Quebec Studies

Young Québec Sovereignists and Attitudes about Canadian Federalism

Quebec Studies (2009), 47, (1), 95–118.

Abstract

95 Young Québec Sovereignists and Attitudes about Canadian Federalism 1 Andrea M i . Perrelia Wilfrid Laurier University Éric Bélanger McGill University M u c h is k n o w n about the propensity for sovereignty support a m o n g young Quebecers. This is especially true of y o u n g francophone Quebecers, w h o s e support for sovereignty is consistently a n d visibly high. Indeed, a c o m m o n sight on Q u é b e c c a m p u s e s is knapsacks that adorn the Fleur-de-lys and a pin that proudly espouses: " M a génération est souverainiste." A s noted b y Drouilly, the near victory of the YES side in the 1995 referendum w a s due in part to the youth. It is n o w o n d e r the basis of support for sovereignty a m o n g Q u e b e c ' s youth has d r a w n considerable attention (see, for example, Bélanger and Perrelia; Martin and Nadeau; Martinez; Pinard; Piroth). Yet, attitudes that y o u n g sovereignists hold about C a n a d a are less explored. In particular, w h a t exactly d o they k n o w — and dislike — about the Canadian federa­ tion? This is far less known, b u t nonetheless critical in gaining a m o r e com­ plete understanding of the formation of political attitudes regarding the perennial " Q u é b e c question". O u r aim is to contribute greater understanding o f this p h e n o m e n o n using data from a survey of Q u é b e c youth conducted in early 2006. T h e survey contained an open-ended question that asked respondents to speak freely about w h a t they regard as the biggest disadvantage of Canadian fed­ eralism. A s will b e elaborated in this paper, the attitudinal orientation that y o u n g Q u é b e c sovereignists h a v e about federalism is completely counter­ intuitive. Respondents volunteered a w i d e range of answers, w h i c h could m e a n o n e of t w o things: either they see federalism as so severely flawed that w h e n asked to provide a reason, they are b o u n d to cite many; or, y o u n g sovereignists do not normally think a lot about federalism, a n d thus w h e n asked to point out its flaws, are m o r e likely to display randomness. The evidence reported here leans towards the second interpretation. Young sovereignists, w h o m m a n y portray as the vanguard of the sover­ eignty m o v e m e n t , lack consistency and structure in what they regard as the m a i n disadvantage of federalism. This is particularly true of those w h o are less likely to h a v e b e e n exposed to a w i d e r range of attributes about both sides of the issue, sovereignist and federalist. In contrast, those w h o exhibit slightly m o r e coherent a n d constrained sets of reasons about w h a t is wrong with federalism are m o r e likely to h a v e given federalism s o m e more thought. Plausibility for such a pattern is widely established. A s Delli Carpini and Keeter point out, three factors contribute to the acquisition of political Québec Studies, Volume 47, Spring/Summer 2009

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Author details

Perrella, Andrea

Bélanger, Éric