How should one vote in the forthcoming referendum: an unnerving question indeed and a potentially embarrassing one in the present circumstances in Quebec, where the “in” thing to do at the moment seems to be say “no” to anything issuing from the mouth of Premier Bourassa or that of Prime Minister Mulroney. (What comes out of Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s is not any better, from my point of view.)
I have, nevertheless, decided to risk my head, the more so since the writing of a little piece of advice with respect to this matter would give me another occasion to put forward one of my most profoundly-held beliefs, which is that Quebec will not be so much saved or preserved by its politics or its politicians as it will be by the basic health of its culture, wherever culture affects family values.
I would first like to underline that the October 26 referendum is not going to be an exercise in self-determination, as was made quite clear by Bourassa’s timely modification of Bill 150:
“The Quebecers,” he said, “were simply not ready to pronounce for or against sovereignty … The government ( of Quebec) has decided to hold a referendum that could not have the possible effect of blocking Quebec’s right to elf-determination to be exercised at an appropriate time, if need be.” ( La Presse, September 19, 1992)
Rejection does not mean independence
Therefore, even a rejection, on October 26, of the constitutional offers made at Charlottetown would not necessarily mean an automatic accession by Quebec to the status of an independent country. A political crisis of the first magnitude would certainly ensue-perhaps even some degree of agitation and turbulence, but not of the sort, it seems to me, that further federal/provincial negotiation could not grapple with and eventually resolve. I think it is important to be thus keenly conscience of the limited significance a negative vote in the October 26 referendum would have on the future of Canada as a whole. This being said, I do declare myself in favour of the constitutional proposals arrived at in Charlottetown. Why?
Because I do think that they came pretty close to giving Quebec the kind of status that a ratification of the Meech Lake Accords would have given it two years ago, i.e., within the Canadian Federation. Very important in this regard is the provision where by Quebec will always retain a minimum of 25 per cent of the seats in the House of Commons. Premier Bourassa is right in saying that at a time of unprecedented demographic regression in his Province, this represents a major concession on the part of English speaking Canada. This particular feature, added to the fact that Quebec will continue to have a proportion of three civil Law, judges on the Supreme Court, and further added to the even more weighty fact that Quebec (like all the other provinces and Federal Government for that matter) will enjoy a right of veto over future proposals for amendments to the Constitution, this feature, I say, does arm Quebec with the instrument it needs to maintain, strengthen and even enhance its identity within the Canadian body politic.
If, however, these tools should turn out to be unequal to the task of achieving the ends they are intended for Quebec will always have the option of re-opening the constitutional dossier.
The Charlottetown offers, if accepted, would, therefore, make it possible for Quebec to continue to develop in line with its own cultural, social and linguistic traditions within the continental framework of Canada, thus contributing very effectively, through its inner distinctiveness, to the building of a strong Canadian identity vis-à-vis the all-powerful United States. This has been a constant objective of Canada’s national politics since the days of the American Revolution.
Unity is the trend
It seems to me that at a time when Europe is uniting- despite the growing pains of Maastricht- and when the rest of the world is coalescing more and more into higher and higher organizational units, it would be an odd choice for Quebec “to go it alone” in a continent that would, furthermore, have been made embittered by this Province’s refusal of what appears to be a rational and moderate compromise, freely arrived at, among equal partners. The wise thing to do for Quebec is to stay In, not opt out.
Constitutions don’t make a nation
This being said, I now return to my basic thesis, which has always been mine, even I before I joined the pro-life movement, that Quebec’s French character can and will only be preserved in the end by Ides petits parlants francais I(little French-speakers), not by constitutional arrangements alone, astute as they maybe be: our whole French Canadian history is there to prove it.
What do we do now, instead of having children? We prevent or kill them through contraception or sterilization, and when this does not work, through abortion (in Quebec 35,000 a year). Lately, we have had recourse to euthanasia as well and we will soon, I predict, engage in eugenics.
Salvation comes from elsewhere
When one considers that Quebec has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, one is justified to ask with deep concern and anxiety : Where are we going? Campagne Quebec-Vie’s motto is: “Un peuple qui tue ses enfants n’a pas d’avenir”( A nation which kills its children has no future): there is a self- evident truth if ever there was one!
But the will to continue in existence is not motivation enough to keep us going as a nation: we need something higher and much deeper.
Only the idea of God, the only valid answer to the enigma of this world, is motivation enough to keep us on the Way of Life. Atheism means death! Death of the spirit, death of the flesh and finally, death of the soul forever. Theoretical atheism seems to have been fatally wounded in the last two years. Yes, but there remains the practical atheism of our Western democracies and this is no less deadly.
Canada’s and Quebec’s only chance of survival will be ensured when we solemnly enshrine in our Constitutions that life must be respected from the time of natural death. Constitutions and amendments to constitutions can only amount to stop-gap measures if they are not founded on the rock-bottom principles of the sacredness of human life.
The Yes Vote
PC Brian Mulroney:
“ Referendum will be a choice between the salvation or destruction of Canada” (Aug.28)
PC Joe Clark:
-Deal enhances power of senators.
-It (new senate) is a “quantum move toward a more democratic Canada.”
-Deal addresses every major constitutional issue of the last decade.
-It will put to rest strident calls within Quebec for separate nationhood. Sept.3
if the votes ia No, Canada could descend into civil war… it could become another Beirut…(Spet.16)
NDP: Gains are
-a recognition of equality of male and female in the Canada clause.
-the Social Charter
-gains on aboriginal issues.
-greater efficiency because of division of power.
-greater sensitivity to different parts of the country.Aug.31
Ontario (Bob Rae)
– A yes vote is necessary for the unity of the country, ( Aug.28;Sept 1)
– ‘It advances the cause of federalism further than anything we’ve done in recent memory.” (sept.1)
– “if the answer is No, we then face a major crisis and a major problem.” (Sept. 1)
– “A No vote will create a huge political crisis. It would be devastating for the economy…” (Sept.11 and Sept.15)
– “Even if Quebec votes Yes, her right to self-determination remains intact,” (Aug.29)
– “October 26 won’t mark the end of Quebec’s constitutional demands” (sept.7)
– “ A yes vote will not put an end to the constitutional crisis.” (sept.9)
– “A No vote will plunge Quebec into economic uncertainty..(Sept.9)
The No Vote
– A no vote for independence is just a rejection of this agreement.(Sept. 4)
– Jean Allaire, Quebec Liberal, joins Mr. Parizeau in opposing new Constitution. Allaire wants it known he is not a sovereignties. (Sept.3)
No to Quebec is distinct
Eight Quebec Political Scientists
– Distinct society clause is of no benefit to Quebec
– It is contradicted by other clauses
– It will be a source for litigation and court interpretations (Sept.7)
– proposed Senate reforms are ineffective
– guaranteed 25% of seats in House for Quebec deviates from principle all provinces are equal
– Canadians have to many Mps already. (Sept.3)
– ‘Proposals on self-rule hollow,” Manitoba chiefs (Sept.2)
– “Overall response of aboriginals remains muted” (Iroquois Confederation opposed)
(In the native community silence means dissent).(Miles Morriseau, Ottawa Citizen, Sept.3)