The History of the Quebec Francophones and the Attempts Made to Accommodate Their Concerns
The merging of two separate and distinct groups is what has given Canada its unique cultural identity. While some early politicians believed assimilation was the best approach to building a strong Canada, it became increasing difficult to convince the Quebec francophones that a national identity should take precedence over retaining their unique culture. Opposing viewpoints and different agendas have caused mistrust among the Quebec francophones towards the federal government and mistrust among other provinces towards Quebec. Constitutional amendments have been proposed on a number of occasions and, to date, none have been successfully adopted in their entirety. This paper will provide a brief overview of the history of the Quebec francophones and the attempts made to accommodate their concerns. Secondly, it will suggest some possible constitutional amendments that would help to meet the needs of Quebecois while helping to keep Canada intact.
Quebec history goes back to a time when the French and English shared a place in a new land. The French colony in Canada was relatively small and garnered little attention in France. In 1759, the British colony with strong support from England took control of the French colony. While the British were initially determined to destroy all forms of cultural distinction among the French by introducing the Royal Proclamation of 1763, the bill was never enacted. (Whittington & Williams, 2000: 359) The seigneurial system was restored and Quebec remained an agrarian society guided by the Catholic Church.
This predominantly rural province began to fall behind the rest of Canada in both government and business. Political and business leaders were predominantly urban anglophones giving rise to resentment among the francophones and the belief that the federal government focussed on centralist concerns with little regard for Quebec interests. It was believed (and argued) that in Quebec only the Quebec government could be entrusted with the distinctive interests of Quebec francophones. (Whittington & Williams, 2000: 357) This mistrust of the federal government lead to what is called the "Quiet Revolution" where Quebecers polarized and separatists began to argue for a separate Quebec nation.
While many federal leaders chose to ignore the growing resentment in Quebec, the government of Lester B. Pearson sought to find ways to support Quebec nationalism. However, it was Pierre E. Trudeau that took a confrontational approach and attempted to induce Quebec to attach primary allegiance to Canada as a whole. (Whittington & Williams, 2000: 367) While the patriation of the Canadian constitution was the primary goal, Trudeau also recognized the need that Quebec support was required. Therefore, Quebec concerns must be addressed.
With the Meech Lake Accord, introduced by Brian Mulroney attempts were made to...