Oh God. It's starting again...
In response to the nation rigmarole that Ignatieff resurrected, Andrew Coyne is now asking our federal leaders to say, loud and clear: Canada is a nation. Big mistake in my view. Nationalism begets nationalism.
I remember very well the question posed to us circa 1995: Are you a Canadian first or Québécois first? I generally dodged the question, saying I was a Montrealer first. So did a number of my friends. I think that's partly why we tend to have such a strong attachment to that city...
I feel that divisive question coming back slightly altered. What's your nation: Quebec or Canada?
Coyne totally loses me here in this part of his column:
[W]hereas the idea of the Canadian nation, being civic and inclusive, can withstand competing ideas of nationhood -- you can identify, if you choose, with the Quebec nation, or the French-Canadian nation, as well as the Canadian nation -- the idea of nation that underlies Quebec nationalism, being language-based and exclusive, is necessarily a rejection of Canadian nationhood, at least as it applies to (francophone) Quebecers.That doesn't make any sense, though. The idea of a Canadian nation can coexist with the idea of Quebec nation then, but the idea of a Quebec nation can't coexist with the idea of a Canadian nation? You can identify with the Quebec nation as well as the Canadian nation, but you can't be a Quebec nationalist and recognize the Canadian nation?
Say what you will about Quebec nationalists, but they switched to the idea of a civic nation themselves a while ago. (Most of them, anyway.) Most of them would argue that their nation is civic and inclusive, too.
But I question the idea that any idea of nation can be "inclusive," Canadian or Quebec. The very idea of nationhood is exclusive... When you say "we, the people," who are "they"?
The moment you start talking about the Canadian civic nation, you've implicitly recognized that Quebec can be a civic nation, too -- in fact, that it probably is. I mean, why one but not the other?
Anyway, if this is only going to escalate, then let me say loud and clear: my civic nation is Montreal. And that's why I'm quite happy to call myself a Montrealer even though I haven't lived there for, oh, a good three-and-a-half years now...
See why I hate this debate? Re-reading this, it all sounds ridiculous.
Please, keep in mind that we're using the sociological definition of nation here, not the definition of nation as a country. Canada is a country, of course.
Using some semblance of a sociological definition, I should note, I don't think that it is completely unreasonable to call Quebec a nation, or French Canadians a nation, or Irish-Canadians a nation, or Newfoundland a nation, or, heck, even Canada a nation. It's just: what's the point? Sociologists can argue this out in their academic conferences, but in the real world it just leads to divisions.
Can we switch back to the debate over how many angels can dance on the head of the pin debate, instead?