for a new Economic and Political Partnership, within the scope of the Bill respecting the future of Québec and of the agreement signed on June 12, 1995?"
 
Support for sovereignty in the 1995 referendum attained a level never before seen. The YES side very nearlywon the day, attracting the support of 49.4% of voters. The NO side had 50.6% support. Voter turnout was 93%, an all-time record.
 
Positions hardened in the aftermath of the referendum, particularly on the federalist side. On the one hand, public opinion pressured the federal government to do something about the close results. On the other hand, the Liberal government of Jean Chrétien implemented a series of measures designed to make it harder to hold future referendums in Québec. The strategy was obvious: if Québec voters couldn't be persuaded of the merits of Canadian federalism, the federal government would simply make it hard for them to leave.
 
On June 2, 1997, against this backdrop of confrontation, the federal government held a new general election. Once again, the Bloc Québécois won a majority of Québec seats, electing 44 MPs.
 
 
A New Attempt at Reconciliation, Same Old Result
 
On September 14, 1997, the premiers of the nine English-speaking provinces met in Calgary, Alberta, tobegin a new effort at rapprochement. Québec was absent.
 
The resulting Calgary Declaration3 fell far short of Québec's minimum demands, even from a Québec federalist point of view. The Declaration, a simple statement of principle, dismisses out of hand the already diluted concept of "distinct society", replacing it with the vague notion of "unique character," itself subordinate to the Canadian dogma of provincial equality. This "uniqueness" thus confers no new powers on Québec unless also provided to the other provinces. What's more, this new "unique character" concept cannot be used to interpret the Canadian Constitution.
 
As the 21st Century dawns, the people of Québec are at a crossroads. The repeated failures to renew Canadian federalism leave Quebecers only two true options: the status quo, i.e., Canada just the way it is, with all its insensitivity to their legitimate and historical aspirations, or the way of the future, the road to sovereignty.
 
_________________________
 
1 The meeting of provincial premiers and federal Prime minister in the latter's holiday cottage, located on
the shore of Meech Lake.
 
2 Named after the capital city of Prince Edward Island, the province where it was signed
 
3 Named after the city in the province of Alberta where the English speaking premiers' meeting occured.
 
 
 
 
3- Québec's Legitimate Desire for Total Sovereignty
 
 
For over three decades, Quebecers have been reflecting on their future, on what they want to become, and most of all on how to achieve the greatest fulfillment. Regardless of their political beliefs, they all feel a strong attachment to Québec. Québec represents whether the land of their forefathers, whether the land they choosed as their own. It is their place of expression and economic, social and cultural life.
 
Québec is neither a province like the others, nor a region. It is a homeland. It is a legacy of settlers from France and elsewhere. It is a rich melting pot of influences that have molded and shaped it into a nation and a people.
 
Quebecers do not claim to be better than Canadians. They simply believe that they are different, as the do not share the same language, the same culture, nor the same social and economic visions.
 
Québec's cultural heritage is woven of its many cultural groupsnative peoples, the descendants of French and English settlers, immigrants from around the worldand is very much a part of everyday life. The multiple influences Québec has undergone have infused it with a personality unique in America.
 
The Québec people show a deeply rooted commitment to and respect for liberty and equality. They are tolerant, peace-loving and concerned for the well-being of their fellow man.
 
A resolutely outward-looking people, Quebecers are traders. They put their know-how and abilities to good useright next door and right around the world. As open-minded people, they welcome new ideas, new trends, and new ways of doing things.
 
Québec has a legitimate desire to possess all the levers necessary to develop its economy, promote itsculture and take its place as the only majority French-speaking people in North America. For this to happen, it must have the fundamental tools of any people: the ability to levy all its own taxes, to make all its own laws and to conclude all its own treaties. In short, Québec needs its sovereignty.
 
Not only does the Canadian federation in its current form fail to meet the political needs of Quebecers, it also puts a damper on economic development in the province. The federal government's tendency to wade
uninvited into Québec's jurisdictions creates a profound imbalance. The federal government's spending power lets it to impose its social and econo-mic vision on the provinces, notably on Québec, in crucial areas like health and education, which are provincial jurisdictions. Quebecers want to be able to do things differently.
 
Sovereignty will set the situation right in two different ways: It will provide Québec with the means to realize its ambitions, which are often contrary to those of the highly centralist federal government, and it also will enable Québec to redraw its relations with Canada in a way that recognizes the needs of each party.
 
The sovereignty project carries also a partnership proposal to Canada. The economic ties between Québec and Canada are numerous and beneficial. The offer of partnership acknowledges this reality. It is being made to Canada to maintain actual economic ties, to enhance free trade in order to ensure the free circulation of goods, services, money and people, and to share a common currency.
 
Partnership could also be a platform for the conducting of political discus-sions between Québec and Canada as equals, as two sovereign states.
 
The proponents of sovereignty are sensitive to issues raised by members of the English-speaking community. Partnership with Canada is a way to address their concerns by providing a new framework for maintaining ties with Canada. In fact, Québec has proposed that its citizens be allowed to keep their Canadian citizenship, provided, of course, that Canada agrees.
 
Sovereignty is an extension of the history of Québec. For years, Québec has sought to be more active internationally, but Canada and the constitution imposed on Québec have stood in its way.
 
The Québec people are proud of their French culture, their vibrant demo-cracy and their diversity. Their onlywish is to take their rightful place in the community of nations.
"Because we have persisted despite the haggling of which we have been the
object;
"Because Canada, far from taking pride in and proclaiming to the world the alliance between its two founding peoples, has instead consistently trivialized it and decreed the spurious principle of equality between the provinces;
"Because starting with the Quiet Revolution we reached a decision never again torestrict ourselves to mere survival but from this time on to build upon ourdifference;
"Because we have the deep-seated conviction that continuing within Canada
would be tantamount to condemning ourselves to languish and to debasing our very identity;
"Because the respect we owe ourselves must guide our deeds;
"We, the people of Québec, declare it is our will to be in full possession of all the powers of a State: to vote all our laws, to levy all our taxes, to sign all our treaties and to exercise the highest power of all, conceiving, and controlling, by ourselves, our fundamental law."
 
Excerpt from the Preamble to Bill 1 on the future of Québec, 1995
 
 
 
4- The Democratic Process:
Quebecers, Masters of Their Own Destiny
 
 
Québec sovereignty will be and can only be achieved through the democratic will of the Québec people. Forthe proponents of sovereignty, Québec's attaining the status of a state is a political matter, since only the Québec people can say what path it feels is best for its future. And for the Québec people to have such a say peacefully and democratically referendums are the ideal instrument of free expression. In fact, they have been used twice before by Québec authorities, in May 1980 and October 1995. In both instances, the turnout rate was very high.
 
There also exists a consensus among Québec opinion leaders including federalists on fundamental principles that must guide Québec's attainment of full sovereignty:
 
1. The Québec people have the right to decide their own future.
 
2. Internationally recognized rules of democracy must be respected.
 
3. Québec's territorial integrity must be protected.
 
Quebecers unanimously hold that sovereignty will be mindful of the rights of all citizens, regardless of origin or language. As well, arboriginal nations have the assurance that their right to self-government on the lands they own will be upheld in manner consistent with the territorial integrity of Québec.
 
In a sovereign Québec, federal legislation and regulations previously in effect in Québec will remain in force until such time as they are ratified, amended or repealed by the National Assembly.
 
A sovereign Québec will maintain its current borders. They cannot be altered without the approval of the National Assembly. Under international law, a country's borders stay the same when it becomes sovereign. Québec will benefit from this rule.
 
 
5- The Legitimacy of a Referendum
 
 
 
The democratic will of a majority of Quebecers 50% plus one as expressed in a referendum will determine the future of Québec. All referendums are held under the Referendum Act, a law of Québec's National Assembly.
 
By taking an active part in the referendum debates of 1980 and 1995, the federal government accepted the rules set out in this law. It can hardly now claim the right to alter them.
 
Most referendums on major issues are based on the principle of a simple majority, i.e., 50% of votes cast plus one. This has been the case for three recent referendums in Québec (1980, 1992 and 1995), one in Canada (1992), and two in Newfoundland (a province in Eastern Canada) (1996 and 1997).
 
Certain examples, notably the case of the Maastricht Treaty in Europe, have confirmed the validity of simplemajorities. Despite the extremely close referendum results in France, Denmark and Norway, no one disputed the outcome and, in each case, a simple majority was deemed sufficient.
 
The Canadian Constitution contains no provisions for provinces to become sovereign. It does not forbid them to do so, nor does it set any terms and conditions. Therefore, the question of legality can only be broached from an international perspective. In this regard, Québec sovereignty will be treated as an irrefutable fact and recognized as such by members of the international community provided they feel that the decision by the Québec people has been rendered in democratic fashion. A new Québec state would
meet generally accepted criteria of sovereignty: clearly defined borders, well-established structures of government, and a tradition of respect for human rights and freedoms, including those of the native peoples and the English-speaking community.
 
 
 
6- Sovereign Québec
 
6.1 Definition
 
Québec sovereignty is a concrete, well-thought-out plan. The Commission on the Political andConstitutional Future of Québec (known as the Bélanger-Campeau Commission)* defined it this way:
"Complete political sovereignty would mean that Québec's democratic institutionshave the exclusive right to make laws and levy taxes within the territory of Québec,as well as the power to act directly on the international scene to conclude agreements or treaties of any kind with other independent states and to take part in international organizations."
 
* Following the failure of the Meech Lake Accord, the government of Québec (Liberal) set up an Enlarged Commission of representatives from the federal, provincial and municipal governments, the unions, the business community, cooperatives, the educational world and the field of culture. The Commission was asked to study and analyze the political and
constitutional future of Québec from a nonpartisan perspective and to make recommendations. Its report, endorsed by a vast majority of participants, concluded that the Québec people should be asked to vote in a referendum on sovereignty and that an economic partnership should be proposed to the rest of Canada. It also recommended that any offer from the federal
government to resolve the constitutional crisis be studied.
 
 
6.2 Respect for Rights and Freedoms
 
Once sovereign, Québec will remain a democratic society that respects human rights and freedoms.
In 1975, seven years before the federal parliament, the National Assembly adopted the Québec Charter of
Human Rights and Freedoms, which not only guarantees civil and political rights to Quebecers, but also economic and social rights.
 
"Respect for the dignity of women, men and children and the recognition of their rights and freedoms constitute the very foundation of our society. We commit ourselves to guarantee the civil and political rights of indivi-duals, notably the right to justice, the right to equality, and the right to freedom."
Excerpt from the Preamble to Bill 1 on the future of Québec, 1995
 
 
6.3 Respect for the Rights of the English-speaking
 
Community
A sovereign Québec will promote and protect its French character. However, it will honor its obligations to the English-speaking community, which will continue to enjoy all the rights it currently has.
 
The Québec government will continue to recognize the contribution and historical role of its English-speaking community in ensuring Québec's prosperity and growth.
 
Specifically, it will uphold the right of English-speaking Quebecers to study in their own language, manage their own schools, receive health care in English, address the courts in English and use their language in
the National Assembly.
 
"The new constitution shall guarantee the English-speaking community that its identity and institutions will be preserved."
 
Excerpt from Section 8 of Bill 1 on the future of Québec, 1985
 
 
6.4 Respect for the Rights of Native Peoples
 
The rights of native peoples will be entrenched in the constitution of a sovereign Québec. Like the English-speaking community, native peoples will be invited to participate in the writing of the constitution.
 
The government of Québec will fulfill all obligations to native peoples previously incurred by the governmentof Canada.
 
In a sovereign Québec, native communities will be offered control of their economic, social and culturaldevelopment via local self-government.
 
"It (the constitution of a sovereign Québec) shall also recognize the right of theaboriginal nations to self-government on lands over which they have full ownershipand their right to participate in the development of Québec; in addition, the existingconstitutional rights of the aboriginal nations shall be recognized in theconstitution. Such guarantee and recognition shall be exercised in a manner consistent with the territorial integrity of Québec"
 
Excerpt from section 8 of Bill 1 on the future of Québec, 1995
 
 
 
6.5 Economic and Monetary Partnership
 
Québec is a key trading partner for several Canadian provinces. For example, each year it purchases $25.5 billion in goods and services from Ontario, and $2.9 billion from the Maritime provinces.
 
Canada's provinces sell much of what they produce to Québec. In fact, in 1996, Québec purchased goods and services from Canada valued at $35 billion. The jobs of hundreds of thousands of Canadians depend on these purchases, and the reverse is also true: many jobs in Québec depend on purchases made by other Canadian provinces.
 
Clearly, once Québec becomes sovereign, both Québec and Canada will have a stake in maintaining and even increasing trade through an economic and monetary union.
 
Contrary to what many people think, sovereignty is not against Canada. Once sovereignty is endorsed by voters, Québec authorities will propose an economic and monetary union to Canadian authorities and begin talks to this effect. Québec also favors the creation of a new, permanent political link with its neighbors in order to ensure effective management of their shared interests.
 
The government of a sovereign Québec will seek to establish a smooth and harmonious partnership with its neighbors, one that is beneficial to all concerned.
 
Once sovereign, Québec will meet all financial obligations to Canadian and international lenders that the Canadian government has incurred on its behalf.
 
A sovereign Québec will seek to establish an economic space where goods, services, capital and people circulate freely.
 
A sovereign Québec will continue to use the Canadian dollar and will suggest that common tariffs and customs be maintained.
 
 
6.6 Foreign Policy
 
From the moment Québec becomes sovereign, it will quickly take its full and rightful place in the community of nations. As a sovereign state, it will enjoy certain rights and privileges. It will also have certain duties and obligations. Consequently, Québec intends to respect all treaties, which Canada signed, and will respect as well every international agreements it has signed itself in the past.
 
As a strong advocate of human rights and freedoms, Québec will articulate its vision on the world scene in the conduct of its political and commercial affairs. It will seek to promote cooperation, humanitarian action, tolerance and peace. In this regard, it will respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and take an active role in the various international organizations that seek to protect and promote rights and freedoms.
 
Québec is well aware that the nations of the world do not share equally in the world's resources and that its own position is especially privileged. It will thus meet its obligations to support international cooperation as well as nongovernmental and international organizations seeking to improve living conditions in underprivileged nations.
 
Québec already has participating government status in La Francophonie and, once sovereign, will continue to work toward the creation of an international French-speaking commonwealth. To this end, it will willingly lend its assistance to other member nations of the French-speaking community while respecting the diversity of languages and cultures found among the peoples of the world.
 
As a sovereign state with new powers and a clear respect for international law, Québec will take an active part in the world's leading organizations. It will seek admission to the United Nations (UN) and to its various organiza-tions and conferences. Québec will also join the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the Organization of American States (OAS). Furthermore, it will remain a member of the British Commonwealth.
 
In matters of defense, Québec will seek to resolve conflicts peacefully, under the auspices of the United Nations. A sovereign Québec will also agree to send Québec troops abroad in support of United Nations peace-keeping operations, as it currently does as part of Canada. It will also support its neighbors and allies by abiding by the defense alliances of which Canada is a member.
 
Québec will remain a strong proponent of free trade. It will continue to support the movement toward integration that emerged from the Summit of the Americas and that should lead to the creation of an continental free trade zone by 2005 at the latest. Once sovereign, it will also continue to adhere to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and other similar agreements while seeking to liberalize its own economy further and promote the globalization of trade.
 
To meet its international goals and foster good relations with the interna-tional community, Québec will increase its existing foreign representation. (See appendix.)
 
 

Conclusion

 
Québec... on the road to nationhood
 
The history of Canada and Québec is one of misunderstandings and futile discussions. Efforts to bring Québec back into the federal fold have failed repeatedly. Different parts of Canada have irreconcilable visions of the future of Canadian federalism. And the recent Calgary Declaration is added proof of the gulf that separates Québec from the rest of the country.
 
As a result, many Quebecers have reached an inescapable conclusion: Québec sovereignty is the only way to fulfill their legitimate aspirations. The people of Québec wish to have all the powers they need to decide their own priorities on economic, social and cultural matters. One of these is the protection of the French language.
 
The progress of the sovereignty movement reflects these aspirations. Between the 1980 and 1995 referendums, the sovereignty option made constant gains and set down ever deeper roots in the collective
conscience of Quebecers
 
Sovereignty is not a matter of resentment toward Canada at all. It is a unifying force for the people of Québec and a promise of new opportunities. Sovereignty is a response to the desire of the people of Québec to fully control their own destiny.
 
The offer of economic partnership and monetary union that Québec will propose to Canada after becoming sovereign is a key element of the sovereignist platform. It is telling of Québec's sincere wish to maintain
special ties with Canada, even as it seeks to establish its own priorities for action and intervention in all fields of endeavor.
 
Quebecers will soon be called upon to make a crucial decision on whether to go ahead with plans for sovereignty. An election will be held in Québec in the near future. If Quebecers return the Parti Québécois to office for a second term, a new referendum will be held on Québec sovereignty according to the democratic rules in effect.
 
Like the previous two, this new referendum on sovereignty will be governed by a clear democratic process defined by the Québec National Assembly. The people of Québec have demonstrated their attachment to
democracy many times in the past and will do so once again.
 
The people of Québec have every reason to celebrate as a new century dawns. They will have a unique opportunity to aspire to new horizons. They will be invited to say YES to the creation of a country all their own.
 
Québec sovereignty will occur peacefully and democratically. The interna-tional community can rest assured that a sovereign Québec will be a res-ponsible international partner, and that the principles it holds deardemocracy and justicewill continue to guide its actions.
 
As a sovereign state, Québec will remain as open and outward-looking as it is today. It will at last be able to deal with its partners as an equal, both in Canada and abroad, and conclude whatever agreements it feels best suit its needs.
 
With sovereignty, Quebecers will achieve true nationhood. They will control their own destiny at last and be recognized as full-fledged members of the international community.
 
Over the decades, the obstacles and challenges have been many. Once the people of Québec acquire the tools that every modern country enjoys, they will face the future with confidence, knowing that they have taken their place in the community of nations democratically and legitimately.
 
 
Appendix
 
Québec around the world Network of Québec's delegation and offices abroad
 
AFRICA AND THE MIDDLE EAST
 
Côte d'ivoire
Abidjan
Québec Office in Abidjan
c/o Canadian Embassy
23 avenue Noguès, Box 4104
Abidjan 01
Côte d'Ivoire
Tel : 225-21-20-09
Fax : 225-22-05-29 225-42-90-85
 
 
Syria
Damas
Québec Immigration Office
c/o Canadian Embassy
Autostrade Mezzeh, Box 3394
Damas, Syria
Tel : 963-11-611-6692
963-11-611-6851
Fax : 963-11-611-8034
 
 
NORTH AMERICA
 
États-Unis
New York
Quebec Government House
One Rockefeller Plaza, 26th Floor
New York, N.Y. 10020-2102
United States of America
Tel : (212) 397-0200
Fax : (212) 757-4753
 
 
Washington
Quebec Tourism Office
1101, 17th Street N.W., Suite 1006
Washington, D.C. 20036-4704
United States of America
Tel : (202) 659-8990
Fax : (202) 659-5654
 
 
LATINE AMERICA
 
Mexico
Québec General Delegation
Avenida Taine 411
Colonia Bosques de Chapultepec
11580 Mexico D.F.
Mexico
Tel : 52-5-250-8222
52-5-250-8208
52-5-250-8418
Fax : 52-5-254-4282
 
 
ASIA
 
Japan
Tokyo
Québec General Delegation
Kojimachi Hiraoka Building, 5th Floor
1-3 Kojimachi
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102
Japan
Tel : 81-3-3239-5137
Fax 81-3-3239-5140
 
 
CHINA
 
Hong Kong
Québec Immigration Office
c/o Canada Commissariat Office
Exchange Square Tower 1, 13th Floor
8 Connaught Place
Hong Kong
Tel : 852-2810-7183
Fax : 852-2845-3889
 
 
EUROPE
 
Belgium
Brussels
Délégation générale du Québec
Avenue des Arts 46, 7th Floor
B-1000 Brussels
Belgium
Tel : 322-512-0036
Fax : 322-514-2641
 
 
United Kingdom
 
London
Québec House
59 Pall Mall
London SWIY 5JH
United Kingdom
Tel : 441-71-930-8314
Fax : 441-71-930-7938
 
 
France
 
Paris
Délégation générale du Québec
66, rue Pergolèse
75116 Paris
France
Tel : 331-4067-8500
Fax : 331-4067-8509
 
 
Québec Immigration Office*
87-89, rue de la Boetie
75008 Paris, France
Tel : 331-5393-4545
Fax : 331-5393-4540
 
 
Germany
 
Munich
Québec Government Office in Munich
Wagmüllerstr. 18
D-80538 Munich (Leher)
Germany
Tel : 49-89-2193-9050
Fax : 49-89-2193-9037
 
 
Austria
 
Vienna
Québec Immigration Office in Vienna
Laurenzerberg 2
Bûrocenter Stiege 2, 2.OG
A-1010
Vienna, Austria
Tel : 431-53-138-3005
Fax : 431-53-138-3443

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