Prime Minister Stephen Harper has awakened a sleeping Quebecois ogre, said the Ottawa Citizen in an editorial. Harper recently announced, pretty much out of the blue, that the Quebecois should be considered “a nation” but “within a united Canada.” He was using the word “nation” in its sense of cultural and ethnic distinctness, but to most of us in what’s known as the Rest of Canada, “nation” is a synonym for “country,” and many Quebecois probably think the same way. For decades, the hard-line Francophones in Quebec have considered themselves separate from the Rest of Canada, and though their movement to break away from Canada has failed, nationalism “is one creature you normally want to keep locked up in a secure place.” Perhaps Harper thought he was pre-empting the revival of Quebec separatism, since the Bloc Quebecois party is planning to declare Quebec a nation, and without the mitigating language about a united Canada. “But here’s the million-dollar question: Is recognizing Quebec nationhood really just a symbolic gesture?” In the past, Quebec nationalists have stooped to kidnapping public officials to further their cause. “Even if Mr. Harper’s intent is to grant only symbolic recognition, will he be able to control the beast that gets unleashed?”
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