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March 18, 1979 - Image 15

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1979-03-18
Note:
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Page 6-Sunday, March 18, 1979-The Michigan Daily

The Michigan Daily-Sunda)

Quebec struggles for sovere

HE CARS in Quebec bear blue
and white license plates with the
motto "Je me souviens" - I
remember. That slogan was chosen by
the Parti Quebecois (PQ), a separatist
party spawned and fueled by the desire
to make the predominantly French-
speaking province politically indepen-
dent from Canada. It serves as a poin-
ted reminder of an era when the Fren-
ch-speaking Quebecers were "maitres
chez nous" - masters in our own
house.
Now dominated economically by the
20 per cent English-speaking, or
Anglophone, minority, Quebec, in a
manner somewhat reminiscent of the
U.S. South over a century ago, holds the
ligaments of a country in its grasp with
its rallying cry for independence. The
1976 upset victory in which PQ member
Rene Levesque became premier of the
province was a culmination of the
people's relatively passive resistance
during the past decade, bringing the
Francophone concerns to the political
and social arena with resounding force.
Upon its victory, the party announced
it would hold a referendum within the
next five years to allow citizens of the
province to express their opinions on
the fate of Quebec by way of the ballot
box. Levesque has since announced
that the vote will be held either this fall
or in the spring of 1980. In that election,
Quebecers will probably be deciding
whether or not they want the premier to
negotiate the independence question
with the federal government. Where
that vote will lead, even given that the
province's members vote for indepen-
dence, is still an open question.
No one denies, however, that the
drive toward secession was at a peak
Elisa Isaacson is the Daiy City
Hall reporter. _.

By Elisa Isaacson

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during election time in 1976. Consisten-
tly given minimal coverage by the U.S.
media, the dark horse victory of the
PQ kept Canadians - particularly
Quebecers - glued to their television
sets and morning papers for weeks.
Though thefervor has since died down,
many native Quebecers predict a
revival of tensions as the tentative
referendum date draws near.
Discussing the issue, aspiring lawyer
and life-long Montreal resident Marc
Gold predicted, "As we approach the
referendum, things are going to
become feverish." Says Levesque's
constitutional advisor, Daniel
Latouche, "There is no hiding the fact
the government will pick for the refer-,
endum the moment it thinks will be in
its own interest." Levesque's theory
that French should be the only ,official
language in Quebec, and that the Fran-
cophones should have full responsibility
for their own political and cultural
development, is at severe odds with
Canadian Prime Minister Pierre
Trudeau's philosophy of "bilingualism

and biculturalism" throughout the
country. While Trudeau is struggling to
preserve Canadian unity in the face of
his own upcoming election, Levesque is
demanding political independence for
his province.
In the PQ's early years, the public
had remained uncertain of the extent of
the party's zeal for independence.
Would the leaders demand uncon-
ditional secession, or would there be
room for negotiation and a possible
compromise? As the 1976 election ap-
proached, however, the PQ clarified its
platform, calling for a program under
which Quebec would maintain relative
independence without completely cut-
ting itself off from "Canada. The
program, termed "sovereignty-
association," provides Quebec with a
self-governing authority, as well as a
stipulation that it simultaneously share
certain powers with Canada.
"We want a new association,"
declares Latouche, "and the only way
to achieve it is through discussion of
how to reorganize this part of North
America." But Latouche emphasizes
the importance of negotiation between
provincial and federal governments:
"Sovereignty is indispensable. . . We
are not saying, 'Let's divorce and get
remarried afterwards'; that's why we
put a hyphen between the two words."
ACCORDING TO Latouche, an in-
dependent Quebec would, under
the PQ's plan, continue to share
with Canada such powers as defense,
currency, transportation, and the
postal system. Other "crucial powers"
- culture and research, social security,
labor policies, and agricultural,
economic, and industrial development
- would be delegated by Quebec alone.
The PQ will most likely negotiate for
the possibility of joint ventures in the
areas of social services and minority
rights, as well.
Several Quebecers have expressed
relief that the proposed separation plan
is not as radical as once feared. Quebec
would remain a member of NATIO,
there would be no customs checks for
travelers crossing the Quebec/Canada
border, Quebecois mail would bear the
same postage stamps as Canadian let-
ters, and there would be no need to ex-
change currency when crossing from
one sovereignty to another. Part of the
rationale behind deciding to retain
Canadian currency, should Quebec
become independent, is, according to
Latouche, to prevent further weakening
of the dollar above the U.S. border. At
the beginning of this month, the ex-
change rate between the United States
and Canada was 81 U.S. cents for every
Canadian dollar.
As the PQ's policies became slightly
more conservative, the platforms of the

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Photo by ELISA ISAACSON, , , , s

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