EDITORIAL

EDITORIAL

A modest proposal for helping keep the peace that has broken out among our politicians

KEN LEFOLII May 16 1964
EDITORIAL

EDITORIAL

A modest proposal for helping keep the peace that has broken out among our politicians

KEN LEFOLII May 16 1964

EDITORIAL

A modest proposal for helping keep the peace that has broken out among our politicians

THIS is WRITTEN within a few days of what may come to be known as The Pearson Accord — the truce brought about by the federal government’s offer of a new pension-plan-and-tax-deal that all the provinces including Quebec have agreed is a base for fair dealing even if it isn’t a perfect solution to their problems. The timing matters because the accord may not last; nothing is surer than that there are still punches waiting to be thrown at the central government from every corner of the country. But this isn't to say the accord cant last, particularly if the politicians and pressure groups get some help from the rest of us in curbing their recent inclination to push other people around. One modest way to help them may be to keep them busy looking at ideas that would tend to draw Canadians together; this would leave them less time to go back over the grievances that have been driving us apart. There must be as many ideas like this as there are Canadians who care about what happens next in Canada. Here are the first three that occur to us:

■ THE CANADIAN SENATE is regarded as an old joke by most Englishspeaking voters and as the paddock where they may some day be turned out to a well-earned rest by most English-speaking politicians. What few members of either group seem to know is that the Senate is regarded as the most likely means of making biculturalism a meaningful part of our process of government by many thoughtful Frenchspeaking Canadians. The proposal they make differs strikingly from most Senate-reform schemes by not being a bore. On the contrary, it is bold and even, in its way, exciting. The idea is to convert our Parliament into a two-house legislative system roughly comparable to the American Congress. Our Senate would be elected in equal parts by French and English Canada. To the obvious objection that the French would be represented beyond their numbers in such a Parliament, the French make the obvious reply that Alaska has as many members in the U. S. Senate as the State of New York. For years we have been reading variations of this proposal in French journals and discussing yet other variations with politically minded French Canadians. What disturbs us is not that some version of their proposal has never been adopted — we are neither for nor against it until it has been examined a great deal more thoroughly — but that we have almost never heard the subject broached in English Canada. Why not now?

■ THE PROBLEMS OF CANADIAN BICULTURALISM have unsettled the state of our union so thoroughly during the last few years that we have come to think of ourselves as a model for the world to avoid wherever two “nations” are trying to live within the same national boundary. The truth is otherwise, as a glance at Pakistan or Cyprus or South Africa reminds us from time to time. But the truth goes beyond even this: with the exception of Switzerland’s placid trinational state, our troubled binational one is probably the best compromise of its kind in the world. During the pleasant days of the Pearson Accord we might afford ourselves a dramatic reminder of the success of our experiment by inviting a commission from Belgium to be our guests; to examine the means by which we live together without the bloody riots and violent feuds that mark the binational relations of the Flemings and Walloons; and to look in on Saskatchewan where another kind of compromise has made public medical care work without conscripting hostile doctors into a disaffected army. The Belgian commissioners might learn something, and we might begin to renew the pride in our achievements that is an essential counterpoise to our possibly overacute awareness of our own failings.

■ NOUVEAU QUÉBEC (see Blair Fraser’s report beginning on page 13) is a developing case-history of biculturalism of another kind. Quebec wants to make itself responsible for the cultural prospects of 2,500 Eskimos who live in the Arctic reaches of the province. The Eskimos say no, thanks. They prefer the devil they know, and he comes in the parkas of English-speaking federal department of northern affairs officials or the cassocks of Anglican priests. The Eskimos don’t want to learn French, and they particularly don’t want to trade their Anglican priests for Catholic ones. This is the only rub; on all formal questions of jurisdiction the two governments have already worked out a deal that suits both of them. There’d be no rub at all if the northern affairs department and the Eskimos themselves trusted Quebec to secure to the Eskimos the same freedoms of speech and worship she now secures to all the other English-speaking residents of the province. Since Quebec will acquire the jurisdiction she’s after sooner or later, the federal officials and the Eskimos may as well start learning to trust the French now, thereby avoiding the active hostility that will certainly develop if they don’t. In return the French might begin to earn their trust by appointing a politically independent Guardian to whom the Eskimos could appeal against administrative decisions that seemed to them to violate the freedoms they’ve had until now. The Eskimos are not. in fact, just another non-French minority in Quebec; they are a people with a homeland and way of life that make them peculiarly vulnerable to the administrative decisions of whatever government claims sovereignty over them. They have probably always needed a Guardian — an official whose office might be patterned after the ombudsman described here in a recent issue — and they probably need one now more than ever. KEN LEFOLII