History is not stammering, and the issue at stake in the debate currently agitating Canada around the recognition of the “Quebec nation” is well below the hopes carried by Quebec during the two referendums of 1980 and 1995, when the province aspired to full sovereignty. No claim for independence this time, but the initiative of the current Quebec Prime Minister, François Legault (Coalition futur Quebec, nationalist, center right), to want to include in the Constitution that “Quebeckers form a nation ” and “French is the only official language of Quebec [et] the common language of the Quebec nation ” nonetheless resembles a small revolution in Canada. Especially since the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, caused the surprise by giving his discharge to such an institutional development.
It was at the turn of a major linguistic reform presented on May 13, and which should be adopted in the coming weeks by the National Assembly of the province, that the Quebec government launched the offensive. The stated objective is to strengthen the law known as “101”, which, in 1977, had consecrated French as an instrument for the reconquest of Francophones in the public space after decades of Anglophone domination, today undermined by an English more and more conqueror.
But, dramatically, two small articles contained in this new bill called “96” propose to unilaterally modify the Canadian constitutional law of 1867 to recognize the “Fundamental characteristics of Quebec”. A debate on the “Quebec nation” consubstantial with the emergence of modern Quebec in the 1960s, which neither the lost referendums nor the endless Canadian constitutional quarrels with no outcome – in 1987 and 1992 – had hitherto managed to end. In 2006, a parliamentary resolution adopted under the government of Stephen Harper, the Conservative Prime Minister, clearly stated that “Quebeckers form[ai]ent a nation within a united Canada ”, but the text had no constitutional value.
First of the English-speaking press
“Indeed, Quebec has the right to modify part of the Constitution to underline the observations that we have already made at the level of the federal government, that is to say that Quebec consists of a nation, that it is a province where the official language is French ”, declared, as of May 18, Justin Trudeau, commenting on the Quebec initiative. Despite the commitments made by the Prime Minister to be the guarantor of all “Linguistic minorities in Canada, including anglophones in Quebec”, this conciliatory attitude immediately provoked the ire of the English-speaking press.
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