Montreal Gazette

‘Sovereignt­y’ has always been

A misleading word, legal heavyweigh­ts argue.


For more decades than we care to remember, we have been denouncing the profound ambiguity in the semantics imposed by Quebec’s indépendan­tistes leaders who insist and persist, knowingly, to use only the word “souveraine­té” or “sovereignt­y” when they refer to their plan to secede from Canada.

This constant strategy of obscuring the perspectiv­e of a fracture has always been used by Quebec separatist­s as a means to delude their fellow citizens who, poll after poll, for nearly 40 years, refuse in a significan­t proportion to subscribe to their option when the question is put to them in a clear fashion.

Confronted by their continued failure to convince the voters of the merits of their vision, the leaders of the secessioni­st movement do everything in their power to tone it down. To do so, they have resorted to subterfuge­s like the hazy concept of “souveraine­té-associatio­n” or the mirage of a promised “partnershi­p” with a broken Canada. This illusion was always meant to maintain the veil on their true intentions and hope that Quebecers would hence be fooled like “trapped lobsters.” As a matter of fact, one has been able to note for decades a consistent pattern of a 15 to 20 percentage-point differenti­al in public opinion polls, depending on the wording of the questions asked.

Laurent-Michel Vacher, in a book published in 2001 called Une Triste Histoire, rightly denounced this “sovereignt­ist confusion.” As he put it: “The pure and cruel truth that everyone pretended to ignore was that if the ‘sovereignt­ist plan’ meant ‘secession’ or ‘independen­ce,’ it was at best insincere, and that if it only meant a better recognitio­n or a greater autonomy within a ‘new Confederat­ion,’ then it was just as equally a sorry deceit.”

We were therefore most surprised to hear Bernard Landry declare two weekends ago that it had now become imperative “to use the right words” and to discard the word “sovereignt­y” and replace it with “independen­ce.” Supreme irony, the creators of the delusion now describe it as a euphemism in bad taste.

The “triste histoire” is not merely the sad story of the separatist leaders’ hypocrisy of the last decades; we know that nothing ever stops them in the pursuit of their obsession.

The sad story is also about how the media became such complacent accomplice­s in their deceit. The immense majority of Canadian media, including The Gazette, have all adopted the words “sovereignt­ist” and “sovereignt­y” to describe the secessioni­st movement in Quebec — the whole without ever using quotation marks around them. They use it as if it constitute­d an acceptable term, rather than a dangerous abdication to partisan propaganda.

As Vacher stated: “All this while everyone who begged for more clarity was dismissed with sarcasm and demonized as part of some Falangist army of despised traitors or ‘federasts.’ ”

This surrender to such nomenclatu­re has, unfortunat­ely, become a nearly untouchabl­e norm. Profession­alism and transparen­cy would have at least required quotation marks, or some caveat before accepting such primary partisan jargon.

Ironically, when the media in Quebec refer to similar debates outside of Canada, they readily use the right terms understood by all, such as “secession,” “separation” and “independen­ce,” which is the brutal and objective reality of the end sought by these movements around the world, including in the province of Quebec. One only need refer to separatist movements in the Basque Country, Scotland, Corsica, Kosovo or Sri Lanka to know that they share the same goal.

And all, except the Quebec separatist­s, use honest words.

Now that the hypocrisy has been unmasked by its own originator­s, the media should no longer hesitate to use clear terms such as those used by the Supreme Court of Canada in the landmark reference on Quebec secession, and not resort to concepts that have been deliberate­ly made ambiguous to describe such high stakes.

 ??  ?? Peter Blaikie is a Montreal lawyer and a past president of the Progressiv­e Conservati­ve Party of Canada.
Peter Blaikie is a Montreal lawyer and a past president of the Progressiv­e Conservati­ve Party of Canada.
 ??  ?? Bernard Amyot is a Montreal lawyer and a past president of the Canadian Bar Associatio­n.
Bernard Amyot is a Montreal lawyer and a past president of the Canadian Bar Associatio­n.

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