Separatist Pipedreams

Quebec in Canada

© Kacnepcku-Cp6uja / Creative Commons

Recently, Mme Marois, leader of the separatist Parti Québécois, mused that an independent Québec would not raise borders with Canada, and would use Canadian currency; there would be free passage to Canadians in Québec, and Québécois in Canada. Supporters promptly chimed-in to point to the European Union as an example.

But Europe is a continent on a path to unity, not shards of a broken country in recovery. Europe got where it is today along a long road of hard negotiation, against a tide of individual countries clinging to their sovereignties, and local economic interests and grievances, all of which needed to undergo adjustment for free movement, open markets, and a unified currency to work — and whether a unified currency can, in fact, work among countries with dis-unified fiscal policies remains an open question now being sorely tested.

While an independent Québec could independently recognize any currency it pleases, it is a far cry from there to expect to have a voice in monetary policy concerning that currency, without similar tough negotiations and consequent adjustment to its sovereignty.

Québec as an independent country with complete control of who or what can pass its borders cannot rationally expect to operate open borders with other countries unless its policies and practices are, in fact, harmonized in salient ways with those other countries. This is true for work permits and residential rights, communications, transport, duties, tariffs, taxes, social services, and all the movement of goods and provision of services across those borders. This requires negotiation, and treaties.

It should be realized that in Confederation the provinces are not in fact lower-orders of government beneath the federal government; they are siblings, none subservient to any other. They each have their own disjoint jurisdictions, and some shared ones. They are each, in that sense, sovereign already, with accommodations made to make it all work. Canada — Confederation — is already a sovereignty association.

Québec separatist discussions seem never to reach a point of describing the full nature of a separated, “sovereign” Québec: What boundaries? What form of government? What constitution? And, most crucially, what rights and freedoms? And in accommodating some manner of economic union or so-called sovereignty-association, how would these be circumscribed or modified?

Once you fill-in the details of an independent Québec that doesn’t diminish the rights and freedoms of its people, any eventual sovereignty association with Canada would look, I suspect, a lot like Confederation.

It is a great shame that Mme Marois and her supporters, bent on this foolish path blinded in bitter memories of ancient grievances, cannot see that they’ve already got now pretty-much what they’re looking-for, absent the devastating economic and social upheaval, and the deep, biting anger and backlash that will ensue from attempting to break it apart.

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