Harper and the Québécois Nation: Where does this fit with his unconditional support for Israel ?

The conservative Stephen Harper leads a minority government in Canada since January 2006. The fate of his government is hanging on a thread. Torn between on one side his ideological allegiances to Christian social conservatism, oil interests and corporate military interventionism à la Bush and on the other side Canada's tradition as a social liberalist society, environmentally concerned and neutral when it comes to international affairs, Harper chooses divisive issues to consolidate his electoral basis for the next elections which can happen any time, given his slight majority.

One of the most divisive issues in Canada is Québec's separatism. Québec had constantly around 50% of the population in favour of separation from Canada but not enough to win a referendum on the matter. Quebec also elects a separatist party to represent its interests at the federal level of Government. Recently, Harper proposed that Québécois, who are already recognised as a distinct society, be recognised as a Nation within a united Canada. All parties voted for the motion yesterday from fear of losing votes in Québec. There was some dissent, 16 MPs voted against the motion, but it was marginal.

It is only after the vote that questions are arising about what it means to recognise a group of people with a common language and a common history as a nation ? First Nations, which are about 600 in Canada, are upset; they think this motion, by adding early colonisers to the group of Nations, is diminishing their role in the foundation of Canada and their claims to the land. Québec immigrants are wondering where do they fit in this equation. Francophones living in the rest of Canada like Acadians and franco-Ontarians feel betrayed. The rest of Canada feel abandoned and betrayed at the same time.

In the context of Quebec separatism, recognising Québécois, only the people, as a nation based on common hsitory, language and culture within Canada, implies automatically that the land, the province and its geographic and political contours are not included in this concept of Nation.

As symbolic and politically motivated as this motion may be, if generalised, it may set a precedent in my opinion against land claims and geopolitical independance by a group of people charing common language, history and culture, not only for the Québécois but also for other groups within Canada. In fact, while appearing as someone who is making a gift to Québec separatism Harpers is actually undermining it. Some have argued that by recognising Québécois as a nation Harpers is giving ammunitions to the separatist movement but this argument does not hold because Québec's separatism is old, even older than Harper himself and its existence is a testimony to the feeling that Québécois have as being a group bound by common features different from the rest of Canada. In fact, Quebec's separatist citizens do not need Harper to tell them they are a nation. What this move implies then for Canada ? It is just a political maneuvre and its symbolism is poor since only the Québécois, and only a portion of them, are actually the only ones who are claiming they want separation from Canada. However, the motion may have far reaching implications if we leave the Canadian and Québécois contexts.

Indeed, this concept of nation, if generalised, may invalidate for example the claim of Jews on the land of Israel as much as it reinforces the administrative and political definition of the State Nation away from ethnic belonging and common hsitory. Where does this fit with Harpers unconditional support for the state of Israel ? I am wondering. However, Harper is not at his first logical fallacy trying to implement unpopular policies while pleasing voters at the same time. We will be seeing more of this from him every now and then.

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Since March 29th 2006