What's in a name?
Let's save Canada


A poll suggests that, in these nervous times, Quebeckers feel safer inside Canada than they would in an independent Quebec. But, though even the IRA understands that the world changed on September 11, we cannot count on the PQ to lay down their idea.

Which is precisely why federalists must take advantage of the current susceptibility of Quebeckers. Now is the time, excuse the indelicacy, to infect the nationalists.

To do that, we need to understand what it is they want.

In 1995, during referendum autumn, I was teaching at the University of Ljubljana, in newly independent Slovenia. Naturally, I tried to explain to my students why I was a Canadian federalist. They couldn't understand. Having just broken away from the miserable Yugoslav federation, they were separatists, period.

I countered all their arguments, except one. Here's what one girl said to me: "You know what the problem was, before? Whenever I went abroad, people asked me what I was and I would say "Slovenian," and they didn't have a clue, or, if they did, they would say, 'Oh, you're Yugoslav.' So, I stopped trying; I would just say I was Yugoslav. Before, Slovenia was a country with an asterisk, now we're a country."

There it is, unanswerably. People want to be known by what they consider their true name. Is that asking too much?

Here's the same desire again. Every year the government of Catalonia, a country with an asterisk, puts an ad into the New York Times. Last year's was spread over two pages. The first page showed a picture by Miro and asked, "What country is this artist from?" Clearly, Catalonia expected artsy us to recognize the Miro, and, just as clearly, they expected us to say, "Spain."

The second page gave us our comeuppance. The artist's country, we were told, was Catalonia. We had the wrong definition of country. Catalonia wanted us to know that its people, though they may, by some other definition, be Spaniards, were Catalans. They want to be known by their name. Is that asking too much?

When a country becomes independent in the eyes of the world, we say that it is recognized. It is finally called by its real name. There's the necessary insight for our solution.

What bothers Quebec nationalists is that, according to the world's definitions, Quebec is a country with an asterisk. They want it known by its true name: Quebec. They want to be recognized. Is that asking too much?

Not only is it not too much, but, here's the beauty -- it can be achieved without the costs of independence.

They want Quebec to exist in the mind of the world? Let it. Everything else remains the same; like a good little federation, we go on negotiating deals for the rest of our lives and the country's long life; but we change the country's name. That's it: we change the country's name?

It's the name, naif. Parliament can do this in a few hours, a rechristening under Jean Chretien, and then we can all take a nap. Let's re-name the country, "Canada and Quebec." Alphabetical order. We still have to translate the name into French, given French articles and such.

Memo to some: I know your Canada already includes Quebec. But it's not you we're trying to turn.

I offer the solution sincerely, understanding the nationalists' soul. Above all, they want to exist on paper. You don't buy that?

Try this. I offer the solution cynically. How many soft nationalist votes in a referendum do you think the move would give us? 5 percent? 10 percent? I can hear a voter now: "Ecoute, Marie (ecoute, Henri), how can I possibly vote to separate from a country called 'Canada and Quebec'?"

We have to do this quickly, while Quebeckers are feeling delicate. Before they know what hit them, they are living in "Canada and Quebec." We kiss them while they're down.

"Canada and Quebec" will look so cool on a name-plate behind which Lucien Bouchard, our ambassador to the UN, is sitting.

I learned something else in Slovenia. At its birth, Yugoslavia was called "The Kingdom of the Slovenians, Croatians and Serbians." Then, instead of adding names as needed, they went and stupidly changed it to the unitary "Yugoslavia." No wonder the country went and died.

Not to mention the shining example of "Newfoundland and Labrador." Simplistic, my solution? No, simple! Elegant, j'dirais. Provided, of course, anthrax or worse doesn't get us first.

Just to make sure, for another 10 percent for our side, here's a TV spot we should run during the next referendum.

A couple sits in a café while outside it beautifully snows.

He -- his red sash tells us so-- is Mr. Federalist Quebec. She, beautiful like all Quebec women, is Quebec herself. A blue sash tells us so.

They are sitting under glowering Party apparatchik portraits of Bouchard, Parizeau, and Landry. She turns to him and sadly says: "They tell me you don't really love me."

He takes one angry look at the portraits, rises, grabs her in his arms, and gives her the kiss of her life. A French kiss? Maybe. Eventually. The other women in the café swoon. Men throw their hats in the air. The portraits look envious.

Show it and show it again the night before the vote. The next day we win, we win big…Let's save Canada.

Copyright © 2002 Tom Lozar/Log Cabin Chronicles/01.02