Monday, October 15, 2007

Mr. Chrétien Is Right

For the failure of the 1995 referendum, some Quebecker separatists should blame themselves.

Canada's former Prime Minister, Jean Chrétien, clearly said that had the "yes" side slightly won, he wouldn't have interpreted it as a willingness from Quebec to become an independent country back in 1995 because of the "twisted" referendum question. Besides being predictable, some Quebecker separatists' reaction is quite absurd. The Bloc Québécois's MP of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, Réal Ménard, said: "In the end, saying that you don't recognize a yes means that you don't recognize Quebeckers, their right to self-determination and I think that it wouldn't make sense."

What doesn't make sense is Réal Ménard's and his fellow separatists' incapacity to recognize that the question asked in 1995 referendum was everything but clear. Obviously, let's leave aside the sponsorship scandal. For the failure of the 1995 referendum, some Quebecker separatists should blame themselves.

Indeed, the question on the ballot was: "Do you agree that Québec should become sovereign after having made a formal offer to Canada for a new economic and political partnership within the scope of the bill respecting the future of Québec and of the agreement signed on June 12, 1995?"

The question looks complicated. Nonetheless, let's focus on the keywords "formal offer to Canada". Back in 1995, if Quebecker separatists were damn sure that they could win, why did they come up with a question that, at the first look, doesn't ask Canada to immediately recognize Quebec as an independent country? Maybe it was because of the separatists' fear to lose the votes of "soft nationalists" (i.e. ambivalent Quebeckers). Still, it's needless to say that many people who voted "yes" thought that Quebec would get more power by staying within Canada.

Actually, as the late philosopher Laurent-Michel Vacher upheld it, the referendum question would trigger two events following a victory of the "yes" camp. Evidently, the first one being that Quebec should negotiate with the Canadian federal government for brokering an economic deal leading to Quebec's independence. Still, what's the point to invite Ottawa to negotiate, in the first place, if it doesn't even recognize the independence of Quebec?

Without a doubt, asking Canada the permission to leave the federation with "a formal offer" won't make the second event come, which means the recognition of Quebec's independence. In the end, separatists should understand that people don't vote "yes" to see Quebec's National Assembly negotiate with the Canadian government. Had the "yes" side won with 75% of the votes, Jean Chrétien, back in 1995, wouldn't make a mistake by refusing to negotiate with Quebec.

As a matter of fact, Quebecker separatists definitely have lessons to learn from Montenegro, a country that separated itself from Serbia on May 21, 2006. According to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the question was: "Do you want the Republic of Montenegro to be an independent state with a full international and legal personality?"

All in all, many Quebecker separatists (not all of them) are still too dumb to understand that the first step of a referendum consist in asking for the recognition of independence before the eyes of the international community. Then comes the negotiation on the transition of powers. Not the other way around, mind you! The threat for separatists rather comes from within their circle. Let's hope that in the upcoming years, Canadian federalism will be reformed to please to all of us.

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