October 29, 2014

No. 1

Premier Couillard's Aim to Sign the Constitution

If the National Question Is Finished,
Why Are Couillard & Co.
Protesting So Much?

Confederation!!!

Premier Couillard's  Aim to Sign the Constitution
If the National Question Is Finished, Why Are Couillard & Co.
Protesting So Much?
- Amélie Lanier
Hollow Declarations Will Not Extinguish Quebeckers' Striving
for a Modern Constitution
- Louis Lang

Harper's Reference to George-Étienne Cartier
Couillard and Harper Do Not Want Canada and Quebec
Defined on a Modern Basis
- Geneviève Royer


Premier Couillard's Aim to Sign the Constitution

If the National Question Is Finished, Why Are
Couillard & Co. Protesting So Much?

On September 6, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard used the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Conservative "father of Confederation" George-Étienne Cartier to declare he will sign the Constitution Act 1982 -- that de facto excludes Quebec -- by the time Canada celebrates the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017. His federal counterpart Stephen Harper also chimed in on this occasion to declare the national question in Quebec finished once and for all.

One week later, just before the September 18 referendum on Scotland's independence from the United Kingdom, Couillard and federal Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird wished the "No" camp success. After the referendum, they hailed the defeat of Scotland's independence by the margin of 55.3 per cent to 44.7 per cent.

The defeat of the Scottish "Yes" vote followed a campaign of dirty tricks second only to the illegal, underhanded and hysterical "unity campaign" unleashed by the Chrétien Liberals against the 1995 Quebec referendum. Bags of money and agents poured into Quebec from all the federal political, economic and social forces desperate to undermine the Quebec people and their right to choose their own future. In spite of this, the Quebec yes campaign lost by an even slimmer margin than the Scottish referendum, 50.58 per cent to 49.42 per cent.

Next, Couillard was heard boasting to Bloomberg News that the people of Quebec are no longer interested in sovereignty. It's over, finished, he declared with gusto. Nobody's interested in the Constitution. "In this era of globalization, in which supranational organizations and markets have greater power than ever," the Scots and Quebeckers realize they need to belong to a bigger nation, he said. Couillard surmised, "An idea never dies, but the issue is its capacity to become a strong political force." Thus, Couillard and Harper are making sure the national question never has "the capacity to become a strong political force."

Premier Couillard and the Liberals have a majority in the National Assembly and they will use to sign the Constitution Act 1982, eagerly kneeling before the ruling elite who refuse to let the Quebec people decide their own future.

Meanwhile in Spain, the opposition of the ruling elite to the people being allowed to exercise decision-making power on the question of independence has erupted with a vengeful side. The remnants of Franco fascism are launching violent rhetoric to ensure Catalonians are denied their right to choose independence from Spain on November 9.[1]

So much sound and fury over a question that is allegedly finished, about which nobody cares! Could it be that it is not over after all? Could it be that on contrary, the Anglo-Canadian nation-state imposed on the people of Quebec, the First Nations and the peoples of all the former dominions established in Canada from the 17th to the 19th century is finished? Yet there remains a ruling elite that clings to power and class privilege, by attaching itself to the coattails of the U.S., and blocks the emergence of the new.

The Couillard, Harper, Baird cabal, in celebrating the supposed death of the movement for sovereignty, declare Canada and Quebec "non-nation-states," annexed economies, territories and ministries under the thumb of the United States of North American Monopolies. We are "open for business" at any price, they chant, with the Canadian armed forces integrated into the U.S. war machine ready to go to war wherever the U.S. President tells us there are bad people to fight.

Does this political reality of annexation and perpetual war not tell us that sorting out the national question is more urgent than ever before? Unless the working class constitutes itself the nation and vests sovereignty in the people, we are in big trouble. Unless the working class calls for a constituent assembly in Quebec and another in the rest of Canada to establish modern democratic institutions that vest sovereignty in the people and not in the rich and their representatives, and directs them to take up the affirmation of the rights of all, we are doomed to a continuous cycle of crises, chaos and war.

Far from the national question being over, the affirmation of the Quebec nation on a modern basis is the most urgent task today. The agenda for the working class entails the creation of a modern Canada, which recognizes the right of Quebec to self-determination up to and including secession. We cannot move forward without establishing modern nation-to-nation relations with the indigenous peoples and enshrining citizenship rights for all on an equal basis. The affirmation of rights deprives the ruling elite of the power to dole out privileges, which can be given and taken away as a bribe to toe the line of the rich as they plunder the people's labour and resources and line the people up to serve the striving of U.S. imperialism for world domination. Only by affirming the rights of all can a genuinely free and equal union be entered into by all its constituent parts.

The chatter of Couillard, Harper and all the other political, economic and social forces of the ruling elite is desperate talk to ban the national question from the people's consciousness and agenda. They do not recognize that Quebeckers are modern human persons, with the capacity to see, hear, feel and analyze the world in which they live and work, whose striving to be the decision-makers cannot be banned out of existence.

How should we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Confederation, which stopped Canada being annexed into the United States, and preserved it for the British Empire? Let us make sure that in the two years leading up to the anniversary, we firmly embark on a new course to build a modern Canada and Quebec and renew nation-to- nation relations with the First Nations, where the national question is proudly on our agenda to be resolved.

Couillard, Harper and Co. are celebrating Confederation by spitting on its historical context and embracing continentalism, which the Confederation opposed. They are engaged in completing the annexation of Canada and Quebec into the U.S. war machine, selling out the resources that belong to the people by birthright, and trampling the rights and well-being of the people in the mud. It must not pass!

All out to demand Constituent Assemblies in Quebec and the rest of Canada to enact a modern constitution that vests sovereignty in the people, affirms the rights of all by virtue of being human, provides those rights with guarantees, and develops a constitution that redresses and ends once and for all the treaties and arrangements annexing the territory, economy and institutions of Quebec, the First Nations and Canada to foreign powers.

Note

1. The government of Spain and all the ruling elites of Europe have launched a brutal campaign against the initiative of a referendum on the independence of Catalonia set for November 9. The leader of the Spanish government Mariano Rajoy said he will, "Use all means available to prevent the holding of the referendum." On September 29, the Constitutional Tribunal of Spain intervened "with insulting rapidity," to use the words of the President of Catalonia Artur Mas, to suspend the referendum and stop all preparations.

(Translated from original French by Chantier politique.)

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Hollow Declarations Will Not Extinguish Quebeckers' Striving for a Modern Constitution

Prime Minister Harper and Quebec Premier Couillard attended an event in Quebec City on September 6 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of George-Étienne Cartier, one of the founding fathers of Confederation. Couillard used the occasion to announce that he wanted to sign the Canadian constitution by 2017, the year that marks the 150th anniversary of Confederation.

In his own speech on this occasion, Harper praised Cartier for helping to "shape Canada by promoting inclusiveness and respect across the country."

It is a falsification of history and the height of hypocrisy for Harper and Couillard to use the name of George-Étienne Cartier to pretend to be nation builders. Every day they are actively planning to place the land, labour and resources of Canada and Quebec at the service of the United States of North American Monopolies and deny the right of the people to decent living standards and the democratic right to a say in the decisions that affect their lives.

No matter how hard they try, they cannot deny the fact that George-Étienne Cartier supported Confederation as a means to create a nation-state which would be part of the British Empire. It required creating a viable state capable of opposing the threat posed to the British Dominions by the Americans. Couillard and Harper on the other hand are channeling public funds into building energy and trade corridors across the country to serve the needs of monopoly corporations and destroying public institutions and eliminating all regulations and barriers that interfere with the full integration of the economic, political and military needs of the United States of North American Monopolies in competition with other trade blocs.

Who does Mr. Couillard think he's fooling? Does he think that because he has a majority in the National Assembly, he can deny history and reality? The fact is that he has no mandate to sign the Canadian Constitution on behalf of Quebec. The people of Quebec have spoken on this issue clearly and unequivocally!

Both the Meech Lake Accord and the referendum on the Charlottetown Accord were soundly defeated not only in Quebec but in the rest of Canada as well. At the time the political elite chose to ignore the decision of the people and declared that they would carry on "business as usual." The results of the referendum were not binding so they continued ruling through executive power, because nothing in the current arrangements impeded them from making changes they wanted without amending the Constitution. This has left a constitutional and political crisis in Quebec and Canada ever since that time.

What the situation demands is a genuine effort to renew both the constitutional and political process by involving the people in governance and the writing of a new Constitution which meets the requirements of the conditions of the 21st century.


Bulletin of the Committee to vote No to the
Charlottetown Accord.

During the debates on the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords one of the main objections heard across the country was that "11 white men in suits were making decisions about the future of the whole country behind closed doors." This was not acceptable then and it is certainly not acceptable now. Thousands of people spoke out against the proposals for constitutional changes which were being pushed by the political elites. Through submissions to the Spicer Commission in Canada and the Belanger-Campeau Commission in Quebec, people demanded that politicians turn over the writing of a constitution to the people and also asserted the right to decide on exercising sovereignty. The description of Quebec as a "distinct society" to be included in the Constitution was rejected and people demanded nothing less than the recognition of the nation of Quebec and its right to self-determination up to and including secession. People across the country also demanded the recognition of the hereditary rights of First Nations as an important condition to build a modern voluntary and equal union.

The 73 per cent turnout for the referendum across Canada and Quebec and the rejection of the Charlottetown Accord in 1992 must not be ignored. Instead of signing the Canadian Constitution of 1982 which is based on the confines of the outdated British North America Act of 1867, what the people of Quebec and the people of Canada and First Nations need now is a modern constitution written by the people themselves. It must be democratic and express the popular will and serves the building of a future for the nation which vests sovereignty not in the Queen but in the people and their representatives, selected and elected from their own ranks and who can be held to account.

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Harper's Reference to George-Étienne Cartier

Couillard and Harper Do Not Want Canada and Quebec Defined on a Modern Basis


1864 cartoon of Confederation as a starved monster which George-Étienne Cartier, George Brown and Joseph-Édouard Cauchon are trying to bring under control.

Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper does not want to see Canada and Quebec defined on a modern basis. At a September 6 ceremony in Quebec City marking the 200th anniversary of the birth of George-Étienne Cartier, Harper said that Cartier is "one of the great architects of modern-day Canada," that he was "championing the rights and aspirations of the people of Québec," and that he also "promoted inclusiveness and respect." His interpretation of George-Étienne Cartier's contribution is an example of the incredible efforts of behalf of the establishment to maintain a system based on nineteenth century colonialism and funded by global monopoly capital.

George-Étienne Cartier was born in 1814, in Saint-Antoine-sur-Richelieu, on Montreal's south shore. He was the son of wealthy merchants -- his grandfather Jacques was in the grain trade and represented the riding of Surrey (later Verchères) in the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada.

He was part of the Patriotes' movement, yet was among those who enthusiastically welcomed the accommodations imposed by the British Crown to suppress the concept of a republic in Lower Canada, while those who refused to submit were hanged or exiled. On September 20, 1838, Cartier therefore took "the oath of allegiance to the British authorities demanded as a condition of return for political emigrants. Later, he went to a reception of the governor of Lower Canada."[1] He wrote at this time to Charles Buller, secretary to Lord Durham that he had not "forfeited his allegiance to the government of Her Majesty in the province of Lower Canada."[2] In a speech at Saint-Denis on September 24, 1844, he said, "There is no longer any danger of a return to the events of 1837, caused by the actions of a minority which desired to dominate the majority and exploit the government in its own interests. The events of 1837 have been badly interpreted. The object of the people was rather to reduce this oppressive minority to nothingness than to bring about a separation of the province from the mother-country."[3]

Strong Supporter of "that Long Desired Constitution"

In 1839, Cartier returned to practising law. His main work was to make the resources of Quebec available to England. He was powerful lawyer of the railway and shipping companies -- all essential in increasing the country's trade -- when he was elected April 7, 1848 to the Legislative Assembly of United Canada as MLA of Verchères. Cartier, among others, took the initiative to present a statement to the Legislature in October 1849, against the two manifestos of the Annexation Association of Montreal, founded in 1849, a movement advocating the annexation of Lower Canada to the United States.

The statement said, "Sincerely attached to the institutions that the motherland has recently recognized and convinced that these institutions are sufficient to ensure, through a wise and judicious legislature, prompt and effective remedy for all ills which the province can raise, we believe we must hasten to protest in a public way against the views expressed in this document. We think we should at the same time [ ...] commit [the people of this country] to oppose [ ...] agitation that undermines the constitution which has been needed for so long [ ...] agitation which will only result in the continuation of scenes from which the city has already suffered so much, the overthrow of the social order and the renewal of unrest and upheavals and the dire consequences that we have already deplored."[4]

In 1858 he went to London with two representatives of the Grand Trunk -- the main owner of the railways in Canada -- Alexander Tilloch Galt and John Ross, to present a proposal for the federation of the provinces of British North America. The three men claimed that since the Act of Union, the situation in Canada was becoming increasingly tense. After boasting about the increase in Canada's economy they emphasized that by authorizing a confederation of the provinces the imperial English Government would be able to establish "a dependence on the empire, advantageous in times of peace, powerful in times of war and its creation would forever eliminate the fear that the colonies would increase the power of another nation."[5]

Collaboration with John A. Macdonald to Impose Confederation


George-Étienne Cartier (front row, fifth from the right) at the Charlottetown Conference.

On June 14, 1864 the Taché-Macdonald government was defeated "as a result of a vote of censure in the house for neglecting to give effect to a loan previously promised to the City of Montreal. In six years, it was the sixth ministry overthrown; no group seemed capable of taking hold, and a general election, the third in three years, did not seem to be a solution. Then on 16 June after some days of manoeuvring, discreetly directed by Lord Monck, a coalition ministry was formed; its leader was theoretically Taché, but the real leaders on the Conservative side were John A. Macdonald and Cartier."[6] The mission of this government was to bring about the confederation of all the British colonies in North America.

In September 1864, before the Quebec conference and just after the Charlottetown Conference, Cartier spoke to the delegates during a brief meeting, "We have in Canada, it is true, the two principal elements of nationality -- population and territory -- but we also know what we lack [...] that other element absolutely necessary to make a powerful nation, the maritime element [...] which can only be accomplished by your uniting with us. You must not forget on your part that though the Maritime Provinces are situated on the seacoast, they will never be more than a string of hills and a seacoast if they refuse to join us. [...]

"The provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia represent the arms of the national body embracing the commerce of the Atlantic. No other will furnish a finer head to this giant body than Prince Edward Island [...]

"When we possess a federal government, one of the most important questions to settle will be that of the defence of the country. [...] Their militia [of Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia] will furnish at least 200,000 men, and if we have the 60,000 marines which the two Canadas and the Maritime Provinces possess and the navy of Great Britain what nation would be foolish enough to attack us?"[7]

The Quebec conference began on October 10, 1864 with 33 delegates, of which two were from Newfoundland. Each colony had one vote and Canada had two. The work continued until October 27 and issued 72 resolutions which were to be submitted to the provincial legislatures that addressed "the maintenance of the link with Britain; residual jurisdiction left to a central authority; a bicameral system including a Lower House with representation by population ('rep by pop') and an Upper House with representation based on regional equality rather than provincial, equality; a government responsible at the federal and provincial levels; appointed by the British crown of a governor general to be appointed by the British crown."[8] As in the Halifax conference, the debates were held behind closed doors.

At the Banquet for the delegates of the Quebec Conference, Cartier continued to argue in favour of submitting to the British crown. He said, "Firstly, confederation will give rise to an increase in trade between provinces, and also between the provinces and England. In reply to the objections raised by the extreme French-Canadian party, and the annexationist or American Party, I will say that if the present movement succeeds there will be a central government, whose attributions will embrace all general interests, and local governments to which will be committed provincial affairs and properties: administration of justice, crown lands, prisons, hospitals, charitable institutions, etc. [ ... ]"[9]

George-Étienne Cartier, the "Pacific Scandal" and
the Ouster of Louis Riel as a Candidate

The Macdonald-Cartier government sought funding for the 1872 election from Sir Hugh Allan, a shipping magnate and railway builder from Montreal. He provided them with $350,000 from American investors.

"After the election, a railway syndicate organized by Allan was rewarded with the lucrative contract to build the Canadian Pacific Railway -- the trans-continental railroad promised to British Columbia when it joined Confederation. Allan was given the contract on the assumption that he would remove American control on the syndicate's board of directors. But Allan, unknown to Macdonald, had used American money to supply the campaign funds to the Conservatives, creating an awkward situation."[10] This forced the Macdonald government to resign in October 1873. Meanwhile, Cartier had been defeated in the 1872 election.

"Instead of seeking election in another Quebec riding, which would have required the resignation of a Conservative member and probably resulted in a contested election, Cartier agreed to stand in Provencher, Manitoba, where Louis Riel and Henry James Clarke were contestants. The latter gave up his candidacy at the request of the lieutenant governor, Adams George Archibald. As for Riel, he withdrew after much hesitation, acceding to the earnest requests of Alexandre-Antonin Taché, archbishop of Saint-Boniface, who was happy to avert in this way the complications that the presence of the Métis leader would certainly have brought about at Ottawa. Cartier therefore had no opponent and was elected in September 1872 without even going to the riding, which he was never to see."[11]


Caricature by Henri-Julien titled "Aeneas After the Sinking", published in 1873 after the Pacific Scandal, referring to the sinking of the Conservative Party of John A. Macdonald.
(McCordMuseum)

In fact after his defeat in Montreal, Cartier went to London where he died on May 20 1873. Since 1868 he had been appointed a baronet by Queen Victoria, "in honour of his important contribution to institutional reform and the forging of the Confederation."[12]

George-Étienne Cartier is far from someone who represents the enlightened ideas of the 19th century of the Republic and the concept of the affirmation of citizenship rights. He is the spokesperson of those for whom national development rests with private interests and who do everything in their power to be worthy of the privileges that private interests may or may not grant them. Harper lays claim to this anachronistic DNA and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard shares the same genes. The thirst for the new by the people in Quebec, Canada and the First Nations require that nation-building be based on a human-centred self-reliant economy, not economic and political domination by any foreign power, whether from Europe or the United States of North American monopolies.

Notes

1. "Sir George Étienne Cartier," Dictionary of Canadian Biography.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. L'Encyclopédie de l'histoire du Québec. Translated by Chantier politique.

5. G.E. Cartier, John Ross, A.T. Galt -- Letter in Favour of Confederation.

6. "Sir George Étienne Cartier," Dictionary of Canadian Biography.

7. Discours de Sir Georges Cartier, baronnet, Sir George-Étienne Cartier.

8. Library and Archives Canada -- Towards Confederation.

9. Discours de Sir Georges Cartier, baronnet, Sir George-Étienne Cartier.

10. The Canadian Encyclopedia

11. "Sir George Étienne Cartier," Dictionary of Canadian Biography.

12. Parks Canada -- Sir George-Étienne Cartier National Historic Site of Canada.

(Translated from original French by Chantier politique.)

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