Quebec Studies

L'Abandon de l'abandon: The Emergence of a Transatlantic "Francosphere" in Québec and Canada's Strategic Culture

Quebec Studies (2010), 49, (1), 59–86.


59 L'Abandon de l'abandon: The Emergence of a Transatlantic "Francosphere" in Québec and Canada's Strategic Culture David G. Haglund and Justin Massie Queen's University Introduction: For the Love of France Last year's celebrations commemorating the 400th anniversary of Quebec's founding sparked a controversy over the historic bonds between Québec, Canada, and France. Some regard 1608 as marking the arrival of franco­ phone civilization on the North American continent, and they understand the "Québec nation" to be this civilization's bedrock. But others, including Canada's prime minister, Stephen Harper, have preferred to imagine Quebec's founding as also denoting Canada's founding as a state, and they see a direct line of descent running from Samuel de Champlain to the cur­ rent governor general of Canada, Michaëlle Jean.1 This ascription of an eminently federal lineage to the events being celebrated this past year was too much for one member of parliament from the Bloc québécois (BQ), Michel Guimond, who dismissed the prime minister's interpretation as nothing short of a "surrealistic rewriting of history."2 Such an interpretation not only brought to mind Salvador Dali, it also made a mockery of the histor­ ical record, for to claim that Canada, rather than Québec, had been "born French" did seem to skate rather blithely over the British conquest of New France during the Seven Years' War of 1756 to 1763. As the historian, Michel de Waele, put it, to deny the rupture that was the Conquest is tan­ tamount to erasing the original line of division between French and English Canadians. 3 Nor was Stephen Harper the only national leader to feel the wrath of Québec sovereigntists. France's president, Nicolas Sarkozy, also found himself being raked over the coals for similarly pooh-poohing the country's contested origins, through comments such as the following, made during a brief stopover in Québec: "I have always been a friend of Canada's, because Canada has always been an ally of France's. Frankly, anyone who thinks that the world really needs now is one more fracture is not someone who sees the same reality as I do." Sarkozy went on to say that he did not under­ stand why a declaration of fraternal and familial affection for Québec had to be accompanied by a show of disaffection for Canada: "France is a country that brings things together, rather than splits them apart." 4 He has­ tened to add that his supporting Canadian unity in no way detracted from the historic links between France and Québec; and as had Prime Minister Harper, Premier Jean Charest of Québec, and Prime Minister François Fillon of France, so too did President Sarkozy insist upon the "special," "unique," and "privileged" quality of France-Québec relations.5 The tug-of-war for France's affection was interesting in its own right; but what was truly remarkable about this jousting between federalists and Québec Studies, Volume 49, Spring/Summer 2010

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Author details

Haglund, David

Massie, Justin