Quebec Studies

Québec and Foreign Policy: Overseas Options for a Province in a Federal System

Quebec Studies (1993), 17, (1), 59–74.


Quebec Studies, No. 17, 1994 QUeBEC AND FOREIGN POLICY: OVERSEAS OPTIONS FOR A PROVINCE IN A FEDERAL SYSTEM by Gregory S . Muhler Introduction This article involves Quebec’s foreign policy and the relationship of that policy to Quebec’s role in the Canadian federal system. One of the most frequent themes of studies of Canadian federalism involves the tensions which exist between Ottawa and several provinces (most notably Quebec, although other provinces such as Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario have also been discussed) in respect to policy jurisdiction in a number of different areas, including foreign policy. This article seeks to expand upon these earlier studies by examining the evolution and the general nature of Quebec’s foreign policy. Although the bulk of Quebec’s international activities are conducted through educational and cultural programs, Quebec has consistently asserted its right to a broad range of foreign policy activities. Thus, the goal of this paper is to fill what can be perceived to be a lacuna in the literature. There is a great deal of material which focuses upon the federal dimension of the issue-what overseas activities a province can or should undertake if it operates within a federal system, and how that international activity will affect the federal balance of power-but there is not a great deal of material on the development of provincial foreign policy itself. How has Quebec’s foreign policy developed over the years?What is its general foreign perspective today? What will be the general parameters of its foreign policy in the future?These are all questions that will be addressed here. I. The Canadian Foreign Policy Setting A. Federalism and Foreign Policy Not only is the federal government of Canada active in foreign aid programs of many different kinds, but so too are the provinces. This makes any study of federal or provincial foreign policy quite complex. One scholar has noted that N o other federation has had as much cause as Canada to feel threatened in its international relations by the activities abroad of its constituent provinces. N o other federation does as much to assist its provinces in their

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Author details

Mahler, Gregory