December 27, 2011
In the early stages, the notion of Québec’s identity dominated Québec’s international activity. Québec opened its Délégation Générale in Paris 50 years ago this year. Premier Daniel Johnson invited France’s then-President Charles de Gaulle to Montréal’s world exhibition called Expo ’67. Later, as the debate in Canada over Québec’s future in the Canadian federation dominated the political landscape domestically, there were instances where Canadian and Québec representatives would clash in international forums.
In recent years, however, Québec has generally played the economic card. Premier Robert Bourassa made a yearly pilgrimage to Davos. Premier Lucien Bouchard headed commercial missions to different parts of the world. And Jean Charest has since articulated the concept of the federated state to encourage participation and engagement in international forums involving sub-national states. In recent years, Premier Charest negotiated a labor mobility agreement with France and is rightly credited with sparking the interest that has led to the negotiations between Canada and the EU on a free trade agreement. The latter is said to be possibly on course for a treaty in the coming year.
We have come a long way from the original doctrine, and now, under Jean Charest, we are defending and promoting Québec’s interest in areas of shared jurisdiction with Canada’s federal government – the economy, the environment, immigration and energy. This approach has required greater collaboration with Canadian representatives around the world.
Currently, Québec has 26 offices and is a member of three international organizations (Organization of American States, Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie and UNESCO). The positions promoted encompass not only Québec’s exclusive jurisdiction according to the Canadian constitution but also shared jurisdictions with our federal partner. These offices were recently instrumental in promoting the Plan Nord in the U.S., Europe and Asia.
In the U.S., this approach has led to Québec’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the Western Climate Initiative and other forums touching on energy, the Québec-New York Summit, high speed rail, Plan Nord and immigration. The missions conducted by Québec elected officials constantly reflect this vision. Again they are strongly backed by current Premier Charest.
It will be up to the historians to decide if there is a Charest doctrine to add to that of the venerable Gérin-Lajoie. Yet both men, and the Premiers that have served since the 1960s, clearly adhere to a distinct international personality that aims to advance the interests of Québec. Judging by the impact of this approach, we have clearly gone beyond the normal.
Publié par John Parisella