Whither Quebec Sovereignty?—In the runup to April 14 provincial elections there, I have an idea I don’t think has been considered since 1776.
That’s when American Loyalists, pacifists, and some East Coast Indians started migrating to what is now Canada, in opposition to the Revolution. Some went to the Maritimes, but many also went to Quebec – which at that time stretched as far south as the Ohio River.
American history books emphasize this larger-Quebec’s – and the Crown’s – indulgence of Catholics, much hated in the rebellious colonies. But Metis histories remember Old Quebec as essentially a Mixed-Blood/Indian Reserve, where even vestiges of French feudalism were permitted to remain, all under British Crown protection.
Why was there a “French and Indian War” in the mid-1700s? Because in many cases the French and the Indians were closely allied by marriage or descent; often French and Indian described the same person! When Britain surrendered the American Midwest in the Treaty of 1783, the southern half of what remained of Quebec/Canada, Ontario, was “Anglicized” by refugees from America. And so Francophone Quebec as we know it today took shape.
French Canadians emphasize their minority identity and language as, indeed, French. But one Metis scholar wants to remind his freres that they are indeed distinct not only from “Anglophones” in Canada, but also from the people of France. He claims nearly all French Canadians are actually Metis, in this case ‘French Indians’!
(For the record, after 1783 Northwest British America outside of Quebec was supposed to be entirely reserved to the Indians. Just for the record….)
So here’s my plan: Quebec Province becomes a Sovereign Metis and Indian Reserve (with protections for other people already living there). Whether directly under the Crown (i.e., independent) which has protected it now for centuries, or as part of Canada, or somewhere in-between, can for the first time be the product of free negotiation between the parties with a positive result in view for all. ‘Nunavut Squared,’ if you will.
Personally, I’d like to see today’s Canada remain One – though of course with huge improvements in rights, help, and freedom for Indigenous Peoples. Canada’s not been so much a Mosaic as a series of overlaid transparencies of varying colors, so to speak: Indians and Inuit first, French and Franco-Metis second, English and Anglo-Americans and Anglophone-Metis third, African-Americans fourth, Continental European and African immigrants fifth, Asian immigrants sixth. The First Nations were everywhere in what is now Canada, Francophones are virtually everywhere in Canada, of course Anglophones are virtually everywhere now, and others are spreading across the face of the Canadian Subcontinent now too. Sure, Quebec is home to most French Canadians; but we don’t see the other 9 Provinces threatening to secede from the Inuit North, or vice versa, do we?
In 1776 America tried to run away from its history, and today America is always trying to escape history, for good or for ill. The virtue of Canada has been that it is not Revolutionary North America, but Evolutionary North America. For this, Canada NEEDS its Indians and Inuit, its Franco-Metis, its Anglo-Metis, its American refugees, its Celtic Isles immigrants, and its immigrants from around the world…and Canada needs to accommodate all of these, not imperialistically, but as brother-and-sister-Peoples. And all of these Peoples need to stay and build up Canada as it is and shall be, with love and respect for all – whatever form Canada will take in the future, “the True North, strong and free.”