[The following aricle is over thirty years old. Yet, aside from the personalities mentioned, it clearly valid today. What happens to Quebec, affects us all, in Canada and the United States! Quebec saparatism is nothing less than political blackmail by le Bloc and the Parti Quebecois.]



Behind Canada's Unity Crisis, Will Quebec Secede ?

By Gene H. Hogberg

[The Plain Truth Magazine, May 1978]


The friendly neighbor Americans take for granted is facing her most serious challenge ever as a nation. At stake is the economic well-being and military security not only Canada but of all North America.



Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau may soon be facing the sternest test of his ten years in office. He is expected to call for general elections later this year, and his popularity, recent polls reveal, has been slipping. His chief opponent, Progressive Conservative leader Joe Clark from Alberta, is. on the other hand, gaining somewhat after a slow start. The 39-year-old Mr. Clark has projected a positive image in recent parliamentary sessions, which are now televised.

Mr. Trudeau's Liberal Party is losing favor mainly because of Canada's faltering economy. The Canadian dollar has now slipped to U.S. $.89 (its lowest level since the early years of the Great Depression) from a high of U.S. $1.03 a year and a half ago. Unemployment hovers at a stubborn 8.5 percent, inflation at 9.5 percent.

Real Issue-Separatism


Yet despite the country's economic doldrums, the contest could be decided on the overriding issue of separatism (the threatened independence of the predominantly French-speaking province of Quebec). Trudeau, an avowed federalist, is the political archrival of Quebec Premier Rene Levesque, the leader of the separatist Parti Quebecois which was stunningly swept into power on November 15, 1976. Until now, Trudeau, who is three-quarters French Canadian, has enjoyed widespread support even from
English-speaking Canadians as the best man to hold Canada together. But there is a discernible countervailing mood too: that the fate of the country can't be left to two Quebeckers, with Canada's predominant British stock left standing in the background.

However the national elections turn out. the life-and-death showdown over Canada's future may not be far off.

Which cause will prevail-Canadian unity or Quebec nationhood? And if Quebec pulls out, what is likely to be its future along with that of the rest of Canada? What about the massive network of trade and investments between Canada and the United States? How would an independent Quebec, occupying a strategic chunk of North America, affect continental defense arrangements?

These are all mighty big questions and we may not have long to find out the answers. Premier Levesque has promised to hold a referendum in Quebec over the issue of independence before the next provincial election in 1980. If Quebec's voters give him the mandate he is looking for-by voting for the P.Q. program of political sovereignty coupled with economic association with the rest of Canada - Levesque has promised to negotiate with federal authorities in Ottawa for Quebec's hopefully peaceful exit.

Mr. Trudeau has vowed, on the other hand, never to be the one to negotiate Canada's division.

How Much Reform?


The separatism issue is a major factor in Canada's gloomy economic picture. Money, which is a political coward, is leaving the country, especially from Quebec. Foreign investors are holding off on large commitments.

To be sure, not all of Canada's economic and political problems can be pinned to the Quebec impasse. The booming mineral-rich provinces of Western Canada and the economically stagnant Maritimes along the Atlantic seaboard are both dissatisfied with the concentration of political power in the hands of the central government in Ottawa. These areas have also long complained of what they consider discriminatory tariffs and freight rates designed to favor the industrial heartland of Ontario and Quebec.

Western premiers have repeatedly called for a restructuring of Canada's Senate and Supreme Court to better reflect the country's current demographic balance. which has shifted westward.

Yet Canada's regional differences. while sharp, do not appear to be unbridgeable. In a meeting last year, for example, the premiers of Canada's four western provinces, while outlining their grievances with the current federal system, nevertheless stressed that "the values. benefits and potentials of confederation far outweigh the current disadvantages. "

In other words, they pledged to work within the system. At the same time, they "firmly rejected" the independent aims of the current Quebec government.

Thus the unity crisis in Canada is, in its final analysis, primarily one of conflicting nationalisms and currently revolves around two different perceptions of the future role in North America to be played by Canada's French-speaking population, most of whom are concentrated in La Belle Province of Quebec. Furthermore, the two current standard-bearers of the struggle-Trudeau and Levesque are both Quebecois.

Two Mutually Exclusive Viewpoints


During the ten years he has been in office, Mr. Trudeau has vigorously pursued a policy of bilingualism and multiculturalism in order to open up to French-speaking Canadians (so-called "francophones") throughout the nation greater opportunities for advancement.

"I've been fighting separatism since my teens," says Trudeau. "I'm a federalist because I'm convinced that it is in the greatest interest of Quebeckers-particularly the 4.8 million who speak French as their mother tongue-to be part of a large, stable, prosperous, advanced. developed and just country. They have a much greater chance of preserving their language, their culture and their economy in Canada than they do in a small French state surrounded by vast, powerful English speaking North America. A separate Quebec would turn inward on itself."

The prime minister admits that his program has not always been well-received by the predominately English-speaking majority of 17 million. many of whom have resented the extension of bilingual signs (even bilingual labels on canned goods) into areas of exclusive or predominant anglophone culture.

French and English now have equal status throughout all areas of the federal government. A French Canadian can be served by the federal government in his native tongue-theoretically. at least-regardless of where he happens to live. (Over one million French speaking Canadians live outside Quebec, primarily in Ontario. New Brunswick and Manitoba.)

SUNSET OVER Quebec City, one of North America's most attractive urban settings, is pictured in top photo [omitted]. Will the city on the St. Lawrence someday become a national capital?

Canadian bilingual sign, left [picture omitted] , carries a message in itself: an impasse near over the Quebec government's determination to secede from the Canadian confederation.

Canadian bulk carrier, below [picture omitted], passes through a lock on the St. Lawrence Seaway. Opened in 1959, the seaway has been great boon to the
Great Lakes basin, the world's largest agricultural and industrial complex. Much of the seaway courses through the Quebec heartland.




On the economic side, Quebec is steadily catching up with Ontario in per capita income. Francophones are beginning at last to move into top management positions in Quebec-headquartered firms, though they are still considerably outnumbered in Montreal's executive suites.

Partly because of aggressive federal prodding, French culture in Quebec has flourished. The French language service on the CBC, Radio Canada, has had a major role in leading Quebec's "Quiet Revolution" of the 1960s and '70s. Montreal produces more live television in French than the national network in France; and it is original television for the most part, whereas Canada's English-language networks are surfeited with American programming.

The arts-theater, ballet, opera, concerts-are all vigorous. More French-language books are published and bought in Quebec than in France. French Canadians far surpass Frenchmen in their overall standard of living.

All of this, stress Canadian federal authorities, has taken place within confederation. Quebec's nationalists, they claim, are still living in the past, fighting the old battles, kindling the fires of 1759 (when British forces ended the rule of New France on Quebec's Plains of Abraham).

"Our goal is a bilingual. multicultural country," stresses federal cabinet official Barney Danson. * "We're [still] a long way from Cartier's dream of a bilingual Canada coast to coast, but I do think it's ironic that separation should threaten us just as the first dim outline is taking shape."


[*Canada is no longer one nation composed of two founding races, the British and the French. Since World War Il, four million newcomers from approximately 100 nations and colonies have settled in Canada. These "new Canadians" now comprise about 30 percent of Canada's 23 million population. The great majority speak English as their main adopted Canadian tongue. Reflecting this development. Canada, in 1971. was officially declared a "multicultural society within a bilingual framework." ]


Preparing the New Quebec


It is precisely this goal of a bilingual, multicultural society that the Parti Quebecois is determined to prevent-at least insofar as Quebec is concerned. In fact, it is probably the very progress of Trudeau's bilingual, multicultural policies which makes the P.Q. determined to act now, before Quebeckers become "too satisfied" with Canada and turn their backs on the "Quebec nation" the province's nationalists espouse.

To the P.Q., bilingualism and multiculturalism run counter to the very spirit of the confederation and constitute the first step toward a "melting pot" Canada, similar to the United States, where one language, English. prevails over all.

To the P.Q ., Canada itself is an anomaly-a "myth" and "essentially artificial." in the words of Quebec's Minister of Cultural Affairs and Communications, Louis O'Neill. He believes that bilingualism can never bridge the gap in a country composed of "two nations and two cultures."

When I interviewed Mr. O'Neill in his office in Quebec City last fall, it was obvious from the beginning of our conversation that he and his colleagues view independence for the province as only the final and logical step in the long evolution of the Quebec "nation."

Bill 101

Since its assumption of power, the Parti Quebecois has been busy preparing the province for the future it seeks.

The most controversial piece of legislation has been Bill 101, the so-called "Charter of the French Language." In introducing the bill to Quebec's National Assembly, its author, Quebec Cultural Development Minister Dr. Camille Laurin, proclaimed that the law announced to the world the "official birth" of a French Quebec.

Bill 101 firmly establishes French as the province's only official language. This is in direct opposition to the federal bilingual policy. Under its terms, all business with the provincial government must be conducted in French. All professionals. such as doctors and lawyers. must. in the near future, display "appropriate" fluency in order to practice in Quebec. Corporations employing more than 50 people will be monitored by a government board to ensure that French becomes the "language of work."

In education. Bill 101 severely restricts the use of English in the schools. The bill's education requirements are specifically directed at the "new Canadian" immigrants. such as Greeks and Italians. who up until now had overwhelmingly elected to send their children to English schools. But the bill also effectively shuts out the long-term transfer of English-speaking personnel from the rest of Canada to the large Quebec head offices, since the children of such transfers would have to attend French schools. Thus Bill 101 is accelerating the move of big corporations to Toronto.

A Solution or a Bigger Problem?


Bill 101 attempts to rectify a fact of economic life in Quebec that many French speakers have long resented: namely, that to succeed in business in the province, one must learn the language of the "colonial power."

The minority anglophones - now about one million - have dominated Quebec's economic affairs due in no small part to the fact that up until the 1960s French-Canadian education did not prepare its young people for the world of big business. But if the majority of the "privileged" anglophones leave - and many are already doing so - they will also take with them their capital and expertise, and this could result in a mountain of unemployed francophones. (One study reveals that if the ten largest head offices still left in Montreal were to move out, some 11.000 jobs would go with them, accounting for an annual payroll of $400 million.)

Public opinion polls indicate that the majority of French Canadians in Quebec have yet to be sold on the independiste approach and its slogans of maitre chez nous (masters in our own house) and Quebec pour les Quebecois (Quebec for Quebeckers) - slogans which appear consistent with the mood of decolonialization which has swept the world since the early 1950s. Especially dubious are members of the older generation.

In Quebec I talked with one very successful and prominent French Canadian businessman. He believed that the P.Q. was telling only the "good side" of separation-the side that appeals to the emotions, to swelling national pride. The P.Q., he believed, hasn't told the people that Quebec, despite its vast mineral wealth, is not yet in the position of being its own master. "Who's going to pay the bills?" he asked.

This worldly-wise gentleman related to me that when he started in business he first had to learn how small he was and "how much I needed others." This is the message he believed his own countrymen needed at this crossroads in their history.

Association or Violence?


The bottom line of Canada's unity crisis is this: Is it possible to break up a national marriage of 111 years, which has produced a highly advanced interdependent economy. without paying an enormous alimony cost in the form of social hostility and economic disruption?

In actuality, the Parti Quebecois proposes that Quebec gain political independence and at the same time retain economic association with the rest of Canada in a sort of common market arrangement. The official term for it is "sovereign association." Opponents, however, say this is nothing but a "having-your-cake and-eating-it-too" policy designed to get independence without paying the full price.

The rest of Canada appears not to be buying the program, at least for now. As Peter Newman, the editor of Maclean's magazine puts it: "Any hope of economic association is entirely impractical and the policy itself has been rejected by every important political leader in English Canada."

Former federal Deputy Finance Minister Simon Reisman adds bluntly: "The so-called economic union is a phony. Most of Quebec's secondary industry depends heavily on the highly protected Canadian market. Other Canadians are prepared to accept this cost only to the extent that they can believe it is part of the cement that binds a nation together."

Quebec officials counter that their market is so vital to Ontario industry that Canada would have no choice but to accept an economic association.

A young journalist in Victoria, B.C., a former resident of Montreal, told me that he is convinced that in the aftermath of a separation "there would be one of the biggest boycotts you've ever seen" throughout Canada against Quebec products.

It must also be realized that few nations in history have allowed themselves to be split apart amicably. There is a great possibility that separation would not be received by English-speaking Canadians in their customarily reserved manner. Many Canadians may become "bloody upset," as Canada's leading book publisher, Jack McClelland, told me, when they finally wake up to the fact that separation stares them in the face.

In January, Trudeau warned Levesque that he would not hesitate to send in the Canadian military to prevent an "illegal" breakaway by the Quebec government-without clearly defining the word "illegal." The prime minister already has established a precedent, having dispatched the army to Montreal in 1970 to quell a sudden outbreak of political violence and kidnappings.

Some Quebec authorities believe, in the event Canada turns thumbs down on the common market scheme, the resource-rich province can easily strengthen its already formidable trade links with the United States, which has $5 billion invested in the province. But it is difficult to see the U.S. showing favoritism to Quebec at the very time Washington needs Ottawa's (and Western Canada's) favor on oil and gas pipeline arrangements in the West.

How to Divide Canada?


Even if Canada's breakup were accomplished without violence, however and the P.Q. is dedicated to a democratic, peaceful solution-negotiations on how to divide the "family estate" could be long, arduous and acrimonious, in the manner of a bitterly contested divorce.

The list of issues is a long one. Who, for example, would get control of federally owned properties in Quebec, such as port facilities? Also involved is the status and future of Canadian-owned corporations in Quebec; the dividing up of the assets and routes of the Canadian National Railroad and Air Canada; the right of land and air passage across Quebec to the impoverished Maritime provinces left dangling on Quebec's right flank; the dividing up of the responsibility of operating the Canadian portion of the St. Lawrence Seaway (most of which runs through Quebec and to which Quebec would certainly stake a sovereign claim).

Ottawa would certainly remind Quebec that two-thirds of its territory was acquired by a grant from the federal government after federation and was therefore subject to "recall."

It should be obvious that it is much easier to break up a country than to build a new one! But Parti Quebecois leaders are convinced that their program of souverainete association will work (they often refer to the amicable split between Sweden and Norway in 1905) and that it is worth the risks involved. "You have to go through breaking some eggs before the omelet appears," says Levesque.

The U.N. and "UDI"


Levesque clearly hopes for a carefully orchestrated "clean break" once he has a successful referendum in hand. But if Ottawa should choose not to negotiate, some in the P.Q. hierarchy are said to be willing to take another course: an appeal to the United Nations for support of the cause of Quebec's "liberation."

Of course, the Communist/Third World-dominated U.N. could be counted on to give thunderous applause to such a rite of national self-determination. The Soviets. especially, would eagerly support any rupture of the unique Canadian-American relationship.

The reaction of France at this time is uncertain. While Paris officially respects Canadian sovereignty over Quebec. President Giscard d'Estaing rolled out the red carpet for the visiting Levesque several months ago, according him honors usually befitting a head of state. And, of course, eleven years ago France intruded into the Canadian/Quebec squabble in a most overt manner when President Charles de Gaulle shouted Vive Quebec libre (Long live a free Quebec) from the balcony of Montreal's City Hall.

Some in Canada. such as noted author Richard Rohmer. believe that if world support could be assured, the P.Q. might even dare to proclaim a "UDI" - Unilateral Declaration of Independence - the day after a successful referendum, and boldly confront Ottawa with a fait accompli.

Separation Inevitable Unless ...


In Toronto I had the opportunity to speak with Peter Newman, the distinguished editor of Canada's leading newsmagazine, Maclean's. Mr. Newman was very sober and direct about the crisis immediately ahead for his country. He especially viewed the steady exit of the anglophones out of Montreal as an "error of monumental proportions." noting that a leading P.Q. minister contemptuously referred to it as "nothing less than a form of surrender ... as if part of the battlefield is conceded to us before we have even tried to occupy it."

Time is on the side of the P.Q., admitted Newman. When the next provincial election is held in 1980, 42 percent of the electorate will be between 18 and 27 years old. and this group, said Newman. "is almost entirely separatist. And this is what Levesque really means when he preaches that independence is inevitable."

For this reason, the editor stressed. Levesque will keep holding referendums until he finally wins one. assuming the P.Q. retains power in Quebec. Newman referred to a slogan coined by someone else:
"If at first you don't secede, try, try, again."

Mr. Newman also stressed how much of the problem lies with English-speaking Canadians. He gave me a copy of a speech he had recently delivered at York University in Toronto. In it he said that "the new government of Quebec is tough and single-minded. determined to have its way whatever the costs. to split up this country. to destroy the great Canadian experi ment."

Newman continued: "What we need. and need desperately. is a cultural co-revolution in English Canada which would excite us about ourselves .... Only in Quebec has there grown a spirit of self-determination. As a result. Quebec now has a national purpose. The rest of Canada seems to have none."

Newman's bureau chief in Ottawa added, in a recent edition of Maclean's: "There is, in English Canada, too little sense of urgency and a stupefying ignorance of the historical grievance that fuels the march of the Parti Quebecois."

There should be no doubt of the hurdles that English Canada and the federalist cause in particular must surmount. The P.Q. has the initiative. It will call the referendum when it wishes. will dictate the wording of the referendum and establish all the ground rules upon which it will be debated and held. The P.Q.'s efficient party organization will clearly have the advantage in "propaganda," a term it uses itself.

Dramatic Impact on U.S.


Any partition of Canada would have an immense impact on the United States. The U.S. and Canada are so economically interwoven that the economic fortunes of one automatically affects the other.

U.S.-Canada trade amounted to a staggering $60 billion in 1977 - a volume far exceeding. for example. U.S. trade with Japan. Canada sells over two-thirds of all her exports to the U.S. and receives nearly 70 percent of her imports from the same partner. One-fifth of all American exports are shipped north.

The economies of the two North American giants are virtually one and the same. A U.S. citizen driving through Ontario, the industrial heartland of Canada, sees dozens of familiar names on factory after factory, except for the two-word appendix they have in common: General Electric of Canada; Control Data of Canada; Columbia Records of Canada, to name only a few.

On the human plane, there are 78 million border crossings a year between Canada and the United States. Over eight million Canadian citizens reside at any given time in the U.S.

A major article in the October 1977 Foreign Affairs reports: "The United States would instantly feel the shock waves of Canada's partition if it ever happened. ... After Quebec's departure, what would then be left of the Canadian union, its economic strength, its enormous market, its American-owned industries and its military cooperation? ...

"A sovereign Quebec nation," continues this analysis, "must divide Canada not on the perimeter but in the middle, astride the international artery of the St. Lawrence. The four Atlantic provinces of Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island would be separated from Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia by a constitutional and economic dam on the river that carries their goods and those of the American interior as well. Canada, in short, would split into a kind of East and West Pakistan, its single anatomy fractured beyond repair."

Strategic Region


In Toronto, I had the privilege of speaking with a popular Canadian Broadcasting Corporation commentator, Mr. John Fisher, popularly known as "Mr. Canada." I found him to be gravely concerned over the likely rupture of his much beloved land.

He believed that in the aftermath of Quebec's independence, and negative reaction on the part of the rest of Canada, the economy of Quebec would take a dramatic plunge; that there would be widespread social disruption; that Quebec's newly independent government would be forced to resort to stern methods to get control of the accelerating crisis. As a result, Quebec might then be vulnerable to "international meddlers" who would be eager to take advantage of the situation.

In his office on Toronto's Bay Street, Mr. Fisher and I looked at a map of the U.S.-Canadian border. He pointed out something unique about Quebec. Among Canada's provinces, Quebec alone is connected by land to four U.S. states, the key one being New York.

If an independent Quebec chose not to belong to NATO or NORAD (the joint North American Air Defense network), there would be a gaping hole in the continental defense structure. (The P.Q. has vacillated quite a bit about future defense commitments.)

The effectiveness of the Pinetree Line and DEW (Distant Early Warning) Line networks against Soviet ICBMs would be gravely impaired. The Canadian navy would also be seriously hampered in performing its main task - keeping the sea-lanes open to Europe.

Moreover, a recalcitrant Quebec may choose not to honor existing U.S.-Canadian treaties regarding the St. Lawrence Seaway - or may elect to hold the seaway passage as a bargaining chip to secure its sovereign association aims.

The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway navigational system serves an agricultural and industrial region unparalleled in the world. The opening of the seaway in 1959, producing North America's "fourth seacoast," has been a great boon to the continent's heartland. If the seaway were to be bottled up, Canada's grain exports to the world would be halted, as well as shipments of much of the iron ore (from Quebec and Labrador) needed for U.S. and Canadian steel mills.

On Soviet Attack Route


Quebec, which is larger than France and Spain combined, is one of the most strategically important pieces of territory in North America. Nicholas Stethem, a Canadian defense expert, reveals just how critical it is - and how dangerous an independent state on its soil would be if it chose neutrality (perhaps as a consequence of Soviet/Third World support). In the Winter 1977-78 issue of Foreign Policy, article "Canada's Crisis, The Dangers," Stethem writes: "An independent Quebec implies a fundamental change in one of the post-World War II military constants of the West, a strong and unified North America. Perhaps the separatists believe that the stationing of one-third of Canada's air defense interceptor force ... in Bagotville, Quebec, and of another third at Chatham, New Brunswick, just south of the Quebec border, was a function of coincidence, or of regional politics played by the federal government.

"The fact is that these forces are based there because the primary manned-bomber route from the Soviet Union to the most heavily populated and industrialized areas of Canada and the United States runs from the Kola Peninsula over the Arctic and then south, straight down the middle of Quebec from Ungava to the St. Lawrence. That is also why American units of the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) are stationed in a direct line further south.

"If the intermediate range supersonic 'Backfire' bomber, the latest addition to Soviet arsenals, follows this route, armed with standoff or cruise missiles, and refuels in flight, it can attack the eastern seaboard of the United States. The weapons themselves would be released at a point smack in the middle of Quebec."

Much at Stake


It is time that everyone in the United States, in Canada - and certainly in Quebec - woke up and realized what really is at stake if the coming showdown in the Canadian unity crisis is not resolved peaceably: nothing short of the very survival of freedom in North America.

As I left the office of Quebec cabinet official Louis O'Neill at the conclusion of our discussion last autumn, my host paused in the doorway and called back to me: "Please tell your American audience that they have many friends here in Quebec. Tell them also that we are not making a tragedy, we are creating a nation."

Mr. O'Neill was no doubt sincere in his appraisal. But only time will tell whether or not he is correct.


This article is the result of a month-long trip the author recently [1977] took in Canada, where he interviewed prominent Canadian political, business and military leaders.






[ What Gene Hogberg learned in his investigation of Canada's unique political dilemma is as valid today, as it was then. That is why this article has been re-published. ]





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