Correspondence

The New Dual Monarchy

Letter From Canada

Canadians often try to explain the fundamental nature of Canada, both to themselves and to visitors, by comparing it with other countries. The United States most obviously comes to mind, especially since television has increasingly obliterated any differences in American and Canadian popular taste. But there are other analogies that are more instructive. Surface manners and dialect aside, we have much in common with the Australians. In many other respects, we resemble the Scandinavians. Many of us would like to emulate the Swiss, but fear we are rather more like the Belgians.

But an even better case can be made that we are a 20th-century reincarnation of the Habsburg Empire. Ontario corresponds to German Austria, the West and the Atlantic provinces play the part of the Slavs, and above all, Quebec is our Hungary, and like Hungary, Quebec's nationalist aspirations threaten fragmentation of the rest of the political structure. Looking back on the sequence of events that took place in Central Europe after 1848, this parallel becomes more and more alarming. Law 101, the discriminatory language legislation introduced in Quebec by the nationalists in 1977, bears an almost uncanny resemblance to the Hungarian Law of Nationalities of 1868. Our attempts at constitutional compromise over the last decade have largely taken the form of attempting to create a Dual Monarchy in all but name. Montreal is traveling down a road taken by Budapest...

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