Throughout Canadian history the politics of Quebec have been a virtual theatre for the rest of the country. We watch the never ending charades play themselves out from decade to decade and generation to generation. It is almost like being at a perpetual state of war from the Orwellian 1984. Never is it satisfied. Never has just the right peace been achieved. Many in this country consider this type of politics to be deliberately designed to "milk the system" for all it's worth. Some say it is just a symptom of the underlying inferiority complex that seems to pervade most utterances from the government of Quebec. Yet others will argue, while not excluding the previous two points, that the government of Quebec is in a sense brainwashing it's people to believe they are constantly persecuted and wronged and therefore are entitled to separate for the good of all. In the west, some folks think it's a deliberate strategy to cause such resentment that not only would we not fight to keep Quebec, but that we would in fact be happy to see her go.
Some or all of these arguements may have an element of truth, but how do they manage it? How does the government of Quebec keep coming up with claims over this or that? What is the basis for their grievances?
Purely and simply - it's poker. They are the best political poker players in the country, and they are playing against people who for the most part don't want to offend them by calling their bluff. Often, it takes a Quebecer to call the bluff of the government of Quebec. A few instances: Prime Minister Trudeau invoking the War Measures Act and putting troops on the street in Quebec; and Prime Minister Chretien stating that if Canada can be divided then so can Quebec. That one got the separatists so riled up they proclaimed that Quebec's territory was sacred. This is the line of thought I wish to follow.
Is Quebec's territory really sacred? Based on what? While prior to the Conquest of "New France" in 1760 there was no Quebec. Quebec was formed by the British in 1763. The inhabitants were granted the use of their language and civil code. Those that did not want to accept British rule were given eighteen months to leave. That was the eternal birth of the Province of Quebec. A small strip of land running from Montreal to the large opening of the St Lawrence to the Atlantic. That was the "sacred" territory. Whatever other territory that may have had a French presence in New France was given to Britain, by France, with the exception of St Pierre and Miquelon - which remains a French possession to this day. So that part of the Treaty of Paris has been respected.
The Quebec Act of 1774 further enlarged the territory. However, losses of territory during the War of Independance and the creation of an Upper and Lower Canada again split the new territory - esentially in half. Again, the sacred territory of Quebec was decided by Britain and reduced and enlarged at will.
The modern growth of the territory of Quebec really happened in 1898 with the creation of the Quebec Boundaries Act, passed into legislation by the Parliament of Canada. A second edition of this Act was passed by Parliament in 1912. Modern day Quebec's "sacred territory" was therefore permitted by an Act of the Parliament of Canada. Remembering Prime Minister Chretien's comment on Quebec's divisibility, it is easy to see that should the Parliament of Canada decide to rescind the Quebec Boundaries Act, the entire portion of territory granted in that Act would revert back to the Crown - Government of Canada. Many argue that it is completely illegal for Quebec to separate in any case, but there is no question that a national Parliament can rescind it's own legislation.
The problem with telling a lie is that bigger and bigger lies become necessary to explain the first. To give it legitimacy. To make it historical. That brings us to another more present myth. The Old Harry oil field. Located some 80 kilometers from Quebec's Iles-de-la-Madeleine this 29 kilometre long oil/gas field is becoming central to a dispute over provincial maritime borders. Only one problem. There are no provincial maritime borders. There are no provincial maritime economic zones or maritime territorial waters. None. Another bluff by the government of Quebec. Another lie told to the people of Quebec by their government, and it's separatist opposition. The government of Quebec refuses to sign an accord with the federal government, as every other province must do, should they wish to explore for offshore oil and gas. It insists the federal government must recognize Quebec's sole jurisdiction to it's territorial waters. Of all the guff!
Then there is Quebec's arrogant assertion that it does not recognize Labrador as a part of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Unfortunatley, for Quebec, that issue was legally settled. The dispute over Labrador was between the then countries of Canada and Newfoundland. Unable to reach a compromise they submitted the dispute to the Privy Council of Great Britain for arbitration, and in 1927 it was reaffirmed by that body that Labrador belonged to Newfoundland. When Newfoundland and Labrador entered Confederation in 1949 the Terms of Confederation recognized that territorial fact. Yet the government of Quebec continues to place Labrador as part of Quebec on it's website.
Here's were the poker comes in. The very nature of a bluff is that you have nothing in your hand, yet you want others to believe you do. Here's what happens with a bluff. Your opponent folds blindly, or he calls your bluff and you must eat humble pie and lay down your cards. Despite any purported agreement on maritime boundaries for the provinces between the Maritime provinces, Quebec, and the then Leader of the Official Opposion Mr. Stanfield (1964), no such agreement could exist without a constitutional amendment or an Act of Parliament at the least. Therefore, to say this group defined the boundaries, as Quebec argues, is akin to saying some folks got together at Tim Horton's and came up with the deal. It has no legal, or even logical basis in fact. The oceans belong to Ottawa from the low tide mark out. The Supreme Court decided it. Hey Quebec, wake up! Your bluff has been called. Newfoundland is exploring for natural gas and oil at Old Harry with the permission of the federal government. It is not sawing off it's nose to spite it's face. There are no sea borders for provinces. Deal with it or lose out altogether.
The same goes for Labrador. It was stripped from France before there was a "Quebec" by force of arms. It was granted to Newfoundland by Britain. It has been recognized by the British Privy Council, the Parliament of Canada, and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. There is no debate, and your recognition of the facts is not required. I suspect that should the time ever come that Quebec hopes to separate, and I hope it never does, that the Government of Canada will call your bluff too. Afterall, should they rescind the territorial expansion act, Newfoundland and Labrador might very well inherit all of current day northern Quebec, and all it's bounty therein. Did you hear that Mr. Ducceppe? Oh sorry I forgot you are in Europe promoting and getting the world ready for Quebec's separation.
Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the
round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're
not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify
them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change
things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the
crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)