The cul-de-sac that is Quebec sovereigntism is vividly illustrated in the proposal from Bernard Landry, a former premier of Quebec, for the movement to revert to the 1960s-era concept of independence, instead of the more nuanced word “sovereignty.” The people of Quebec did not want independence then and they do not want it now.
On Saturday, Mr. Landry asked rhetorically, “Have you ever heard Americans say that they celebrate the sovereignty of their country on the Fourth of July?” The answer is “No,” but the Americans had a war with the British on that point, and the Québécois, very sensibly, do not want war or an outright rupture. Independence is indeed a more stirring idea than sovereignty – too stirring. But Mr. Landry says, “Let’s use the right words. Let’s look at things directly; we want national independence.”
There was good reason for the movement away from the word “independence.” The radical Rassemblement pour l’indépendance nationale never won a seat in the legislature of Quebec, and dissolved in the face of the Mouvement Souveraineté-Association, founded by René Lévesque, which changed its name to the Parti Québécois, but sovereignty-association was still the PQ’s objective in the 1980 referendum.
Mr. Landry wants to reinvent the wheel, restoring the quest for independence. Yet he has just come around and changed his mind by expressing his approval of the sovereigntist-governance concept of Premier Pauline Marois, which he previously deplored as too much of a compromise with Canadian federalism.
The context for Mr. Landry’s ideological contortions was an event with the grandiose name of the Estates General on the sovereignty of Quebec – an allusion to France on the verge of revolution in 1789. Fortunately, the PQ has only a minority government. Regime change is not imminent.