Quebec Minister of Education, Leisure and Sports (MELS) Marie Malavoy recently declared that schools should change secondary level history courses to increase the focus on the national-unity debate. We have determined that more than adequate attention is already being devoted to this issue.
Our Pedagogical Services Department has briefed me in detail on what we teach in regard to national unity and it is indeed quite extensive.
While at the Secondary I and II levels, world history, from ancient to contemporary, is the focus, the history of Quebec and Canada are dealt with in Secondary III and IV. According to EMSB Social Studies Consultant Tino Bordonaro, the issue of national unity is addressed in the contemporary period (post-Confederation, 1867), and mostly in the social phenomenon Official and Countervailing Powers.
Specifically, according to the MELS Progressions of Learning, in Secondary III the idea of nationhood in Quebec today includes the main elements of a nation and conceptions of nationhood (Quebec as part of the Canadian federation and Quebec as a sovereign state). Concepts of nationhood and debates on social issues in Quebec today focus on Quebec’s political status and the players in the such as the premiers and the prime minister, political parties, the governments of Quebec and Canada and the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste.
Issues in Quebec society since 1980 include the two referendums on sovereignty association, the repatriation of the constitution, the passage of the Clarity Act and recognition of the Quebec nation by the federal government.
At the Secondary IV level, different forms of nationalism are compared. Canadian nationalism deals with pride in membership in the British Empire, financial and military support for the British Empire, players who embody Canadian nationalism, such as Canada’s first francophone prime minister, Sir Wilfrid Laurier. French Canadian nationalism touches upon the attachment to the French language and the Catholic religion, distance maintained with the British Empire, and forms of cultural expression associated with French Canadian nationalism.
Characteristics of Quebec nationalism deal with the safeguarding of the French language, respect for areas of provincial jurisdiction and the affirmation of the distinct character of Quebec society. Players who embody Quebec nationalism, from former premiers Maurice Duplessis to René Lévesque, come into play.
As for individuals who embodied federal-provincial power relations, they include former premiers Honoré Mercier and René Lévesque and former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Demands made by the provinces such as respect for areas of jurisdiction and changes to the equalization system are covered, as are means used by the provinces to influence the decisions of the federal government. This includes holding interprovincial conferences, launching negotiations, signing agreements and taking part in federal-provincial meetings.
Issues such as the application of the War Measures Act during the October Crisis, the holding of referendum and the passage of the Clarity Act are also taught. Students are also taught about the different demands made by linguistic groups, such as the recognition of the primacy of the French language in Quebec, amendments to the rules for commercial signs and the creation of the Office de la langue française.
By Angela Mancini