Prime Minister Stephen Harper has proposed that the House of Commons "recognize that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada." His motion and its discussion in Parliament leaves unanswered the question of what Canada is: Are the Québécois a "nation" within the "nation" of Canada, or is Canada not a nation?
There is no easy answer to this question. The term "nation" has many different meanings, depending on who is using it, and what use they want to make of it.
In early colonial days both the French and English referred to Indian bands and tribes as nations. They did not mean that Indian bands were nation-states like France and Britain. They meant that the bands were a community of people related by blood and sharing a common language and way of life.
Harper certainly does not intend these historic North American meanings of nation. Nor does he intend that Quebec be considered a nation in the normal sense of being a nation-state — an independent state acting as an autonomous actor on the world stage.
The motion makes it clear that the Québécois do not form this sort of independent nation- state. Nor does the motion define Quebec as a nation-state. Continued...