On the fiction of Canada & Quebec

On the eve of the start of a Quebec election, it’s worth taking a few moments to preempt one of the claims – in fact the central claim – of the Quebec separatists in hopes that we may actually have at least some semblance of an honest debate.

The claim has been repeated by various separatists ranging from Jacques Parizeau who said “Canadian culture is a fake” (source) to, most famously, Bouchard who exactly 11 years and three weeks ago, famously quipped:

“Canada is not a real country” (source)

Let me start off by saying, Bouchard, Parizeau and Duceppe (who repeated more or less similar claims during this past election) are, on the whole, insightfully correct in their respective statements but utterly wrong in their associated assumptions.

If we take these statements individually and isolate them from the meaning and implications imposed on these statements by federalist or separatist rhetoric, it is more or less a truism that yes, Canada, like every other state on the planet is fictional and artificially constructed.

Historically, it is undisputed that we obtained our country by: deliberately obfuscating our intentions to the aboriginal original inhabitants of this country; illegally disavowing or at least failing to uphold the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and, by extension, the rule of law; and by attempting to make the aboriginals in our own, Christian images, through residential schools and the pass system which served as the model for Apartheid South Africa.

Moreover, it is equally true that just as Canada’s founding was not only artificially advanced by governmental and economic élites, it’s continued existence has been sustained through equally unsavoury means.  For instance, fears of a Bolshevik revolution caused various authoritarian measures to be implemented in order to forcibly put down potential threats to this country’s perceived viability following the Winnipeg General Strike.  The same means of artificially continuing the country’s existence were put to use with s.98 of the Criminal Code which was used to harass and temporarily destroy the Communist Party of Canada, and to arrest of many of its members including its democratically-elected MP Fred Rose.

Now this isn’t to suggest that we’re somehow alone in these measures – because we’re not:  France’s famed schooling system built their country, America’s military conquest taking Spanish Florida and the Kingdom of Hawaii (to name just a few) away from their inhabitants and England’s conquest of Scotland and Ireland all speak to this point.  Rather this is merely to suggest that we, like most other industrialized democracies, tend to think that our country was founded on and is sustained by the principles of a nice, orderly, peaceful, Lockean Social Contract when in fact the documentary record demonstrates the very opposite.   In short, yes, Virginia, Canada isn’t a real country.

But what impact does this have on Quebec’s claims?  Absolutely none whatsoever.

Implicit in Quebec’s claim that Canada is artificial and fictional is the notion that somehow Quebec is factual or real.  If we truly accept the Quebec separatists’ main philosophical contention – which I feel every thinking person ought to do, since it is an accurate charge against the shibboleths surrounding Canada’s existence – then one must by extension also conclude that just as Canada and every other country on the face of the planet is an artificial construct, so too is the province of Quebec.


4 Responses to “On the fiction of Canada & Quebec”

  1. 1 Werner Patels 17 February, 2007 at 10:43 pm

    I have been saying this for the last 20 years or so: Canada is a piece of fiction on a shred of paper. It’s not real at all. If it were, we would not have the constant rows between provinces and between the provinces and Ottawa. Instead, we’d be a strong, united, cohesive country like the United States.

  2. 2 paulitics 18 February, 2007 at 12:17 pm

    Werner Patels – I certainly agree with you that Canada exists only on paper and in the ideological superstructures of our psyches, however I may not have been clear that my contention goes a fair bit farther than that.

    My contention is that, yes, Canada is a fiction, but so too is every other country on the face of the planet. America, therefore, under my formulation, is more united and cohesive merely because it has developed rigid shibboleths to protect their artificial construction better than we have — not because they are somehow less fictional than us.

    Put another way, there is nothing that can be said to be true of EVERY American or EVERY Canadian et cetera which is not by default also true of EVERY human – other than, of course, entirely artificial aspects such as a constructed juridical structure, or alleged common values etc… Any attempt to characterize “Canadian-ness” or “American-ness” therefore is, under my formulation, a fool’s errand.

    Incidentally, I do not intent for my contention to apply merely to Canada and the US. I would hold that all nations, including seemingly more cohesive nation-states such as France or Spain or Italy or Brazil are equally fictional and artificial.

  3. 3 Savage 19 February, 2007 at 9:36 am

    Your argument only looks at their claims from a historical perspective. I would suggest that all of those claims were meant to be contemporary claims. In other words, I think you are looking deeper into their words than they ever intended.

  4. 4 paulitics 19 February, 2007 at 3:12 pm

    Savage – I agree with you. I’m quite certain that I did take their claims farther than they had intended to be taken. I never figured either Parizeau or Bouchard as intellectuals, although I don’t know enough about either to say for certain.

    I think this post is best viewed merely as my attempt to draw on this upcomming current event as an excuse to opine the merits of the claims of these sovereigntists. My intention was to take their reasoning to their logical conclusion to show that, while correct, they cut both ways.

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