NDP rank-and- il­ers fear the na­tion­al­ist-friendly terms that brought the province un­der the NDP tent will be­come moot un­der a less Quebec-savvy leader.

Metro Canada (Ottawa) - - Front Page -

For a taste of the chal­lenges that could await Thomas Mul­cair’s suc­ces­sor in Quebec, con­sider the fol­low­ing: On Tues­day, Longueuil-sain­thu­bert MP Pierre Nan­tel told le Devoir that he and pos­si­bly oth­ers might pre­fer to sit as in­de­pen­dents than serve in the House of Com­mons un­der any of the non-quebec can­di­dates vy­ing for the NDP lead­er­ship.

In an open let­ter pub­lished Thurs­day, Nan­tel — who cur­rently serves as the party’s her­itage critic — writes that it was Jack Lay­ton’s prom­ise of a party re­spect­ful of Quebec’s na­tional char­ac­ter that drew him along with many of the province’s vot­ers to the NDP in 2011.

From his per­spec­tive, the fact that Char­lie An­gus, Niki Ash­ton and Jag­meet Singh have all spo­ken out against Quebec’s plan to pre­vent in­di­vid­u­als wear­ing face cov­er­ings from dis­pens­ing or re­ceiv­ing pub­lic ser­vices amounts to a breach of that prom­ise.

The bill cur­rently de­bated in the Na­tional Assem­bly would es­sen­tially im­pact the mi­nor­ity of Mus­lim women who wear the niqab and the burka.

MP Guy Caron — the only Quebec can­di­date in the run­ning — has said that while he dis­agrees with the bill he would as fed­eral leader re­spect the will of the Na­tional Assem­bly on the mat­ter.

Ash­ton, Singh and An­gus have ar­gued that Quebec’s sec­u­lar char­ac­ter should not be a irmed at the ex­pense of con­sti­tu­tion­ally pro­tected re­li­gious free­doms.

In his let­ter, Nan­tel warns that un­der a leader set on a col­li­sion course with the Na­tional Assem­bly on sec­u­lar­ism the NDP could lose its ten­u­ous con­nec­tion with na­tion­al­ist Que­be­cers and, by the same to­ken, set the cause of fed­er­al­ism back in the province.

Nan­tel will sup­port Caron in the lead­er­ship vote but there is more at play here than the jostling that of­ten at­tends the last stretch of a com­pet­i­tive po­lit­i­cal con­test.

In­deed this MP’S cri­sis of con idence in some of his party’s val­ues pre­dates the en­try of any of the cur­rent lead­er­ship as­pi­rants in the cam­paign to suc­ceed Mul­cair.

In the last cam­paign Nan­tel was one of a hand­ful of Quebec New Demo­crat can­di­dates who broke ranks and came out in sup­port of the pro­posed Con­ser­va­tive niqab ban at cit­i­zen­ship cer­e­monies. Back in Jan­uary, the lo­cal me­dia in Nan­tel’s Mon­treal South Shore rid­ing re­ported that he was con­sid­er­ing a run for the Parti Québé­cois in next year’s Quebec elec­tion. On Wed­nes­day he de­scribed that sce­nario as “hy­po­thet­i­cal.”

Nan­tel is a pop­u­lar, hard­work­ing MP. He would be a catch for a mo­men­tum-hun­gry PQ for more rea­sons than one.

His fed­eral rid­ing in­cludes much of the pro­vin­cial rid­ing of Va­chon. That hap­pens to be the seat cur­rently held in the Na­tional Assem­bly by Mar­tine Ouel­let, the lat­est leader of the Bloc Québé­cois. She is ex­pected to va­cate it to run fed­er­ally in 2019.

In the last fed­eral elec­tion Nan­tel kept his fed­eral seat with a slim 700-vote ma­jor­ity. The Bloc ran sec­ond with 27 per cent of the vote. If he were to make the jump to the pro­vin­cial arena and a solid PQ rid­ing, he would in the process pro­vide Ouel­let with as clear a fed­eral run in Longueuil-saint-hu­bert in 2019 as she could hope for.

In terms of raw pol­i­tics this could be de­scribed as a win­win quid pro quo.

That be­ing said there is more to Nan­tel’s lament than an iso­lated case of po­si­tion­ing in the pos­si­ble hope of a more promis­ing po­lit­i­cal fu­ture un­der a di er­ent ban­ner.

There is a wide­spread fear among the party’s rank-andile in Quebec that the na­tion­al­ist-friendly terms set out by Lay­ton and Mul­cair to bring the province un­der the NDP tent will be­come moot un­der a less Quebec-savvy leader. And that as a re­sult, the province’s New Democrats will no longer be com­pet­i­tive.

In his let­ter Nan­tel read­ily ad­mits that, in con­trast with Caron, he is not a life­long NDP sup­porter but rather a Lay­ton con­vert. But the New Demo­crat predica­ment in Quebec is that the party has more sup­port­ers like Nan­tel than like Caron.

Justin Trudeau’s Lib­er­als as­sume that they would bene it from a fad­ing NDP pres­ence in Quebec. That as­sump­tion is al­most cer­tainly right when it comes to rid­ings like Mul­cair’s Outremont that hap­pen to be home to a di­verse and solid fed­er­al­ist con­stituency.

But in other ar­eas of the province, it could give a breath of life to a mori­bund Bloc Québé­cois.

is a na­tional a airs writer. Her col­umn ap­pears in Metro ev­ery Thurs­day This sum­mer, I took a trip many Cana­di­ans dream of (or so I’ve heard af­ter the fact). I trav­elled west on Via Rail’s Cana­dian line from Win­nipeg to Vancouver.

The two-and-a-half-day trip me­an­dered through the moun­tains and myr­iad towns. As we passed by note­wor­thy sites, Via Rail sta an­nounced a bit of his­tory about each place.

Here’s a pulp and pa­per mill to your left. An oil re in­ery on your right. We’ve ar­rived at Big­gar, Sask., pop­u­la­tion: 2,161 — slo­gan: “New York is big, but this is Big­gar.”

What be­came glar­ingly ob­vi­ous by mid-trip was the lack of In­dige­nous con­tent in th­ese an­nounce­ments. I didn’t hear ac­knowl­edg­ment of the treaty lands we ven­tured over or which In­dige­nous Peo­ples in­hab­ited th­ese un­ceded stretches irst.

I met Kate Black, a 23-year-old Ed­mon­to­nian who now lives in Vancouver, on board and she lamented the lack of In­dige­nous aware­ness, too. Black man­aged to snag a cov­eted Canada150 youth pass for the month of July and rode from Halifax to Vancouver.

“I de initely learned more about Canada… but I didn’t hear any­thing about who was there be­fore the area was set­tled or what treaty ar­eas we were en­ter­ing. I feel like if we’re learn­ing about the set­tler his­tory of an area, we should be learn­ing the pre­set­tle­ment or In­dige­nous his­tory as well,” she told me af­ter her trip.

Tak­ing a look at the Toron­tovan­cou­ver map Via pro­vided on the train, there were no men­tions of In­dige­nous his­tory be­yond trans­la­tions of words (Toronto is the Huron word for “a place of meet­ings,” for ex­am­ple), a few al­lu­sions to the fur trade and a shout-out to the Win­nipeg Art Gallery for hav­ing the world’s largest col­lec­tion of Inuit sculp­ture and art.

Via Rail Canada “op­er­ates the na­tional pas­sen­ger rail ser­vice on be­half of the Gov­ern­ment of Canada” and “plans and fund­ing are ap­proved by the Trea­sury Board of Canada,” ac­cord­ing to its web­site. Last year alone, the rail ser­vice car­ried 3.97 mil­lion pas­sen­gers.

In what could have been a teach­able mo­ment for thou­sands more this sum­mer — es­pe­cially the more than 4,000 youth us­ing the Canada150 pass — Via dropped the ball on In­dige­nous ed­u­ca­tion.

I asked the Crown cor­po­ra­tion’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions sta whether it has plans to include more In­dige­nous and treaty in­for­ma­tion. In an email, I was told yes, this will be “part of [Via Rail’s] strat­egy mov­ing

I didn’t hear ac­knowl­edg­ment of the treaty lands we ven­tured over.


Jac­que­line Ro­manow, a Métis woman and chair of In­dige­nous stud­ies at the Univer­sity of Win­nipeg, weighed in on VIA’S re­ac­tionary strat­egy.

“There’s all kinds of sto­ries you could be telling all across the Prairies and Western Canada about how In­dige­nous peo­ple were in­vol­un­tar­ily in­cor­po­rated into the Cana­dian state that would re­ally help [pas­sen­gers] un­der­stand the sit­u­a­tion to­day,” she said.

If VIA is go­ing to at­tempt to tell th­ese sto­ries, let’s en­sure it has In­dige­nous Peo­ples’ voices on board irst and fore­most.

is a free­lance writer based in Win­nipeg. She writes about the arts, travel and so­cial jus­tice.


Guy Caron, left, is the only Quebec politi­cian in the NDP lead­ers’ race. Should he lose, it could rip­ple into a weak­ened NDP — and bol­ster a lag­ging Bloc Québé­cois, writes Chantal Hébert.

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