Brief to the Outaouais Commission on the Future of Quebec
Hardial Bains, February 10, 1995

A great opportunity has arisen for the working class and people of Quebec to set a new precedence in nation-building based on the experience gained by the working class and people of all countries in the twentieth century. It is obvious, of course, that what is negative in this experience has to be discarded while what is positive has to be brought to the fore and incorporated as one's own, according to one's own conditions. 

1. The experience gained in the field of political theory by humankind over the centuries, especially from the eighteenth century to the present, points to the need for every country to be its own model in nation-building. The people of each country have to determine the form of state organization which suits them. Having lived in Quebec for the greater part since 1968, I think that there is a great opportunity for the working class of Quebec to lead the project of nation-building in a manner which leads to the formation of a state in Quebec on the basis of its own model. If it is to be durable, it must be new and based on the most advanced experience in nation-building. 

As you may know, the working class recognizes no limits. It acts according to what will open the door to the progress of society and takes nothing else into consideration. Thus, in my estimation, it is the working class which must be encouraged to take the lead in nation-building. I would propose that the Commission recommend that the discussion period should be prolonged and the next stage of discussion should take place at the places of work under the aegis of Workers' Commissions elected by the workers themselves. This will be one of the greatest contributions Quebec can make to nation-building. 

Furthermore, as you must know, the youth of Quebec have a special place because they have always been in the forefront of the struggle for independence. They should also be provided with the opportunity to participate in nation-building. I propose that the student youth also be encouraged to elect their own Commissions and carry out discussion in the universities, Cegeps and high schools involving all the kids, especially those above the age of 14. The present youth commission is not adequate to meet this requirement. 

Finally, people in the neighbourhoods, those who are not at any place of work, or are not students, old-age pensioners and others should be encouraged to constitute their own commissions. 

2. Discussions, in my view, should not just be from top down but mainly from down up. After all, on the day of the referendum, it is the people who are to decide whether Quebec will be independent or not. 

In short, nation-building should be the work of the people themselves and not of commissions nominated from the top to hold regional consultations such as these which receive briefs in a most hurried and, overall, in an extremely perfunctory manner. Even the time frame is so brief that not all those who want to address the commissions are allotted time to do so. 

3. Going over the guidelines issued by the Quebec government and the invitation by Premier Jacques Parizeau to participate in the discussion, it is not difficult to come to the conclusion that everything has already been decided. If this is the case, it will be disastrous for nation-building. We will have the same negative experience and thinking which exist at the federal and provincial levels at this time and which the people of Canada experienced at the time the British North America Act was imposed on them in 1867 and since then, incorporated into the present state. 

4. In nation-building, we have to be extremely careful not to start on the basis of ethnicity as the British did in formulating the BNA Act, later turned into the notion of "two-founding nations". On the contrary, we should begin with the modern definition according to which a modern polity is established which recognizes the collective rights of all the people of Quebec and vests sovereignty in the people. This is the only sound foundation for a truly independent state based on consistent democracy, irrespective of what language a person may speak or what may be their religion, race, colour of skin, gender, age, ability or lifestyle or what political and ideological opinions a citizen may hold. 

Within the framework of starting on the basis of a modern polity, the principle of collective rights, and not ethnicity, must be recognized, together with the rights of all minorities on account of their concrete objective reality. This includes the rights of women on account of their womanhood, Aboriginal peoples on the basis of their right to determine their own affairs on their own lands, of all national minorities, and of all people with different lifestyles, abilities, the elderly and children, etc. A consistently democratic outlook must be enshrined right from the beginning so that the independence of Quebec will not be a mere formality which is necessary but an occasion to celebrate an historic advance, a milestone in the development of Quebec as it prepares to enter the twenty-first century. 

5. I am also of the opinion that in Quebec, as this project of nation-building unfolds, the sovereignty of the people must put the decision-making power in their hands and not in the hands of political parties which vie for power in the National Assembly. All legislative power must be subordinate to the people and the executive power must be subordinate to the legislative power. As you know, the British experience in nation-building which kept the "Royal Prerogative", the essence of absolutism and of the archaic notion of "divine rights of kings", in the hands of a tiny group of people, whether headed by a monarch or a president, makes it impossible for the people to enjoy consistent democracy according to the principle "of the people, by the people and for the people." The formation of the Canadian Confederation in 1867 and experience with it since then has led to broad scale popular discontent, especially during the last few years. Such discontent in the political system is manifested in the lack of credibility of politicians, the political process and political institutions and cabinet rule. Such a negative experience must not be permitted to undermine the project of building the Quebec nation at this time. 

From the guidelines provided by the government of Quebec for discussion leading up to the referendum, it seems that everything is already settled and what is not already settled will be by the National Assembly of Quebec once the project of building the Quebec nation gets underway. The only opportunity being provided to the people of Quebec is to appear in front of these commissions and to vote in the referendum. It seems that the National Assembly under Cabinet rule is being set up as the sovereign power, as the all-powerful decision-making body in the style of the Canadian Parliament. This is not the place to discuss the merits or demerits of the British parliamentary system which is based on the royal prerogative, but what is crucial is that it be the people who decide what is to be done. The process which is taking place ensures that people are being side-lined in spite of the attempt to create an impression to the contrary, by claiming that everyone who wants to can address these commissions. It is far from enough. Victory can be won if the process guarantees the political unity of the people around the project of nation-building. 6 

In my opinion, the first act of independence must be to vest sovereignty in the people. This can be done by concentrating on ensuring that, as a first step, people carry out the discussion in the manner proposed earlier on. It is the people who should determine what the question should be in the referendum and this question should only pertain to whether or not the people want their independent republic or not. The referendum question should be as follows: "Do you agree that Quebec should become an independent Republic? Yes or no." I see the next step as the election of a Constitutional Convention. This Convention should be elected on the basis of people selecting candidates at their work places, educational institutions and neighbourhoods. This Constitutional Convention should draft the constitution. All the clauses of the Constitution which the Constitutional Convention cannot agree upon should be put to vote in a referendum. The voting age should be lowered to age 14 in order to involve people in politics and nation-building at an early age. The constitution thus approved by the people must be considered the sovereign will of the people of Quebec and established as the fundamental law of the land on which everything must rest. 

I propose that the preamble of such a Constitution should read as follows: 

We, the people of Quebec, exercising our inviolable and inalienable right as a sovereign people with collective rights irrespective of the languages we speak, the religions we practice, the ideologies and political opinions we hold on basic values and social objectives, or other attributes such as skin colour, national background, gender, age, lifestyle, ability, wealth or social position, hereby declare the formation of the Republic of Quebec, a modern nation-state and polity in which all citizens enjoy equal rights and duties and all minority rights based on concrete objective reality are recognized as inviolable and inalienable. 

In this modern nation-state and polity, our collective rights reign supreme, and the rights of individuals are protected by passing legislation which harmonizes them with the general well-being of society. 

In this modern nation-state and polity, the people are sovereign and set the fundamental law and govern themselves as we have done by means of the referendum through which we expressed our collective will to establish our modern nation-state and polity. 

Our action from now as a sovereign people is to collectively establish state structures according to this law of the land, the Constitution of the Republic of Quebec, and begin to govern ourselves on the basis of this Constitution. 

As a sovereign people prepared to enter the third millennium with our own modern nation-state and polity based on the exercise of our collective rights, we greet the peoples of all lands on this solemn occasion and wish them success in all their endeavours. We convey to them that they will always find in the Republic of Quebec fraternal feelings of friendship and solidarity, and we pledge that no evil will come to them from Quebec. 

We particularly wish the people of Canada, with whom we have shared weal and woe for 127 years and more, every success in their own project of nation-building, and we extend our hand of cooperation in every way. 

The Republic of Quebec, expressing the collective will of the people of Quebec, dedicates all its structures to the restoration of the hereditary rights of the Aboriginal Peoples which live within the boundaries of Quebec territory. 

May the Republic of Quebec always remain in the front ranks of the world community to safeguard peace, security and prosperity on the basis of the principle that the good fortune of all is the condition for our good fortune. 

Solemnly declared on... 

7. I would like to stress, at this point, that true independence can rest only on the basis of a truly independent economy. The proposals which are being made by the government to negotiate economic association with Canada are faulty. The working class would prefer to enter A Free and Equal Union with Canada on the condition that Quebec's economy also be truly independent. The experience of the twentieth century has shown that economic and trading blocs are a prelude to inter-imperialist wars. 

In my opinion, for an independent Quebec to join economic and trade blocs would be to make a negative contribution. The same danger comes from joining military blocs. 

8. On a fraternal basis, the people of Canada should also be called upon to discuss their own project of nation-building. In this respect, the federal government should be called upon to encourage the election of commissions in the work places, universities and high schools and neighbourhoods so that the project of building the Canadian nation on a new basis can be simultaneously taken up. The working class of Quebec has no choice but to take the project of nation-building through to the end and call for the same thing to be done in Canada and for the Aboriginal nations to also discuss their own project if they so desire. 

As the leader of the only federal party, big or small, which supports the independence of Quebec and as a resident of Quebec, I conclude by reiterating that the only question which should be raised during the referendum is whether the Quebec people want their nation to be independent or not. No other question should be raised. Furthermore, the referendum should be held in October of this year, coinciding with the dates when the War Measures Act was declared, in order to highlight the struggle the people have had to wage for independence. Finally, preparations should begin right now to celebrate the day when the people say Yes in the referendum by encouraging Workers' and People's Commissions to comprise themselves as the symbol of the collectivity of rights and their sovereignty, irrespective of their language, religion, race, colour of skin, gender, age, lifestyle, ability, political or ideological opinions. 

In the name of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) and in the name of the Marxist-Leninist Party of Quebec, I stand firmly on the side of the people of Quebec in their historic project of nation-building. CPC(M-L) will do everything possible to ensure that this project succeeds in spite of any difficulties.


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