What if Canadian Senate reform also became a way of recognizing Québécois nation in a united Canada?

Jun 27th, 2011 | By | Category: Ottawa Scene

Quebec journalist Lysiane Gagnon, October 1970, October 2010: who remembers la crise d'octobre now?

Last Tuesday, June 21, 2011, the new Harper majority government’s Bill C7, the Senate Reform Act, had its first reading — not all that long, as it turned out, before the new 41st Parliament of Canada (following “the longest filibuster in Canadian history over back-to-work legislation”) — ran for the exits and the annual summer break.

In today’s Globe and Mail Lysiane Gagnon, who has been explaining Quebec to other parts of the country longer than some Members of the 41st Parliament have been alive, opines: “Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Senate reform ‘light’ is the last thing Canada needs … Why lose time on a reform that no one is demanding, that no one needs and that’s probably doomed to be declared unconstitutional?”

Even in Canada, however, history can have many cunning passages.  As one item on this website less than a month ago urged: “One dim light in the dark forest of Canadian Senate reform .. at least Jean Charest’s Quebec is NOT ‘objecting to modernizing the Senate’?”

A follow-up item from less than two weeks later elaborated on the argument: “Very quickly, what we need for a workable long-term concept of Canadian Senate reform is a ‘reformed Senate concept of provincial representation which makes sense for Quebec — as well as the other demographically large provinces of Canada.’” (The item here went on to give a crude example of what it had in mind: “Quebec 12 seats, Alberta 6 seats, British Columbia 6 seats, Ontario 6 seats, Manitoba 3 seats, New Brunswick 3 seats, Newfoundland and Labrador 3 seats, Nova Scotia 3 seats, Prince Edward Island 3 seats, and Saskatchewan 3 seats — and [as at present] one seat for each of the three territories.”)

Alexandrine Latendresse, Laval University graduate and NDP MP for Quebec riding of Louis-Saint-Laurent (where she defeated the Conservative cabinet minister, Josée Verner), sporting an “I Still Hate George Bush” T-shirt, May 2011.

This past Saturday in the Toronto Star Chantal Hébert argued: “In Quebec, sovereignty going way of the Church … Less than 100 days into the new Parliament, it is increasingly evident that the May 2 results [with the New Democrats taking an astounding 59 of 75 federal seats in Quebec] were part of a larger shift in the tectonic plates of Quebec politics.”

This could be a very good time for the rest of the country to show that it is indeed prepared to constitutionally entrench the founding Canadian commitment to the survival and vigour of the French-speaking majority in Quebec. Or, assigning Quebec a perpetual 23.5% of the seats in a reformed federal Senate (at least twice as much as any other single province, etc) could be a way of showing just what the Canadian House of Commons meant, back at the end of November 2006, when it voted 266–16 for the motion “that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada.”  (And yet when you ponder the kinds of numbers involved at all deeply, it would do this in a way that would not put any other region of the country at any real disadvantage!) Who knows? Maybe even the still lovely Lysiane Gagnon could finally get at least a little enthused?

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