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10 January 2018

The relationship between Quebec and Canada goes beyond the concept of two solitudes

Response to the Policy on Québec Affirmation and Canadian Relations

In response to the article Constitution : le ROC reste sourd aux appels de Couillard(“Constitution: The rest of Canada remains deaf to Couillard’s calls”) that appeared in Le Devoir, I first want to point out that our policy on affirmation and Canadian relations is about much more than the Constitution. Secondly, and most importantly, I think it’s important to emphasize certain aspects of the approach initiated by this policy.

On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Canadian federation, we affirmed our identity as Quebecers and proposed to reopen a forgotten dialogue on Quebec’s place within Canada. We shared a proposal, with all Canadians, for the Canada of tomorrow.
Our goal is to rekindle Canadian thinkers’ interest in reflecting on the future of our federation, while including Quebec’s perspective. So far, the reaction to our approach on this topic has been positive and enthusiastic.

We took part in activities at McGill University, Concordia University and the Université de Montréal; at Memorial, York and Queen’s universities; and at the universities of Alberta, Calgary and Regina. The Policy is required reading for a Canadian politics course at Queen’s University and for a constitutional law course at McGill University.

In November, the highly regarded Institute of Intergovernmental Relations at Queen’s University held an entire day of discussions on implementation strategies for the Policy. The question of asymmetry as a means of targeting common objectives while respecting our differences, which was emphasized in September by the Premier of Ontario before the National Assembly of Quebec, has been addressed on several occasions, indicating a shift in federal Canadian thought.
Very recently, the Premier of Quebec and the Premier of Ontario came together at the Mowat Centre to discuss our policy during the Confederation of Tomorrow 2.0 Conference, a discussion that received warm applause from the audience.

A beneficial relationship

Quebec and Canada are more than two solitudes. We are united by many common interests, meaning that a closer relationship is not only possible, but beneficial for everyone. Our trade relations across Canada bear witness to this fact every day; for example, we exchange more goods with New Brunswick than we do with all of France.

The Policy on Québec Affirmation and Canadian Relations is an essential and lengthy process. It reminds us that a respectful, open and mutually trusting dialogue that highlights our economic, environmental, social and cultural points of solidarity has every chance of helping us create further commonalities.

Our main interest is not in the Constitution, but in better mutual understanding and closer relations within Canada: a greater role for Indigenous peoples, increased understanding of the West’s feeling of alienation and better recognition of Quebec as a nation. With renewed understanding, we will be able to approach constitutional change without causing a crisis.
We all have a story to tell. We all have a common history to write together. We should reopen the dialogue on our relations. It seems clear to me that we must know each other better in order to strengthen our identities. Patiently, we are working on it.

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