Essay, Research Paper: Canadian National Unity


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Canadian National Unity has been a serious debate to all Canadians for close to
three decades now. Starting with French President Charles DeGaulle, who in
visiting Quebec told a large crowd in Motreal, “Vivre le Quebec libre!” or,
“Live in a free Quebec.” This one event started the whole modern separtist
movement in Canada, and brought us to where we are now. They went from one
person with an idea then, to 2 provincial parties, and a federal one as well,
now. This is a very serious issue, that could end up in the destuction of an
amazing country. It’s not like they’re bluffing, we’ve had two Referendums
on this issue (one almost resulting in a Yes vote), and numerous Constitutional
meetings to tweak what we live by to be in tune with the wants and needs of many
Quebekers, but it hasn’t worked to this point, and has been a long, stressful,
but interesting affair to this point. A little background is needed in order to
understand this whole ordeal. The Parti Quebecois is a provincial party in
Quebec City. The party was formed by René Lévesque, who was its leader from
1968 to 1982. In that time, the PQ formed the government in Quebec from 1976 to
1982. The next leader was Pierre-Marc Johnson, followed in 1988 by Jacques
Parizeau. Mr Parizeau was leader until 1996. During that period, the PQ formed
the government from 1994-1996. There was a second referendum on sovereignty in
1995 (cost $63.5 million): 60% to 40%. The current leader of the PQ is Lucien
Bouchard. The PQ currently forms the provincial government in Quebec City. The
Referendum of 1995 saw one of the closest votes possible as the No side squeaked
out with a 50.6% to 49.4% victory. The Bloc Quebecois is a separatist party in
the federal Parliament in Ottawa. The party was formed by Lucien Bouchard, who
was its leader from 1991 to early 1996. The next leader of the party was Michel
Gauthier. After a convention in March, 1997, the next and current leader of the
party was Gilles Duceppe.The BQ formed Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition in the
House of Commons during the last Parliament. However, after the 1997 federal
election, after getting 37.7% of Quebec's vote, it lost second place status, and
now sits as an official party in the House of Commons. Prime Minister Chrétien
sits atop the Federalist side. The longer Mr Chrétien governs, the closer he
seems to hold his cards. A very few advisors surround him, giving him aid and
have special tasks in order to save the country as a whole. Minister Stéphane
Dion heads this department, and is also President of the Queen's Privy Council
for Canada (PCO). He is really the man hired to talk to Bouchard and Duceppe and
really save our country from a federal aspect. Minister Anne McLellan handles
the hottest potato of all: the Supreme Court Reference on Quebec secession,
which is the hallmark of the Feds' tough-love Plan B strategy. The decision sets
the legal parameters for any further secession attempt - a clear referendum
question and a clear majority (as opposed to a simple majority of 50% +1) are
now the law of the land. The Quebec Liberal Party pro Canadian with a twist of
Quebec nationalism, this party went digital in early 1997. Daniel Johnson
announced in March, 1998 that he would step down as leader, and Jean Charest has
taken his place. The party lost the 1994 provincial election by only a couple
percentage points, but actually won the last election in terms of vote
percentage - a big boost for unity. They currently hold 48 National Assembly
seats. Vision Nationale, The new federalist party, led by Jean Briere, will take
a stand against any sovereignty referendums, while promoting bilingualism in
Quebec. The party opposes distinct society status for the province. Briere wants
to tap into the 2.4 million French Quebecers who voted "No" in the
last referendum, and fight a perception in the French media that wanting to stay
in Canada is radical, while being a separatist is normal. Throughout the world,
Canada is known as a tranquil, economically prosperous, multicultural society.
Yet, in one of its provinces, Quebec, a number of people are dissatisfied with
Quebec’s relationship with the rest of Canada and want to seperate. The issue
of seperating is not new, in fact, the Quebecois voted on this very same
controversial subject in 1980, ending in a sixty-forty split in favor of the
federalists; In the weeks before the 1995 vote the polls showed a fifty-fifty
split, marking a clear and true division among both the Anglo phone and
Francophone Canadians. To secede would create a state of paralysis leading to an
economic crisis the likes of which, Canadians have never before experienced and
truly cannot imagine. Therefore Quebec should not separate from Canada. Quebec
should remain a part of Canada, due to the fact that the problems facing the
Quebecois wouldn’t diminish or be resolved. Quebec always has been and always
will be a respected, distinct society within Canada, and leaving Canada now
would adversely affect more than just the Quebecois. First, the problems facing
Quebec would not diminish or be resolved through separation. The economic
uncertainties that have plagued Quebec, such as unemployment, high taxes, high
government spending, as well as high interest rates would not lessen. Businesses
would pull out of Quebec due to concerns over instability, thereby causing a
higher rate of unemployment. The rising number of people who would require
financial assistance would rise dramatically, swamping, and maybe even
surpassing, the government’s ability to give aid. Quebec would have to create
new bureaucracy to replace current Canadian services that are designed to help
improve social problems such as teen pregnancy and elevated drop out rates.
Without federal funds, this would prove to be impossible, and in all likelihood
such problems would grow. Without a well educated work force Quebec will
flounder in the global marketplace, adding a further burden to the government
and people. History has proven that, in countries where there is such
instability and economic hardship crime rates skyrocket. For years the Quebecois
have complained of the repression of the French language and culture, and of
unfair treatment by the rest of Canada. Yet ninety percent of French Canadians
agree that the French language is more secure now than ever and that English
speaking Canadians believe that Quebec always has been and always will be a
respected, distinct society within Canada. To prove just how much they value
Quebec, the Supreme Court of Canada, in its interpretation of the Charter of
Rights and Freedoms, has recognized Quebec’s status as a distinct society, and
requires the consent of Ottawa and any seven provinces that make up at least
fifty percent of the population of Canada to make any changes. even that
hasn’t stopped Quebec’s or rather Parizeau’s and numerous other's whining.
To further placate Quebec, many proposals for change have been suggested, such
as, 1) The restoration and formal recognition of Quebec’s traditional right to
a constitutional veto; 2) Jean Chretien has promised to never allow the
constitution to be changed in a way that affects Quebec without their consent.
It is obvious to anyone that Canada’s willingness to create such changes
demonstrates their desire to be a whole country, as well as how inflexible and
childish Quebec’s leaders really are. Third, leaving Canada would adversely
affect beyond just Quebec. The United States, Canada, and Mexico would all be
forced to decide whether or not they will accept Quebec into NAFTA, the North
American Trade Agreement. Also, Canada would face the possibility of breaking up
completely. "There are no guarantees," predicts Gordon Gibson, author
of Plan B: The Future of the Rest of Canada, "that there will be only one
new country." (If Quebec Goes, pg. 45). The secession of Quebec would
separate the Maritime provinces from mainland Canada and a unilateral
declaration of independence would most certainly result in a sharp drop in the
value of the Canadian dollar, plunging Canada into a terrible recession.
Canada's dilemma, typically put, is the separation of Quebec. At least since the
rebellions of 1837-38, Quebeckers seemingly have been revolting against Canada.
The question has always been, "Will Quebec separate?" After a recent
referendum in Quebec almost answered yes, Canadians have begun to ask other
questions in more heated tones, such as, "Should Quebec be
partitioned?" Quebeckers, for their part, call partition dangerous,
undemocratic, and contrary to law. They regard it as a precedent that would
threaten the geopolitical balance in North America. So the tensions increase.
From the perspective of the United States, the right question is: What would
follow separation? This deeper question contemplates a Canada that may not only
split into two parts -- Quebec and the rest of Canada -- but that may continue
to break up. This view of the problem is much broader, and it holds consequences
in political, economic, and security terms that immediately draw the United
States into a far more dramatic set of developments. Continuing separation
potentially involves powers outside North America in special treaties and
coalitions. What starts as a simple breakup, could end in a complex process of
redefining the entire Canadian system, rooted in nationalist stresses that turn
out not to be restricted to former communist states and poor Third World
countries but to affect all multi-ethnic states in the post-Cold War order. This
more complicated picture of Quebec's separation and its consequences may be
described as a worst-case scenario. But is the thesis of continuing Canadian
seperation after Quebec's secession possible? Could North America fall apart?
(Will Canada Unravel?, Pg. 2) The United States must take the possibility
seriously enough to draw up plans for a form of supranational affiliation with
the remnants of Canada. Ottawa, regardless of the party in power, has always
argued that its problems of unity are manageable. While its strategy for dealing
with Quebec has changed over time, it remains confident that the province can be
convinced to remain in the confederation. Ottawa is similarly confident that if
Quebec were to separate, the rest of Canada would remain united. The principal
argument is that the problem is Quebec's crazy demands for more everything. If
these demands are met, separation ideas will die. If they cannot be met and
Quebec does secede, English-speaking Canada will nonetheless remain unified
because the source of the difficulties would be gone. Separatist Quebec agrees
with Ottawa on this interpretation. Jacques Parizeau, former head of the
separatist Parti Quebécois and premier of Quebec, argues that if and when
Quebec goes, the remainder of Canada will remain united. Part of the argument is
surely cultural, namely, that English speakers can better communicate and defend
their culture without Quebec; culture will unite. With Quebec gone, Ottawa will
no longer be obliged to try and make every one feel equal, and English Canada
will survive as a unit and probably flourish. Some outside Quebec believe, like
Quebec nationalists, that separation would be good for Canada. Their argument
stresses that so much redundancy exists in administration and so much money is
spent on bilingualization and transferred needlessly from rich province to poor
province in an effort to keep Quebec inside the confederation that after
separation both Quebec and English-speaking Canada would be better off,
financially and otherwise. Without addressing this contention, the same
assumption occurs here: after Quebec leaves, Canada remains united. The
assumption that Quebec voters would not accept the economic costs and risks of
separation and were not subject to romantic sentiment on this issue proved
wrong. Until a week before the referendum, virtually no one predicted the
closeness of the vote. Only an enormous last-minute rally in Montreal by the no
vote halted the separatist surge. An index of the bind in which Canada now finds
itself is that the solution Ottawa has proposed to meet Quebec's demands is
exactly the one a large majority of English-speaking Canadians oppose. To quench
Quebec's desire for separation, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien has proposed three
things: acknowledgement that Quebec is a distinct society; creation of a veto
against constitutional change, usable by every region including Quebec; and
Quebec control over worker retraining. A nationwide poll at the end of 1995
showed the massive dislike among English-speaking citizens with such attempts to
save Canada. Eighty-three per cent of respondents across Canada did not want
Quebec to have a constitutional veto. Indeed, the same percentage disagreed with
Quebec nationalists on the issue of whether Canada is composed of two founding
peoples, preferring instead to think of Canada as ten equal provinces. Some 61
per cent said that Quebec should not even be constitutionally recognized as a
distinct society. (MacLeans, pg. 14, Nov. 6/95) Given the bitter history of
constitutional struggle in Canada and the current public disfavour toward
reform, Quebeckers can hardly be faulted for their skepticism that the legal
reforms will ever be constitutionally entrenched. So, despite the welcome
boldness of the prime minister's legal initiatives, neither English-speaking nor
French-speaking Canada, in the end, accepts the terms of these initiatives.
Separatist preference is generational. The youth are most supportive. As each
generation ages, the support within that generation retains its strength. If the
trend in support for Quebec independence is to be reversed, the federalists need
new vision and energy. Ottawa probably has felt it must downplay all hints of
the danger of disunity. Yet recently Ottawa has reversed that policy by stating
that if Quebec separated, anglophone Montreal would have an incentive to secede
and indeed would secede. So Ottawa is now taking the possibility of further
fragmentation seriously. People tend to look only at the economic savings of a
breakup and not the political consequences of additional seperation. It is time
that they carefully examine the basis of continuing seperation of Canada, and of
Quebec. Three major difficulties would confront the federal government in its
attempt to keep English-speaking Canada united after Quebec's secession. First,
once the glue of federalism is gone, the rich provinces: British Columbia,
Ontario, and Alberta would no longer have any reason to give pay outs to the
poor provinces like Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and Manitoba. The average
Albertan pays an annual tax of $900 to enable a province like Newfoundland,
which receives 60 per cent of its budget from the general slush fund, to remain
semi-solvent and attached to the confederation (If Quecec Goes, Pg. 71). But in
the absence of a unified country, would that resident of Alberta or British
Columbia be so inclined to pay this confederation tax? Second, an independent
Quebec would geographically destroy four provinces: Newfoundland, New Brunswick,
Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island; from the rest of Canada. Undoubtedly,
Quebec as an independent country would allow Canadians all the privileges of
transit, communications, and the flow of goods, services, and people now
accorded Americans with Canada or Mexico. But the feeling of being cut adrift
would still live strong in Atlantic Canada.. A third difficulty, expressed by
western Canada, would be the feeling of alienation from and dominance by the
economic power of Ontario. This feeling of dependence has been put in place by a
tarrif policy that forced westerners to buy dear in Toronto and sell cheap east
or west, rather than follow the more travelled and profitable lines of commerce
that flow north to south. The purpose of this so-called national policy was to
jump-start the industrial base in central Canada, but, in the opinion of
westerners, at their expense. With the advent of the Canada-U.S. Free Trade
Agreement and NAFTA, the distortions of trade resulting from tariffs have
disappeared, but the feelings of political and economic dependence in the west
live on. For example, the federal Liberal Party of Canada has its power base in
the industrial heartland of central Canada and is not well-represented west of
Winnipeg. After a breakup, the English-speaking remains of Canada would contain
a lopsided distribution of power. Ontario would be like a king, the remaining
provinces like slaves, not so much in terms of territory as in industrial
capacity and population. Surely western Canada would demand a change of
government along the lines of the United States, with an equal Senate and
perhaps a more powerful House to lower the strength of the prime minister. But
such a change of power within a smaller Canada, and away from Ottawa toward the
western provinces, might likewise fail. It might amount to too much sacrifice
for central Canada, but not enough gain for Alberta and British Columbia.
Politically, an independent Quebec could survive adjustment, capital flight, and
exchange-rate fluctuation in the short term and a lessened growth rate over the
long term, if at a price. But could it remain whole? On the heels of Quebec's
independence, English is the language in the Ottawa River valley, west Montreal,
and the Eastern Townships region might attempt to create separate city-states of
their own. Also, the Cree and other Indian tribes and Inuit communities reject
Quebec independence, either because their lands would be divided by separation,
or because they believe that Ottawa looks better than Quebec City on their
eventual self-government. Only in the twentieth century was the northernmost
section of Quebec, Rupert's Land, formally granted to the province by British
imperial authority. Potentially resource-rich, this territory contains such
assets as the James Bay hydroelectric project( If Quebec Goes, Pg. 112). If
Canada is divisible, then why is Quebec indivisible? If Quebec is indivisible
then on what grounds should Canada be obliged to allow Quebec's secession? In an
age of mini-states like Singapore and Luxembourg, the minimum requirement for
self-government, however compromised, is not very substantial. Seperation of an
independent Quebec cannot be ruled out by the possibility of a minimum state
size. Washington must be prepared for all possibilities. Seperationn of Canada,
depending on its nature and extent, would transfer some of the cost of
administration from Ottawa to Washington. Washington increasingly would take on
the jobs of peacemaker, rule-maker and police officer. These are not roles that
the United States should seek. Nor are they responsibilities Washington would
necessarily be able to carry out better than any of the Canadian provinces or
the Canadian federal government. To conclude, this issue is still a huge burden
on the always awkward Canadian economy. Both the federal and Quebec governments
should get down to business with this and figure it all out as best they can, so
it won’t hurt our country anymore then it already has. All the other
Provincial governments should have representatives there, and all get their
opinions heard and then come to some sort of a conclusion, so we can get on with
it all. If they can’t come to some sort an agreement, or there’s a
stalemate, then fine let them have another referendum, and if that works, great,
let them leave, it can’t hurt anymore then having them complaining and talking
about what they want to do. Really it’s been a series of threats and no real
serious go at seperation, it’s all a big thing, seeing how far the feds will
go before they lose it and say fine, get out of here. All in all, this is
Canada’s biggest problem to this point and should be solved as soon as
possible, because one of the scenarios above is going to happen, and the longer
they wait the harder it gets, so someone better go out and take a stranglehold
on this whole issue and get it settled, one way or the other, or you could see a
great country spiral from the greatest country in the world today, to a sad
story in a hurry... Only the future can tell, and the politicians have got to
come up with the answers, and let the people tell them what is needed, and then
maybe we can get on to living, with or without Quebec, well that’s what the
future is going to tell...
Cote, Marcel, and David Johnson. If Quebec Goes... Toronto: Stoddart, 1995.
Encarta 97. Computer Software. Microsoft, 1996. PC, CD-Rom, 17.1 MB. Geddes,
John. “A New Departure.” MacLeans 15 Feb. 1999: 35. “If Quebec goes,
Natives might stay- Dion.” Chronicle-Herald [Halifax, NS] 24 Feb. 1998: Page
Unknown. Internet Document, “An Act respecting the sovereignty of Quebec.”, 3 pages. Internet
Document, “Impact of ruling uncertain.”,
3 pages. Internet Document, “Native leaders put spin on a few sentences.”, 2 pages. Internet
Document, “PQ claims victory- of a sort.”,
3 pages. Internet Document, “Press Release.”,
1 page. Internet Document, “Quebec Can’t unilaterally separate, Supreme
Court rules.”, 5
pages. Internet Document, “Ruling splits voters in the rest of Canada.”, 3 pages. Internet
Document, “Signs of desperation in PQ ads.”,
3 pages. Internet Document, “Unity Chronology.”,
2 pages. Internet Document, “Unity Link- 21st Century Cheat Sheet.”,
2 pages. Internet Document, “Unity Link- Canada after UDI.”,
5 pages. Internet Document, “Unity Link- National History and Perspective.”, 8 pages. Internet Document, “Unity Link- Team
Canada for Unity.”, 2 pages. Internet Document,
“Will Canada Unravel?” ttp://,
5 pages. “Quebec needs OK to separate.” Chronicle-Herald [Halifax, NS]
Unknown date, unknown page. “The Quebec Question.” Chronicle-Herald
[Halifax, NS] 24 Feb. 1998: page unknown.

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