For as long as Quebec has been a part of Canada, there has always been debate about what their role is in Canadian federalism, but in most cases it has been nothing more than debate and rhetoric on both sides. There have always been, and will always be people in Quebec and in the rest of Canada that think that Quebec should be sovereign and there will be others that believe that Quebec plays an important role in Canadian federalism, and nothing should change. Then in the mid 1960's, the debate took a different turn as the term distinct society was added to the rhetoric of the Canadian political scene. This expression was first used in describing Quebec by the premier at the time, Jean Lesage. Unfortunately for him though, he was not able to pass a constitutional amendment declaring Quebec as a distinct society. Despite that setback, Lesage was successful in introducing the idea to Quebeckers and Canada, and these words would return to the political agenda in the future.
[...] In this sense they have been referred to as the “lost generation.” When it is all said, Quebec has become in many sense an open and pluralist society, as it is exposed to the gamut of outside influences. In that sense, Quebec is evolving from an ethnic to a civic form of nationalism. In other words, the criteria for membership is shifting from ethnic to more objective considerations, such as extending the group identity to include all residents of Quebec, even those of other ethnic origins. [...]
[...] Unfortunately for this area too, is that applications from French-language countries such as France and Belgium are not large in numbers. In order to comprehend the current state of Quebec ethno-nationalism and the quest for a positive social identity, it is important to keep in mind certain other changes that have occurred in the past three and a half decades since the Quiet Revolution was launched. One important facet is that Quebec's economy has evolved from one in which primary products were the principal exports to one oriented toward the latest scientific and technological innovations. [...]
[...] Evidence of this can be seen with the growing acceptance of the term “Quebecois” in place of “Canadien” or “French Canadian.” Whatever the current stage of evolution toward a civic society, francophone Quebecers still agree that the French language is the cornerstone of Quebec's distinctiveness and that other residents must accept that, including the ramifications that come with it. The continuing perception in Quebec of a need for a distinctive social identity was really brought home during The Meech Lake Accord negotiations between 1987 and 1990. [...]
[...] Then a few years later, following the 1995 Quebec referendum, the Liberal government of Jean Chrétien did endorse recognition of Quebec's distinct society, a recognition that asked institutions of government take note of this recognition and be guided in their conduct accordingly.” However commendable this might have seemed though, it did not completely satisfy Quebec nationalists as the term was still absent from the Constitution. On November the federal government voted, amid much controversy, to recognize the Québécois as a nation within Canada. Once again though, this was nothing more than rhetoric being passed around as it was only a motion of the House, it was not legally binding. Where does the issue stand now? [...]
[...] This issue is quite independent from the question of whether Quebec as a “distinct society” actually exists in sociological terms, because most people will agree that this is the case. It is certainly true in Quebec. Outside of Quebec though, the idea seems no less obvious, especially to those who have travelled to the province. These people, upon returning home, will claim that one only needs to walk around in Montreal or Quebec City to know that Quebec is certainly a “distinct society.” If it is well-regarded by most Canadians that Quebec is in some form distinct, then why must we go further than that, why do Quebecers want this in writing at the legislative level? [...]
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