Situated north of the United States, the flagship nation of multiculturalism, Canada is facing an increasingly grave separatist movement entrenched in the many cultural and religious rifts that have been present since the nation’s establishment. Like America, Canada was an aggregate of French and British colonialism. The British settled in Newfoundland in 1610 while the French founded Quebec in 1603. Both cultures became entrenched until the Treaty of Paris in 1763, which ceded all French possessions in North America to Britain. Under British rule until 1867, when Britain passed the British North America Act, Canada decided to pursue a two-language model for its two cultures. The French Canadians, who were primarily situated in Quebec, spoke French, were Catholic, and retained a quaint European cultural feel. The English Canadians, situated elsewhere, spoke English, were Protestant, and were more or less culturally Americanized.

Over the years, the dichotomy between the two cultures became more and more apparent. In the last decade, the Canadian federal government and the Quebecois politicians have become more and more overt in their disagreements over issues that cover multiple parts of society. In particular, the dominant political party of Quebec, the Parti Quebecois, has adopted an alarmingly radical platform that supports, among other things, Quebec independence from Canada and discrimination against minority religions. Although the cultural differences did contribute to tensions between the French Canadians and English Canadians from time to time over the centuries, they never really completely threatened Canada with fragmentation. Only now, with the trickling of differences into politics has the situation transformed into a perilous one.

The Parti Quebecois, an extremely nationalist and radical party that formed in 1968, has claimed that it represents the best interests of the people of Quebec.  The Parti has always sought independence for Quebec, but recently it has begun taking alarming steps to make Quebec a more or less culturally homogenous state. Quebec laws have become increasingly xenophobic in recent years. The Parti started heavily restricting the number of non-French speaking immigrants entering Quebec, claiming that it was for the immigrants’ own good because they would not find jobs there anyway without a mastery of the language. Although thankfully this Parti-backed law has not been passed yet, Quebecois politicians were also seriously considering requiring a French language proficiency test for any citizen seeking to hold office in the supposedly democratic provincial government. In addition, the 2014 Secularism Charter will ban Muslim hijabs, Jewish yarmulkes, and Sikh turbans from the public workplace.

Safe to say, the rest of Canada has been appalled by the Parti’s actions. Canadians have equated the Secularism Charter to the drastic actions taken by France in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s against the Muslim and Romani people. The Canadian Supreme Court, of course, has begun actions to overturn the Secularism Charter. This, however, has only alienated the Parti even more.

Tensions between Quebec and Canada have also boiled over due to the case of the Bill 99. Introduced in 2000 by Quebec’s provincial legislature, the Bill declared that only the Quebecois could decide on Quebec’s future in terms of sovereignty and that even if only 51% of the Quebecois wanted to secede, Quebec would still have the right to secede from Canada.  Pro-Canada activists, however, have appealed the bill to the Quebec judicial system. And if that were not enough, Canada’s federal government stepped in to rule the bill illegitimate and thus void, infuriating the Parti, which accused Canada of intruding onto provincial legislature.

 All in all, the political strife between Quebec and Canada has been and, for the foreseeable future, will be political. Sure, it is the province’s Catholic majority that is driving the anti-immigration sentiment. It is the Quebecois’ unique French heritage that causes them to feel separate from the rest of the Canadians. That is understandable. However, the fact that the Bill 99 had to stress only 51% of Quebecois is enough to secede from Canada points to the reluctance of the majority of Quebec’s population to secede. Furthermore, it points to the fact that the Parti is aware that Quebec’s citizens are reluctant.

It is unfortunate that the Parti has had to pass extreme laws as scare tactics to rein in its own population. However, it appears to be what is happening.  The underlying goal of the Parti is a reasonable one, but their methods are unacceptable. The Secularism Charter and Bill 99 are overblown, gung-ho legislative actions undertaken by the Parti Quebecois to create issues out of nothing, inflate its own tensions with Canada, and convince the Quebecois to become their own nation. As the Parti’s actions become more and more drastic and supremacist, the Parti will alienate more and more of its electorate. They need to realize that culture and religion are separate from politics. If they truly want to represent the people they claim to represent, they should dispense with the ridiculous nationalistic laws and shoving secession down the Quebecois’ throats and genuinely start listening to voters.