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By Paul Dillon On behalf of the 1.4 million Quebecers whose first language is not French I’d like to say, "Thanks for nothing, Canada." Recent comments attributed to certain Lower Mainland politicians have done absolutely nothing to advance the separation debate, to ensure that our national hangover Tuesday morning is caused by celebration and not by mourning. The suggestions by one Surrey councillor, that the city’s decision to pull $30 million in short-term investment bonds from Quebec sends a message to businessmen — kind of a fiscal shot across the bow — was typical of the sort of thick-browed rhetoric that has dominated the referendum debate. It scored cheap points with the Neanderthals who feel this country is better off reduced to its component parts — let’s face it, if Quebec splits its only a matter of time until the rest of the country disintegrates — and added fuel to the Parti Quebecois’ propaganda machine. But let’s not single out Surrey! This whole separation gig has been a sound-byte bonanza for every disenfranchised red neck from Port au Basques to Port Alberni. Are there legitimate constitutional concerns in this country? Absolutely. Can we afford the status quo? No. Has anyone in Western Canada taken even the most tentative steps towards ensuring we still have union to talk about? Sadly, no. What a change 15 years makes. I was a Montreal high school senior the last time Quebecers went through a referendum. Much of the Francophone angst was lost on me because as far as I could tell the only distinct society in Quebec at that time was the one I was living in, the west end melting pot of Notre-Dame-de-Grace. We were — and are — federalists, the ones the rest of Canada has abandoned, the ones who’ve been lied to by consecutive, spineless PQ and Liberal governments in the intervening years. We didn’t fold our tents when Rene Levesque won in 1976 and vowed to take the province on the road. We adapted, we learned French. In 1980, we held our breath every time a business or political leader from outside the province waded into the separatist debate, waiting for the faux pas, the catchphrase that would become the following day’s headlines, the words that Camille Laurin and his cronies would be able to point to and say "See, we told you, Canada doesn’t want us here!" Then, in the weeks prior to the referendum, a remarkable thing happened. Instead of pandering to separatist sentiments with veiled threats about the future, Canadians did an end-run around the PQ’s fiery rhetoric and endorsed Quebec’s right to self-determination and asked her to reject the option that would tear the country apart. Three days before the vote, then-premier Bill Bennett, hardly the moist-eyed politico, appealed to a group of buttoned-down businessmen at the Montreal Board of Trade: "I assure you the people of British Columbia want the great province of Quebec to stay within Canada, to continue to enrich our country by all it has to offer and be enriched in return by the rest of Canada," he said. A week earlier, the B.C. legislature unanimously approved a motion "expressing to the people of Quebec our love of country, our desire for continued unity and that they continue to be with us, a part of our great nation." During the premiers’ conference in Whistler in 1991 people fell all over themselves to sign a huge billboard that read "My Canada includes Quebec." I hope all the people in the Sea to Sky Corridor, particularly the politicians who waited to sign that goodwill gesture, take a long, hard look in the mirror today. Think a few years down the pipe and try and come up with an answer you can live with when your grandchildren ask you what you were doing in the days before Canada ceased to exist.


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