Monday, November 27, 2006

Ken Dryden Speaks For Me And My Nation

Ken Dryden Quebec Nation Statement in the House
Declaration Chambre des communes
(francais suit)

Quebec as a Nation - Speech in the House

This feels wrong to me.

It felt wrong when the Quebec wing of the Liberal Party passed its resolution.

It felt wrong when passionate, worried debate rose up across the country.

It began to feel even more wrong when last week the Bloc presented its motion.

It didn't feel less wrong, but it felt more hopeful, as if the worst might pass, when the Government then presented its counter-motion.

It began to feel fundamentally, irredeemably wrong when the Bloc announced it would support the Government's motion, saying that "Canada will become the first country to officially recognize the Quebec nation," and that "there will be many other countries that will recognize the nation of Quebec and the country of Quebec."

My country is more than this.

Canada is centuries and centuries of aboriginal peoples, their respectful relationship to the land, their culture and history.

Canada is French and English, struggling to survive a hard, new world, to make a life for themselves; different in language, culture, religion and law, struggling to live with each other. And making it.

Canada is people from almost everywhere, coming here, changing us and themselves in ways exciting and unknown.

Canada is immense resources, unimaginable possibilities - our future still in the making, still in the becoming.

Canada is a great global experiment. A true global society that works in the only way our global world of the future can work.

Canada matters. It matters to me, it matters to us, it matters to the world.

So when we deal with constitutional change, with things that lay out what we are and shape our future, it matters. It matters a lot. Meech Lake and Charlottetown, agree with them or not, we examined, we debated, we took time. Meech Lake and Charlottetown felt serious.

This feels wrong because it doesn't feel as serious as it must be.

It feels like games - bad, manipulative, opportunistic games. Political games. Box somebody into a corner so they say or do something they don't want to say or do just to get out of the corner. Just to save face. For them to box the other guy into saying and doing the same. So we all save face, and all get into a bigger box - a bigger box called "the future." Except that box is somebody else's.

And all of these games, these manipulations aren't really about now. They are about creating the slippery slope for later.

And the public has learned to accept most things political, but not this. The stakes are too high. "This is my country," the public says. "You have gotten yourself into this, but why should I join you. And why should I let you do this to me. This is my country."

This is pure politics. All this started with the ludicrous concept of having a debate fundamental to the country based on different understandings of the word "nation." In the last few days, it has deteriorated into the ludicrous reality of such a debate in practice.

To those who want to engage the debate honestly, seeking definitional clarity - forget it. Other parties to the debate want none of it. They want to say "nation" means whatever they want it to mean, now and to change definition whenever they decide they want it to mean something different. So they can go to the public and argue and spin, and try to achieve by misunderstanding what they can't by understanding.

When I first arrived in Montreal, it was the pride of Quebecers that struck me. The whole world's being taken over by the English language, American culture; Quebecers had no chance. But they said no, not me, not here. I know what I am. And that's who I'm going to be. Forever.

And Quebecers know who they are. They've had to. They couldn't have made it if they didn't. They don't need any official definers to tell them. And some day we, all Canadians, will get down on paper what Canada really is, what Quebec really is, what together we have made ourselves to be. But it won't happen this way. It can't happen this way.

Does the Bloc really want to engage Canadians outside Quebec so they will agree that "Quebec is a nation"? Not at all. They want the process to be so inappropriate that all such Canadians will reject the question. To grease that slippery slope, so that Canadians inside Quebec will reject those outside Quebec, and the Bloc's cause of independence will be advanced.

The pawn in this game is the public. As Canadians, we feel deeply about our country. Politicians and political advocates for decades have been playing games with our emotions, manipulating them for their/our own purposes. They/we have completely poisoned the well of discussion and debate on this question. No side trusts any other, no citizen trusts any politician.

Though it doesn't seem this way, the problem isn't really the language of French and English - it is the language of spin and manipulation and bigger agendas. Neither the Government's motion nor the resolution of the Quebec wing of the Liberal Party will do anything except create greater division and distrust.

My country, Canada, is more than this.

For me: no precise language, no precise understandings, no time and mechanism to work this through, no clarity - no support.

The Government motion should be defeated

Hat tip to Warren K.
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