Dear Quebec


Michael Ignatieff writes an open letter to la belle province.

While plenty of media attention was given to the poor place of French in the opening ceremonies at the Vancouver Olympics – and not without reason – Lucien Bouchard’s remarks last Tuesday will likely fuel public debate, both in Quebec and across Canada.

With respect to the opening ceremonies, it is important to note that the limited amount of French was noticed from coast to coast. The issue doesn’t come down to criticizing the Olympic organizing committee, but rather ensuring that this error is rectified. After all, an impressive number of our athletes are bilingual – we were all very impressed by the confidence Jennifer Heil and Maëlle Ricker showed while speaking in French, although both are from the West.  It now falls to the organizing committee to catch up to Canada’s reality.  If the improvements we’ve already seen in the competition venues are any indication, the closing ceremonies will show that the message has been heard.

I believe however that Mr. Bouchard, who isn’t known for mincing his words, made comments this week that are far more important for advancing the debate on the nature of our country and the role Quebec should play in it. Mr. Bouchard has invited Quebecers to embrace a new dream.  A dream that does not involve sovereignty, because according to him, that dream is not attainable.  His statements will surely prompt further discussion on whether sovereignty is attainable or not. His observation that PQ has chosen to play identity politics within Quebec will also generate debate. But that is not the point of my comments today.

I sincerely believe that the new dream Quebecers should be a part of is a dream shared with their fellow citizens in other parts of Canada.  This dream is about building a more just society, where everyone has the chance to succeed. I’ve just completed a cross-Canada tour of college and university campuses, and everywhere I went I felt a desire to participate and to get involved in shaping the Canada of tomorrow. This feeling exists in Quebec, just as it is felt in other parts of the country.

My party wants to make Canada the best educated country in the world, because our true natural resources are found in the minds that make us more innovative. We also want to make Canada the most energy efficient country in the world, because the jobs of tomorrow will be those that make and use clean energy, combining productivity with safeguarding the environment. Finally, we want to make Canada the most open country in the world, because our future will depend on our ability to open new markets, to showcase our culture and our artists outside of our borders, and to attract students and professionals who will enrich our country.

We will put forward other innovative and concrete ideas after our Montreal conference at the end of March. But one thing is for certain: we believe in a country at the centre of which Quebecers find themselves, a country that offers a great opportunity to dream and to act together for those who wish to influence its development.

Mr. Bouchard had the courage to say what many have been thinking deep down. Instead of passively waiting for a so-called “historic night”, it is crucial that Quebecers actively participate in the changes happening within Canada. They must get involved in shaping the Canada of tomorrow. There is no contradiction in feeling proud to be Canadian and proud to be a Quebecer. There is likewise no reason to hesitate in wanting to shape this country in our image, in all its various forms.

The objectives of the Liberal Party of Canada are in sync with the aspirations of Quebecers. They want high quality jobs in a clean environment. They want a Canada that plays a positive role in the world. They want to know that their culture is respected, appreciated and supported by a government that recognizes the importance to Canada of a confident Quebec that is engaged in Canada’s plans for the future.

Michael Ignatieff
Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada


Dear Quebec

    • The best apart about boring and predictable Norman, I don't even have to read it, to know what he said. The hallmark of a true hack, disguised as reasoned commentary.

      Gee, I wonder what Ian MacDonald will say next? Yawn.

    • That's not an uncommon stance, especially for older and/or devoted PQ militants: I'm a sovereigntist, but this isn't going anywhere. Describing yourself as a Sovereigntist is almost meaningless by now. Which was Bouchard's point. Spector needs to take up golf.

      • Spector'd just hack at that, too.

  1. Well, number one, beyond the usual Quebec question, the Olympics has 2 official languages…French and English. They also use the host country's language if that is different. VANOC seems unaware of that.

    Secondly, I always like what Ignatieff has to say about education, innovation and so on, but this goes back to the state of our journalism in a previous topic.

    Have our journos ever read Future Shock, or The World is Flat, or anything about the knowledge economy? If so you'd never know it by the lack of questions about these matters during interviews, and the lack of commentary in columns.

    Are Canadians being remotely prepared for the vast changes overtaking the world?

    • You complain about the Olympic's official discourse regarding languages. That is a good point, besides the point being made by Quebeckers in regard to language rights etc.

      But if you are really concerned about rules and regulations, why not be consistent and start asking questions about the manner in which our federal elections are conducted.

      For instance, would you say it to be understood correctly that within the rules of federal elections, that a none-federalist party should be able to fully participates?

      And futhermore, would you find it reasonable (within rules and regulations concerning Canada) that Canadian tax dollars are doled out to any separatist party participating within Canadian federal elections?

      Because if that's the way Mr.Ignatieff's direction for ecucation and innovation is heading, I will say that I would start looking for better teachers. Unless, of course, we are reading completely different books. There are afterall, the fiction and none fiction departments.

  2. You're right, just being a smart ass.

    I do think the Libs are wise to say something, because they desperately need traction in Quebec. Ignatieff's words were chosen carefully, should risk much blowback. He's basically saying let's get on with the business of Canada, and Quebec doesn't need the distraction.

  3. I certainly can't quarrel with the overall sentiment, but this does boil down to saying, "Just wait 'til our policy ideas come out! Then you'll see what I mean by dreaming a common dream!" Unless Iggy literally means that ROCians all want Porsches and the Québécois all want Porsches so we have a lot in common; which I doubt was his intention.

    • But the idea, Jack, is that "our" policy ideas are really "your" policy ideas. We can hardly tell you what they are before we hear them, can we?

    • Well that just shows what you know– I want a Maserati.

  4. FWIW, I note that Iggy addresses "Quebecers" in English and "les Québécois" in French. Looks like that ambiguity is now part of our lexicon.

    Incidentally, is there any consensus on "Quebecer" vs. "Quebecker"? I prefer the latter, superfluous K's being where it's at.

    • I also prefer Quebecker. Probably because in English I think Quebecer should be pronounced Quebeser. Not sure if there's a grammatical reason for my thinking that, it just looks like it to me.

      • You must be Senadian.

      • I think Quebecer is more elegant looking.

    • I vote for 'Quebecer'. There's no 'k' in "Quebec' so why would there be one for 'Quebecker'?

      I do find that either "Quebecois" is the best way to describe the ethnic majority in the province. "Francophone" or "French-speaking Quebecer" (which I sometimes use) is a little too vague since it also lumps in all of the allophones who speak French but who are still a distinct group from the historical francophone community.

      "French Canadian" is problematic for some of the same reasons as "English Canadian" i.e. it's been a while since we were European colonies. Also many Quebecois don't like identifying themselves as "Canadians" (even with the "French" qualifier in front). Lastly it does not make a distinction between francophones inside Quebec with those living in the ROC.

      Using the English term "Quebecer" is a signal that you're speaking about the entire population of the province (and, in particular, that you're including the English-speaking minority).

      I think the ambiguity is necessary though. What you don't want to do is force people to choose only one identity. Canada only works if people are able to navigate between multiple identities.

      • Agreed almost in total. However, to make our anglophone Canadians more comfortable with pronunciation, while maintaining the cool factor of using a french word, could we spell it "Kaybekwah"? They could even imagine that it had some aboriginal connection…

        • I second the motion. Glad we settled that.

  5. It'll be interesting to see if Bouchard's comments gain any positive traction in Quebec? If so, Ignatieff would do well to postion himself as tommorrow's man – however unlikely that is -[personally i still haven't forgiven Ignatieff for starting that preposterous nation within a nation thing rolling]. However, If Bouchard's apotasy starts some bloodletting in the PQ then let it flow Michael, let it flow.

    • There's nothing "preposterous" about recognizing that Quebec is a sub-state nation (like Scotland or Catalonia or Corsica). It's actually one of the more intelligent things the federal govt has done in recent years. It cost Canada absolutely nothing but also signaled to the nationalist Quebecers that their vision of Quebec was reconcilable within the Canadian federation. Ignatieff deserves credit for being one of the first ones to support the idea. Incidentally Harper only felt comfortable going forward after he consulted with Stéphane Dion who also decided that it would do no harm.

  6. …tomorrow…only one too many ms. That shouldn't get Jack too excited.

    • you might add an s to Bouchard's pot as your at it.

      • apostasy…it's not something you come across everyday. Thanks.

  7. A few months back, when the Liberals were really in the tank, and rumours of an insurrection were going around, more than a few people commented that the Tories should hold off, and let the Liberals fight amongst themselves (ie the enemy killing themselves from within). It seems to me, the smart thing to do both politically and practically, is for federalists to follow this same advice with Bouchard and the PQ. I could very well be wrong, but if I'm Ignatieff, I'd be pretty wary of dipping my toes in the pool on this one.

    • Not sure that's the best advice, considering the government was 15% points ahead at that time ;) Seriously, he's just put his big toe in the water, so it's not that risky. Plus, there's potential for a payoff, if people starting questioning the rationale for the Bloc.

      • heh. True enough. Although I don't think it was a lack of Liberal bashing that got'em into trouble, nor did they really heed the initial piece of advice!!

  8. quebecer vs. quebecker?

    Spelling with a K keeps the hard C sound just like it does in traffic/trafficker, otherwise it looks like quebesser, does it not?

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