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From 1995 to the present

Political and legal developments

Despite the constitutional status quo, over the last twenty years some of the principles underlying the Meech Lake Accord have been implemented to varying degrees in case law and in political actions.

  • The courts have taken note of Québec’s specificity on many different occasions, and the House of Commons has politically recognized the Québec nation.
  • The Supreme Court of Canada has confirmed constitutional protection for three judges from Québec at the country’s highest court. It has also clarified Québec’s veto in the area of constitutional amendments.
  • The governments of Québec and Canada have signed an innovative and exemplary intergovernmental agreement on immigration, which is extremely important for Quebecers and forms the basis for Québec’s model for integration, interculturalism.
  • The governments of Québec and Canada have also agreed that Québec can opt out, with reasonable compensation, from some pan-Canadian financial initiatives that would constitute infringements of its areas of jurisdiction. These include the agreement on workforce training and the agreement on parental leave.

However, if constitutional negotiations resume, Québec’s basic conditions remain the same.

  • Constitutional recognition for the Québec nation will always be of key importance for the Government of Québec.
  • Québec’s involvement in the appointment of the three Québec judges to the Supreme Court is imperative in a federal system in which the Supreme Court is the final arbiter of federative disputes.
  • Québec, because of its nationhood, must have a veto on major constitutional amendments that change the operation of our political system.
  • The agreement on immigration must be given constitutional status, as originally intended.
  • The ”federal spending power“ in areas of exclusive provincial jurisdiction must be defined in the Constitution, since it generates tension in the federative relationship.

Until the constitutional dialogue resumes, Québec remains open to the idea of moving forward on each of the above issues separately, within a flexible framework that does not require multilateral constitutional negotiations. With regard, for example, to the ”federal spending power“ or Québec’s involvement in the appointment of Supreme Court judges from Québec, any agreement that allows progress to be made in a manner consistent with Québec’s demands will be welcomed, bearing in mind it will constitute a step towards future and necessary constitutional changes.

Shifts in identity and canadian relations

Diversity and Coexistence in Québec

In the area of language, Québec is a predominantly French-speaking society, yet diversified. Statistics Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey found that 78.1% of Québec residents reported French as their mother tongue, compared with 7.7% for English and 12.3% for a language other than French or English. In terms of linguistic knowledge, 94.4% of Quebecers reported a knowledge of French and 47.3%, a knowledge of English.

Today, Québec’s pluralistic and dynamic identity is enriched by contributions from people of all origins while remaining closely attached to the continuity of its distinct, French-speaking character and to the historic contribution of Aboriginal peoples and Québec’s English-speaking community.

It is this dynamics that has enabled the emergence of a unique pluralistic model of integration and coexistence: interculturalism.

The model of interculturalism developed in Québec, based on the principle of reciprocity, aims to strike a balance between openness to diversity and the continuity and vitality of Québec’s distinct and French-speaking identity.

Today it is essential that interculturalism, as a form of integration that favours living together, be formally recognized. This is why Québec intends to present an official policy on interculturalism.

A Multiple Sense of Belonging

A vast majority of Quebecers feel a strong attachment to Québec, based on a national identity forged over a period of more than 400 years and that is increasingly recognized elsewhere in Canada. Despite the tearing episodes of the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords and of the referendum on sovereignty that followed in 1995, Quebecers also retain an attachment to Canada, and this has in fact increased significantly among young people in recent years. Many people feel both an allegiance to Québec and a sense of belonging to Canada. For a majority of Quebecers, this multiple sense of belonging is not seen as a contradiction but as something to be valued.

Solitudes and Solidarities, Ties that Bind Québec to Canada

The Québec-Canada relationship has often been referred to as the two solitudes. Although this is still true in some areas, the situation today is more nuanced, as the number of common ties that help build a shared identity increases. These ties are especially strong at the economic and intergovernmental levels. In addition, there are many bridges today between Québec and Canada in all spheres of civil society, including the business, union, community and political sectors.

These common ties, and the desire of Quebecers to maintain both their allegiance to Québec and their sense of belonging to Canada, suggest that remaining solitudes will continue to draw closer together. Based on these ties of solidarity, which open up a space for dialogue and mutual recognition, many Quebecers believe that the Federation ought to continue to develop through partnership rather than confrontation.

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