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The problem with ‘distinct societies’

In a nutshell: the precedent they set.

Red means distinct, right?

The case: an article in the Montreal Gazette this morning illuminating the ‘common ground’ between Quebec and – you guessed, it, Alberta.

The evidence:

The two provinces have more in common than many Quebecers might realize. Alberta, like Quebec, is proudly autonomist and jealous of its provincial prerogatives. It currently stands four-square with Quebec in resisting the federal government’s initiative to establish a national securities regulating agency. Quebec City and Calgary have long been twin cities, and any Quebecer who visits Alberta and gets over the language barrier will be struck by the fact that…

The claim:

Alberta in its own way is very much a distinct society in Canada.

The (biased) verdict: Alright, so let me give you a few reasons why this tenuous connection is overly-simplified horseshit. ALL provinces are proudly autonomist of their provincial rights when they constantly feel like that what makes them unique is perpetually under threat from their jealous half-brothers and sisters. Alberta is protective of their unethical Oilsands because of the power and wealth it provides in our federation, and Quebec equally so of their language, their history, and Hydroelectricity. Both may only be unique in the level of paranoia they display and the lengths they will go to to ensure things are done their way, but this is hardly a worthy enough attribute to qualify either for ‘distinct society’ status, which seems to have become the unattainable holy grail of membership in Canada.

For your consideration: British Columbia has its salmon and old growth forests; the North their Northern lights and proud Aboriginal traditions; Saskatchewan and Manitoba their endless skies and fields of wheat; Ontario has the Great Lakes and nations’ capital; P.E.I. its red dirt and Japanese tourist hotspots, New Brunswick their proud Acadian population; Nova Scotia their lobsters and maritime heritage; and Newfoundland their jagged rock and proud cultural distinctions.

Each is distinct; each is the same. Except the other eight provinces and three territories don’t annoy the Rest of Canada (ROC) every few months with jealous paranoia about their distinctions. Why not work towards finding a constructive place within the federation where these differences are attributes to the whole, rather than jealously guarding what flukes of geology and political map-making decades and decades ago afforded you?

If Alberta and Quebec need to feel distinct to feel complete, that’s fine – I have no issue with that. But don’t insist that everyone in the ROC share your feelings on the matter, or that we care. And this recent banding together of the two self-imposed exiles and oddballs of the Canadian federation will only seek to alienate themselves further, and encourage the ROC to roll their eyes.

‘Quiet, now. Just let them have their moment. It’ll pass.’


About awreeves

Environmentalist Geography MA Nonfiction MFA Citizen


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