Home > Federal, NDP, Ponderings > Convention – The Sherbrooke Declaration: NDP on the Quebec Question

Convention – The Sherbrooke Declaration: NDP on the Quebec Question

September 19, 2006

One of the more important things passed (but seemingly ignored) at the NDP Convention was the Sherbrooke Declaration. It has been argued that the NDP’s position about the Quebec Question has been in the past, a little muddy. So the Sherbrooke Declaration was drafted up by the NDP Quebec Section in order to fix this problem, because after all, a modern party needs to be (relatively) clear on its stances.

The Sherbrooke Declaration is an eight page document, so I’ll sum it up for you and look at some of the juicy bits:

A Social Democratic Government in Canada

Basically this section shows support for social democracy in Canada, but points to the fact that to become government, Quebec is needed.

Federalism and Social Democracy

This announces the belief of the NDP that “…a federal state is the best way to ensure a fair an cooperative society for the good of the individuals, communities and people which make up that [state]”.

Recognition of Quebec’s National Character

This part states that Quebec is a separate nation and should be recognized as such.

To prevent some confusion, a “Nation” is defined as “A people who share common customs, origins, history, and frequently language”. A “State”, on the other hand, which is often confused with nation, means “an organized political community occupying a definite territory, having an organized government, and possessing internal and external sovereignty”. So in simple terms, the country/government of Cuba is a state, while the people living their are of Cuban Nationality. Some states can be “multi-nation states”, for example, the United Kingdom state, with English, Welsh, Scottish, and (Northern) Irish nations.

This section contends that Canada should be united, but Quebecois(e) and other nations such as First Nations should be recognized for the unique qualities that they bring to Canada.

Asymmetrical Federalism

This section declares support for applying the idea of asymmetrical federalism, or special powers, for Quebec. Now this is not a large of a step as it seems: for example, Quebec today collects its own taxes, has its own pension plan, and has civil law instead of common law. This section supports allowing Quebec to opt out of any federal program, with compensation, that infringes on provincial powers and declares that any federal standards on an area that infringes of provincial rights should be discussed with Quebec.

I do think, however, that the types of powers, as stated above, should be available to other provinces if they choose to use these powers.

Working together and with respect: cooperative federalism

This section basically tries to promote more cooperation with the federal government and Quebec, especially in regard to interprovincial deals and federal programs that infringe on the rights of provinces.

Quebec’s right to self-determination

Now here is the most controversial section right here. This section supports giving Quebec the power to separate with a majority 50% + 1 referendum vote. Now the fact is, the Clarity Act does not really give a threshold of how many votes are needed to separate; it is to be set by the House of Commons. The Clarity Act needs to have some more Clarity. And if one looks at the recent Montenegro separation referendum, a 55% yes vote was required.

I don’t know about this one: in most democracies 50% + 1 is often enough, but then again should a country split with a razor-thin majority? Can we really force Quebec to stay when it wants to go?

This part also says that no force should be used against Quebec in any part of any separation process.

My Thoughts on This

I think that most of the Sherbrooke Declaration basically attempts to officialize the non-official status quo, with a plea for more cooperation and a stronger pro-self-determination stance. I think that it mostly fits in within my stance on federalism and nationality

My stance on federalism and nationality is this. Quebec is a nation. But Canada is not a nation; it is a new type of entity: a supranation. One might be able to say that a formation of a nation is the combination of various municipalities and regions that happen to have common customs, origins, and history; I think that is the historical development (well in part). A supranation is the combination of nationalities with common customs, origins, and history.

So I think that Canada is a supranation composed of Aboriginal, Quebecois(e), British Columbian, Albertan, Prairieian, Ontarian, Newfoundlander, and Martitime nations. Each nation is different, yet share a common strand. I think that it is for the benefit of the nations of Canada to stay within the Canadian supranation.

To clear things up a little, I point out two other supernations in the world. The British Supranation contains the English, Welsh, Scottish and (Northern) Irish nations. However, the British political system is “less” federal than ours. The European Supranation contains all of the nationalities on the European Union; the European Union political system is “way more” federal than ours. These are not perfect examples, but I think they’ll do for now.

Well, I hope all of this makes sense.

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Categories: Federal, NDP, Ponderings
  1. Idealistic Pragmatist
    September 19, 2006 at 12:00 pm

    Sherbrooke was ignored only by the English-language press–in the French-language press, it’s pretty much all they talked about.

  2. Nicholas
    September 29, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    Defining nations? Reminds me of when the anthropologists spent there time trying to figure out how many races there were and which one everyone belonged to. So far to go…

  1. September 17, 2007 at 11:30 pm
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