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May 02, 2018

Targeting better mutual understanding within the federation


By Jean-Marc Fournier

Government House Leader and Minister responsible for Canadian Relations and the Canadian Francophonie

Monday, March 12, was the official launch date of the Centre d’analyse politique : Constitution et Fédéralisme, bringing together five universities and think tanks throughout Canada and located at Université du Québec à Montréal. Academics from across the country, including around twenty young researchers, welcomed this initiative to promote a better understanding of differences and stronger mutual recognition.

The creation of the new centre echoes the Policy on Québec Affirmation and Canadian Relations, released on June 1, 2017, which calls on all Quebecers and all Canadians to strengthen their economic, social, cultural and academic ties. We firmly believe that by being closer, we will improve our mutual understanding and, eventually, acknowledgement of each other. This is a key element in ensuring that future discussions on Constitution changes do not end in crisis.

Since the release of the Policy, I have taken part in over one hundred discussion activities in nine provinces and internationally. These events have shown that many different groups in civil society throughout Canada and abroad are interested in the dialogue promoted by our Policy.

For example, after a first activity in June 2017, the Institute of Intergovernmental Relations at Queen’s University organized a full day of discussions on the aims of the Policy. The participants included Former Ontario Premier Bob Rae and Emeritus Professor Peter Russell, whose most recent book takes a stand similar to that of the Government of Québec. The Policy was also a main focus at the Confederation of Tomorrow 2.0 Conference, organized by the Mowat Centre in Toronto, and was the subject of a public discussion between the Premiers of Québec and Ontario at the Conference. I have recently returned from Brussels, where I was invited to present the Policy at an international symposium on compared federalism.

The Policy is recognized as a document of interest in the academic community and is part of the curriculum for courses at McGill University, Queen’s University, Université de Saint-Boniface and University of Ottawa, among others.

Intellectuals from Québec, including Guy Laforest, Jean Leclair and Félix Mathieu and from elsewhere in Canada, including John Whyte from the University of Regina, have publicly expressed their support for our actions, as have four key figures in contemporary Canadian federal studies in Ontario, Ian Macdonald, Gary Posen, Charles Beer and Don Stevenson.

The Premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne, in a historic speech at National Assembly of Québec, as well as Senators and federal MPs from Québec, have also indicated their interest, joined recently by the leaders of the Conservative Party of Canada and the New Democratic Party.

Within the Government of Québec administration, we have taken the necessary steps to implement our new vision. Canadian relations units have been set up in each government department to enhance Québec’s capacity for strategic analysis and actions. To support the process, a training program in Canadian relations will be created in a partnership with École nationale d’administration publique.

Nobody wants to see another crisis, least of all Quebecers. Instead, in both Québec and Canada, there is strong interest in the dialogue proposed by our Policy. Using this patient approach, we can focus on all aspects of living together in Canada, including the environment, free trade, social solidarity, scientific exchanges, and stronger bilateral and multilateral political cooperation, similar to those initiated by Québec and Ontario in recent years.

We are convinced that this coming together will lead to a natural conclusion: that the Canadian federation of tomorrow must recognize the collective dimension of diversity, and of the Québec nation in particular. We have a duty to continue to affirm our identity.

We are Quebecers, and this is our way of being Canadian.

 

Jean-Marc Fournier
Government House Leader and Minister responsible for Canadian Relations and the Canadian Francophonie