September 20, 2006

Civic Nationalism: Why Canada NEEDS Michael Ignatieff to Win

Civic Nationalism: Why Canada NEEDS Michael Ignatieff to Win

I said I would find the time to explain some of the more contentious concepts in Ignatieff’s arsenal. While Quebecers need Michael Ignatieff to win, rejection of his civic nation-building will have dire consequences for Canada.

There are two types of nationalism which can help achieve political integration, and to some extent, socio-political cohesion. Civic nationalism, where people are bound to their symbols, values, ideas, and NOT their ethnic heritage, and ethnic nationalism, where bloodline determines everything.

Jacques Parizeau was an ethnic nationalist; he sought to divide along the lines of ethnicity. Those who were not “pure laine” were not welcome in Parizeau’s Quebec.

One undeniable fact is that immigrants in Quebec are beginning to share the same values as Quebecers. Integration is being achieved through a freak combination of Trudeau’s multicultural policy mixed with the PQ’s language protection laws. What it creates is a Quebec society that share the same values, symbols, and a culture, which is “distinct” to Quebec but NOT to the ethnic group of Quebecois “de souche”.

Michaelle Jean was right. The time of two solitudes is over. Canadian no longer means any ethnic group. We are Canadian because we believe in the values, symbols, and ideas which bind us together. Civic nationalism was used to build this great country. It will continue to do so.

But that does mean that there were two solitudes in the first place. They grew into two civic nations which choose to live in the same state. The two civic nations ARE NOT mutually exclusive. One can feel a part of both nations, as I do. Is there a benefit to being in both? Absolutely not. Just because we recognize a historical fact does not mean we throw away our Charter values of equality.

Canada is a multinational state which has chosen to unite on common principles, values and symbols. All Michael wants to do is affirm it so Quebecers can see that English Canada respects their unique status, but does not afford it any privileges.

This leads me to the arrogance of the English Press. Today Montreal economist and Gazette Columnist William Watson further increased the divide between English and French Press by spouting off comments which can almost be described as xenophobic.

Watson disqualifies Michael Ignatieff from the leadership of the party based on Michael’s decision to be a journalist and academic who happened to work outside the country.

Xenophobia is an unreasonable fear or hatred of strangers or those you do not know.

“Have we made such a botch of things we need an outsider to show us how to make it all work?” Outsider? Since when is Ignatieff’s passport no longer valid? Once again he is penalized for choosing to cover the Balkan War, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Rwanda, and other conflicts where ethnic groups killed each other based on race.

The Balkan war was the result of a federation which was built on ethnic nationalism. Despite Tito’s efforts, there was no Yugoslavian nation and no common values or bind that the people shared. It was beginning to form, but the end of communism saw ethnic nationalism take over. People who used to be neighbours turned on each other for bloodline purposes.

Read Empire Lite by Ignatieff and specifically the chapter on the Mostar Bridge to see first hand how neighbours turned on each overnight when war broke out.

We have peddlers of ethnic nationalism in Canada, the likes of Parizeau and Pierre Falardeau. Do not be fooled by the Globe and Mail or Jan Wong. The vast majority of Quebecers do not buy into their dogma.

Getting back to Watson, MacDonald, MacPherson, the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, National Post, etc. who have said Michael is wrong about Quebec and say he is out of touch because he was not here. Michael has seen the consequences of other countries that did not recognize certain truths about their history. It is about coming clean; something the party is doing anyway. I will concede that Michael may not have been here for the nitty gritty of the past two rounds of constitutional talks and/or referendums. Where I break with the Anglophone media is why they insist it is Ignatieff who is out of touch with Quebec, when clearly they are out of touch with Quebecers.

75% of Quebecers believe Quebec is a nation. Michael may have been a journalist at the time. However, is the English media prepared to say that

Andre Pratte
Michel C. Auger
Alain Dubuc
Marc Garneau
Liza Frulla
Marc Lalonde
Patrice Ryan (Son of Former Liberal Leader Claude Ryan)
Raymond Garneau
Denis Coderre
Pablo Rodriguez

are ALL out of touch with Quebecers as well?

Prominent Quebecers who have chosen to agree with Michael (for the first 4) or actually support his candidacy for the last 7.

So Watson, Macdonald, and MacPherson better take a better look at Quebec society before writing Ignatieff off. This Anglo arrogance will not serve Canada well if Andre Boisclair wins the election next year.

When we go down the path to get another root canal, some of us will be wondering why we couldn’t just cap the cavity when we had a chance.

15 Commentaires:

Blogger ecrelin a dit...

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9/20/2006 5:09 p.m.  
Blogger ecrelin a dit...

Great article. As a Québecois, I absolutely agree with you and I truly beleive that Ignatieff is the only man who can give back credibility to the Liberal party in Québec.

Also, on your list of great Québecois who beleive that we are a civic nation, you forgot Jean Charest and all is MPs ;)

9/20/2006 5:12 p.m.  
Blogger calgarygrit a dit...

If Boisclair wins the next election, would it make sense for Prime Minister Ignatieff to negotiate with him on a constitutional ammendment?

9/20/2006 5:15 p.m.  
Blogger cat mutant a dit...

On verra qui gagnera le poste de chef du PLC... La chose triste est, qu'en lisant les commentaires dans les postes précédants, on voit que l'inabilité de English Canada à voir ou, plus précisement, à vouloir comprendre quelque chose vraiment importante pour la grande majorité des Québecois et Québecoises, n'importe les origines éthniques... francais, anglais, italien, chinois, etc... nous sommes tous des Québecois et Québecoises, et des Canadiens at Canadiennes.

9/20/2006 5:28 p.m.  
Blogger ecrelin a dit...


If Boisclair wins the next election, it's not a constitutional ammendment that will have to be negociate, it's may be the partition of the country. The best way to put an end at all this secession shit is to recognize Quebec difference in our constitution. Michael Ignatieff seems to be the only one willing to do this.

9/20/2006 5:28 p.m.  
Blogger Antonio a dit...

yeah CG

If Boisclair wins, he wont opt to negotiate, that is why we all wanna help get Charest re-elected.

I would rather have Prime Minister Ignatieff than Prime Minister Rae or Harper during a referendum.

9/20/2006 5:51 p.m.  
Blogger Aristo a dit...

I defer to your knowledge of QUebec politics but I will say that the idea of Quebec as a nation is anathma to the concept that Albertans (and indeed many westerners) hold of Canada as a country.
Recognizing Quebec as a nation may indeed help the Liberal party in Quebec (as much as I also beleive it helps the seperatists by allowing them to define the debate.) It puts us back another 10 to 20 years in Alberta and hurts us in the rest of the west. Electoraly Quebec is still more important then Alberta but things are changing fast.

9/20/2006 5:57 p.m.  
Blogger ecrelin a dit...

aristo, I don't see how recognizing Québec as a nation could help separatists because everyone in Québec recognize that, from Jean Charest to Mario Dumont.

I think that the party (Ignatieff) need to explain to the westerner that recognizing Quebec as a nation is not making any new concessions to Québec and that it's not hurting national unity.

(I would like to debate this better but my english is still very poor)

9/20/2006 6:12 p.m.  
Blogger [JTF6.0]Undecided a dit...

Unfortunately, your article leaves out the fact that an increasing proportion of quebec academia are beginning to question the "monistic authenticity" that lies at the heart of the quebec (or for that matter pan-canadian) nation-building projects.

Maclure and Karmis attack our dependence on the "monistic authenticity" of a national identity, instead arguing that:

While recent years have been marked by an explosion of perceptive interdisciplinary works emphasizing the historical and increasingly plural and complex character of identity, political and social elites’ interpretations of given identities have continued to be largely dominated by attempts at identifying one authentic and immutable source of identity (Karmis and Maclure: 2001: 361).

On the topic of civic nationalism vs. ethnic nationalism, academics have typicallly made a normative argument in favour of civic nationalism. But authors such as Dimitrios Karmis (Quebec), and Yael Tamir have criticized the distinction, arguing that both forms of nationalism can be extremely exclusionary and both seek to impose a hierarchy of identity in which the nation is at the top and the lower cultures integrate into it. For example, Karmis (again) rejects both monistic conceptions of national identity for their incapacity to accept alternative forms of identity. In the case of civic nationalism, it favours the cultural and linguistic tradition of the majority, seeking to assimilate members from outside that majority group. Ethnic nationalism, while considered by Karmis to be more objective due to its use of clearly defined criteria such as race, language, or religion, puts up insurmountable obstacles to inclusion. Thus, rather than be drawn into an argument over which monistic conception is superior, Karmis dismisses both conceptions as equally unacceptable (Karmis 2004: 75-76).

Thirdly, Quebec academics are unable to agree on a definition of nation other than that "Quebec" is one, and that other groups are not. For example, Fernand Dumont (sociohistorical), Gerard Bouchard (sociomythological), Michel Seymour (sociocultural), and Jocelyn Maclure (dialogical) have completely different criteria for what forms a nation. For Dumont, he sees the Quebec nation as a creation by elites (similar to Canada, he argues) that cannot force other groups internal to quebec to comply (Anglo-Quebecers and aboriginals). Instead he favours a French Canadian nation. Bouchard centers a North American Francophonie around a common language, once again excluding members of other linguistic groups in quebec. Seymour favours a nation within a nation concept and is unable to see Canada as anything other than a "juridictional language". To this end Seymoure defines nations to define Canada and Quebec (distinct and separate) while relegating groups such as Anglo-Quebecers and other Francophone groups outside Quebec to marginal status as national minorities. His logic is extremely twisted and full of holes. Finally, Maclure proposes the strongest articulation of a shared identity centred around a common discourse but warns that national identities can no longer be considered as primary to ordering citizen's loyalties.

Thirdly, even under the most strident of definitions, the conclusion can only be drawn that Quebec, just like the rest of Canada is multilingual, multinational, and multicultural. Even in Quebec, the Quebec nationalist project only support within the Franco-Quebecois community. By a wide majority, Anglophones and Allophones do not feel that they belong to the Quebec nation (see CRIC surverys from before Harper canceled them). By its very composition, the Quebec national project remains an ethnic one. Rather, Quebec is plural, muliticultural, and multinational, not uninational.

It would be more compelling and I suspect more compelling to the ROC for Quebec identity to be centred around the individual rather than around the collective group. Therefore, an individual may feel attachment to a Quebec national identity, a Canadian national identity, as way as any other combination of national, cultural, and territorial identities.

The concept of the nation died in the growing plurality of the late 20th Century. It's time to move to new ways of thinking on collective identity.

Scott Blurton
MA Student
Les etudes Quebecoises et Canadiennes
Universite d'Ottawa

PS - Forgive the long post, but I'm getting tired a people spouting off rhetorical without actually examining the subject indepth. I'll post a full article on my blog by the end of the week.

9/20/2006 6:59 p.m.  
Blogger s.b. a dit...

Antonio, Canadians don`t like Mr. Ignatieff. He will never be elected Prime Minister especially with his lack of experience, absence from the country for his entire adult life, and gaffes, so why should we elect him leader?

9/20/2006 8:02 p.m.  
Blogger Peter Wrightwater a dit...

This is MI's definition of civic nationalism from Blood and Belonging:

"civic nationalism maintains that the nation should be composed of all those -- regardless of race, color, creed, gender, language, or ethnicity -- who subscribe to the nation' political creed. This nationalism is called civic because it envisages the nation as a community of equal, rights-bearing citizens, united in patriotic attachment to a shared set of political practices and values."

Every province and Canada as a whole fits this definition,

What is the political creed of Quebec?

How is it different from the political Creed of Canada?

How is it so different from the political creed from Newfoundland?

Or is there a difference? If there isn't, why the need to single out Quebec in the constitution?

If you say the difference is language then you're excluding a portion of the population within Quebec and headed down the road to ethnic nationalism!

75% of Quebecers believe Quebec is a Nation.

1-How many of the 75% believe it's an ethnic nation?
2-How many of the 75% believe it's an civic nation?
3-How many of the 75% believe it's a sociological nation

These are difficult questions to which there are no easy answers, Then add constitutional negotiations to the mix.

Mr. Boisclair will say "Sure let's give them one more chance." The talks will fail and he'll call a referendum ....

9/20/2006 8:57 p.m.  
Blogger Manitoba Liberal a dit...

I don't care the Iggy is an academic intellectual. I do care that he has not lived in the country he wants to lead for over 30 years.

No serious nation in the world would ever consider him a candidate for their highest office. Imagine France having a President who spent his adult life outside the country, or the U.S or anyonther place in the world.

Sorry to be P.M it means more than a passport and some intelectual affection for Canada. It means that you have been a fully participating citizen for more than a year just becasue you wanted to come home and be PM because some people thought you could do a poor Trudeau impression.

9/20/2006 10:30 p.m.  
Blogger anna yanuk a dit...

Shoshana Berman

I don't think you are an appropriate spokeswoman to speak on behalf of what Canadians like in their prime ministers.

However, I do think that you and Ann Coulter would make awesome bunk buddies.

And I think that since you're in Montreal, it's only appropriate that you, an experience Liberal member, take Antonio out to lunch or supper.

9/21/2006 12:03 a.m.  
Blogger Ed King a dit...

That's an interesting definition, Peter. It makes one wonder what Ignatieff means when he says:

"Quebecers, moreover, have come to understand themselves as a nation, with a language, history, culture and territory that marks them out as a separate people. Quebec is a civic nation, not an ethnic nation. It is composed of all the peoples from many lands who have come to Quebec and associate themselves with the values and traditions of Quebec and Canada."

If a civic nation has nothing to do with language or history, what is Ignatieff talking about when he says "Quebecers, moreover, have come to see themselves...". Is he saying Quebecers are wrong to see themselves as a 'sociological' nation? I don't understand, and Ignatieff is only adding to the ambiguity which defines this nation debate when he talks about civic nationalism and the characteristics of 'sociological' nationalism in the same breath.

9/21/2006 8:23 a.m.  
Blogger Ed King a dit...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9/21/2006 8:24 a.m.  

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