Quebec Studies

Editor's Note

Quebec Studies (1999), 28, (1), 1–2.

Abstract

1 Editor's Note In the opening article of Volume 28, James T. McHugh asks whether Quebec has a constitution, and whether it needs one. As appropriate for a text on this topic, our assessors included constitutional experts who have served the Governments of Canada and Quebec at the highest levels, respectively pursuing active, principled commitments to Canadian federalism or Quebec sovereignty. Whatever their polit­ ical preference, they emphatically agreed on the importance of McHugh's analysis for our readers. Through an enlightening explication of the distinctions between written and unwritten constitutions on the one hand and entrenched and unentrenched ones on the other, McHugh argues that the constitutional heritage of the Westminster model already serves Quebec well, and would continue to do so whether it remains a province of Canada or were to become a sovereign state. At the same time, through ample comparison with American and French models, McHugh also seeks out the "specificities" of Quebec's constitutional conventions. In so doing, the article provides an excellent account of the notions of personhood and citizenship upon which Quebec's political regime is based. In our second article, Charles Bellerose and Jacques Beauchemin look at the ways in which the relation of the polit­ ical subject to national community has evolved in Quebec over the past three decades, and more precisely how the former is no longer synonymous with a citizen for whom an overarching, unitary national subject-position is necessarily primary. Their discussion proceeds from a comparative analysis of two great "collective debates" that involved large numbers of Quebecers: the États généraux du Canada français held in 1967 and 1969, and the 1995 Commissions sur l'avenir du Québec. Even though large sectors of the province's non-francophone communities boycotted the 1995 hearings, seeing in them little more than a public relations exercise that would legitimize the PQ government's decision to hold a second referendum on Quebec independence, it is the resulting similarity in the composition of the groups of participants in the 1960s and in 1995—both predominantly francophone—that per­ mits an appreciation of precisely how much more complicated the relation between nation and subject had become for them in the intervening thirty years. In the final article of our first section, Luis Aguiar offers an "on the ground" exploration of the ways in which class, ethnicity, and gender intersected in a union organizing cam­ paign in recession-bound Quebec in the early 1980s. Focusing on a Montreal garment factory in which the author himself and other members of his family worked, Aguiar sets out counter intuitively to challenge the notion that workers are more quiescent, and therefore less likely to antagonize an employer by joining trade unions, in periods of economic crisis. At the same time, he seeks to identify the actual impedi­ ments to union organizing at "Texgar." These are to be found not only in the employer's tactics and in the labor laws that favored him, but also in the disregard and hostility of some workers toward others on the basis of race and ethnicity, and even in the sexist practices of the union leadership itself. Our second section continues our commitment to presenting texts on premodern Quebec. Marie Couillard and Patrick Imbert's study of "les Déclarations de principes" in mid-nineteenth century Quebec contributes to our understanding of the discursive formulations of the Patriote cause in Lower Canada. The authors com­ pare these texts to similar declarations elsewhere in the Americas, and advance the intriguing argument that the Patriotes' failure to invoke a transcendent, divine source of legitimacy in their texts betrays an ambivalence over assuming full responsibility for leading their society into the modern era. As in their contribution to Volume 23, they contrast this with the political and economic consolidation of liberalism in the republics to the south, particularly the United States. This "failure of will" of the

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Schwartzwald, Robert