The Parti Quebecois was destroyed in Quebec’s most recent provincial election. Bloc MPs are leaving their party to sit as independents. Traditional separatists are jumping ship left and right. So separatism is dead, right? Wrong! A new wave of ultra-hip separatists are crashing coffee shops and thrift stores in la belle province, but this time they aren’t looking to buy a ticket out of Canada- they’re looking to get out of Quebec.
The hippest of the new generation of separatists come from Blanc-Sablon, a small hamlet at the border of Quebec and Labrador. Their leader, Armand Joncas, the tiny town’s mayor, says he’s tired of the poor treatment he and his people receive from the government of Quebec, which, he claims, is stunting the town’s development. For instance, while the town recently received a new ship to ferry supplies, it has not had its roads paved since 1980, and has no direct highway access to the rest of Quebec. That’s pretty inconvenient, and it speaks to a lack of investment in local infrastructure. To solve this underlying issue, the mayor says that the town is prepared to take the ultimate risk.
The town has asked to join Newfoundland and Labrador. What are they thinking? Well, with the switch, Blanc-Sablon would trade language laws for a 90-minute time change, a ferry for a highway, and one incomprehensible accent for a different but equally incomprehensible accent. The best part is that they’d be able to keep the fish and the bakeapples that make the town a four seasons paradise. At face value, it sounds like a pretty darn good deal.
In response, Quebec Premier Phillipe Couillard said that, “Quebec’s territory stays as is,” while Newfoundland and Labrador’s Minister of Municipal Affairs said that the province would be open to discussing the plan only if it received a request to do so from the Quebec government. From the top down, it sounds like this isn’t going to happen- but that doesn’t mean Mr. Joncas isn’t going to try. He says that the move would be easy because the border between Labrador and Quebec is defined by words, not a line. Perhaps it would, but that doesn’t mean that Quebec is ready to cede the territory.
Regardless, Joncas should continue to fight the good fight. Like many famous Quebecois before him, he wants to separate because he wants a better world for his friends and his children. Whether or not separation would achieve that, the history of Quebec teaches that no harm can come from him launching a vitriolic 50+ year campaign for independence. So ratchet up the rhetoric, Mr. Joncas! The world is watching.