editorial 

A poll last month showed 23 per cent of Quebecers believe a sovereign Quebec would remain a part of Canada. Other polls have show as many as 30 per cent think a sovereign Quebec would still send members of Parliament to Ottawa. This suggests many Quebecers don’t fully understand the potential consequences of Monday’s referendum. One suspects a poll in Western Canada would show similar ignorance of the referendum’s consequences. For instance, if the No side prevails how many people realize that we, as Canadians, would at some point in the near future have to revisit the whole Constitutional question yet again? Overlooked in the final days of the campaign, as even Constitutional-weary Westerners finally start to take an interest in the future of Quebec (or is it Canada?), is the fact that for both sides in Quebec the status quo is no longer acceptable. From a Western perspective it seems like the past 15 years has been a series of efforts to please Quebec. And yet how much have we, as Western Canadians, attempted to learn about Quebec since the 1980 referendum, since Quebec refused to sign the Constitution in 1982, since the Meech Lake Accord and since the Charlottetown Accord? As arguably the richest province in the country, and one separated from much of the rest of Canada by the Rocky Mountains, British Columbia and its people have enjoyed a relatively prosperous and independent way of life for many years. The problems of Quebec and the rest of Canada can, when convenient, be ignored. But that is a luxury we may no longer be able to afford. British Columbia is in a position to take a leadership role within Canada. But poised on the Pacific Rim, the province often looks west at where it can go, rather than east to the rest of Canada and what it can do for the country. It is too late for B.C. to affect the outcome of Monday’s referendum, but following the vote — hopefully the No side will prevail but whatever the result — British Columbians should make an effort to get to know their fellow Canadians. Not to acquiesce to every demand just so that Quebecers will stay in Canada, but to learn and appreciate the culture of the province and its people. Understanding and respecting one another is, of course, at the heart of the whole referendum debate. British Columbians have been able to prosper while blissfully ignoring Quebec’s concerns, but learning about and participating in finding solutions to those concerns can be a virtue for B.C. and for Canada.

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