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“My solution to English-speaking Canadians,” Philippe R. Paquette, Ottawa, ON

My solution to English-speaking Canadians.

I’m watching Ben Hur. It’s Christmas. The movie made me reminiscent of my childhood. I remembered that season of my life where I first saw “Ben Hur”. The banks of snow, in those days, must have been 10 feet high.

All of a sudden: “Sixtus, you asked how to fight an idea. I’ll tell you how to fight an idea. With another idea.”

That gets my attention. Preston Manning comes to mind, “You fight a dream with another dream”, I once heard him say. Can you imagine? I’m a proud French-Canadian. That propels me to Québec.

It seems that the Quebec souvereignists are still at the poker table with all the right cards in their hands. All the Stéphane Dions, the John Trents or even commendable effort like this “Book of Citizens” do not seem to change too many things. Canada remains at crossroads on the infamous Unity issue and the directions are confusing. As I write this article (end of December 1998), the Prime Minister has already delivered his annual Christmas message without offering one single iota of hope to the Federalists. The status quo remains the item of the agenda. And generally, Canadians have fallen into a hopeless pit of boredom, despising the entire issue. We are just simply sick of it all. For many Canadians, especially Francophones, the Calgary Declaration does not cut it either… and nothing is moving on the horizon. Ultimately, if Quebec leaves, Canada will have self destructed due to lack of interest. Or is it lack of courage… or vision?

Canada is a unique society: two official languages, a strong Charter of individual rights and freedoms, and most uniquely, the association of an impressive number of different Peoples with their respective histories, cultures and characteristics. We have proudly expressed our uniqueness in historically rejecting the great all encompassing American Melting Pot. We, apparently, are more generous. Yet, most Canadians believe that everything wise and witty has long been said on this subject. For the past 30 years or so, we have reached for a number of initiatives with failing results. Elitism has spoken, but the people have not given heed. Nothing on the horizon is offered. No solution is at hand. And the peoples of Canada remain confused in their respective straight jackets surrounded by their comfortable cushioned walls. Pardon my illustration, but the entire state of things is simply mad.

Some believe that Canada’s unity issue will never be resolved. “That is Canadianism” they say. We have only achieved compromise, they argue, and we ought to get comfortable with our thorns at our side. It’s our reality and our fate. Folly on those idealists who waste their time in trying to change things, in trying to change history.

Well, I’m not a fatalist. I disagree with such a pessimistic view. Canada is one of the greatest countries on earth. Surely, if Stephen Hawking is attempting to define the law that encompasses Quantum Theory with Astrophysics (the Grand Uniform Theory), we could define ourselves socially and constitutionally to our satisfaction. Whoever said that Canada must satisfy itself with mediocrity.

The issue is simple… if only someone out there would listen. Canada must consider the elements of dignity, freedom and equality in principle to solve its unity issue. And that can only be achieved with “collective recognition”. The diverse Peoples of Canada have the right to live freely as “collectives” and Canada must ensure all Peoples feel “collectively secured”. We need to offer Canadians collective liberty now that we have, in our constitution, individual liberty. One does not necessarily conflict with the other, And if it did, individual. liberty should take precedence.

When Christopher Columbus reached America’s shores, the known population of the First Natives in America almost reached 20 million. In Canada, today, we estimate that the First Nations form approximately 250 thousand citizens. Here is a perfect example of a “collective” that requires collective security.

Why should we also insist that French-Canadians remain uncomfortable within our borders if we refuse to guarantee them their collective freedom? And by the way, the issue here is not Quebec but the Peoples once formally known (in some previous life it would appear) as “French-Canada”. I can hear some Canadians despising the horrid hyphenated names again… but the reality remains. Canada is made up of many collectives, like it or not. We must assure them, all of them, regardless of who they are, their collective rights without denying any of our individual attainments. Canada is spacious enough to express global free diverse expression and strong enough to define its own shared collective values. If the constitution would ensure collective equality “in principle”, regardless of population, we would not only solve our unity issue but we would express collective freedom to the entire planet and possibly define the rules for true democracy “à la canadienne” for the millennium to come for all other Polities on earth.

Canada is even structured presently with a wonderful institutional possibility. Let’s include Senate reforms with the principle of collective freedom. When I speak of “collective freedom or equality”, I am in fact rejecting any notion of ethnic superiority. What if we proclaim that all peoples are equal in principle. How devastating could such a declaration be? How can such a principle hurt anyone else? How is this taking away rights of others? Collective recognition, for all, is a “new” solution according to the constitutionalists that I spoke with, but none of them told me that the basic principle is erroneous… its just “too new” they say. Folly. With what has been transpiring in the past 30 years, maybe something new is what we need.

Let us get on to other things, Canadians. Life is too short to continually struggle with each other. Let’s unite by giving ourselves collective rights and by defining our common values and let’s get on to other things. We are not our own enemies. We are brothers.

It’s the chariot scene. I must get back to that race. They go round and round on this one for hours It’s historical.

Philippe R. Paquette
Ottawa

for all other Polities on earth.Canada is even structured presently with a wonderful institutional possibility. Let’s include Senate reforms with the principle of collective freedom. When I speak of “collective freedom or equality”, I am in fact rejecting any notion of ethnic superiority. What if we proclaim that all peoples are equal in principle. How devastating could such a declaration be? How can such a principle hurt anyone else? How is this taking away rights of others? Collective recognition, for all, is a “new” solution according to the constitutionalists that I spoke with, but none of them told me that the basic principle is erroneous… its just “too new” they say. Folly. With what has been transpiring in the past 30 years, maybe something new is what we need.