Professor Verney proposes, Senator Forsey disposes-with a vengeance

June 27 1977

Professor Verney proposes, Senator Forsey disposes-with a vengeance

June 27 1977

Professor Verney proposes, Senator Forsey disposes-with a vengeance


Professor Douglas Verney’s Confederation Unworkable? Separation Unthinkable? Here’s A Third Choice (May 16) embodies questionable assumptions, bad history,

false analogies, and a set of constitutional proposals that are completely impracticable. He says that “successive Quebec governments have insisted that their people must have equality—or independence.” Which Quebec governments? Johnson’s, possibly Bertrand’s, but which others? He says that what French Canadians “are asking for, what they must be allowed to have, is a return to the double majority principle that prevailed during the decades just before Confederation. At that time, Canada East and Canada West each had equal representation in the joint

legislature. We should consider a return to that system.” Which French Canadians are asking for that? The present Quebec government? The opposition? The FrenchCanadian members of the House of Commons? “A return (to the system) that prevailed during the decades just before Confederation”? It would be no “return” for the Atlantic provinces or the West, which never had anything to do with it.

The pre-Confederation Province of Canada did indeed have a legislature with equal representation for Canada East (Quebec) and Canada West (Ontario). But it was equal representation for each section, not for anglophones and francophones. Canada West had a francophone minority of only 2% or 3% (2.6% in 1861); but Canada East had an anglophone minority of 24%. “The double majority principle” required that a cabinet must have a majority from each section, not a majority from each linguistic group. And this “principle” never “prevailed.” It was simply Sandfield Macdonald’s pet idea for solving the problems created by the equal representation of the two sections and Canada West’s demand for representation by population. This chatter about the “double majority” is pure fairy tale.

Three further points about the constitutional system of the Province of Canada are worth noting. First, though Canada West was the more populous of the two sections, Canada East was a good deal closer to numerical equality with Canada West than Quebec (or even the whole francophone population) is to numerical equality with the nine provinces (or the whole anglophone population). Second, the system broke down. By 1864, stable

government had become impossible: “Deadlock was the father of Confederation.” Third, the system created furious and bitter animosities between the two sections, one heavily francophone, the other overwhelmingly anglophone. And this is the system to which Professor Verney says we should return!

In fact, of course, what he proposes is something rather different. The talk of “return” is merely to sweeten the pill for Ontario. He does not propose a single legislature, with equal representation for Quebec and the nine provinces. On the contrary, he would have nine provincial legislatures, a single “state” legislature for the nine, a Quebec “state” legislature for Quebec, and a “federal (or confederal)” legislature with equal representation for the whole francophone population (over the whole country) and the whole anglophone population.

One final feature of Verney’s “stately pleasure dome” calls for comment. The members of the confederal legislature “would have to be elected by two equal electoral colleges, one composed of francophones throughout Canada and the other consisting of anglophones.” Who would define a “francophone” or an “anglophone,” and on what basis? And how would the “electoral colleges” be chosen? By geographical constituencies, or province by province, or “state” by “state”? By proportional representation, single transferable vote, or first past the post?

A professor’s pleasure dome indeed, fit only for that distant land “where Alph the sacred river ran, Through caverns measureless to man, Down to a sunless sea.”


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What he really meant to say is...

In his otherwise excellent article on the French Language Charter, Doctor Of Language (May 30), Graham Fraser quotes Dr. Camille Laurin as saying that he isn’t offended by the charge that the Bill One is ethnocentric since all nations are ethnocentric. So far so good, but Fraser then gives the Webster’s Dictionary definition of ethnocentric as “having race as a central interest; characterized by or based on the attitude that one’s own group is superior.” According to Fraser this should be of some concern to English Quebeckers.

I would like to point out that the French Dictionary Larousse defines ethnocentrism as “the tendency of an individual to valorize his group, his country, his nationality.” As Dr. Laurin’s use of the word “ethnocentrism” was during a speech given in French, it is clear the minister was referring to the word as defined by Larousse and not by Webster, and that his remark had no racial implications.


North of Eden

As a resident of the Northwest Territories, I am dismayed by the efforts of well-intentioned southerners to stop development in the North (Now The Scheming Starts, May 30). In many cases people from these socalled “support” groups have never seen the North. They have no idea of the situation here and they tend to view the communities of the Western Arctic and the Mackenzie Valley as an idealized paradise where native people live in harmony with nature, content to follow the lifestyle of their ancestors.

This is definitely not the case. The native people, like the people of the south, want and enjoy conveniences such as houses, central heating, electricity, etc. They also want jobs. Take the example of my hometown, the village of Fort Simpson where nearly half the work force is unemployed and the 1,000 residents are predominantly native. The prospects of wage employment are very poor. Three or four years ago the Fort Simpson scene was different. Development prospects were good. Then people worked on roads, construction programs and barges. Now this activity has ground to a halt. Government operations and a few support services cannot hope to employ the many people looking for work. Without pipeline construction the future of Fort Simpson will become more and more dependent on direct and indirect welfare. Initiative will die. Alcoholism, which is already a problem in the community, will probably increase as more people give up their search for work. I doubt if Mr. Justice Thomas Berger’s suggestion of a return to the land could be resurrected since it is a difficult lifestyle with only marginal returns. People want to make their own decisions about the future; they want the option of joining a wage economy or going

back to hunting and trapping or a combination of both. A pipeline will offer jobs. It will also give northern business a chance to develop to a point where it is able to compete for jobs with southern-based businesses. To survive, the people of Fort Simpson need an economic option. Without a pipeline, there is no option.


Some folks have no sense of humor

I seriously think you should have Kaspars Dzeguze, who reviewed J abberwocky (May 30), examined. Having seen the film, I am convinced that only the peculiar

•could find it funny. 1 refuse to believe that any normal human being could be amused by the constant stream of blood and gore. I simply do not find persons who cut off their own limbs in order to beg for a living hilarilously funny. I liked A nd Now For Something Completely Different, 1 loved Monty Python And The Holy Grail, but I found much to abhor in Jabberwocky. Despite some excellent photography, good direction, and some genuinely funny scenes, I do not consider it a “photographed poem” with the “gentleness of an idiot’s dream.” It is glamorized gore, with the perversity of a sadist’s nightmare.