THE BATTLE OF NOUVEAU QUEBEC
In the cold war between the Ottawa and Quebec governments, no single issue is more bitter than control of the north and the northern people. The man who started the battle is René Lévesque, one of Canada’s most controversial politicians. The people in the middle are 2,500 Eskimos who say they like the federal rule they’ve always had. Maclean’s Ottawa editor reports from the battlefield and from behind the headquarters scenes
TWENTY-FIVE HUNDRED ESKIMOS in northern Quebec, in a dozen tiny settlements along the eastern shore of Hudson Bay and the southern shore of Hudson Strait, have become trophies in the cold war between Quebec and the federal government.
For reasons that no Eskimos and few whites understand, the future of this handful of primitive folk is a major constitutional, political, even moral issue. It comprises all the standard emotional ingredients of Canadian disunity — race, language, religion, national authority versus provincial autonomy, plus the most elementary of democratic principles, the will of the people affected. Before this issue is settled the relations between Ottawa and Quebec, perhaps even the survival of the two Liberal governments concerned, will have gone through a test as severe as any now facing either of them.
Legally, Eskimos are a federal
responsibility. There is no dispute about this — the Supreme Court of Canada in 1939 pronounced the Eskimos to he “Indians” within the meaning of the British North America Act, and therefore under federal jurisdiction.
But two years ago Premier Jean Lesage advised Prime Minister John Diefenbaker that Quebec wished to take over this responsibility, in order that Quebec’s Eskimos might be converted into full-fledged, ordinary citizens of the province and share fully in its program of northern development. Eskimo schools, Eskimo healthand-welfare services, all such normally provincial functions would be handed over by the federal department of northern affairs to the Quebec department of natural resources and its fiery, impatient, passionately French-
Canadian minister, Rene Lévesque.
There was nothing revolutionary about this request. Already about one third of all Indian pupils are going to non-Indian schools, by agreement with the various provincial governments; it has been federal policy for several years to integrate the Indians with the rest of the population as much as possible. Newfoundland’s eight hundred Eskimos have been under provincial control ever since Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949, by the terms of the act of union. (Except for a few in northern Manitoba, all other Canadian Eskimos live in the Northwest Territories and therefore under federal authority anyway.) So it was a quite logical, almost routine suggestion from Quebec that responsibility for the Eskimos be transferred.
What made it dramatically different, and what lies behind the present state of tension, is the fact that Que-
Below: the opposing forces
bec Eskimos do not want to be transferred.
They are not merely cool to the idea, they are violently and perhaps implacably opposed to it. Some say they will pull up and go to the Northwest Territories if the transfer takes place. And their reasons for opposition strike an ali-too-sympathetic chord in many hearts across Canada.
These Eskimos are fiercely, devoutly Protestant — they were converted seventy-five to a hundred years ago, not by French-speaking Catholics but by Anglican missionaries from England. They are violently antiCatholic. For various reasons of their own they are also violently anti-
French. They want their children to remain Protestant and to learn English. as they are doing now.
It is not yet possible to document these statements precisely, since the Gallup Poll does not operate among Eskimos in the Arctic. A commission jointly appointed by Ottawa and Quebec to “consult” the Eskimos, and report their views to the two governments, has not yet begun its work. But it is commonly accepted ground throughout Arctic Quebec that whatever means of consultation the commission may devise, its findings will be the same: the Eskimos are opposed to the change.
Jn Great Whale River, one of the
lour largest Eskimo settlements of New Quebec, I talked at length to the chairman of the council, Paulassie Napartuk, in the presence of several other leading citizens of the village.
Paulassie is literate only in syllabics, and speaks no language but the local Eskimo dialect, but he is well used to talking through an interpreter. As council chairman he is the usual spokesman for the four hundred Eskimos of Great Whale, and it was he who met René Lévesque and the federal minister of northern affairs, Arthur Laing. on their respective visits in January and September. He is a calm, self-possessed man of thirtyeight who speaks with a natural dig-
nity, and leaves no doubt about who is in charge of the interview.
We had started on a tour of the Eskimo village, but as soon as 1 mentioned the Quebec takeover he said: “We had better go to my house to talk about that. 1 have full notes about it.”
Full notes he certainly had. They are his record of his interview with René Lévesque last January 30 — two and a half foolscap pages, forty-six numbered paragraphs, from which Paulassie read as I questioned him.
First, who exactly were the Quebec people and where had they come from?
“Nobody knew who they were,”
Paulassie said. “Eskimos had never seen them before. They said they were sent here by the government of Quebec, but they did not say their names.
"First thing they said was that several people had asked them to come and teach the children here. They were going to teach the children and grown-up people too.”
It was evidently the school question that bothered these Eskimos most. Half a dozen had followed us into Paulassie's small house — the president ot the local co-operative, another member of the council, the Anglican catechist or lay reader, and some others whose names 1 didn't learn —
and a kind of stirring and grunting was audible among them whenever schools were mentioned.
Paulassie read on through his notes from beginning to end. running a finger along each line to make sure he left nothing out: "They said they would start much work here in the north, and Indians and Eskimos would get work driving trucks; they said they can look after the Eskimos better than the white people, 1 mean the English people; they said only white people here have good houses and Eskimos should have the same,” and so on. Hut as soon as he finished reading he came back to the question of schools:
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continued from page 15
‘‘I want my children taught in English, not French or Eskimo”
“Most people here did not like what the Quebec people said. We like English people better than French people. English people came here first
and we want them to stay, we (îl e what they are doing. Also we don’t want the French teaching children.” Why not?
We don’t want French people teaching religion. We want our children taught by English only.”
Hadn’t the Quebec people said they wouldn’t interfere with religion?
"ihey say that, but we don’t believe them. Maybe they won’t teach religion at lirst, but after a few years we think they will.”
'• Id von I 'ce teachers •• AQ speak Eskimo, to teach the children in Eskimo?”
This is one of the most important changes planned by the Quebec authorities teach the children first in their own language, then start a second language that might be English for those who have already begun it, but eventually would be French in this French-speaking province.
Paulassie looked puzzled. This was a new idea to him, as it was to every
ESK imo I interviewed — apparently nobody had discussed it with them before.
We haven’t got a white man who speaks Eskimo to teach our children, Paulassie said at last. “Parents should teach children to speak Eskimo, and how to hunt, and things like that. School is different. They go there to learn other things. I don’t care whether white people speak Eskimo or not, but I want them to teach my children in English, not French or Eskimo. ’ He added, after a pause;
I d be afraid that after a few years they might want to take the children away from their parents.”
Daniel Angatukaluk, the Anglican catechist, a wizened little man with a face like a dried apricot, cut in at this point: “Lots of things they’d do after a few years. Eskimos have books to tell us about those French people, books like the Bible. We have everything written down about those French people.”
But when I asked what the books said about the French, Daniel subsided; Paulassie took over the interview again and changed the subject. So I can only surmise what sectarian tract must have been left among the Eskimos by Anglican missionaries of the past century. It’s all too evident, in all the Anglican congregations that comprise ninety-five percent of Quebec Eskimos, that the early missionaries must have been the type who call the Church of Rome the Scarlet Woman, and who refer to the Pope as Anti-Christ.
An anticlerical imperialist?
In Eskimo the word for Frenchman and the word for Catholic are one and the same, iksrarjuaq, and the Eskimos do not know of any difference.
It is a sad irony that the present Quebec government is thus suspected of Catholic imperialism. No Quebec government has ever been as nearly anticlerical as this one is, and no minister in it is more nearly an anticlerical than René Lévesque, the man behind the Quebec takeover.
Only five years ago Lévesque was still being denounced as a communist, Freemason, atheist and scoundrel by friends of the Duplessis government both lay and clerical. His crime was opposing, or rather exposing, the Duplessis regime on television. In those days he was more identified in the public mind with Ottawa than with Quebec in the federal-provincial tug of war. He was a CBC man, and the CBC’s steadfast refusal to fire Lévesque or to cancel his hard-hitting program was regarded by Duplessistes as an outrageous disregard of provincial rights and sensibilities.
Originally he’d had relatively little interest in local affairs of Quebec. A broadcaster since the age of fourteen (his father owned a radio station near the New Brunswick border) Lévesque left law school in his third year to go overseas as a war correspondent. After the war he worked for the CBC’s international service, went to Korea as a war correspondent again, generally occupied himself with international affairs.
Then came television. On his program Point de Mire (Bull’s Eye)
Levesque dealt each week with whatever he thought to be the biggest news story, and more and more often he found these stories in Quebec. Many, like the notorious Murdochville strike, stirred up his feelings as a French Canadian against English-speaking managements. They also stirred him up against Duplessis, and still more roused Duplessis against him. until the program was making news as well as reporting it. Lévesque became a hero to those idealistic young small-1 liberals who saw Duplessis as French Canada’s national shame and disgrace and who consider themselves FrenchCanadian nationalists. But Lévesque himself was still a man w'hose patriotism was national in the broad sense rather than provincial.
What changed him, more than any other single thing, was the CBC strike in Montreal in 1959. It was a strike of French-speaking producers and technicians against the French network, a dispute between two groups of French Canadians, but Lévesque was furious that the English-speaking producers and unions did not support it.
True, they had no direct interest at stake, but neither did René Lévesque. He w'as a well-paid free lancer who had nothing to gain from the strike but who supported it on principle, at great cost to himself. Why, he asked, shouldn't English Canadians do the same?
The experience left him convinced that French Canadians could not rely, however just their cause, on F.nglishCanadian support. They would have to make themselves masters in their own house, to plan their own future. It w'as in this mood, less than a year after the CBC strike, that Lévesque went into politics and made his contribution to Jean Lesage’s victory of 1960.
He is the leading radical of the Lesage cabinet. He was the driving force behind the decision to nationalize all hydroelectric power in Quebec, and he is still bewildered at the reaction to this move in some EnglishCanadian newspapers: “Why attack us now for doing what a Conservative government of Ontario did in 1905?”
But w'hat hurts and embitters him more than anything else is his inability to make himself understood by English Canadians. Lévesque has been bilingual ever since he can remember and has always had English-speaking friends. But lately, when he tries to explain w'hat Quebec wants, he feels he is up against a blank wall of resentful incomprehension.
This is not solely a language barrier. Like all journalists Lévesque has a weakness for overstatement. Now that he is a minister of the Crown speaking to other journalists, his overstatements are plucked out of context, made into headlines and become overoverstatements. Thus he now finds himself, to his astonishment and dismay, regarded in English Canada as the archetype and symbol of all that is nasty about Quebec's “quiet revolution.”
Lévesque reacts accordingly: “I’m not a separatist, but I admit my thoughts are running in that direction. The more I learn about this country, the more I realize it is two bloody solitudes.”
This is the man who since 1960 has been planning the future of New Quebec.
He found to his great disgust that although the region had been part of Quebec since 1912. when the Quebec Boundaries Extension Act turned over to the province the former federal Territory of Ungava, provincial authority had never been exercised there. Even the police remained the RCMP until 1958, and when the Quebec Provincial Police did take over they
merely closed several outlying stations and left large areas with no police at all. Except for the new iron-mining town of Schefferville, well south of the Arctic, everything was still run by Ottawa as it had been when Ungava was a territory.
Lévesque was impressed, like most newcomers to northern affairs, with the “vast undeveloped resources” of the region, which in this area consist of asbestos, iron ore and other minerals. He resolved that these natural
riches should not again be sold, as the iron around Knob Lake had been sold by Duplessis, to United States interests for a low', flat-rate royalty. “We’re not going to have another Schefferville here,” he says, “where the company knows exactly what it wants and the government doesn't.” Instead he sees these resources as the foundation of a true New Quebec economy in which French Canada w ill retain a dominant voice somehow, and in which it will no longer be
necessary for a man to learn English it he hopes to rise above the rank of foreman.
As a first step he organized a northern affairs division and started training administrators. Then he found that in New Quebec today, except in Schefferville, there is nothing to administer but Eskimo affairs. In all the little settlements strung out in a lop-sided horseshoe from James Bay to the northern tip of Labrador, the entire population consists of Indians, Eskimos, and a handful of white officials whose job is to look after them. And by the terms of the BN A Act. both Indians and Eskimos are a federal responsibility.
Only thirty years ago Ottawa tried to unload the twenty-five hundred Quebec Eskimos upon a reluctant Quebec government. Neither treasury wanted to pay even the miserable pittance that was then being spent on them. I he issue went to the Supreme C ourt of Canada and Quebec won — Ottawa was declared responsible for the Eskimos, and this is still the legal position today.
Meanwhile the attitudes and policies of both governments have changed for the better. Ottawa, which had previously taken it for granted that Indians and Eskimos were dying out and was merely wailing for them to do so as cheaply as possible, suddenly woke up to its duty toward these primitive wards of the Crown. Since 1948 when the Indian Act was rewritten, and still more since 1953 when the department of northern affairs was expanded to its present shape, Ottawa has spent hundreds of millions on schools, health services, vocational training and other devices to bring the aboriginal peoples of Canada into the twentieth century. Jn New Quebec alone the federal establishment costs the taxpayer almost two million dollars a year, with a capital investment totalling five and a half million dollars.
Far from wishing to abolish these programs, René Lévesque and his men hope to expand and improve them. They want the Eskimos to become part of the new economy of New Quebec, the core of an Arctic skilled labor force — a labor force which, they have already determined, shall be mainly French-speaking.
Meanwhile, running Eskimo - welfare programs would give Quebec's northern - affairs administrators something to do, which otherwise they lacked. And so the “Quebec takeover” was decided upon.
Lévesque mentioned it to Walter Dinsdale, Conservative minister of northern affairs, in October 1961. Iheir talk was casual and informal, and Dinsdale was non-committal. He suggested that this was something to be taken up at the top level, premier to prime minister.
It was more than a year later, in December 1962. that a formal request was made by Premier Lesage to Prime Minister Jiefenbaker for transfer of authority. The answer was delayed — the Diefenbaker government had other things on its mind. It was not until June 1963 that Lévesque and the new minister of northern affairs, Arthur Laing. sat down with their colleagues and officials for a formal negotiation.
That conference determined only that the transfer would be technically feasible, if the two governments decided upon it. Then came the summer adjournment. In September Arthur Laing paid his first visit to New Quebec. He discovered, like every other visitor, that the Eskimos were violently opposed to the change and that bv now they were thoroughly frightened.
Lévesque and his director of northern affairs, Eric Gourdeau, had been going ahead as if the transfer agreement were already concluded. They had appointed their own northern administrators, some of whom had arrived as early as January 1963 — six months before the first ministerial meeting to discuss the transfer.
Naturally these administrators hadn’t much to do. “It’s mostly public-relations work among the Eskimos, so far.” one of them said to me last month. They have been learning Eskimo, setting up voluntary afterhours schools to teach French, giving any help they can to federal officials and to missionaries, including some help that was unrequested and unappreciated. To anyone who asked what they were there for, the answer was usually too clear to be true: "We're going to take over the administration here, starting April 1964.”
The Eskimos didn’t know what all this meant. They then found, to their consternation, that the federal officials didn t know either—inquiries of Ottawa had brought vague, inconclusive replies. Some of the federal officials were rather upset themselves, by this time.
I he promise that upset René Lévesque
Arthur Laing made only one promise, to Eskimos and officials alike: “No change will be made without your being consulted.” That was enough to send Lévesque and his men into a tailspin of angry suspicion that Ottawa was going back on “the agreement even though no agreement has been made to this day.
Lévesque said anything like an Eskimo referendum would be “an abuse of the democratic process” — these are primitive people who don’t know what is best for them. This argument is somewhat weakened by the fact that Eskimos arc allowed to vote in both federal and provincial elections. (In the provincial election they apparently didn’t know what was best for them, at least in Lévesque’s view — they mostly voted for the Duplessis party, the Union Nationale.)
Ottawa hasn't actually stipulated a referendum or any other kind of absolute veto power for the Eskimos. Only “consultation” is promised, by means of a commission to be appointed jointly by the two governments. There is no clear definition of what “consultation” means — whether the Eskimos are to have a voice about their own future, or are merely to be informed of a fait accompli. But it is already certain that if the latter course is attempted, there will be a major row in Parliament — one that might even defeat the Pearson government, in the unlikely event of its being pushed to a showdown.
Another certainty is that if Eskimos arc allowed to register an opinion, it
will be against the change. This is one obvious reason why Quebec authorities, and the Oblate missionaries in the area, are opposed to this kind of “consultation.”
Great Whale River, Port Harrison and Fort Chimo, which have roughly four hundred Eskimos apiece, would be almost unanimous — they are bitterly and uncompromisingly antiFrench. The four hundred and fifty Eskimos at Povungnituk, three hundred miles up the coast from Great Whale, might be less firmly decided — they have a successful co-operative which was started in I960 by Father André Steinmann, OMI, a Frenchman from Alsace who has spent twentyseven of his fifty-one years in the Arctic and speaks Eskimo fluently. Povungnituk Eskimos are immensely proud of their co-op, which has had provincial help as well as a thirtythousand-dollar loan from federal funds. They also have great faith in Father Steinmann.
But even in Povungnituk the Eskimos sounded wary on the school question. I talked to the men Father Steinmann himself had recommended —Charlie Anaitu the co-op president, Thomassie Tuluguk the co-op manager, along with three or four others — and they too were baffled at the idea their children should be taught in Eskimo.
Even in Povungnituk, where Father Steinmann has so many Eskimo friends, he seems to have no converts. In the tiny hamlet of Ivuyivik on Hudson Strait, a jovial young Frenchman named Father Trinel has been laboring for three years. When 1 asked whether any Eskimos came to his church services, he gave a great shout of laughter.
“No, I pray alone,” he said. “It is good for a man to pray alone, don’t you think?”
In Great Whale River the Oblate missionary, Father Ostan, an Italian from Venice, has been preaching five years and has a congregation of five, three Indians and two Eskimos.
Perhaps it is because Quebec Eskimos are so obdurately Anglican that Quebec officials and Oblate fathers tend to sneer at Eskimo religious feelings, and to call them fanaticism and superstition. No one is likely to believe this who has attended an Eskimo church service.
In Great Whale River the tiny church was packed to the doors with a hundred and twenty-five people, five squatting on the floor for lack of anywhere else to sit. The entire Eskimo community totals four hundred and thirty-five. The young English minister, the Rev. Roger Briggs, whose first parish this is, works hard at his Eskimo and is able to read prayers and lessons in the local language; preaching is done through a translator so far. or else left to the Eskimo catechist.
Briggs and his wife both say their work is thrilling. “It’s exciting to find yourself back in a Christian era," Carol Briggs said, “after growing up in a post-Christian era in England. To these people Jesus Christ is important. He means something to them in daily life.”
In a community that takes its faith thus seriously, it's hardly surprising that alarm should be caused by the
arrival of a Roman Catholic Frenchspeaking director of education, Professor Piel Maltais, who took up residence in Great Whale River some months ago. Several French-speaking Catholic teachers have also arrived in other Eskimo settlements, ready to take over. Of course the Quebec people say they have no intention of tampering with religion. Their concern is language, not faith, and they have given proof of their sincerity.
Unfortunately the Eskimos have
other reasons than religious prejudice for disliking the French. A chapter of unhappy accidents associated Frenchmen in their minds with calamity of various kinds.
When the Mid-Canada Line base was built at Great Whale River eight years ago, and earlier when the base was built at Fort Chimo, the construction gangs were harsh and contemptuous with the local Eskimo labor. Also, like men in barracks anywhere, they made incursions among
the local women. Many girls became prostitutes, many pale babies were born the next year. It was bad luck but it is a fact that the construction gangs were mostly French-speaking. They are remembered with hatred.
Another source of old prejudice was the failure of an Arctic venture by a French trading company. Revillon Frères. For a few years in the 1930s it competed with the Hudsons Bay Company, set up trading posts and supplied Eskimo communities
with goods. Then it folded up. Some Eskimos were owed money by the departing Frenchmen, or thought they were; others were left without supplies, and some villages nearly starved. (The Eskimos say a few actually did starve.) Some Eskimos are convinced that René Lévesque’s father, who in fact never saw the Arctic in his life, was the very man who set up the French trading posts.
For all these reasons, and some others wholly imaginary, the Eskimos’ dislike of the French is so strong that many say they will leave if Quebec does take over. They are traditionally nomads who can load most of their worldly goods on boats or sleds, and are quite capable of carrying out this threat. Consensus among whites in the Arctic is that some of them will actually go, though nobody wants to guess how many.
Some people who do not share Eskimo prejudices feel doubts about Quebec administration of the north. One oldtimer, himself a French Canadian, said: “I think the Quebec people are crazy. They haven’t a man in their whole organization with any experience up here. They literally don’t know what they’re doing.”
Rescue from “a beautiful place”
That was a considerable overstatement. Of the twenty whites who already represent the Quebec government in the Arctic, eight have had some previous experience in the north (some as long as eight years, others for shorter periods) and seven speak Eskimo well enough to get along without an interpreter for ordinary purposes. About twenty more are taking intensive training, including a crash course in Eskimo, and will be ready for duty before the transfer could possibly take place. Nevertheless, it is true that Quebec’s plans for northern administration are somewhat visionary.
Quebec officials often speak of “sending people who intend to stay and make it a career, not just go for a year as an adventure.” Two such dedicated young careerists arrived in Ivuyivik last September, a young man and his bride. Ivuyivik is an isolated hamlet with no regular air service whatever.
“It’s so beautiful here,” the young wife said, “that I hope we can stay for twenty years.” They stayed five months. They had to be taken out by special plane in January, in a state bordering on hysteria.
Quebec officials also tend to imply that the federal officers are all shortterm men, and that none can speak Eskimo. Not true. Five of the seven administrators now in New Quebec can deal with the Eskimos without an interpreter; so can three teachers and one projects officer. Perhaps more to the point, though, is that the federal department of northern affairs started out, ten years ago, with the firm policy of recruiting men who could speak Eskimo and teaching it to any who couldn’t. They simply haven’t been able to stick to the policy. Not enough people are willing both to live in the Arctic and to learn one of the world’s most difficult languages. Federal people suspect that Quebec will have the same experience.
There are other proofs of friendship than fluency in the local language. Pat Furneaux, the jolly bearded Englishman who’s in charge at Povungnituk, and his wife recently acquired an Eskimo “daughter.” Before the child was born her real parents, following Eskimo custom, asked the Furneaux if they would take the new baby as their own. The Furneaux, whose own family is grown up, were delighted. They can’t adopt the infant legally, because Quebec law forbids adoption of a legitimate child whose parents are living, but in every other respect she will grow up as their daughter.
David Neve, who has just finished a two-year posting as administrator at Great Whale and is now going to Aklavik, doubts that Eskimos even want white people to learn their language.
“They find it convenient that a few of us do,” he said, “but I don’t think they’d be happy if all the whites in the north spoke Eskimo. Their language is the one bit of real privacy they have left. We poke into every part of their lives, telling them what to do, and they don’t really mind because they know it’s for their good. But I think they’re glad to keep at least their language for themselves, the one part of life from which they can shut the white man out.”
Anyway, the argument is academic. It is simply not possible to staff the schools of New Quebec with Eskimospeaking teachers.
Quebec officials plan to use the Eskimos themselves as teachers. Only a handful of Eskimos have progressed beyond grade five — the first gradesix pupil among the hundred and eighty in Great Whale starts work at that level next September. Of the grade-six and grade-five “graduates” who are interested in teaching, the federal government already employs five as “teacher assistants” at seventyfive dollars a month. They'd like to employ more, but there are none available. However, these “assistants” would be quite incapable of teaching by themselves, because they don’t know enough.
As for white teachers who speak Eskimo, there are not enough in the whole of Canada to staff even the schools of New Quebec. Unless, of
course, the Oblate fathers are called in to help teach in these Protestant schools.
The Oblates say very earnestly that they could teach without reference to religion. For proof they point to all they have done already for co-operatives, health services and general welfare in Protestant Eskimo communities. But it is hard not to share the Eskimos’ suspicion that sooner or later. Oblate teachers would try to convert their pupils. They are, after all, missionaries. Conversion is the work they came to the Arctic to do, and all else must be secondary.
At the moment the Oblate fathers suffer illusions of persecution almost as irrational as the Eskimos’. Father Ostan at Great Whale is sure someone is poisoning the minds of Eskimos against him — five recently resigned from his co-operative and joined the older, larger one organized under federal auspices, and “the Eskimos would not do that unless someone told them to.” He also suspects federal officers of opening his mail.
Father Steinmann at Povungnituk said: “All that the Eskimos are asking, unless blinded by stupid propaganda, is to be helped,” and when I asked who was making the “stupid propaganda,” he said “federal officials.” Father Steinmann was also angry that when 1 went to see him. the federal administrators came along. He complained by telephone to the federal officers, and gave me a hand-written memorandum to the same effect: “In my opinion you should have come alone, and stayed longer.” (What he would have told me if the federal man hadn’t been there, he didn’t say.)
All this bitterness, which is growing rapidly on both sides, creates a bitter dilemma for the federal government. It has no wish for another quarrel with Quebec, far from it. Neither does it want to ignore Eskimo opinion — not only from a sincere concern with Eskimo welfare and happiness, but also from well-founded political apprehension.
If this change is thrust upon the Eskimos of Quebec, their situation will become not merely abnormal but unique. As Eskimos (except for the few hundred in Labrador) they will be the only ones under provincial authority. As citizens of Quebec they will be the only Protestants whose schools are run by Catholics.
All other considerations aside, this would give the Conservative opposition a magnificently popular issue. “Whether we meant to or not,” a Liberal minister said ruefully, “we've built up the Eskimos into the most popular people in Canada. If we pay no attention to what they want, we’ll be in trouble.”
On the Quebec side, some people wonder why René Lévesque is making such a fuss about Eskimos. His organizers in Montreal-Laurier tell him: “Your voters aren’t interested in Eskimos in New Quebec, they’re interested in jobs in Montreal.”
But Lévesque answers, with great earnestness: "This Ungava issue is a test case of federal-provincial co-operation. If we can't even settle this, we can't settle anything.”
I hope he doesn't turn out to be right. ★