June 19, 2006

Nurtured Nationalism

Nurtured Nationalism

A separatist friend of mine was bitching at me that Trudeau was a separatist so I re-posted this for him to read…it is actually one of my better posts…

Pierre Trudeau used to be a separatist in his youth. SCANDAL!!! Stop the Presses! Sound the Alarm!

Actually I’m not all that surprised.Many Quebeckers grow up separatists only to come to their senses when they see that Quebec shouldn’t leave Canada on the basis that they are different.I grew up a federalist.

I was raised Italian, Liberal, and federalist. There simply was no alternative. I heard my MP, Alfonso Gagliano, say the same federalist propaganda 3 times but in different languages (by the time he hit language number 3, we could say the speech along with him. Good times Isabella) it was the only viewpoint I understood.

My involvement with politics was brought on by my Canadian History teacher, as it is with most Quebeckers. While most francophone teachers preach separatist propaganda, anglophone teachers would preach federalist propaganda. There is no common history in Quebec because blatant nationalism creates an environment that encourages otherwise.

I was lucky. My mother busted her ass to get me into Lower Canada College, at quite the discount, and I had a great Canadian History teacher. He walked into class, and promptly threw the two history textbooks into the garbage. We sat there wide-eyed; he was also the headmaster of the school. He threw both propagandas in the garbage. We only saw that book again when it was time for the final exam. (96% woohoo!)

We still learned about the Acadian Deportation, the Riel execution, the domination of British society in Quebec through the Quiet Revolution. The Charter was a contested document. Meech was potentially flawed, but it was a solution. We learned both sides of every story. We also had to take on roles in historical simulations to help us learn. As I was an adamant student, (much more in history than in Math class trust me) I had the benefit of taking on three roles.

Lord Durham, the British fool who didn’t know any better so he picked the simplest answer for Canada, assimilation. Canadians, all Canadians, said no to that vision. You mean Anglos had a chance to wipe out French Canadians and preferred not to? Guy Carleton made the same choice in 1774. My friends in French school told me they didn’t know Carleton was British and told me francophones fought for the Quebec Act from the British government. Close. Carleton the Bloke fought for them!

Louis Riel, the innocent victim of French Canada. Quebeckers never forgave les Bleus until the Charter was signed in 1981. Then they were pissed off about something else. Louis Riel is the best example we Canadians have of French Canada, not francophones in Quebec. This country is more than two tracts of lands with a language for each tract.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion, leader of les Rouges, or the Quebec wing of the Liberal Party, back during the days of Confederation. They opposed Confederation because they knew Macdonald wouldn’t respect provincial jurisdiction. (The Ghost of Benoit Pelletier?) I guess the PLQ existed back in the 1860s! I got to see all the sides of Canadian History I had grown up to disagree with. I put myself in their shoes, and I understood their points of view. It allowed me to develop my own arguments. I was no longer a blind federalist.

Most Canadians learn how great this country is after they finish high school. Once they truly discover Canada, they no longer wish to see its demise. Pierre Trudeau’s most famous writing, and my personal favorite, is about when he is canoeing alone in the Northwest Territories. Word that he used to be a separatist actually makes even more sense now. That epiphany that entered his head as he paddled down that river solidified the views he would carry throughout his entire life.

Being a separatist at 16 or 18 is not a horrible thing. Many of us are enveloped in a nationalist vision because it brings hope and we don’t have the mental capacity to think of all the factors. Our lives have yet to be shaped by events which will develop our ideas. (To Mark Holland, that’s why vote 16 sucks)

Until I went to Ottawa to join a national program with Canadians from coast to coast to coast, I always thought of myself as Italian first then Canadian. I grew up in the ghetto, woptown as I so lovingly call it. Pride to be Italian coursed through my veins more than pride to be Canadian. Meeting people from across Canada helped me develop that Canadian pride. We weren’t all that different. All Canadians, despite language barriers, are actually quite the same.

National symbols are there to reinforce that. They tell us that we share the same citizenship that binds to each other. Some take that nationalism too far and make citizen turn against each other. That is taking it to the extreme and is quite dangerous. However, some national symbols are there simply to remind us we all share the same citizenship.

When Canada wins a hockey game, does it matter where the players come from? Is there a more Canadian moment than the 1987 Canada Cup clinching goal Gretzky to Lemieux?

Is Antoine drinking a Cappucino Glacé any different in Quebec than Anthony drinking an Ice Cappucino in Newfoundland? Not really.

I doubt Pierre Trudeau was thinking about hockey or Timmies as he paddled that day, but he passionately felt bound to this great country. It is that calm sense of belonging that has developed into Canadian nationalism. Would we Canadians do it any other way?

5 Commentaires:

Blogger A.K. a dit...

Excellent post. I agree completely with your point, though your claim that English-school history teachers spew federalist propaganda left me cold. Maybe it's because my 10th-grade history teacher at Royal West Academy made a point of teaching as impartially as possible and exposing us to various viewpoints, as well as educating us about contemporary political issues that came up over the course of the year. (That was the academic year 2000-2001, so he went out of his way--and took time out of teaching the normal class curriculum--to inform us about everything from the historical significance of Pierre Trudeau's prime ministry to the origin of the P.Q. government's new "Fete de Dollard" to replace Victoria Day.) But I'll tell you one thing--our teacher did still teach out of our French textbook, which was shameless in its blatant nationalist, if not necessarily separatist, propaganda.

You say you went to Lower Canada College? Your Canadian history teacher was also the headmaster of the school? Sounds like Dr. Bennett to me. I know this because he taught me the Comparative History of Canada and the United States course when I attended LCC Pre-University in 2002-2003. He didn't throw our textbooks in the trash, but we paid them little mind all the same.

You seem to have drawn some interesting conclusions from that course. The conclusions I've drawn from my own personal study of Candian history seem to differ from yours in many respects. From what I've read, the WASP Canadian elites did dominate Quebec's economy and society all right--but only because Quebecers allowed them to, by continually reelecting reactionary politicians (culminating in the "great darkness" reign of the proto-tyrant Maurice Duplessis)and allowing the Church to maintain its stranglehold on social relations in Quebec for as long as it did. Once Duplessis died and Quebecers made up their minds to try a different route, all the power of Ottawa and English Canada's economic elites proved powerless to stop them.

The Charter was a contested document all right. But you say Meech Lake was "potentially flawed". I disagree. It was definitely flawed, deeply flawed--and fatally so, as far as I'm concerned. I've never been a fan of the provincialist, regionalist strain running through the agendas of various provincial governments throughout Canada's history. That strain has already left us the most decentralized federated state in the world. As for "distinct society" status for Quebec as espoused by the Mulroney-Bourassa gang, it could have unwittingly given an eventual PQ government in Quebec a fig leaf for demanding the further devoution of all manner of new powers from Ottawa to Quebec City and crying "Humiliation!" if Ottawa refused--either way, putting Quebec more firmly on the road to ultimate separation. And this is only Meech Lake's most glaring flaw. I can discuss this in greater detail later, but for now, trust me, Meech was no bloody solution. (Then again, knowing Dr. Bennett, that sounds like just the kind of middle-of-the-roard tack he would have taken. Excellent history teacher, that one. Very challenging.)

I can't contain my delight at hearing you point out, "This country is more than two tracts of lands with a language for each tract." I can't stand how the francophone communities outside Quebec have so completely gotten the shaft over the centuries. I am a big fan, historically and culturally, of the Acadians and the Metis in particular. They handle linguistic relations much better in Moncton, if you ask me.

You say you went to Ottawa to join a national program with Canadians from coast to coast to coast. If you're referring to Encounters with Canada, I'm glad to say we share that experience too. I attended EWC in April and May of 2002. It was a great experience for me as well: my first exposure to francophones from outside Quebec (Acadians from New Brunswick, to be precise), as well as to Canadians coast to coast. I had already been lucky enough to be able to travel this great land of ours thanks to all the public speaking and debating I did in high school, but EWC was the icing on the cake. I was particularly encouraged by how well the francophone Quebecers and the Acadians at the conference got along. You are completely right to say that all Canadians, despite language barriers (and, I would add, regional barriers too), are actually quite the same.


You say that Italian pride ran more strongly in your veins than Canadian pride. I sympathize. I am a 20-year-old, black Trinidadian-Canadian and I grew up with other black Montreal youths of West Indian ancestry who regularly sneered--sneered!--at the very idea of calling themselves Canadian (except on October 30, 1995, of course). As a reclusive kid who preferred reading about Canadian, American and world history for fun to dunking basketballs and making slapshots, I was lucky enough to escape that diseased ethnocentric mental ghetto, all by myself. That's not to say I'm not proud of my Trinidadian heritage--I dressed up in red, white and black from head to toe and quite lustly roared when T&T's Soca Warriors tied Sweden 0-0 in the World Cup. But I refuse to limit myself to that identity because (a) I haven't lived in T&T since I was 5 and couldn't make my way around that country on my own to save my life, and (b) it is Canada, and most of all Montreal, that has shaped my lifestyle and way of thinking as I have grown up. How can I shrug that off?

You write that "Most Canadians learn how great this country is after they finish high school. Once they truly discover Canada, they no longer wish to see its demise." I couldn't possibly agree more. I think the real root of the national unity issue is that the great mass of ordinary francophone Quebecers have not traveled in the rest of Canada much--have not met the people and have learned nothing about their culture or values or way of thinking. The reverse is equally true. I get royally annoyed when I hear English-Canadians from all parts of the country uttering that tired old canard, "Canada is a bilingual country; we need to keep Quebec because that's a large part of what makes us different from Americans." This aggravates me no end when it comes from completely unilingual English-Canadians who have at best only traveled to Quebec to enjoy Montreal's bars and nightlife once or twice. I always make a point of telling them, "Look. You speak no French and couldn't understand the language to save your life. You know nothing of the history of this province, nor of its its cuisine, its drinks, its landscape, its economy, its politics, its dialect, its street slang, its music, its dance, its lifestyle, its cuss words--in other words, of its culture. Quebec culture is therefore not the least bit accessible to you. So how does Quebec's distinctiveness somehow distnguish you from your American cousins, given that it has no relevance for your life as an individual, since you can't relate to it at all on a personal level? Here's the answer: it doesn't. Wise up." Similarly, I give notice to my francophone friends that if they have no knowledge of the Rest of Canada, they have no right to judge it as being hostile to Quebec's interests or insensitive to Quebec's needs or any such nonsense. Nor, for that matter, do they have the right to declare that Quebec is so damned "distinct" from the rest of Canada. Learn to speak English as well as French and engage in a constructive discourse with English-Canadians sometime--you'll see how similar they are to you after all.

You write that studying Canadian history under Dr. Bennett "allowed me to develop my own arguments. I was no longer a blind federalist." I can relate. For me, the bulk of that kind of sea change in my way of thinking has come since I went to Princeton University in the fall of 2003, right after graduating from LCC Pre-U. Going to school in the US has reinforced my belief in certain purported Canadian values and led me to question, and in some cases, rescind, my belief in many others. I no longer view the idea of two-tier healthcare the end of Canada as we know it. I believe even more strongly in a strong central government than I did in high school, when I was basically a Trudeau groupie of sorts. Working my first job back home in Montreal after my freshman year of college has made me more sympathetic than ever to the idea of ratcheting down Canada's tax burden (and I worked as a telemarketer, for God's sake). I have learned that conservative Americans--the intellectually conservative ones, anyway, not the culturally conservative ones--can be more open-minded than supposedly worldly and enlightened American liberals (I've taken far more anti-Canadian jokes and other abuse from liberal American students from the northeast and the West Coast than I have from committed conservative Republicans from the South and Midwest). I've learned that for all the pride Canadians take in our "multicultural mosaic", America's supposed "boiling pot" is no less diverse than ours, nor that much less welcoming to newcomers--and American immigrant communities have no more difficulty retaining their cultural connections to their countries of origins than Canadian immigrant communities do. And as for Canada's military? Well, I've always thought our military was a joke. My support for a stronger Canadian military shouldn't be laid at Princeton's intellectual door...

Anyway, I've rambled on an on for too long. Let me just finish my saying that in the past few years, doing my own research and exploration has enabled me to form my own opinions about all sorts of political issues--and to question a whole slew of sacred cows. I feel I am much the better-informed and more responsible democratic citizen for it. It's good to know I'm not the only one (especially that I'm not the only one in the Quebec Young Liberals!!).

6/19/2006 12:40 PM  
Blogger juicynewf a dit...

Lovely post, Antonio. Reminds me of my heady days at Forum for Young Canadians and Encounters with Canada...

6/21/2006 12:20 AM  
Blogger rev28 a dit...

Hey take your friend to this site I think he would love it www.twenty-twenty.com. It talks about current issues and also has authors predicting Canada's future as of 2020. Here is a quote and some thoughts.

Andrew Cohen: End of Federalism
“While a wave of immigrants was flooding across our borders, the provinces were re-asserting themselves. They demanded more powers – and they got them. Once the province of the province was the province; now the province of the province is the nation. The “quiet devolution” has created swaggering potentates presiding over wealthy fiefdoms. In 2014, the centre collapsed. The provinces already had spending power, taxing power, and their own pensions and social programs. They were choosing their immigrants and even running their own foreign policies. Indeed, for more than a decade they had embassies in international capitals. Now a once-influential country speaks to the world not with a single, eloquent voice, but in a contradictory and confusing cacophony.
Now, in 2020, we look around in despair. In the voiceless country, there is no one left to recall its past, no one left to celebrate its principles, and no one left to speak its name”.
Right on, Andrew. It’s high time we Canadians realized the folly of this disastrous path of reckless decentralization down which we’ve been traveling at breakneck speed for several generations now. Forget the year 2020; Canada, in practice if not necessarily in theory, is already arguably little more than an agglomeration of largely self-governing and totally self-interested provincial fiefdoms, with no belief in a unifying Canadian identity and no interest in the common good. Pierre Trudeau put the choice to Canadians best: what do we really want to be as a nation—“A loose coalition of provinces governed primarily by the provincial premiers…or a real country?”
As Paul Martin might say—choose your Canada.

7/07/2006 10:56 AM  
Blogger rev28 a dit...

Hey take your friend to this site I think he would love it www.twenty-twenty.com. It talks about current issues and also has authors predicting Canada's future as of 2020. Here is a quote and some thoughts.

Andrew Cohen: End of Federalism
“While a wave of immigrants was flooding across our borders, the provinces were re-asserting themselves. They demanded more powers – and they got them. Once the province of the province was the province; now the province of the province is the nation. The “quiet devolution” has created swaggering potentates presiding over wealthy fiefdoms. In 2014, the centre collapsed. The provinces already had spending power, taxing power, and their own pensions and social programs. They were choosing their immigrants and even running their own foreign policies. Indeed, for more than a decade they had embassies in international capitals. Now a once-influential country speaks to the world not with a single, eloquent voice, but in a contradictory and confusing cacophony.
Now, in 2020, we look around in despair. In the voiceless country, there is no one left to recall its past, no one left to celebrate its principles, and no one left to speak its name”.
Right on, Andrew. It’s high time we Canadians realized the folly of this disastrous path of reckless decentralization down which we’ve been traveling at breakneck speed for several generations now. Forget the year 2020; Canada, in practice if not necessarily in theory, is already arguably little more than an agglomeration of largely self-governing and totally self-interested provincial fiefdoms, with no belief in a unifying Canadian identity and no interest in the common good. Pierre Trudeau put the choice to Canadians best: what do we really want to be as a nation—“A loose coalition of provinces governed primarily by the provincial premiers…or a real country?”
As Paul Martin might say—choose your Canada.

7/07/2006 10:57 AM  
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9/20/2006 12:55 AM  

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