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Subject: LexisNexis(R) Email Request  (1842:64373708)



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Time of Request: October 05, 2005  03:28 PM EDT
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                               1 of 4 DOCUMENTS

            Copyright 1996 FDCHeMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
           Federal Document Clearing House Congressional Testimony

                        September 25, 1996, Wednesday


LENGTH: 1776 words



    Charles F. Doran

    Andrew W. Mellon Professor of International Relations

    Nitze School of Advanced International Studies,

    Johns Hopkins University

    September 25, 1996

    House Committee on International Relations

    Subcommittee On Western Hemisphere

    Will Quebec secede from Canada?

    If Quebec secedes, will English Canada unravel?

    What's the impact on U.S. interests of
Canadian fragmentation?

    How should the United States respond?


    In the Fall 1995 referendum on Quebec separation, the ruling Parti Quebecois government came within about 50,000 votes of a majority in favor of secession. Quebec separatists claim that independence is necessary to preserve Quebec
language and culture.  This claim has created political tension within the province of Quebec between federalists and the separatists and within Canada as a whole.

    Premier Bouchard has indicated that the top priority for the PQ government is, for the present, fighting the large financial deficit and governing effectively.  He argues that Quebec will not call another referendum before the next Quebec election scheduled for 1999 or earlier.  But he has also and he promises that Quebec voters will insisted that separation remains on his government's agenda, he promises that Quebec voters will get another opportunity to decide this issue.

    Prediction of future political events with any degree of confidence is impossible.  There are many reasons, however, for believing that the threat of Quebec separation ought to be taken seriously.  According to The Globe and Mail,
Canada's leading English newspaper, 52.5 percent of Quebec voters currently support separation.  Each generation of Quebec voters has become more supportive of secession, especially in the aftermath of the unsuccessful attempts at
country-wide constitutional reform during the so-called Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords.  Younger voters are more independence-minded than older voters, and as each generation ages, it tends to retain this profile of preference for independence.

    Ottawa has made bold efforts to meet the demands of Quebec interests, while at the same time trying to satisfy the concerns of mostly English-speaking voters living elsewhere in Canada.  Prime Minister Chretien's government has
introduced legislation to address some of Quebec's concerns regarding the acknowledgment of Quebec as a "distinct society," regarding the creation of a veto for Quebec and other provinces over constitutional change, and regarding
worker retraining.  The problem is that as large a majority is against these provisions elsewhere in Canada as is supportive of them in Quebec.  Hence, Ottawa has an extremely difficult time getting the changes entrenched in the
constitution and unless they are so entrenched, Quebec rejects them as ephemeral.

    Canada is thus faced with a dilemma of how to meet Quebec demands without antagonizing the rest of the country and without undermining the capacity to govern effectively.  Language issues, educational policy, immigration rules, and
joint Federal-Provincial funding of public programs all have inflamed opinion inside Quebec between the anglophone minority and the francophone majority.

    Many things can happen to affect future Outcomes in Quebec, including a return of the pro-federalist (but nationalist) Liberal Party to power, a downturn of the business cycle that temporarily could shock voters, and new policy initiatives on all sides.  But the seriousness of Quebec separation remains a priority issue for Canada and indeed for all of North America.


    Quebec secession is normally regarded as the only conceivable event that could lead to an unravelling of Canada.  Canada enjoys nearly a century and one-half of formal integration as a confederation.  Its political institutions are sophisticated and deeply committed to democracy.  Consistently, Canada is ranked by Opinion Surveys as the number one polity in which to live.  Despite all of these advantages, Canada would receive a sharp political jolt if Quebec decided to opt out.

    English Canada undoubtedly would attempt to reconstitute itself politically after Quebec separation.  The central question is whether Such reconstitution would satisfy both the voters in Ontario, Canada's largest, most populous, and
richest English-speaking provinces.  Quite a few hurdles exist.

    First, the eastern Maritime Provinces would be cut off from Canada by an independent Quebec.  Despite the best of intention by of Canada a sense of being alone and distant in geographic avoided.  The Maritimes themselves might regroup politically, but loss of geographic propinquity with the rest of English Canada would not be easy to adjust to.

    Second, large financial transfer payments currently pass from the rich industrial and oil-abundant provinces to the poorer, less industrialized provinces like Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.  Once federation collapses, the voters in the rich provinces may have second thoughts about continuing to support the less prosperous provinces.  If transfer payments disappear, the "glue" that has traditionally held the country together in public policy terms might dissolve.

    Third, the Canadian West has historically suffered from what analysts call "Western alienation." Some 12 percent of voters in British Columbia, for example, say they should become a separate country.  This sense of alienation from the Canadian heartland has many causes, some of which like tariff inequities are either fanciful or have disappeared.  Yet the sense of disenchantment with the industrial and political center of Canada lives on.  A difference in electoral and party preference, combined with problems of political representation in the major governing parties, all have contributed to the feelings many Westerners have of being "left out."

    Fourth, in a Canada bereft of Quebec, Ontario would tower over its neighboring provinces in terms of virtually every measure including political clout.  Surely, Alberta, for instance, would demand a new Senate in which every province has equal representation.  Smaller provinces would probably need to regroup on a larger regional basis.  The constitution would require re-drafting. Ontario, of course, would be expected to yield substantial sovereignty and
political leverage so that all of these far-reaching constitutional changes would be allowed to go forward.

    The problem is that, in the end, some provinces might decide to go their own way politically.  Ultimately Canada could fragment into three, four, five, or more entities, each independent, but also relatively weak and isolated.  No one would consciously seek the unraveling of Canada, but Canada could unravel just the same, as the unintended result of a failure to overcome the fissiparousness of government action and the monumental challenge of political reconstruction.



    Accustomed to "peace, order, and good government" above the 49th parallel, Americans have a difficult time imagining a situation in which a number of small, disparate states would occupy the space that once was a united Canada. Should such an agent occur, the interests of the United States would be at stake.  Political, economic, diplomatic, administrative, and defense concerns would emerge.  What once was a coherent, friendly,and well-governed polity would become in the parlance of international politics something of a political vacuum.

    Administrative interactions would become more numerous, complex, and burdensome.  Coalitional arrangements might arise with non- hemispheric powers. Defense arrangements would require multiple participation by independent actors
theoretically capable of vetoing policies adopted by the majority representation
.  How all of these innovations and changes would evolve is beyond the ability of the analyst to systematically explore and delineate.

    While all of the actors undoubtedly would prefer membership in NAFTA, keeping NAFTA whole and vigorous might prove demanding.  Once individual political borders arise, trade, commercial, and financial obstacles often follow.  Continuation of effective trade liberalization on a regional basis is the challenge.

    In short, the goal of many to see North America evolve into a broad, open liberal trade order might stumble in the face of an unravelling of Quebec and English Canada.


    Canada must be allowed to decide for itself, without interference, according to democratic principles, what political fate it prefers.  Farsighted leadership in Ottawa, and in Quebec City, as well as in the other provincial capitals, may
well head-off imminent break-up and create a new foundation for a united Canada in the twenty-first century.  Yet enough indicators presently exist to suggest that this set of initiatives will not come easily or with large guarantees of

    It is time for the United States to take Canada's problems seriously and to begin to consider how its own interests will be affected by an unravelling of Canada.  At a minimum, the United States ought to consider various contingencies, and, without precipitating the outcome that it seeks to avoid, work out the responses that will be in the best interest of each of the polities of North America.

    (1) The United States might, in the event of Canadian unraveling, offer the isolated political fragments a kind of regional affiliation with the United States.  They would pursue their independent domestic policies.  But they would forgo building their militia and attempting to establish unique foreign policies.  Terms could be established to promote mutual security for all of North America.

    (2) Difficult though the path to statehood would be both for the United States and for a Canadian fragment attempting such a venture, the United States should be prepared to consider such requests if regional affiliation proves insufficiently attractive.  Proud of Canada, most Canadians rightly reject any thought of alternatives to Canadian citizenship. But if English Canada fragments, all of the political cards will have been shuffled.  It is very difficult to see what preferences might then eventuate.  Better that the United States keep an open mind regarding its options than to rigidly foreclose some of them now based on presently inadequate information and an imperfect understanding of what a very different kind of North America could require.

LOAD-DATE: September 26, 1996