Dan Aykroyd on Québec's nationalism

An Ottawa native and the son of a French Canadian mother, Dan Aykroyd is very familiar with the relationship between Québec and the rest of the country. As a young adult he often came to Montréal where he actually got his first acting gig. He was there on November 15th, 1976, when René Lévesque and the Parti Québécois came to power. Here are his impressions on the event, as reported in today's La Presse [Google translation]:

"My friends and I were at the victory's parade. It was a very vibrant evening, but we had mixed feelings. We know how proud Quebeckers are of their culture, but as Canadians from Ottawa, we were worried because Quebec holds an important place in our hearts."

On June 17th, 1994, Aykroyd received an honorary Doctor of Literature degree at Carleton University. The comic actor, writer and director made a passionate pitch for National Unity, a plea for tolerance for all Canadians, as reported by the Canadian Press the following day:

"I have a great love for the French Canadian people. It's an issue that is very divisive and burning on people's minds and I just want to say formally that I love Quebeckers." Aykroyd told graduates he has heard a "lot of rancor and tremendous hostility" directed at Québec and its people, especially in Western Canada. But it's also an issue in the Eastern Ontario town where he maintains a home. "That's exactly the kind of discrimination, racism and supremacism that we've got to avoid in the world if we're going to change things."

Aykroyd called for "a sane and just solution - whatever that is" in the event Quebec opts for separation. "If the majority of Quebeckers vote to go, what are we going to do? Send in the army? Of course not. We're going to help them with their ship of state. It's a democratic process. Let them decide for themselves. But unless and until Quebeckers vote to separate, Canadians should encourage them to "continue in nationhood with Canada, albeit with the proper recognition that their rich and highly contributive culture deserves."


Anonymous said...

He strikes me as naive. Yes, we shouldn't send in the army in the event of a Quebec vote to separate, and I highly doubt that would happen, but that doesn't mean things are going to be wonderful and we'll all sing kumbaya together. I rather expect there would be violence in Quebec between Quebecers as communities polarize on the issue and refuse to be forced out of their country. The Mohawks don't look like they're going to go willingly, and they're well-armed and unintimidated by Quebec law-enforcement, just as an example.

Anyway, I think he's also confusing anti-separatist antipathy with anti-Quebec/French-Canadian discrimination. The former is widespread, the latter the domain of the elderly or the bigoted, and would likely be equally reflected in the same proportion in the same demographics in Quebec vis-a-vis the English/Allophones. If anything, all the old prejudices have consistently dissipated, and continue to do so.

Michel Bolduc said...

Yes, Mr. Aykroyd has an idealized perspective on the topic. But reading such words from an English-speaking Canadian is very refreshing.

As for violence caused by an independent Québec, the only references I'm aware of come from English-speaking Canadians outside the province. Infighting can't obviously be discarded altogether, but it's not like an independent Québec would mean anyone losing her/his land. It's a fact that Natives feel they have a better shot at territorial claims with the Canadian government, but they still wouldn't be asked to go anywhere.

Such violence can only occur if people value taking up arms more than continue living in a peaceful Québec. Might you be overestimating the appeal of our country?

Benjamin said...

En 1995, nous avons perdu par moins d'un pour cent des votes, sans parler des nombreuses malversations du gouvernement fédéral qui ont probablement fait basculer la victoire de leur côté sans qu'elle soit vraiment méritée. Avons-nous posé quelque geste de violence que ce soit à l'endroit des communautés allophones de Montréal pour nous venger de notre triste sort ? Bien sûr que non, nous avons choisi la voie démocratique pour faire du Québec un pays souverain. Et si jamais un référendum gagnant en venait à faire du Québec un pays, le même concept de respect de la démocratie doit être observé par ceux qui cette fois, seront du côté des perdants, que cela plaise ou non, c'est ça, vivre dans une société civilisée...

Gébé Tremblay said...

The Mohawks were put there by the british after the war with the Americans. Their land claim is unfounded. They originate from Main and New York county.

We can see that Akroyd has become more American than English. Closer to republican thinking instead of federalist. His mother makes him a true Canadien (ethnically-400 years history), while english canadians (civic) can only be citizens of the federation of Canada (150 years) like any immigrant.

He is not naive.

Anonymous said...

Yes, all the federalist groups broke so many rules while the separatists are squeaky clean. Oh, and the Rwandan genocide is also made up. ;-)

*sigh* "real" Canadians vs. "fake"/"civic" Canadians. What bull shit. Though I admit I'm glad to hear it from a separatist because there is nothing better to prevent the movement from spreading into the allophone communities, and it goes a long way in disgusting thinking Quebeckers. Also, speaking as someone with roots in Newfoundland, I do have roots more than a mere 150 years in this land. But why should we use your spectrum to calculate who's real or not as a native to this land? There were people who lived there millenia before your ancestors arrived, so you're just as fake as any of the rest of us.

Gébé Tremblay said...

Anonymous want to blame it all on the Tutsis. What a shame.

I am no "separatist", Anonymous.

I have no intention of leaving Canada. On the contrary if Quebec becomes an independent country, it is the other provinces who loose Canada. The original 400 years old Canada (St-Laurence Valley), with its original peoples the Canadiens are all here.

How will the English canadians federalists in the ROC explain to their kids in school that the founding capital and birthplace of Canada and its people is in that french country over there ?

The fakes will sure stand out then !

The big lie will be over.

Michel Bolduc said...


Though I very much agree with you that Canadiens have been instrumental in defining the identity of this country (see The Québécois aren't truly Canadians), the concept of "true Canadian" isn't going to help anyone do anything. Basically, you can't build a nation while alienating a significant part of its population; Trudeau tried it in 1982. Imagine where the sovereignty movement would be if Parizeau's 1995 speech had been more inclusive (see 1995 revisited).

Gébé Tremblay said...

M. Bolduc,

nations are not built by ambitious politicians. Nations (peoples) are the result of a succession of phenomenas out of the control of any individual, no matter how powerfull.

It is not something one creates in a test tube.

It is not more a product of a agreement between a gathering of politicians in a room who sign their names on a piece of paper.

Canadiens are no "instrument" to anobody !