If the Olympics have shown us one thing so far, it’s that Pauline Marois’ notion of nationhood is anything but golden.
All four of Canada’s medal results so far in the Olympic games have been bronze medals, earned by Quebecers. Four medals, six Olympians (two were for synchro diving), all from la belle province. Worthy results for admirable Olympians.
Ah – but apparently that’s not all. Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois was the first to do the math. With a leap of arithmetic worthy of Einstein, Marois determined that the four bronzes indicated Quebec could take its place among the nations of the world.
Never mind whether any of the athletes are sovereigntists or separatists or share any of Marois’ views whatsoever. Never mind what proportion of their funding was federal, provincial, municipal, personal, or private. The conclusion was obvious for Marois: four bronze equals independence for Quebec.
I can’t help but think Marois is damning her own cause with faint praise.
Here’s why: anyone can see that on the face of it, Quebec could be an independent country. Why not? With a vast land mass, plenty of resources, a more-or-less solid infrastructure and an educated population of nearly 8 million, that’s elementary. There are far smaller, far weaker, far poorer, far more unlikely countries in the world today.
If I were Pauline Marois, then, and I hoped to win an election and advance a separatist cause, those are the sorts of things I’d be telling people. I’d appeal to common sense and geography and history, with a dash of economics and culture, and try to make my case that way.
Because surely the issue in any future referendum over sovereignty isn’t whether Quebec could be a country. It’s whether it should be. And on that question, Quebeckers themselves remain sharply divided, and likely will for the forseeable future. Does Marois think she can convince the fence-sitters with Olympic medal results?
Should a sovereign Quebec somehow emerge in the future—and that’s a major feat of speculation— it would undoubtedly take a much different shape than the current province does. Who knows what sort of resources would be available to its athletes, or even how many of its current contenders would choose to live there and compete for the new nation.
But still, Quebec could be a country, and that country would surely still be a medal contender at the Games, albeit proportionally less so on the basis of its size and financial strength than Canada has been. No one can possibly doubt that.
Which means if Marois wants to make the case for an independent Quebec, she’s going to have to come up with something a little more convincing than a strong showing in the early days of the Olympic games.
In the meantime, we can all show our support for the gifted Quebec athletes who have competed, and won bronze, for Canada.