rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

A truly sovereign Quebec needs to be independent of a lot more than just Canada

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

Image: Facebook/Québec Solidaire

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

This past week, Québec Solidaire has been goading the Parti Québécois to show Quebecers their "projet société." Since the election of Pierre-Karl Peladeau, many have wondered aloud: what is an independent Québec in the eyes of Peladeau's Parti Québécois?

The exercise is meant, I think, to show to the remaining progressives who still support the PQ that if they want an independent Quebec that is progressive, they can't expect this from their party.

The PQ is a neoliberal party, like all the others. Over the past several years, it has demonstrated that it is more concerned with polls than it is with independence. They support sovereignty, sure, but the response to when, how and why have been consistently wrapped up in what polls say at a given moment.

While I understand the strategy driving QS to draw out these answers from the PQ, I worry that QS is approaching sovereignty in the wrong way: we're letting the PQ continue to drive the narrative.

This has its limits. For one, it means that journalists will continue to see Quebec independence through the eyes of the 1995 referendum: a single successful vote will be followed by negotiations and the other details will be sorted out later.

The problem with this notion of Quebec independence is that is isn't how QS would move toward sovereignty, and isn't what most Quebecers have expressed that they want.

The other problem is that it leaves aside the right-left axis of politics. With the federalist Liberals dismantling the public system and imposing austerity, the only group served by engaging in the PQ-driven frame of sovereignty are the Liberals. They can hide behind federalism while they slash and burn our public services.

Instead of trying to play a game designed by the PQ, QS needs to redefine Quebec sovereignty entirely. It has to popularize the party's vision and invite Quebecers to participate in the debates of what sovereignty means today, a full generation after the last referendum.

When we talk about Quebec independence, we need to talk about independence not just from the Canadian federation, but also from all external forces that disempower people. True sovereignty is freedom from oil extraction and transportation, freedom from international trade agreements, and freedom from Ottawa's pro-banks, pro-business policies that rob Canadians of our taxes.

True sovereignty also means true self-determination: for Indigenous people to have control over their traditional territories, fundamental say over political and economic decisions and resources to save and protect language and cultural practices.

None of this is possible in the current federal arrangement. The Canadian constitution was imposed on Quebec, but it was also imposed on all Canadians by a ruling class of men. Defending Canadian federalism means defending all that is rotten within it. You can't both hate the history on which Canada was built but love the structures that emerged from that history.

A true democratic process would allow all Canadians to re-evaluate their relationship with each other and find new ways to inject people power into their governing structures.

QS has to reframe the sovereignty discussion in this way: not to try and force the PQ to agree to a progressive vision of Quebec, but to show Quebecers that the only way forward to realize a more just society is through establishing a citizens' assembly to investigate and make recommendations on a new constitutional arrangement for Quebec.

And that every policy supported by QS: from transitioning the economy away from resource extraction, to free education at all levels of education, are policies that are part of a modern Quebec; a Quebec that, from the party's perspective, must be independent. But even that will be up to the people to decide.

I've written before that the question of Quebec sovereignty opens up new possibilities of organizing, new social structures and new forms of solidarity and good governance. But we can't allow right-wing forces to frame Quebec independence, whether it be journalists, right-wing nationalists, the PQ or worse, the Liberals.

There's a crisis of imagination in politics in the Western world. The time is now to blow open our visions of what's possible and blow up the status quo, Quebec independence included.

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

Image: Facebook/Québec Solidaire

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.