Thu, Mar 16, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Letter: The view from Quebec

By Michel Gourd

This letter is in response to Chen I-chung's (陳宜中) article ("Pragmatic path is the best solution," Feb. 24, page 8) and David May's letter (Letters, Mar. 2, page 8). I hope it will help people better understand the Quebec separation issue, and its relationship to the Taiwan problem.

As a Canadian citizen born and living in Quebec, I experience the Quebec separatism problem daily. I found the headline, "Pragmatic path is the best solution," to be quite right, especially regarding the Quebec issue. In Canada, each citizen has the right to express his or her political beliefs. As in Taiwanese society, there is also a high degree of consensus on this point in Canada.

The history of Quebec separatism proves Chen's point about unilateral separatism. In 1970 a separatist group called the "Front de liberation du Quebec" (FLQ) tried that. It led to the death of a Quebec minister and the use of military power by the Canadian government to maintain control of the province. It is also true that the separatists had little success using this tactic. Peaceful Quebec citizens felt betrayed by the violent action. But there is a lesser-known part to this story.

When May says in his letter that there has not been a "unilateral demand for separation" from Quebec, he is right. The separatists have never won a referendum. The Canadian government has put all its money and weight into stopping the separatists from succeeding. This has included using undemocratic tactics, such as in the 1995 Quebec referendum -- when everything, including the kitchen sink, was thrown at the separatists to keep them from achieving their goal.

The entire Canadian secret service was and still is working to dwarf the will of Quebec separatists. As a good example of this, when the US was hit by the events of Sept. 11, 2001, there was not a single Arab-speaking translator in the Canadian secret service.

Terrorist groups were operating freely in the country. When they searched for Canadian spies, they were discovered at the highest level of the separatist movement.

The Keable commission [set up by the Quebec government to investigate the actions of the police] found that the federal police violated the law, destroying lives and burning houses to achieve their goal. The Canadian government's action to explore and clarify the issue was seen by many in Quebec as another trick to stop Quebec independence.

So, Chen is also right in saying that an established democracy like Canada refuses to agree to Quebec's unilateral demands for separation. It shows that there are things other than the military threat from China that can stop the people of Taiwan from democratically deciding if they should become independent.

Lets hope Taiwan will be able to enter into a discussion with China about Taiwanese independence. Democracy does not guarantee happiness if it is emptied of respect for human rights.

Freedom of information is essential for a liberal democracy, to make it so that two conflicting parties are more willing to resolve their differences through rational communication.

A deal can be reached sooner than many think.

Goodwill on both sides can transcend all other matters. If China and Taiwan find a compromise in a legal, respectful and civilized manner, be sure that Canada and the citizens of Quebec will take note.

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