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Conditioning: From the 1980 referendum until present (#282)

This posts continues where the last one left of.  I’m the previous posts, I spoke at length about the failure of the Estates General, and the beginning of the political fallout which could possibly have been avoided had the Estates General not been sabotaged in the name of politcal agendas.

The fallout has since affected our collective psyche, and our political expectations and preconceptions.  In other words, it has affected our societal conditioning.  But that conditioning too may vary depending on our vantage point.

For the rest of this post to make sense, the previous posts might be worth a read.   I say this because I am presenting events from the point of view of how Canada’s Francophones outside Québec tend to often view Canada’s recent history.  It is a version which is not taught in Québec, and which Anglophones rarely learn about.  It places extra weight on the failure of the the “Estates-General of French Canada” (Les États généraux du Canada français” as being one of the root causes for other constitutional events snowballing over the past 40 years.  It’s a very poignant and powerful version of our recent history, and thus I believe it is beneficial to also view things from this vantage point.

The “Second Night of Long Knives” and the fall-out from it:

Québec voted “no” in the 1980 referendum.  Soon after, Trudeau sought to repatriate the constitution and to enshrine language rights within the constitution.   It was Trudeau’s attempt (after prior attempts, including the 1971 Victoria Charter) to bring about further changes in the wake of (1) the failed Estates-General, (2) of the 1970s nationalist movement in Québec, and (3) the failed 1980 referendum.

Trudeau was faced with an arduous task involving a good deal of sour politics and going back-and-forth between the various premiers and the courts.

In 1981, and after much wrangling, most Premiers were still not on board with Trudeau’s version of the repatriated constitution.  They formed a blockade against it in an alliance which included René Levesque (the then Parti Québécois Premier of Québec).  But on the night of November 4th, 1981, a number of premiers agreed to push through and sign the accord as a majority, while René Levesque was sleeping.

History provides us with different views of what happened.  One version says that the Premiers believed their signatures were not final and the constitution would still be open for discussion (that it was a pro forma signature, rather than a prima facie finalized signature).   Yet another version of history says that Levesque was under the understanding that all the premiers believed a signature would be final.

I am not in a position to make a judgement – because I, and all the rest of us, will never know what was truly going on in everyone’s head.

But regardless, in the eyes of all the premiers, they believed Canada’s public was tired of constant constitutional and linguistic-cultural stalemates.  It had been 14 years following what would have been a watershed moment of progress had the Estates-General succeeded in bringing concrete proposals to the constitutional table with a strong, united Francophone population backing it.

Had the Estates-General succeeded, and considering the population and geographic weight it would have brought to the table (from Francophones from B.C. to Québec to Newfoundland), it could very well have been difficult for Anglophone Canada to refuse constitutional proposals stemming from the Estates-General.  What is more, those constitutional proposals would have likely been much wider, more meaningful, and more profound than anything Trudeau was proposing.

Owing to how the Estates-General collapsed, I cannot help but wonder if some of the Premiers who signed the Constitution without Levesque at the table did so with a sentiment of “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander”.  After all, Québec’s majority delegates at the Estates-General 14 years earlier sabotaged any hope that the Estates General could have led to a constitutional proposition acceptable to all Francophones, and endorsable by all provinces and the Federal government.

Likewise, on November 4, 1981, a majority of Canada’s premiers signed the constitution without René Levesque’s government’s consent.   I suppose it could be considered tit-for-tat.   But again, we will ever know for sure if that is how the premiers viewed it when deciding if it was ethical or not to sign the constitution without René Levesque.

This is why I call the signing of the constitution the Second Night of the Long Knives (and not the First which I reserve for the 1967 failure of the Estates-General).

Regardless, I firmly believe that two wrongs do not make a right.   I am also a strong advocate for the principle of letting bygones be bygones and of having a “reset button” sitting on the desk at all times.

What I find fascinating is that since constitutional repatriation in the early 1980s, the sovereignist movement has touted it as one of the primary reasons for separation from Canada.    The logic is that Québec’s government, under Levesque, never agreed to live in a country with Trudeau’s version of the constitution, and thus Québec should opt out of the country.

As an example, Québec’s Option National party leader, Sol Zanetti continuously and trumps this card to the world…  you can see one of his English-version “broadcasts to the world” here (I, like many others in Quebec and elsewhere around Canada, just shake my head)…

Oh, I think he forgot to mention that someone in Halifax wore a colour he didn’t like… so there’s yet another reason for sovereignty.

Regardless… he’s simply spewing crap (it’s my blog, so I can say that).  His take on things obviously aren’t reflective of reality — and proof is in the polls:  The last time I looked I think the Option Nationale had 0.9% or 1.2% of overall popular support… at any rate, something like that.  Not enough to warrant me wasting my time to look up the exact number.

And one more thing – especially to everyone in Canada who resides outside of Québec, or is Federalist (regardless if you are Anglophone or Francophone):  When he’s talking about “they“, “they” and “they”… He is talking about “you“, “you“, and “you” — which also includes “me” too.   That just shows you the absurdity of what he is preaching.

Are you or your friends, or peers, or family – or even most of your compatriots around you double-crossing, heartless, will cheat-ya kind of bastards?  I’m assuming you’re not.  And, you know what?  Neither am I.

The Two Solitudes exist… but that does not mean everyone is the Wicked Witch of the East, West, North, South, or whatever other place Sol can dream up.  All of our people are actually pretty cool — Francophones and Anglophones alike .

Thus, me thinks that Mr. Zanitti needs to take a chill pill… Especially if he frets over events which might have well happened during the ice age!  I’m mean, really?  Did he actually invoke a battle in the 1700s with cynicism to mark political points?  Seriously?  (Oh, big big sigh — Reset button… push the reset button Mr. Zanetti!).

Some additional remarks regarding conditioning and Mr. Zanetti’s video:  You can see that Mr. Zanetti’s conditioningand the historical context upon which that conditioning is based is very different than mine – and perhaps equally as different from yours.  His conditioning could stem from as diverse a range of factors as those who he has been surrounded by when growing up, the education he received, how he was taught to interpret history, his travels and where he has lived, and all the emotions which arise from these factors.

I am not in any way diminishing the validy of Mr. Zanetti’s emotions.  Everyone has reasons why they harbour their emotions.  But emotions often take the “objectivity” out of a situation.

This video is a prime example of how conditioning can prompt one to take action.  But as you have also seen from the last few posts, there is more than one way to look at an issue (these issues) and how to resolve these issues.

Therefore conditioning can become quite dangerous when it blinds people from existing alternatives and closes ones views to other possibilities, realities, and other people’s experiences.

In a sense, Mr. Zanetti’s video it reminds me of two friends, one Anglophone, one Francophone, who are each living in minority environments.   I used their cases as examples in post #277 as examples of negative conditioning.  In each of their cases, they believed they were being mistreated by the other linguistic group – and thus it tainted their view of other people in those linguistic groups… Whereas in reality I could see that only a few unfortunate, isolated incidents tainted their views of the remaining 98% of all the other good which was going on around them.  Negative conditioning led them to look for the bad along linguistic lines, rather than the good.

Despite Canada having been chugging along and slowing but surely finding its way to improve socio-linguistic inequalities, I find it very interesting how nobody in the sovereignist movement wishes to talk about Québec’s delegates roles in the First Night of the Long Knives in 1969, and how that quite possibly snow-balled into the Second Night of the Long Knives, and events throughout the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

The subject is not even taught in Québec school curriculums, and barely touched upon at university – at least not from this angle (rather, it is taught as a matter of triumph and not betrayal… but triumph over who and what?  Other Francophones and Francophiles elsewhere in Canada, like myself?  Strange – truly, very strange).

I truly don’t talk about these subjects very much with people know.  But I can tell you that the few times I have talked about the Estates General, and how it’s needless collapse affected all events which came afterwards (considering an alternative future could have otherwise played itself out), it has left more than a few of my friends in Québec in a bit of a state of surprise.  It sometimes gets an “OMG” moment of realization, but most of the time just surprised silence (especially when I ask the above questions of those who I know who are soft-sovereignists).

As you can see, this is why I strongly advocate for a “reset” on all of these issues.  When everyone chills, people see that the matters at hand are (1) not insurmountable, and (2) are not so bad (actually, I think they’re pretty good).

Moving on…

The Mulroney intiatives, the 1995 referendum, and the period to the present

By way of the Charlottetown and Meech Lake Accords, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney sought to seek agreement for a re-written version of the constitution acceptable to all the provinces and the people of Canada.  He could not reach agreement, neither by way of provincial quorum nor by a referendum on the matter.

The failure of Mulroney’s efforts brought Canada to the brink of self-destruction (we have since learned that Saskatchewan’s Premier’s office and core cabinet members were even presented with the idea of joining the United States if Québec were to leave following the 1995 referendum… which perhaps would have had a spin-off effect with new countries created across the continent from the ashes of what once would have been Canada.  With such a large land mass as Canada with so many different regions, it truly was uncharted territory).   The failure of Meech and Charlottetown caused support for sovereignty to skyrocket.  The 1995 referendum results were 50.58% no and 49.42% yes.

Since the second referendum of 1995 (largely brought about by Mulroney’s failed attempt to seek consensus on a constitutional modification), support for sovereignty has declined.   Since 1995, it has rarely left the 33-39% range (give or take a couple of percent).

But those in the sovereignist movement took away three major lessons:

  1. Provoking a constitutional crisis can cause pro-sovereignty sentiments to spike,
  2. People are fearful of their economic future and are reluctant to risk that future, and
  3. Immigrant sentiments are key to any referendum outcomes.

Since 1995,

  1. we have seen the Parti Québécois (PQ) try to poke at things here and there to provoke a constitutional crisis (without success… precisely because successive Federal governments have not been willing to poke back after the lessons learned in the early 1990s),
  2. we have seen the PQ try to persuade Québec’s population that a sovereign Québec would be economically more viable as an independent state (hence why the billionaire businessman Pierre Karl Péladeau was chosen as the PQ’s latest leader), and
  3. we have seen the PQ try funny things on the immigration and integration front (hence why we see schizophrenic and finicky actions such as trying to woo immigrants, spend money on immigrants, blame immigrants, and fence-in immigrant issues with mechanisms such as the Charte des valeurs).

Despite all these efforts on the part of the PQ (and the Bloc Québécois, Québec Solidaire and Option Québec), support for sovereignty has rarely left the 32% to 39% spectrum.  There are many factors why this may be the case.  Yes, economic stability for an aging population may be a reason.  Youth who view politics in a more global rather than local sense may be another.

But I also tend to think that another factor is that people have become desensitized to the emotional impact of events of the 1970s, 80, and 90s.  In addition, overall good governance of Canada (relatively speaking when viewed in a global or Western context) as well as massive social changes in Canada since 1995 (not related to Constitutional affairs, but rather to individual sentiments) have played just as much, if not more of a role in a decrease of support for sovereignty.

This is not to say that support for sovereignty in Québec may not once again find its foothold.  I am watching with great interest what will come of the latest chapter involving the PQ’s new leader, Pierre Karl Péladeau.   Is he the ideology’s new magic ticket?  Or will he turn out to be the one carrying the shovel which will bury the issue even deeper into the ground? (perhaps once and for all).

But back to the national front

When all is said and done, the last 20 years have proven that we do not need constant constitutional amendments as a prerequisite for constant societal evolution in Canada.  That’s not to say the matter will be closed indefinitely.  It’s just to say that so far the past 25 years have demonstrsted that reopening the constitution is not of prime importance for the country to continue to evolve in the right direction.

When interpreting the constitution, the courts have shown that they are apt to interpret it in new, modern, and dynamic ways… turning a static document into a living one.    And for the most part, our societal evolution since 1995 (both for Francophone and Anglophone societies) have moved along in the same direction; not in opposite directions.   They are becoming more and more similar as time moves forward.   

In a twist of irony, despite there having been no constitutional amendments since its repatriation, Francophone and Anglophone societies in Canada have become more and more similar in the past 20 years than during any other time in our shared history.  (That may ultimately be the real killer of the sovereignty movement).

I’m of the belief that this has diminished the risks of a constitutional crisis.   That is not to say that some day there may not be another one.  But if the Federal government keeps its nose clean, and if the PQ’s attempts to provoke a constitution crisis can be tactfully brushed off, then things should go well and society should continue to positively evolve (socially, culturally, and socio-linguistically).

That does not mean that Anglophone Canada should cease being proactive.   On the contrary, evidence to date shows that many aspects of Anglophone society continue to be proactive (the subject of numerous past posts).  But people on both sides of the linguistic divide need to remain empathetic to each other, and share in each other’s culture to enrich our overall Canadian experience and nationhood.  After all, we continue to evolve as a country.

It is this type of societal conditioning for which I advocate.

I am not a fan of the type of conditioning from certain aspects of Québec’s ultra-nationalist factions.  There are segments of Québec’s the political, media, and education world which continue to erect walls between Québec and the rest of Canada.  This in turn prevents cross-linguistic empathy and learning.   But these segments are becoming more isolated with time.

Likewise, I am not a fan of the conditioning from certain aspects of Anglophone Canada which are ignorant to many issues pertaining to Francophone Canada, not only in Québec, but also coast to coast.   We often see such ignorance on issues in certain aspects of Anglophone Canada’s own political class, media and education systems.  Again, I believe that these segments too will become more isolated with time.

That, in a nutshell, sums up Canada’s recent history with respect to the Two Solitudes.  And it lays the foundation for aspects of Canada’s modern socio-linguistic conditioning with respect to why the Two Solitudes have been maintained during the past 45 years (at least from my point of view).

The next post will put into context the last few posts, and open the way for us to look at little things which reinfoce conditioning of the Two Solitudes; on a more localized, daily basis.

It makes for an interesting discussion.   See you soon!


SERIES:  HOW THE PRESENTATION OF EVENTS IN MODERN HISTORY WHICH HAVE CONDITIONED US ALL REGARDING HOW WE VIEW OUR PLACE IN CANADA (13 POSTS)

Conditioning: What happened after the Estates General? (#281)

In the last post, I discussed the circumstances surrounding the failure and collapse of the Estates-General of French Canada.  Despite its failure, there were still many people across Canada (both Anglophones and Francophones) who believed that progress could be made in the absence of the weight and momentum which would have come from the Estates-General — despite the betrayal and non-participation of Québec’s delegates.

A quick reminder that I am presenting events from the point of view of how Canada’s Francophones outside Québec tend to often view Canada’s recent history.  It is a version which places extra weight on the failure of the the “Estates-General of French Canada” (Les États généraux du Canada français” as being one of the root causes for other constitutional events snowballing over the past 40 years.  It’s a very poignant and powerful version of our recent history, and thus I believe it is beneficial to also view things from this vantage point.

Trudeau’s first attempt at a solution:

The Bi-Bi Commission made four major recommendations to the Federal government (in addition to other recommendations which touched upon various levels of jurisdiction).  There were nuances to each of the recommendations, but notwithstanding the nuances, the four major recommendations were:

  • The creation of bilingual districts in certain areas of Canada,
  • The creation of Francophone education rights in areas of Canada where there were needed,
  • That French and English become official languages of Canada,
  • That Ottawa be declared bilingual.

Prior to the collapse of the Estates-General, there were perceived signs of a softening by several provinces towards increasing Francophone and bilingual services.  However, in the wake of the collapse of the Estates-General and the pressure it would have brought to the table, Anglophone provincial governments were no longer so inclined to act of their own (in a sense, they too were “flipped the same bird” that Francophones outside Québec were “flipped” – so hey, what do you expect).

In the early 1970’s, the task was mostly left to the Federal government to take action alone, but their jurisdiction only reached so far (compared to the Federal government, the provinces held jurisdiction over many more matters which touched the daily lives of its citizens and Francophones across Canada).

The new Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, did what he could within his power, but he could only deal with what was within the Federal government’s jurisdiction.   He introduced greater bilingualism within the Federal government, and sought to protect Francophone rights across Canada at a Federal level.

However, with Trudeau having seen what happened with the collapse of the Estates-General, I would not be surprised if he felt as betrayed and as bitter as everyone else across Canada who expected a successful outcome of the Estates-General.   As Prime Minister, Trudeau was now facing difficult choices.

The Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism (the Bi-Bi Commission) was initially advocating for a bi-cultural country… one in which new immigrants would integrate into Canada’s two linguistic cultures (in some people’s minds, had the Estates-General succeeded, pressure from the outcome of the Bi-Bi Commission could have led to spin-off changes as dramatic as immigrants in places like Saskatchewan having to take English and French lessons, and even being compelled to pass French and English exams to obtain permanent residency or citizenship).

Eventually, it was possible that new segments of Anglophones also would have had to have adjusted to a new bilingual and bi-cultural reality (over a break-in period of a couple of decades or course).  One area being discussed was perhaps having to achieve a certain level of French prior to gaining a university diploma, or to be granted certain professional licenses.  Anglophone companies may have been required to have a core number of bilingual employees in order to secure federal incorporation status (Federal incorporation is necessary for any incorporated business which wishes to operate beyond their home province).   All of this would have made Canada a very different country than it is today.   To a major extent, it would have involved provincial governments in a whole new way.

Some of the above views may have been overly optimistic.  But had the Estates-General succeeded, there could have been a concerted, long-term movement in this direction all across Canada.

However, considering that Québec drew a line in the sand out of self-interest, I personally believe it led Pierre Trudeau to become fearful that accentuating that line, possibly by adopting an official policy of bi-culturalism, could increase the possibility for future betrayals – perhaps the kind which could tear the country apart in one fell swoop.

Thus, Trudeau did introduce a culturalism policy… but it was not bi-culturalism.   It was multiculturalism.   One of the people involved in the Bi-Bi Commission, Jaroslav Bohdan Rudnyckyj (of Ukrainian Cultural descent) advocated for multiculturalism.  But I’m inclined to think that perhaps in Trudeau’s mind, multiculturalism served as much a tool to ensure that no single linguistic or cultural group could ever “highjack” the country again, as it did as a nation-building tool for accommodations in a country becoming increasingly diverse.

And the 1970’s roared on:

In the meantime, nationalism in Québec soared during the 1970s.   It was actually quite ironic.   On one hand, war-cries were heard coming from Québec that sovereignty was necessary because Canada was not changing.  But on the other hand, much of what could have changed in Canada was killed by Québec’s own delegates during the Estates-General.  What could have been the most likely engine for change across Canada over the coming 3 to 4 decades was blasted to smithereens by the actions of Québec’s delegates.

As a side note:  Having grown up to a great extent in French in Alberta, I can attest to the fact that to this very day, there are Francophones outside of Québec and across Canada who remain bitter over what they perceive as having been betrayed and stabbed in the back by Québec’s delegates in 1967.   Thus it should come as no surprise that the reasons invoked to support the sovereignty movement in Québec are viewed as pure hypocrisy on the part of many Francophones outside Québec.

The 1970’s nationalist movement in Québec served to build arbitrary mental walls around Québec’s borders.   It created a “them and us” attitude at a time when grassroot movements outside Québec were trying to break beyond that notion.

This wall building exercise would have a conditioning effect on Québec’s people which continues to be felt today.

Trudeau’s job became more and more difficult.  I do not know if he made right or wrong decisions.  I do have thoughts regarding some of his decisions, but I have a difficult time concluding if my opinions are correct or not in light of the situations of the day (Should have Trudeau he chosen a different direction?  Did he go too far with some of his decisions?  Did he not go far enough on the socio-linguist front?  I truly do not know…).

But I am pretty sure Trudeau was between a rock and a hard place.  Either way, any decision he made would have left someone upset or disappointed (sometimes on one side, sometimes on the other).

Despite any errors he made, and despite if I or any others do or do not agree with his actions and decisions, he likely was acting in good faith considering the disappointing and “hand-tying” actions which came out of the Estates-General.   Had the Estates-General advocated as one strong voice for change from sea-to-sea, Trudeau’s job could have been much easier.  With the federal government in his pocket and the support of the Estates-General, it would have given him the ammunition and moral justification needed to go to all of the provinces to say “Fix this! Because I stand behind our people, coast-to-coast”.  But that opportunity was taken away from him in 1967, and from all others across Canada who wanted to fix Canada’s linguistic inequalities in the 1970s.

Instead, Trudeau was left fighting a referendum in 1980, during which ultra-nationalists were asking Québécois to leave Canada because Canada was not changing (do you too see the irony?).

The story does not stop here.  Numerous other events occurred after the 1980 referendum which provide background to today’s societal conditioning.


SERIES:  HOW THE PRESENTATION OF EVENTS IN MODERN HISTORY WHICH HAVE CONDITIONED US ALL REGARDING HOW WE VIEW OUR PLACE IN CANADA (13 POSTS)

Conditioning: Modern Canada’s “First” Night of the Long Knives – a trigger for the all the rest (#280)

In the last post, I introduced you to the Estates General of French Canada and its end goal.

For the rest of this post to make sense, I highly recommend you read the last post before continuing.  You can read it by clicking here:  The goal of the “Estates General of French Canada” (#279)

Keep in mind that I am presenting events from an angle of history which is not necessarily taught in Québec or in Anglophone Canada.   Rather, it is from the point of view of how Canada’s Francophones outside Québec tend to often view Canada’s recent history.

Francophones from all across Canada were attending the Estates General with the goal of correcting linguistic and cultural inequalities which had lasted for generations.  There was more than a good chance that it could / would lead to massive constitutional changes, a much more “egalitarian” Canada on the linguistic front, and major shift towards a broader “francisation” of Canada (much more than what exists in Canada today).

But what happened at the assize (round) of the Estates General in 1967 was unexepected, and completely different than what was planned.

The bombshell: The “FIRST Night of the Long Knives”

What occurred came to the shock (and horror) of Francophone delegates from Ontario, the Western Provinces, and the Atlantic provinces, as well as to the shock of Anglophones who were preparing to do their best to accommodate soon-to-be Francophone demands for inclusiveness across the country.

When it came time to introduce resolutions, without any warning the majority seat holders from Québec suddenly introduced and passed impromptu resolutions — none of which involved any prior consultation, examination, thought or the benefit of having their true implications examined.   These resolutions were never discussed or planned during the earlier 1966 Estates-General (which was when all of the general motions were to have been disclosed to all delegates from across Canada).

Lead by the very nationalistic personality Jacques-Yves Morin (who would soon become one of the pillars of the 1970s and 1980s sovereignist movement),  Québec’s delegates moved that:

  • French Canadians constitute a “nation”
  • That “Québec” is the “national territory” for the French Canadian nation
  • That this new French Canadian nation (ie: Québec) is free to choose its future, regardless of what form it would take.

In the eyes of all other Francophone delegates from outside Québec, they had been stabbed in the back.

If one was Francophone, but had only ever had ties to their respective regions of Canada (such as Alberta, for example), pursuant to these surprise resolutions, they as a people were worth nothing in the eyes of their cousins in Québec.  The anger and bitterness towards Québec on the part of Francophones elsewhere in Canada was unprecedented.

In 1967, Francophone delegates left the Estates-General and returned to their respective regions of Canada.   They left as a fractured people with Delegates from outside Québec feeling bitter and betrayed.  They never again met as one people under the same roof.   For the first time in Canadian history, the Francophone family was broken and parcelled..

It is worth noting that in 1967, Canada’s Francophone population outside Québec was proportionally larger than it is now.  Perhaps 20-30% of Canada’s Francophones resided outside of Québec at that time.

Two years later, In 1969, two major events occurred:

First event: 

The last of the assizes of the Estates-General of French Canada took place in Québec. But the Francophone delegates from the Western provinces, Ontario and the Atlantic provinces boycotted it.

Simply put, they did so out of a feeling of having been betrayed by Québec’s delegates in 1967.   When Francophones outside of Québec attended the 1967 assize, by way of agreements reached in 1965, they believed they were at the cusp of finally having the political and population clout behind them to change the status of French and Francophone society in Canada once and for all.   This was shattered by what they viewed as self-serving and selfish actions on the part of Québec delegates during the 1967 assize two years earlier.

Second event:  

The Bi-Bi Commission’s final report came out at a time when, had the Estates-General not collapsed, it would have likely had enough wind in its sails to not only have been fully implemented at a federal level, but quite likely at various provincial levels as well (for matters of provincial jurisdiction).

However, the walls Québec erected around itself left Anglophones sympathizers in government and across Canada, as well as a newly fragmented Francophone population in other provinces all alone to try to pick of the pieces of the Estates-General fiasco.  Those left behind could only manage to get by the best they could with recommendations of the Bi-Bi Commission’s final report.

The Estates-General of French Canada spelled the end of the traditional meaning of “French Canadians”, as one united people.  Québec began to erect walls, disassociate itself from the rest of Canada on many fronts, and to disassociated itself from the immediate efforts to fix many of Francophone Canada’s inequalities.

My personal take on it:  It was awful, a fiasco, and catastrophic.  I personally have never used the word, but I know other Francophones outside Québec who say it was “treason” (that’s how high emotions ran following the actions of Québec’s delegates).  Even today, when I go back to Alberta and Saskatchewan (which I do fairly regularly), this remains a very sensitive topic (It still floors me that Québec’s education system refuses to teach this equally valid angle of history).

It is for this reason that I call the Estates-General the First Night of the Long Knives.

Francophones outside of Québec felt they were stabbed in the back by their own people.  Anglophones and those in government who were working in good faith to help Canada’s Francophone cause also felt betrayed, and we – as a country – are still feeling the consequences today.

Francophones outside Québec were left on their own to try to invoke change with their respective provincial and local governments.  It was this event which gave birth to the notion of Franco-Columbians, Franco-Albertans, Fransaskois, Franco-Manitobans, Franco-Ontarians, and modern Acadians.  Consequently, much of what they have achieved since 1967 (either as individual societies, or as a combined force) has largely been of their own efforts without the direct backing from Québec.

Had Québec’s delegates not done what they did during the Estate-General, and had the Estates-General succeeded, I believe it is quite likely that Canada today would be a very different country.   The recommendations from the Bi-Bi Commission would have likely been implemented to a much greater extent, and much quicker… leaving a clear path for much deeper changes across the country.  I believe Canada today would be much more bilingual, much more bi-cultural, and our muticultural fabric today would revolve around a bi-cultural nature — much more than it does now.

A newly created notion of hermetic walls around Québec had been formed, and a new type of societal and institutional conditioning was about to begin… that of “institutionalized Québécois nationalism”.

The next post will look at how history moved forward in the wake of the failure of the Estates-General, bringing us to the end of the first referendum in 1980.


SERIES:  HOW THE PRESENTATION OF EVENTS IN MODERN HISTORY WHICH HAVE CONDITIONED US ALL REGARDING HOW WE VIEW OUR PLACE IN CANADA (13 POSTS)

Conditioning: The goal of the “Estates General of French Canada” (#279)

The next couple of blog posts regarding the Estates-General tend to discuss quite controversial and emotionally charged matters for many people – both Anglophone and Francophone.

I’m going to talk about some events which many Anglophones may not be aware of.

I am going to present events from an angle of history which is not necessarily taught in Québec, but rather from the point of view of how Canada’s Francophones outside Québec tend to often view Canada’s recent history.  It is a version which places extra weight on the failure of the the “Estates-General of French Canada” (Les États généraux du Canada français” as being one of the root causes for other constitutional events snowballing over the past 40 years.

Nonetheless, I believe the events I am about to talk about should not be overlooked (as they often are).  Having a more complete picture from various angles is always beneficial to understanding nuances so as to move forward.

The “Estates-General of French Canada”

By 1966, the Quiet Revolution in Québec was in full swing.  I don’t need to elaborate much on the Quiet Revolution.  It is something all Anglophones and Francophones in Canada study in school.

But I will say that it was a response to two major factors:

  1. It was a modernization and societal affirmation in response to a fast changing and re-ordered, post-WWII world, and
  2. it was a societal “realignment” to counteract perceived obstacles Francophones in Québec faced vis-à-vis Anglophone dominated industry and national (federal) politics.

But something else was occurring at the same time — something which is not taught in Anglophone Canada, which is only lightly skimmed over in Québec history books, and which is poorly understood in both Francophone and Canadian societies (Francophones outside of Québec perhaps know its history more than any other people in Canada).  It is an event which spanned from 1966 to 1969, and which we call the Estates General of French Canada (Les États-généraux du Canada français).

Prior to the 1960s, Canadians of Francophone heritage saw themselves as one cohesive group, regardless of where they lived in Canada.  Picture it this way… Imagine two whole maps of Canada.   Let’s say one map is coloured green and represents Anglophone Canada, and the other is coloured red and represents Francophone Canada.  Now superimpose those maps on top of each other, and the map of Canada turns yellow (red + green = yellow).   This is how Francophones used to view Canada as whole.

In a general societal context, Francophones did not view themselves in terms of a distinctive Québec or Francophone society which was demarcated by borders (the view many hold today).    There were no “Québécois”, or “Franco-Albertans” or “Franco-Ontarians” and even the term “Acadien” did not have the same significance as it does today.   There was only one term and one way of viewing oneself:  “French Canadian”… coast-to-coast.

But what happened in the last half of the 1960s at the Estates-General was a major game-changer.  It set much of the tone for the rest of Canadian society’s modern history – socially, constitutionally, and politically.

Post WWII Canada was rapidly changing from coast-to-coast.  It was having a tremendous effect on Francophone society across Canada, and Francophones saw themselves at a cross-roads.

On one hand, there were high degrees of Francophone assimilation across Canada.   But on the other hand, aspects of Post WWII Canadian society made it so that Anglophone Canadians were more “open” and “worldly” than they had ever been at any other time in Canadian history.  People were travelling on an unprecedented scales, television and radio made people aware of issues they never knew or thought about in the past, and people were becoming sensitive to the needs of others around them.  Francophones across Canada felt that a window of opportunity finally opened with which to allow them to affirm themselves, as one people, from coast-to-coast, and thereby not only counteract assimilation, but to also grow their societies on equal footing with Anglophone Canadians.

In 1966, Francophone delegates from across Canada gathered in Montréal.   They were comprised of large numbers of “French Canadian delegates” from all regions of Canada.  Most were French Canadian community leaders, union heads, or French Canadians who had constant interaction with their local or regional governments.  They gathered in Montréal to discuss how to advance French Canadian culture in a national context so as to be able to adapt to, and thrive in a new Post WWII Canada.

The assizes (rounds) of the Estates-General were to take place annually, starting in 1966.  The goal was to come up with resolutions to seek changes to the Canadian federation, from coast-to-coast.  They were to make Canada a country where all Francophones (and Anglophones) could live, and feel at home – regardless of the region of Canada.   In a sense, it was like an unofficial “Francophone parliament”.   The clincher was that the Estates-General has such a large population backing it (more than 30% of Canada’s population), that its clout would be difficult for Canada’s provincial governments and federal government to ignore.   For many, a sense of change was in the air.

The timing of the start of the Estates-General was appropriate, and telling.  Québec, as a province, was going through its own Quiet Revolution.   But many other aspects of Canadian society and various provinces were also going through their own styles of a “Quiet Revolution”.

Alberta was set to make the leap to abandon a Social Credit philosophy-based government and to embrace a massive movement of secularization, economic realignment, and industrial nationalization.  Saskatchewan was embracing a new wave of political progressivism and secularization.  BC’s, Manitoba’s and Ontario’s industries and governments were undergoing tremendous changes and adapting to a new era of trade and international interactions.   The Atlantic provinces were having to completely restructure their way of interacting with the rest of the country – politically and economically – to keep pace with the changes in what was quickly becoming a new, modern Canada (one in which a Post-WWII realignment saw Atlantic province prosperity shift more and more towards Central Canada).

The first assize (round) of the Estates-General of French Canada took place in 1966.  It was simple in the sense that it was not meant to pass resolutions.   Rather, it was to set the agenda for future Estates-General – so that everyone was on the same page (it could be considered the “negotiating stage” to ensure that all delegates were on the same page).

The planning of the Estates-General did not go unnoticed in English Canada.   Changes were in the wind within Anglophone Canada itself.  Anglophones in Post-WWII Canada were coming to the realization that French was to be treated on “equal-footing” in English Canada.  In the early 1960s, the Federal government’s Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism (the Bi-Bi Commission) was mandated to look at ways to correct linguistic inequalities.  Various provincial governments were also looking at similar matters.

Anglophone Canadians across Canada, who previously had no prior interaction with any aspect of Francophone culture were actually beginning to take notice — and to take an interest.   A good number of concerned unilingual Anglophones launched was became the very first French immersion programs (in the late 1950s in Central Canada, eventually spreading to parts of Western Canada in the 1960s).

Francophones themselves were educating their provincial and local governments across Canada, and dialogue was finally beginning on a level never seen before in the history of Canada.

I don’t want to make it sound like everything was picture-perfect.  It was not.  There were many challenges to be overcome.  There would be a long road for all Francophone demands to be met.  But the time was better than it had ever been to undertake such a journey.   And the chances for success were better than at any other point in the past.

Anglophone Canada was beginning to brace itself for major linguistic changes – socially and politically.  For the first time in history, Anglophone Canada was preparing to carve a new prominent place for Francophones in Canadian society – from British Columbia, stretching all the way to Newfoundland.    It would likely occur on an asymmetric basis, with variances between the provinces – but national change appeared to be coming.

The second assize of the Estates-General of French-Canada took place in 1967 with all of the above happening in the background.   Again, it was made up French Canadian delegates, nominated from across Canada – over 1600 in fact (with the majority being from Québec).

In the minds of most delegates, this was going to be the start of a major push to bring about sweeping changes across Canada – once and for all.  And many believed that the time was right for it to work.

The Estates-General were going to deal with, and attempt to put into action a plan which would finally resolve (in a national sense) Francophone matters of

  • the status of French in Canada (including its use as an official language federally, with windows and options open to push for it to be adopted as an official language in most, if not all provinces — at least in some capacity)
  • radio & television (with the establishment of local stations and networks in all provinces and major cities… much larger, deeper, and wide-reaching than the current status of Radio-Canada),
  • work legislation (so that companies across Canada would be better able to deal with Francophone customers and staff from ocean to ocean, and resolutions which could influence provincial civil services),
  • social services and health matters (bilingual and Francophone services, hospitals, and benefits -all across Canada),
  • education advancement
  • family affairs
  • agriculture
  • finance and banking
  • Canada’s international relations
  • other resolutions as deemed necessary.

As an aside:  Just to give you an example of how significant the Estates-General could have been…  I know numerous people in British Columbia who still recall talk of potential legislation in the 1960s, to be implemented in the 1970s, with which to mandate all restaurants to provide bilingual French/English menus – in British Columbia!  That’s how wide-reaching an impact the pressure from the Estates-General could have been.

For the first time in history, there was actually much excitement about being able to resolve many of the above issues.  The Bi-Bi Commission’s preliminary report had come out in 1965, and it was becoming clear that Anglophones were taking note of issues they historically had not paid much attention to.   But with the advent of Post-WWII modernization, international integration and mobility, such issues were difficult to ignore any longer.

However what happened next, during the 1967 assize of the Estates-General, forever changed the course of French Canada’s history, and that of Canada as a whole.   It was a case of shock and horror — which I will discuss in the next post.


SERIES:  HOW THE PRESENTATION OF EVENTS IN MODERN HISTORY WHICH HAVE CONDITIONED US ALL REGARDING HOW WE VIEW OUR PLACE IN CANADA (13 POSTS)

Conditioning: In the context of Canada’s “modern” history (#278)

In the last post, I spoke about negative consequences (and misunderstood realities) when conditioning provides an incomplete picture of Canada’s bi-cultural and bilingual reality – within the realms of Canada’s two dominant societies:  Francophones and Anglophones.

In this post (and the next few posts), we will look at the “modern” historical context which has played a major role in shaping much of our current conditioning.

There are a number of events in recent history which have shaped our national psyche, which in turn has given rise to a certain conditioning set”, and thus affects how Francophones and Anglophones view each other (or do not view each other).

For lack of a better term, bluntly stated, this has led to numerous “mental blocks” within Canada’s Two Solitudes.  Such mental blocks provide momentum for a viscous circle, and the continuation of the Two Solitudes.

What in Canada’s recent history “triggered” such mental blocks?

We can re-word the question to ask :

  • “In the past 50 years, what happened to condition” Canada’s Francophone and Anglophone societies to act in a manner which continues to perpetuate the notion of the Two Solitudes?”

Canada’s history can be divided into major periods:

  • Canada’s “earlier” history and
  • Canada’s modern” history.

What distinguishes these two histories is that the witnesses, players and decision makers from Canada’s “earlier” history are mostly gone, or will soon pass away.   The witnesses, players and decisions makers in Canada’s “modern” history are often still alive or can still be remembered, and are sometimes still in a position to be able to influence the outcome of the future.

It is a natural emotional response that human beings accord value to “pride and honour”.  Thus it is no surprise that so many people around the globe accord more weight to “earlier” history than they do to “modern” history (that is why we see wars and agendas being fought today on the basis of events which occurred many generations or even centuries ago).

Yet, I have always believed that such weight tends to be misplaced.  We cannot hold people accountable for the actions of past generations.  Past generations lived in a different value system, and frankly in a very different culture (to the extent that people of past eras would be from a completely different planet if they were to be compared to modern generations).   That is why I shake my head when I hear arguments for sovereignty based on past events such as 1914 conscription, the consequences of the patriot riots in the 1800s, or school abolition acts in the 1930s.

The way I reconcile such issues is by asking myself the following two questions:

  1. Would those events be promoted, valued, or exacerbated in our modern society if someone were to attempt to re-create them today?, and
  2. If not, are steps being taken today, at a societal level, to correct mistakes of the past (to the extent that they can be corrected within existing mechanisms and in a modern context)?

As events in and of themselves, Canada’s “earlier” history should be left to history, rather than to the whims of emotional response.

The “modern” history equation:

Owing to the illogical nature of granting greater weight to earlier history than to modern history, we can and should place greater emphasis on our “modern” history.   Yet, there are also dangers in according too much weight to modern history as well.  Modern history is not immune to mistakes or events stemming from misunderstandings.   But modern history affords us the luxury of making corrections to the mistakes of the the recent past before they become etched in society’s collective consciousness.

Our “modern” history is a tale of so many nuances.  Thus, we should view it as many shades of grey, rather than as black and white.

In the most general of terms, more hardcore elements of Québec’s sovereignist movement unfortunately tend to view our modern history as black and white, as do certain entrenched aspects of Canada’s unilingual Anglophone political establishment, headed by certain unilingual Anglophone politicians and community leaders.

For the purposes of this series on conditioning, I will define Canada’s modern history as the period in which many witnesses are still alive, and in which major changes occurred which gave rise to most of our modern value sets.   Therefore, we can say that Canada’s modern history began roughly around the mid-1960s.

View it this way… prior to the mid-1960’s, people lived within a very different value set.   Thus, for the purposes of the next few posts, let us wipe the slate clean from anything prior to 1965, and let’s start to look at things from that point on.

Viewed in this manner, we can say that the first major national Anglophone / Francophone event after 1965 would also be the first major event in the modern story of the Two Solitudes – the point which set the tone for later events.

In the next post I will discuss what I believe is this first major event in the modern story of the Two Solitudes… The Estates-General of French Canada (les États généraux du Canada français).


SERIES:  HOW THE PRESENTATION OF EVENTS IN MODERN HISTORY WHICH HAVE CONDITIONED US ALL REGARDING HOW WE VIEW OUR PLACE IN CANADA (13 POSTS)