Canada

Who's a Québécois? Harper isn't sure

It's impossible to precisely define who belongs to the Québécois nation, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says.

It's impossible to precisely define who belongs to the Québécois nation, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says.

In an interview with the Canadian Press, Harper, who introduced a motion in the Commons last month recognizingthe Québécois as a nation within Canada, said there is no exact definition, so it's up toan individual to decide whether they areQuébécois.

"I think you identify yourself. It's an identity, not a legal definition," the prime minister said.

"Being a Canadian carries a legal definition— you're a citizen or you're not.

"But the idea of a Quebec nation is strictly a matter of identity and you can't define it for everyone."

He said the concept implies ties to the French language and the territory of Quebec.

"Obviously, this idea is linked to the French language. For that reason, if you're speaking of a Québécois nation you're speaking of French," he said.

"You're speaking of the Québécois, not Quebecers."

When askedwhether anglophone Quebecers are part of the Québécois nation, Harper said: "I think some anglophones and some ethnic groups identify with the Québécois nation. Maybe some don't," he said.

"I don't think it's possible to put precise terms to it."

Ifthe main criterion is an attachment to the French language, Harper was asked, does that mean all French-Canadians— even those outside Quebec— belong to the Québécois nation?

"I'm not sure," Harper said, speaking in French.

"As I said, I think it's an identity. Those who share that identity belong to that identity. Those who don't share it aren't part of it."

Harper introducedthesurprise motion on Nov. 22,after a Bloc Québécois motion sought to declare Quebecers a nation without reference to Canada.

Harper'smotion read: "That this House recognize that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada."

It passed the House of Commons by a vote of 266-16.

Fifteen Liberals voted against the motion, as did Independent MP Garth Turner. The move also prompted the resignation of Michael Chong as intergovernmental affairs minister.

With files from the Canadian Press

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