With the release of the new Toonie honoring Quebec’s historic 400 year run in Canada comes a flurry of discussion and disagreement, but mainly leaves the rest of Canada scratching our heads. What in the world was the government thinking when they minted this coin?
I understand the intent, it would seem that it’s simply a way to honor one of our oldest cities because they are celebrating 400 years being a part of what became known as a little country i live in called Canada. A country that i belong to, that many of them no longer want to be a part of. For any non-Canadians reading this, or some who need a little refresher on our history, let me oblige.
In 1608 French explorer Samuel De Champlain was sent from France to create a new colony. He landed on the St.Lawrence River and traveled North to set up a settlement and Fur Trade post that the Indigenous Algonquin people referred to as “Kebec.” He promptly cultivated the lands he wanted and built a fortified establishment. During this process he befriended some of the Algonquin people and made a pact with them to go to war against the Iroquois people who were opposed to the French arrival as well as enemies of the Algonquin people. They waged war for years. In between these years, Champlain lived through the assassination of his King as well as new rule. He spent his life traveling back and forth from France to Quebec, trying to solidify what he called “New France.”
Fast forward to July 1, 1867. The Canadian Confederation. On this date Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec become a part of what is known as Canada. Even at this early stage there was much debate from Quebec who were worried about losing their cultural identity through the confederacy.
In the past couple of decades, the amount of dissent in Quebec has gotten larger and louder. The Quebec Sovereignty Movement has received much press in the news, in the 1960’s and 70’s a group of Quebec separatists began a wave of terrorism which included the kidnapping and subsequent murder of Labor and immigration minister Pierre Laporte. The Canadian government stepped in and removed civil liberties and ended up allowing Quebec to change their official language to French only. In between then and now, the separatists of Quebec have continued to reject provincial referendums and ruling government bodies in an attempt to encourage their province to become a body independent of the rest of Canada.
So what do they want?
It’s not just a political movement.Throughout it’s inception, the settlers of Quebec have maintained that they wish to preserve their cultural heritage. They have a defined ideological sense of what it means to be a Quebec citizen. Historically speaking, they reiterate their francophone heritage as well as cultural customs as the main proponent to separation. But, what of the indigenous population of Quebec? What of the Algonquin and Iroquois people? What of the other indigenous first nations people of Canada? Surely the separatists don’t assume that this is a culture that does not have a voice in Quebec? What is the proud Multiculturalism of Quebec mean? (the one they are being honored for) It would seem it’s a loose term used to describe anyone who lives in Quebec that identifies as a Francophone, and no one else.
Are these other “founding” peoples, the people that gave up their land either willingly ( i use this term loosely) or by force a non people? The assimilation and colonization of these groups have shaped Quebec greatly. It is a fear by many Aboriginal groups that in the event of a separate nation, they would lose the treaties that were set in place by the French-British governments that are now being honored by Canada. They would no longer have to support them considering it was a treaty from a country that they no longer identify with.
So, to the Royal Canadian Mint, who chose to honor Quebec with a coin that they proclaim “highlights the city’s role as a meeting place for people and culture.” i would like to suggest a footnote that states simply “But only if you’re French.”