Who’s afraid of Pauline Marois : or why does Québec still have more people who call themselves Canadian than any other province in Canada?May 18th, 2010 | By Randall White | Category: Canadian Provinces
In Drummondville, Québec over the past weekend “Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois … drew a parallel between her party’s goal of making Québec a sovereign country and the Montréal Canadiens’ quest for the Stanley Cup. ‘The whole nation is vibrating in tune with a team of players who were called too small, not talented enough, not proud enough to win.’”
All this would be more impressive if the team were called the Montréal Québécois. But it is called “Le Canadien.” And that is one great problem of any serious Québec independence movement — as many of us who have been watching this often interesting enough sideshow from a distance since the 1960s have gradually come to appreciate.
Take, eg, a related case in point that we seldom make much of (and I often wonder why?). Further back in time it was officially impossible to give “Canadian” (or “Canadien”) as your “ethnic origin” in the Census of Canada. In the more recent past what René Lévesque used to call the colonized mind has at least made it over this hurdle. And it is now possible to report Canadian as your ethnic origin, when asked by Statistics Canada.
So … take the most recent 2006 census. If you rank the 10 provinces according to “Canadian single and multiple ethnic origin responses” as a percentage of “total single and multiple ethnic origin responses” here is what you get: Québec — 60.2% ; New Brunswick — 52.9% ; Newfoundland and Labrador — 48.2% ; Nova Scotia — 40.9% ; Prince Edward Island — 39.0% ; Ontario — 23.0% ; Alberta — 20.5% ; Manitoba — 18.2% ; Saskatchewan — 18.1% ; British Columbia — 17.7%. (Oh, and btw, you might also wonder: just what percentage of Québec single and multiple ethnic origin responses report themselves as “Québécois”? This number was as low as 1.9% in 2006!)
You might of course say that this distribution of self-reported Canadian ethnic origins by province just reflects some parallel distribution of immigrants by province. Ie, the provinces with the highest percentages of “Canadians” are also those with the lowest percentage of immigrants. There is in fact something to this, but it is far from the whole picture. Consider, eg, this distribution of immigrants as percentages of total provincial populations in the 2006 census: Ontario — 28.2% ; British Columbia — 27.5% ; Alberta — 16.2% ; Manitoba — 13.3% ; Québec — 11.5% ; Saskatchewan — 5.0% ; Nova Scotia — 5.0% ; New Brunswick — 3.7% ; Prince Edward Island — 3.6% ; Newfoundland and Labrador — 1.7%.
In other words, eg, Québec has a higher percentage of immigrants in its population than five of today’s 10 Canadian provinces, but it still also has the highest percentage of residents reporting Canadian (or Canadien) ethnic origins of all 10 provinces. Ontario has the highest percentage of immigrants of all 10 provinces, but it still also has a higher percentage of residents reporting Canadian ethnic origins than four other provinces. Alberta has both a higher percentage of immigrants and a higher percentage of residents reporting Canadian ethnic origins than Saskatchewan. Nova Scotia has both a higher percentage of immigrants and a higher percentage of residents reporting Canadian ethnic origins than Prince Edward Island, etc, etc, etc.
What all this suggests, I would submit without too much caution, is something like this:
If and when the Parti Québécois of Pauline Marois or anyone else does (once again) become the provincial government of the Québec that is not now and never will be a province like the others, the larger Canada which is also a home to all the self-reported Canadiens in Québec (and fabled Montréal Canadiens) is not really going to fall off the edge of the cliff below the Plains of Abraham — any more than it has in the past 42 years since René Lévesque founded the Parti Québécois (in the same year that Pierre Trudeau first became prime minister of Canada).
This is not at all to say that I think we should write off “Québec sovereignty” as a spent and insignificant force. I think it is an established fact of life under any Québec provincial government, including the presently somewhat troubled Liberal regime of Jean Charest.
At some point I think we should even spell out what this means in our constitution — at the same time as we reform our federal Senate at last, spell out just how proud we are of our aboriginal constitutional origins, provide for some suitably polite end to the obsolete symbolism of the British monarchy in Canada, and so forth. Meanwhile, we have at least learned from the past 42 years that there are good enough reasons for not worrying unduly about the future of “Canada and Québec.” And the Montréal Canadiens is one of them — regardless of how they do in 2010 against the Flyers from the city that gave the USA today its present constitution, back in the mists of some time we have almost all forgotten now.