If you can ignore the stupid sniping at the US, then the interview (subscription) with Canada’s minister for Intergovernmental Affairs, Stéphane Dion, in today’s La Vanguardia provides some interesting light reading.

You never thought that independence was the solution to Quebec’s problems?
Of course. I was convinced of it. When I was young, I was pro-independence.
And now you are a Canadian federal minister?
I have discussed and reflected a lot to arrive at this point. When I demanded independence, my father, a supporter of Canada, convinced me patiently with one argument after the other that it was better to add than to take away and that the ideal was to be the two things simultaneously: Quebecker and Canadian.
They are not at times contradictory?
On the contrary, today we citizens need more than one identity: if you can have two, then why be satisfied with one nation? And to those two, Quebecker and Canadian, should be added [various other] identities, languages, cultures: a number of languages are spoken in Canada. And I continue to think this today: unity in diversity.
Yes, but that does not mean that each community should have a State, because that is impossible in practice. Today on our planet there are more than 4,000 human groups with a “national identity”. It is impossible to create 4,000 states, but is eminently feasible for each community to feel at home in open, plural, diverse federal states, in which they participate in government. And citizens will have several superimposed national identities, because a modern State will not just consist of one nationality.

I don’t buy Dion’s 4,000 states argument. States are a bit like sheep: when you’ve got 4,000 (instead of whatever the total is this lunchtime) they do all tend to blend into one another but the numbers aren’t an issue as long as you’ve got your management systems sorted out. Problems arise for little states (or for highly autonomous regions) when the systems break down and they either get butted to death by big states without separatist tensions or they do horrible things to those of their own citizens with some kind of allegiance to another (pre-secessionist) political or cultural entity.
Ballantyne, Davidson and McIntyre v Canada publicised Quebec’s abuse of the language rights of its English-speaking citizens. The case was based on Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and a number of articles of this convention seem to be clearly applicable to the management of mother-tongue Spanish-speaking citizens by the Catalan authorities. Why hasn’t there been an international human rights prosecution of the Generalitat?

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