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Federalism in Quebec

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Title: Federalism in Quebec  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Politics of Quebec, National question (Quebec), Quebec nationalism, Quebec sovereignty movement, Federalism in Canada
Collection: Canadian Identity, Federalism by Country, Federalism in Canada, Politics of Quebec
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Federalism in Quebec

Federalism in Quebec (French: Fédéralisme au Québec) revolves around the concept of Quebec remaining within Canada, in opposition to the desires of Quebec sovereigntists and proponents of Quebec independence.

Throughout the sovereignty debate Quebec nationalist sentiment has swung between the federalist and sovereigntist options, with many Quebec nationalists willing to be a part of a Canadian federation with a more decentralized government. Quebecer anglophones, allophones and aboriginals have been overwhelmingly opposed to Quebec's secession.

Supporters of independence point to their belief that Quebec is a nation due to its unique history, shared major language and common heritage. Opponents of sovereignty generally believe it to be a dangerous idea due to the political, financial, personal and economic ties between Quebecers and other Canadians. Some see it as being unnecessary due to Canada's multicultural and bilingual national character, as well as the strong status of the French language and culture in Quebec. Opponents to Québécois nationalism point to the fact that Quebec is just as ethnically diverse as the rest of Canada and therefore is divisible by different ethnic and language groups, or point to the shared Francophone heritage of the ROC (Rest of Canada). Many federalists believe that Canada comprises many nations in the cultural and ethnic, non-political sense; and that Quebec can be divided into just as many nations as Ontario or British Columbia.

Most major federal political parties, including the Liberal Party of Canada, the Conservative Party of Canada, the New Democratic Party and the Green Party of Canada support maintaining the status quo with Quebec remaining part of Canada. The Bloc Québécois is the sole sovereigntist federal party with seats in the House of Commons.


  • Historical context 1
  • Ideological branches 2
    • Quebec nationalist federalism 2.1
    • "Status-quo" federalism 2.2
  • Federalist parties 3
    • Represented in the Parliament of Canada 3.1
    • Represented in the National Assembly of Quebec 3.2
  • See also 4
    • Compare 4.1
  • References 5

Historical context

The idea that the Province of Quebec should remain a part of the Canadian Confederation is based on a variety of historical and cultural justifications, principally centred on the composition of Canadian culture prior to Confederation in 1867. The Federalist view of Canadian history suggests that Canada as a nation is intrinsically tied to the Canadian people, a product of imperial synthesis. The realities of colonial-era life for French and British settlers was heavily influenced by local considerations, such as climate, geography and established Aboriginal societies. The economic realities of New France required a cooperative relationship with these already established societies, and the French were more than willing to do so, recognizing some 39 sovereign Aboriginal nations as strategic partners and allies at the Great Peace of Montreal in 1701. In effect, this singular event best represents proto-Canadian Federalism, and would serve as a model for later political developments. After the Seven Years' War, the British colonial authority administering the newly created Province of Quebec decided to leave many socio-cultural institutions in place, such as the Catholic Church, French Civil Law, the Seigneurial System, and perhaps most importantly, the traditional agrarian lifestyles and languages of the early Habitants, the first Canadiens. In this sense, Canada was spared the cultural hegemony of the British Empire and was not assimilated. The British were quick to recognize that the French Monarchy and elites were quick to abandon New France, and that a resentment had been growing against imperial domination. The Ancien Régime administration was cognizant of the development of a new culture many years before The Conquest, and decided against pursuing any more involvement in the economically unsustainable colony. Under British administration, the influx of new capital as a result of the migration of Loyalists into Upper Canada, the Maritimes and the Eastern Townships and the threat of a newly independent and militaristic United States, all led to substantial development for the colony. It is during this period that Quebec and Montreal became the economic focal point of the new colony, and a strong proponent of a new national identity. During the Rebellions of 1837, Canadian federalists, such as Louis-Joseph Papineau, Wolfred Nelson and William Lyon MacKenzie fought with the British colonial government for enhanced representation, among other grievances.

Ideological branches

While the usual denomination for all followers is simply federalist, two main branches can be sketched out.

Quebec nationalist federalism

Federalist Quebec nationalists defend the concept of Quebec remaining within Canada, while pursuing greater autonomy and national recognition for Quebec within the Canadian federation. The Union Nationale under Maurice Duplessis (1930s to 1950s) was nationalist without explicitly calling for independence, prior to the arrival of Daniel Johnson, Sr. as leader. The Parti libéral du Québec was a major party of federalist nationalism throughout the Lesage and Bourassa eras (1960s to 1990s). However, since the failures of the Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords, and the 1995 Quebec referendum on independence, the party has no defining plan for official national recognition. Notable followers of this ideology are Robert Bourassa, Jean Lesage and Brian Mulroney.

Recently, the Université de Montréal political philosopher Charles Blattberg has put forward a series of arguments aimed at integrating Québécois nationalism within a renewed Canadian federalism, one that recognizes Canada's multi-national character.[1]

"Status-quo" federalism

"Status-quo" federalists, or "Trudeau federalists" as they are sometimes labelled, defend Quebec remaining within Canada and keeping the status quo regarding the Canadian constitution and policies in areas of shared and exclusive provincial jurisdiction in areas like taxation, health care, and immigration. They defend the Canadian federal government assuming the major role in the democracy, with occasional encroachment on what Quebec governments consider exclusive provincial powers. They refuse all recognition of the province of Quebec as a nation, however some support recognition of the Québécois people as a nation.

Notable Trudeau federalists include Pierre Trudeau, Jean Chrétien, and many of the writers for the political magazine Cité Libre.

Not all federalists in Quebec opposed to Quebec nationalism see themselves as being ideologically connected to Pierre Trudeau. Many simply support the concept of Canadian multiculturalism and do not identify with Quebec nationalism. Federalists of this sort come from all across the political spectrum.

Federalist parties

Represented in the Parliament of Canada

Represented in the National Assembly of Quebec

See also



  1. ^
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