Magazine Politique

The «historical» position of France towards Québec

Publié le 12 octobre 2010 par Allpeopleunite
Cet engagement tient en quelques mots: les socialistes y promettent de «rétablir la position historique de la France par rapport au Québec». (Cyberpresse 11 Oct. 2010)

The Socialist Party of France, and the larger French political establishment, have always maintained an extraordinary commitment to Québec, except for the intervening years between the end of the Seven Years War (1763) , when Britain gained Québec as a colony from France, and the emergence of the Québécois separatist movement, culminating in de Gaulle’s famous declaration from the balcony of the Montréal City Hall in 1967 (youtube). For 200 years , France largely ignored their «francophone brothers», then when a strong national identity, coupled with a secessionist movement emerged, suddenly the French Republic became some kind of stake-holder in the future of Québec.

Forgive me for being cynical, but it seems that the French government only starts pretending to care about the future of Québec and its people when it is politically advantageous. Portraying itself as the protector and cheerleader of Québec is sometimes useful to the Establishment, it gives them credit with their own electorate because it shows that are were defending a small, oppressed, largely White Catholic francophone people (needless to say that the cause of other oppressed nations, specifically those in Françafrique, had not been so feverously advanced in the previous years). That noble position is, however, sometimes trumped by the larger diplomatic and economic relations between Paris and Ottawa.

While France for many years has maintained a keen interest in Québec, the question of sovereignty has been a bone of contention even in mainstream French politics. For example Sarkozy came out as a more neutral player in the long running transatlantic drama, saying that fraternity between Québec and France should not exclude Canada, now the Parti Socialiste draws the line in the sand (much to the joy of the Parti Québécois).

Of course, the diplomatic relationship between Québec and France has deepened and been formalized into more than just a few proclamations and slogans. Now there are several agreements in force, such as the ability for Québécois employers to advertise jobs directly to the Pôle Emploi (France’s answer to the Job Bank), a mutual recognition of diplomas, etc.That being said, while the relationship is more beneficial and more concrete,it is still a matter of political posturing to the electorate in terms of France’s «commitment» to Québec.One doesn’t expect anything more, most diplomacy is done with the a political agenda in mind, but let’s not rewrite history.

Some of the metropolitan French still look to the Québécois as their poorer, more rustic transatlantic cousin, hopelessly feeling around in the dark for a way out of the Canadian Confederation. They see Québécois French as inferior, and riddled with anglicismes (never mind that Québécois French has words for concepts and ideas that have been replaced whole-sale with anglicisms in Metropolitan French: le week end (FR) v. fin de semaine (QC), le shopping/faire de shopping (FR) v. magasinage/magasiner (QC) ,chat (FR) v clavarder (QC) ). Snobbery aside, I think that the French public feels a certain affinity with Québec, not only because of historical and linguistic ties, but also in that they are both grappling with questions of national identity, language preservation, the boundaries of laicité, and the social and economic integration of minorities and immigrants, though they experience and respond to these questions in markedly different ways. Perhaps these nations can learn something from one another, perhaps it doesn't really matter (I wonder how much France's diplomatic support for Québec in whatever form will change anyone's mind in Québec or France about who or what to vote for)...

The péquistes

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