Monday, May 11, 2009

Understanding Quebec

The Clarity Act and Bill 99 exist for one reason. That reason is because Quebec did not sign the Constitution. And because they are not technically part of Canada, Quebec wants to separate and this is how this whole thing started. But this essay will discuss this topic in more depth.

On November15, 1976, the PQ government was brought into power. They promised to have a referendum and on May20, 1980, they did. So make Quebec vote no on this referendum, Trudeau promised, that if Quebec votes no and they do not separate, he will make Quebec feel more at home. So because in 1980 Quebec voted no on the referendum, Trudeau had to keep his promise.

In 1982, Trudeau kept his word and he held a meeting with all the Premiers to make Canada a better place to live, including Quebec. But Quebec’s Premier, Rene Levesque, was not interested in making Canada better. The only thing he was interested in was to make Quebec better. During that meeting, Trudeau changed Bill 101 a bit, regarding the section on the education and the signs. Now if someone wanted to go to English school on Quebec, they were allowed only if their parents went to English in Canada, from kindergarten to grade 7. And English signs were allowed to appear but they had to be smaller and less frequent. All the provinces were happy and sign the Constitution except for Quebec. So because Canada forced Quebec to modify Bill 101, Rene Levesque was not happy at all. In fact, he was very angry and upset. Because he was upset, then, he did not sign the Constitution and the Constitutional Act failed. These two changes, in a way, prevented Quebec from signing the Constitution.

In 1987, there was another attempt to make Quebec sign the Constitution. Mulroney was the Prime Minister and his only concern was to make Quebec sign the Constitution so he can go down in history as one of the greatest PM of all of Canada’s history. So this meeting was in Meech Lake. Bourassa, the new Premier of Quebec, said Quebec will sign the Constitution if you meet these five demands. All the provinces agreed to them but they also agreed to go back home and ask their province what they think about it. Three years later, on the day of St. Jean Baptist, they met again. All the Premiers agree to sign the Constitution except for Manitoba and New Brunswick. Later Newfoundland pulls out of it too. These provinces did not trust Quebec because Quebec previously overturned the Supreme Court for the Freedom of Expression case. But then they all changed their minds and decided that they were going to sign it but because of Elijah Harper it wasn’t able to be discussed in their parliament. He did this because he didn’t think it was right that Quebec was going to be distinct before the natives do. So because of this, the Meech Lake Accord failed because not all the provinces signed it.

Bourassa was shocked that it failed so he claims that Quebec was Rejected, Humiliated and Victimized. So after, the Belanger-Campeau Commission was set up to ask Quebecers what do to. One year later, they come back and say this. Either we have a referendum and separate from Canada or Canada has to give us better offers.

To prevent Quebec from separating, Mulroney calls a meeting with all the Premiers. This was in 1992 and in this year separation was at its peak. So if Quebec had a referendum, Quebec would have separated. It was called the Charlottetown Accord. And the main purpose was to prevent Quebec from separating. Mulroney offers Quebec several things. Mulroney says to Quebec that these were excellent offers while he says to the rest of Canada that they are just okay. Anyways, there is a referendum across Canada, to see whether these offers were good or not. But in the end, the offers were too much for the rest of Canada and they were too little for Quebec. So the Charlottetown Accord failed.

Because of the failures of the Meech Lake Accord and the Charlottetown Accord, the Liberals were thrown out of power and the PQ went in power. They promise that there will be a referendum in exactly one year and that would be in October 1995. In that referendum, the PQ government cheated immensely. They lied on the Question persuading people to believe that Quebec established an Economic and a Political Partnership with Canada. This was not true. The agreement they signed was that Bourchard, Parizeau and Dumont would work together. Also, they did not register all the immigrants for the voting because they knew they would vote no. And when they counted the ballets, they many NO votes for several stupid reasons like that the x went passed the boundaries. They all told the NO voters to put their initials so it can be disqualified. But even after all the cheating, the NO side just won the referendum.

As a result of all the cheating and Quebec setting all the rules for the referendum, Canada was forced to come up with a plan. It was plan B. They would go to the Supreme Court of Canada to make them answer some questions referring to a referendum. The questions were 1) Who makes the Question on the referendum? 2) State he rules about winning the referendum. Or in other words, state the majority. 3) If the YES side wins, does Canada have to negotiate with Quebec? And 4) How big will Quebec be after the referendum, if they separate? The Supreme Court answered these questions and as a result Canada made a law out of this.

Canada passed the Clarity Act. It said that the House of Commons must first approve the Question. It also stated that the majority had to be clear and that Canada has to negotiate with Quebec if they vote YES on the referendum. And it adds that if Quebec separates, yes, they would be smaller in territory.

Quebec responded to the Clarity Act by passing Bill 99. It basically says that Quebec alone shall determine the Question. The majority is 50%+1 and the territory can not and will not be altered in any way.

In my opinion, the Clarity Act is more efficient than Bill 99. First of all, the Clarity Act comes from a higher source than Bill 99. So if this issue ever goes to court, the Clarity Act will always defeat Bill 99. This is because the Clarity Act comes from the federal government whereas Bill 99 comes from a provincial government. And the federal government is always superior to the provincial government. But besides that fact, the Clarity Act makes more sense than Bill 99 overall on all four issues. Canada should have a say on the Question in the referendum. They should be able to approve the question or not because the referendum not only affects Quebec but also Canada too. So if Canada is involved, they should have a say on the Question. Regarding the issue with the majority, the majority does not necessarily mean over 50% because it might not portray what exactly the population wants. For example, what if only 5% of the population voted on the referendum. Even if they voted Yes on the referendum, this is just a small percentage of the population and it definitely does not represent what the population as a whole would want. So regarding the majority, the turnout of the referendum must be analyzed along with the percentage of how many voted Yes and how many voted No. On the matter of negotiation, they both agreed to discuss the issue so there is no argument there. It is only fair that Canada discusses with Quebec separation. Negotiation does not necessarily mean that Quebec will separate. So negotiation is a must but only if Quebec votes Yes. But on the matter of the size of the territory, they differ. If Quebec does separate from Canada, Canada should make Quebec a lot smaller by taking land away from them. It is only fair. It was Canada, in the first place that gave that land to Quebec as a gift so it is only fair that they have the right to take it away from them. Also, a lot of natives live up north and they clearly say that they do not want to go and separate with Quebec. They want to stay in Quebec. So if that is their wishes then that is what they should get.

But even if the Clarity Act is superior to Bill 99, that won’t stop Quebec from doing anything because what if Quebec wants a referendum. So they write a question. If Canada rejects it, Quebec will still go ahead with that same Question because in their Bill it says that Quebec alone shall determine the Question. They believe that Canada should have no role in it. So if they go ahead with that Question and the public votes Yes, then Canada would have to negotiate. But they won’t because Quebec broken the Clarity Act by using the rejected Question. So Quebec would just separate. It would be called Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI). So if this happens then there might be a civil war within Canada. But for sure Canada will bring in the army. If Canada brought in the army for the FLQ crisis and the Oka crisis, which were relatively small compared to this, then we must conclude that Canada would call in the army. And maybe if things get heated up, there might be a civil war. So this could cause a lot of problems. This would happen if you chose the Clarity Act, though.

In conclusion, even though the Clarity Act may cause severe damage to Canada and its reputation, this is still a better and more effective law than Bill 99.

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