The Trudeau Paradox, Part I: The Origins Of Quebec Nationalism

Posted on Monday, January 20 at 17:52 by JaredMilne

Despite these efforts by the rest of the country to accommodate Quebec, the federal government under Brian Mulroney continued to try change the Canadian constitution to that province’s satisfaction with the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords. These Accords were fiercely opposed by Pierre Trudeau, and he was strongly supported by those Canadians who viewed the accords as further pandering to Quebec. The fallout from the failures of Meech Lake and Charlottetown led to the Quebec referendum of 1995, when Quebec very nearly separated from Canada. In the aftermath of this near-disaster, many Canadians concluded that there was no satisfying Quebec, particularly when the province came within a hair of seceding from Canada. They were opposed to any kind of concessions to Quebec nationalism, which they considered separatist in and of itself, if not racist and discriminatory.

This was because of the “Trudeau Paradox”, where Pierre Trudeau’s policies were meant to turn Francophone Quebecers away from their nationalism but ended up becoming far more popular among other Canadians than they were among Francophone Quebecers. What most Canadians outside Quebec don’t realize is that the last four decades were not a continuous effort of trying to please Quebec and force Quebec’s agenda on the rest of the country. Pierre Trudeau’s time in office was dedicated to fighting Quebec nationalism.

Trudeau’s policies of bilingualism and the Charter of Rights were meant to turn Francophone Quebecers away from their nationalism and undermine any particular recognition of Quebec as the distinctly Francophone province in Canada. Trudeau had an agenda, but his was very different from the one generally expressed in Quebec. Most Canadians outside Quebec didn’t realize this and often assumed that his agenda was that of Quebec as a whole. They became upset when they saw that many Quebecers still wanting to separate, becoming convinced that nothing would satisfy them.

While Trudeau made many important and valuable contributions to Canada, he ultimately didn’t succeed in his goal of trying to convince Francophone Quebecers to abandon their nationalism. The fallout from this was one of the factors that led to Brian Mulroney becoming Prime Minister, and the failure of Mulroney’s efforts to accommodate Quebec nationalism came about in no small part due to Trudeau’s fighting Mulroney’s efforts. That, in turn, led to the re-election of the Parti Quebecois in 1994, and the near-catastrophe of 1995.

This article is divided into three parts. In this first part, I examine the origins of Quebec nationalism how it led to Francophone Quebecers seeing their province as a “distinct society” in Canada, and how it led to the desire to have that distinctiveness recognized in the Canadian Constitution. In the second part, I examine Pierre Trudeau and his response to the attempts by Francophone Quebecers to have their province recognized as distinct in the Constitution. I also examine many of the policies he implemented to undermine Quebec’s distinctiveness, and his interventions in the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords, which led to the Trudeau Paradox. In the final part, I examine the possibility of reconciliation and resolving the Trudeau Paradox, as well as the fact that Quebec has much more in common with the rest of Canada than most people realize. 

 The Trudeau Paradox, Part I: The Rise of Quebec Nationalism

The desire of Francophone Quebecers for their province to have its distinctiveness recognized runs very deep in Canada, and extends all the way back to Confederation itself. Some of the Anglophone Fathers of Confederation, such as John A. Macdonald and Charles Tupper, would have preferred to simply fuse all of the British North American colonies into one larger entity, erasing the colonial borders altogether. However, they knew that this was impossible, due in no small part to the presence of Lower Canada, later to become Quebec, as one of the colonies in Confederation.[1] Indeed, George-Etienne Cartier and the other Francophone Lower Canadian Fathers, with support from the Maritimes, were adamant that Canada be a federal country, with particular powers reserved for the provinces.[2] From there, a broader sense developed that the English and the French  were Canada’s two “founding peoples”,[3] and that Quebec needed to be recognized as a “distinct society” within Canada because the majority of one of its founding peoples was located in Quebec.[4]

Later generations of Quebec thinkers picked up on this theme. Early Quebec and Canadian nationalist Henri Bourassa spoke about a “double compact” between French-and English-speaking Canadians,[5] while André Laurendeau, ,[6] Claude Ryan,[7] Christian Dufour,[8] and Stéphane Dion[9] all advocated the recognition of their province as distinct within Canada. The federal system was seen as extremely important by Quebec Francophones, particularly in that it allowed them to continue to maintain their Francophone character.[10] This even extended to language, as Francophone Quebecers used the same term of “Prime Minister” to refer equally to provincial Premiers and the federal Prime Minister.[11] Unfortunately, most of these developments were overlooked by Anglophone thinkers, who developed their own ideas of how Canada should evolve.[12]

This thinking developed against the backdrop of Francophone religious, educational and cultural rights, which were thought to be implicitly guaranteed in the original Confederation debates. George-Étienne Cartier, for example, specifically referred to how the educational rights of Ontario’s Francophone Catholic minority would be specifically guaranteed along with the educational rights of Quebec’s English-speaking minority.[13] Unfortunately, many of these rights were systematically rolled back, opposed and reduced in other parts of Canada, such as with the passing of Regulation 17 in Ontario, the opposition to bilingualism and Francophone Catholic schools in the Prairie provinces and the hanging of Louis Riel (which was heavily marked by an anti-Catholic backlash, which the largely Catholic Franco-Québécois population took as an attack on their religion and community), which led many Francophone Quebecers to believe that they could only maintain their Francophone identity and language within Quebec itself. This, in turn, gave rise to Quebec nationalism,[14] as Francophone Quebecers tried to maintain their province’s Francophone character while also ensuring space for its Anglophone minority.[15]

In the 1960s, Prime Minister Lester Pearson set up the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, to study the various national unity questions raised by the rise of Quebec nationalism. Many of its Francophone members, especially Laurendeau, advocated the idea of “biculturalism”, or “two founding peoples”. These Francophone members felt that Canadian institutions needed to reflect the reality of the country’s two national communities, including a recognition of Québec’s distinctiveness. Areas where linguistic minorities were prominent could be recognized as “bilingual districts”.[16]

When Quebec nationalism became a major issue in the 1960s, with Quebec nationalists believing that their province needed to be recognized as distinct in Canada, Pierre Trudeau came on the scene to oppose them. Trudeau’s individualist beliefs led him to state that Francophone Quebecers, and by extension all Francophone Canadians, could get along just fine without any kind of distinct status for Quebec. To that end, he advocated extending language rights to English- and French-speaking individuals across Canada, which would strengthen national unity. In turn, many Canadians outside Quebec came to see Trudeau as the main speaker for his province, and his policies as what Francophone Quebecers were truly looking for.[17]

The resulting “Trudeaumania”, as it was called, led to Trudeau becoming Prime Minister in 1968, and remaining in office until 1984, except for a brief period in 1979-1980. Trudeau would implement many controversial reforms during his time in office, and he would continue to influence Canadian politics for a long time after. This, and more, is the subject of Part II of this essay.



[1] 1. Tupper quoted in P.B. Waite, The Life And Times of Confederation, 1864-1867. Toronto, Ontario: Robin Brass Studio Incorporated, 2001. Page 222. Macdonald quoted in Alain Noel, “The Federal Principle: Solidarity and Partnership”, in Beyond The Impasse: Towards Reconciliation, edited by Roger Gibbins and Guy Laforest. Montreal, Quebec: Institute for Research on Public Policy. Pages 241-265, quoted on page 241).

[2] 2. Kenneth McRoberts, Misconceiving Canada: The Struggle For National Unity. Don Mills, Ontario: Oxford University Press, 1997. Pages 10-11.

[3]3.  Paul Romney, Getting It Wrong: How Canadians Forgot Their Past and Imperilled Confederation. Toronto, Ontario: University of Toronto Press, 1999. Pages 4, 138-139, 285-286. See also Claude Couture and Jean-François Cardien, with Gratien Allaire, Histoire du Canada: Espaces et differences. Saint-Nicolas, Québec : Les Presses de L’Université Laval, 1996. Pages 64, 215-216. See also Desmond Morton in The Illustrated History of Canada, edited by Craig Brown. Toronto, Ontario: Key Porter Books, 2002. Pages 504-505. See also Peter Russell, Constitutional Odyssey: Can Canadians Become a Sovereign People? Toronto, Ontario: University of Toronto Press, 2004. Pages 35, 50-51.

[4] 4. Romney, pages 142-143 and 211-212. See also McRoberts, pages 17-24, 27-35 and 258-259.

[5] 5. Couture, Cardin and Allaire, page 95. See also McRoberts, pages 19-24, and Romney, pages 143 and 211.

[6] 6. See James Bickerton, Stephen Brooks and Alain G. Gagnon, “André Laurendeau: The Search For Political Equality and Social Justice” in Freedom, Equality, Community: The Political Philosophy of Six Influential Canadians. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1995. Pages 55-70, especially pages 61-69. See also Guy Laforest, Trudeau and the End of A Canadian Dream. Translated by Paul Leduc Browne and Michelle Weinroth. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1995. Pages 56-86, especially 67-73.

[7] 7. Claude Ryan, Regards sur le fédéralisme canadien. Montreal, Quebec : Boréal, 1995. Pages 229-233.

[8] 8. Christian Dufour, Lettre aux souverainistes et aux fédéralistes qui sont restés fidèles au Québec. Montreal, Québec : Les Éditions Alain Stanké, 2000. Pages 59 and 66.

[9] 9. Stéphane Dion, Straight Talk: Speeches and Writings on Canadian Unity. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1999. Pages 138-149.

[10] 10. Claude Couture, Paddling With The Current: Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Étienne Parent, Liberalism and Nationalism in Canada. Translated by Vivien Boisley. Edmonton, Alberta: University of Alberta Press, 1998. Page 81.

[11] 11. Dufour, page 107.

[12] 12. Romney, pages 210-222. See also Laforest, pages 56-86.

[13] 13. George-Étienne Cartier, “I Am Also A French Canadian.” Quoted in Who Speaks For Canada? Words That Shape A Country, edited by Desmond Morton and Morton Weinfeld. Toronto, Ontario: McClelland and Stewart, 1998. Pages 36-38.

[14] 14. Couture, Cardin and Allaire, page 216. See also Romney, pages 203-204, 209 and 245-246. See also Alan Cairns, Charter vs. Federalism: The Dilemmas of Constitutional Reform. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1992. Page 36. See also Edmund Aunger, “Traffic Ticket Case A Truly Historic Decision.” Edmonton Journal, July 9, 2008. Available online at http://www.canada.com/story_print.html?id=2a50fbba-ede5-45b0-907d-26fb72d0b170&sponsor=

[15] 15. Dufour, pages 51-54.

[16] 16. McRoberts, pages 88-91 and 117-120. See also Jeffrey Simpson, Fautlines: Struggling For A Canadian Vision. Toronto, Ontario: HarperCollins Publishers, 1993. Page 256.

[17] 17. McRoberts, pages 64-74, 169, 187.

 

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  1. Tue Jan 21, 2014 12:46 pm
    Pierre Trudeau actually had a lot in common with the separatists. Both believed that Quebecers should be running a country. They just differed on the country they were talking about.

    Justin Trudeau, on his father's beliefs.

    Quebecers are better than the rest of Canada, because, you know, we're Quebecers or whatever."]


    Of course, the apple did not fall far from the tree.

    I'm a Liberal, so of course I think so, yes. Certainly when we look at the great prime ministers of the 20th century, those that really stood the test of time, they were MPs from Quebec... This country... Canada - it belongs to us.


    And "Trudeau's individualist beliefs"? I'm glad I wasn't drinking something when I read that, or I'd have had to wipe down my monitor afterwards.

  2. by RickW
    Tue Jan 21, 2014 3:58 pm
    Just because (for the most part) Quebecers have their heads screwed on right..........?

  3. Tue Jan 21, 2014 10:46 pm
    "RickW" said
    Just because (for the most part) Quebecers have their heads screwed on right..........?


    So you'd be fine with Quebecois supremacists running the country, as long as they shared your position on the left/right spectrum?

  4. Wed Jan 22, 2014 12:09 am
    "Individualist" said


    And "Trudeau's individualist beliefs"? I'm glad I wasn't drinking something when I read that, or I'd have had to wipe down my monitor afterwards.


    Believe it or not, one of Trudeau's biggest passions was individual self-development and growth. He explained it in his book "The Essential Trudeau", wherein someone born to a poor family might have great musical talent, but would often lack the means to develop his gift. Government programs like public education could give individuals the means to develop their skills that they might not necessarily have in a strictly classical liberal society.

    He extended that to Francophone Canadians, who he said did not need any kind of special status for Quebec, but an equal opportunity on par with Anglophones to develop their abilities. That was Trudeau's goal in passing legislation like the Official Languages Act.

    Of course, as Claude Couture pointed out in *his* book "Paddling With The Current: Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Etienne Parent And Liberalism In Canada", in supporting French Canadians Trudeau was de facto supporting a form of affirmative action for Francophones, and a form of group rights, which clashed with his individualist rhetoric. I touch on this more in the second and third parts of the essay, and how it affected the Trudeau Paradox.

  5. Wed Jan 22, 2014 1:57 am
    "JaredMilne" said
    Believe it or not, one of Trudeau's biggest passions was individual self-development and growth. He explained it in his book "The Essential Trudeau", wherein someone born to a poor family might have great musical talent, but would often lack the means to develop his gift. Government programs like public education could give individuals the means to develop their skills that they might not necessarily have in a strictly classical liberal society.


    I will grant that Trudeau did have some regard for individual rights and liberties, as evidenced by the Charter. He obviously wasn`t crazy about property rights, but that doesn`t take away from the many positive aspects of the document.

    I wonder if Ron Dart would consider John Diefenbaker a true Red Tory, given that Dief had put into place a (non-constitutional) Bill of Rights. I suspect that would have been a little too "liberal" for Mr. Commonweal's tastes. His having been a Baptist probably didn't help either.

  6. Wed Jan 22, 2014 4:00 am
    "Individualist" said


    I wonder if Ron Dart would consider John Diefenbaker a true Red Tory, given that Dief had put into place a (non-constitutional) Bill of Rights. I suspect that would have been a little too "liberal" for Mr. Commonweal's tastes. His having been a Baptist probably didn't help either.


    See for yourself:

    http://www.clarion-journal.com/clarion_ ... r_and.html



    ...It was Diefenbaker that made it clear that Canada would trade with Cuba and China when the Americans placed trade embargos on these states, and it was Diefenbaker that was quite willing to doubt and question Kennedy’s interpretation of the facts in the Cuban missile crisis. It was Diefenbaker again that wondered whether Canada should join the Organization of American States (a front for American policy in Central America).

    In short, Diefenbaker, as a Conservative Prime Minister, dared to doubt and saw through the seductive imperialism of Kennedy’s Camelot. The NDP voted with the Liberals to bring down the Conservative government, and in the 1963 election, Canadians voted against Diefenbaker’s brand of nationalism and brought in the pro-Kennedy liberal Lester Pearson. The integrationist approach of Pearson had many historic ties with other Canadian liberals...

    ...Was Diefenbaker a conservative of the Macdonald variety? Yes! He knew what the Yankees were all about. Is Harper a conservative of the Macdonald and Diefenbaker type? The answer is obvious. Harper and clan are eager and keen to bow low to the New Romans and their Caesar. Such a low bow and slavish obedience could not but make a Classical Conservative of the Macdonald and Diefenbaker clan ill at ease with the betrayal of a nobler way.



    In Professor Dart's work, I have never found any critiques of Diefenbaker's Bill of Rights or the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in his work, nor have I ever seen any criticisms of Baptism or Catholicism. Indeed, from what I recall he's quoted favourably from various Zen and Taoist books in some of his writings, something I doubt a fundamentalist would do.

    And just for the record, I have never been keen on denouncing Liberals and groups who support more individualist conservatism as being automatically against Classical Toryism. Lester Pearson's actual record as Prime Minister has plenty of accomplishments that would sit well with most Red Tories (Expo 67, the Bi and Bi Commission, a distinctly Canadian flag, etc.), and as I've shown on this site Western conservatives like Preston Manning and even Stephen Harper have said and done many things that fit into the Red Tory tradition as defined by Dart (even if, in Harper's case, he does it more out of necessity than actual desire).

  7. Wed Jan 22, 2014 12:39 pm


    Thanks for setting me straight Jared. It sounds though like Dart feels that Dief qualifies as a Red Tory solely (or at least mainly) on the basis of anti-Americanism. Some say though that Diefenbaker's apparent anti-Americanism was truly more of a personal dislike for JFK and his style. I too find the ongoing Kennedy-worship sound of the border (and in some quarters north) irritating. To bring it back to the thread topic, it's too much like the cult of Trudeau here, except Pierre didn't die in office and become mythologized in the same way. Canadians got to get tired of Trudeau in a way that Americans didn't with JFK. That hasn't stopped us from going all dynastic through with Justin the Dauphin, who also managed to outlive his US equivalent.

    Here is where I get confused though. Dart frequently references the opposition of Red Tories to "liberalism". Charters and bills of rights are the very definition of liberalism, in that much of their purpose is to outline what the community (usually in the form of the state) is *not* allowed to do the individual. What exactly is it in liberalism then that Dart finds so objectionable? Is he perhaps confusing libertarianism with liberalism?

    And just for the record, I have never been keen on denouncing Liberals and groups who support more individualist conservatism as being automatically against Classical Toryism. Lester Pearson's actual record as Prime Minister has plenty of accomplishments that would sit well with most Red Tories (Expo 67, the Bi and Bi Commission, a distinctly Canadian flag, etc.), and as I've shown on this site Western conservatives like Preston Manning and even Stephen Harper have said and done many things that fit into the Red Tory tradition as defined by Dart (even if, in Harper's case, he does it more out of necessity than actual desire).


    Pearson and Trudeau were, in my view, the "illiberal Liberals". They fit more comfortably within a Red Tory framework than the St. Laurents and Lauriers. The Liberals and Conservatives exchanged their traditional perches, the Liberals having started the process with Pearson. The Liberals became the "no truck or trade" party who increased the role of the state through Keynesian interventionism, while the Tories became the continentalists more concerned with individual rights than with communitarian traditions. A Red Tory created the CBC. A Red Liberal created Petro-Canada.

  8. Wed Jan 22, 2014 3:07 pm
    "Individualist" said

    It sounds though like Dart feels that Dief qualifies as a Red Tory solely (or at least mainly) on the basis of anti-Americanism. Some say though that Diefenbaker's apparent anti-Americanism was truly more of a personal dislike for JFK and his style. I too find the ongoing Kennedy-worship sound of the border (and in some quarters north) irritating.


    Sorry Indy, I had to laugh at that. I don't know how you can find it to be 'anti-American' if Canadians choose to think and do for ourselves, specifically ignoring our southern neighbours.

  9. by RickW
    Thu Jan 23, 2014 2:55 am
    "Individualist" said
    So you'd be fine with Quebecois supremacists running the country, as long as they shared your position on the left/right spectrum?

    Much better than the existing "supremist" we have running the country - and we'd have some pretty good home-grown music too........

  10. Thu Jan 23, 2014 6:08 am
    "Individualist" said

    Thanks for setting me straight Jared. It sounds though like Dart feels that Dief qualifies as a Red Tory solely (or at least mainly) on the basis of anti-Americanism. Some say though that Diefenbaker's apparent anti-Americanism was truly more of a personal dislike for JFK and his style. I too find the ongoing Kennedy-worship sound of the border (and in some quarters north) irritating. To bring it back to the thread topic, it's too much like the cult of Trudeau here, except Pierre didn't die in office and become mythologized in the same way. Canadians got to get tired of Trudeau in a way that Americans didn't with JFK. That hasn't stopped us from going all dynastic through with Justin the Dauphin, who also managed to outlive his US equivalent.

    Here is where I get confused though. Dart frequently references the opposition of Red Tories to "liberalism". Charters and bills of rights are the very definition of liberalism, in that much of their purpose is to outline what the community (usually in the form of the state) is *not* allowed to do the individual. What exactly is it in liberalism then that Dart finds so objectionable? Is he perhaps confusing libertarianism with liberalism?


    It's difficult to explain briefly, but one of the problems Dart has, based on my readings of his work, is that in a classically liberal society, almost everything becomes about profit and material gain. It's one thing to advocate for freedom and individual development, but what are those freedoms eventually used for? Dart talks about the "best, the mediocre and the worst" in development beyond just technical education, and things like contemplation and spiritual fulfillment, which are decidedly lacking in a more liberal society, or so Dart says.

    I don't take things quite as far myself, but I do believe there is something to the critique of materialism that Dart implies, even if I don't take the rhetoric as far as he goes. For me, business ownership and capitalism are worthwhile tools indeed, but, as I've stated before, I also believe that state action, when properly applied, can also be a tremendous benefit, particularly in compensating for the weaknesses that markets sometimes lead to while also complementing their strengths.

    Oh, and props for your commentary on JFK. I've always been baffled by how so many Americans see him as some sort of revered saint, when he strikes me as being far more style than substance. "All hat and no cattle", as we Albertans might say.

    "Individualist" said

    Pearson and Trudeau were, in my view, the "illiberal Liberals". They fit more comfortably within a Red Tory framework than the St. Laurents and Lauriers. The Liberals and Conservatives exchanged their traditional perches, the Liberals having started the process with Pearson. The Liberals became the "no truck or trade" party who increased the role of the state through Keynesian interventionism, while the Tories became the continentalists more concerned with individual rights than with communitarian traditions. A Red Tory created the CBC. A Red Liberal created Petro-Canada.


    John Ralston Saul, in his book "Reflections Of A Siamese Twin", has some very interesting quotes from Laurier. In his younger days, Laurier talked about the importance of considering everything in society as a whole, not just businesses and individuals, and at the end of his life he was calling for equality of administration between labour and capital. As for his 1911 "free trade" deal, from what I've read it actually kept a lot of the old machine tariffs in place while addressing the main grievance of Western farmers, namely giving them better access to the U.S. market. If that's the case, it was...managed trade. Go figure.

    As for St. Laurent, he presided over a large growth in the social safety net, and funding for Canadian arts and culture. Again, that's something that Red Tories would have been quite comfortable with, I think. In reading Charles Taylor's "Radical Tories", I can't say that I can recall much negative criticism of St. Laurent.

  11. by RickW
    Thu Jan 23, 2014 3:15 pm
    "JaredMilne" said
    I don't take things quite as far myself, but I do believe there is something to the critique of materialism that Dart implies, even if I don't take the rhetoric as far as he goes.

    Here's a couple of links you may or may find useful:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mincome
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/ ... s-1.868562



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