Quebec Native Women is disappointed to see that the Bouchard-Taylor Commission report and the leaders of Quebec’s political parties did not acknowledge the place of Aboriginal culture, values and language in Quebec.
The Bouchard-Taylor Commission had a mandate to take stock of accommodation practices in Quebec and to analyze related issues. The two commissioners chose nevertheless to address this problem through the socio-cultural integration model established in Quebec since the 1970s. More particularly, this perspective aimed to study inter-cultural-ism, immigration, secularism and Quebec identity.
The concept of accommodation practices does not apply to Aboriginal people. This is the reason, among other things, why the commissioners decided to withdraw the issue from their mandate. We do not want to question this position. However, in an attempt to analyze inter-culturalism, discrimination and identity within Quebec society, it is essential to acknowledge the place of Aboriginal issues.
The discrimination faced by Aboriginal people exists for decades in Canada, as in Quebec, and has been institutionalized through policies and laws that are still effective today. The construction of the Canadian and Quebec identities have indeed been made at the expense of Aboriginal culture, while there was no debate nor Commission established for this matter.
Last week, Quebec’s political leaders expressed themselves on the
importance of Quebec history and culture, on the preservation of the French language and on the necessity to adhere to common values. What are these common values, this history and this nation that do not take account of the Aboriginal presence in Quebec?
Jean Charest has highlighted the desire of the Quebecois to live together in French. The obligation to use the French language, as for the English language in Canada, constitutes a threat to the preservation of Aboriginal languages.
Mario Dumont and Pauline Marois have also expressed the desire to create a constitution for the Quebec nation, where Quebec would have all powers over the territory. We want to remind them that Quebec also belong to Aboriginal peoples, where their right to self-determination continues to be denied.
Aboriginal people are still present in Quebec and the problems that they have to face daily are current. It is thus essential to acknowledge their rights and place in the building of a Quebec society. Aboriginal people and Quebec people have led similar battles: the fight for the defence and the preservation of their culture. But for Aboriginal people, the struggle also implies overcoming the oppression caused by colonization.
These elements should serve as basis for a long-term collaboration and co-operation for the achievement of a Quebec society, and not as justification to consolidate the supremacy of one Nation over another.
– Ellen Gabriel, President of Quebec Native Women