|The Big Daddy's of confederation|
- A definition of a nation;
- A proposal for a new constitution
A definition of a nation
Canada includes small and large nations, each of which is an historically-constituted community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and national consciousness manifested in a common culture.
Nations come into existence and pass out of existence, by forcible and peaceful historical processes, or a combination of both. It is a dynamic process in which, in each case, the path of development into nationhood is specific and different.
As a result, the struggle for a democratic solution to the national question requires an understanding and respect for these objective differences.
Amongst the smaller nations in Canada are groups of Aboriginal peoples who are exercising their right to sovereignty with the demand for autonomy and self-government. Amongst these are the Northern Cree in Quebec, and the newly created territory of Nunavut, the Nisga’a on the west coast, and others. The Acadians in the Maritimes also constitute a smaller nation in Canada. The two largest nations are English-speaking Canada and Quebec.
A proposal for a new constitution
Sovereignty may be expressed in a free national choice of one of three following forms: a separate state, a confederation of equal nation or states, or autonomy.
For many years, the Communist Party has put forward the proposal for a new constitution based on the equal and voluntary partnership of Quebec and English-speaking Canada. Such a new constitutional arrangement must also guarantee the full participation of Aboriginal peoples and protect and extend their inherent national rights, including the right to genuine self-government, the right to consent over any change in their Constitutional status, and the right to accelerated economic, social and national development.
The Communist Party proposes a confederal republic with a government consisting of two chambers; one, such as the House of Commons today, would be based on representation by population, elected through a new system of proportional representation.
The other chamber – a House of Nationalities – which would replace the present Senate, would be composed of an equal number of elected representatives from Quebec and from English-speaking Canada, with guaranteed and significant representation from the Aboriginal peoples, Acadians and the Metis. Each chamber should have the right to initiate legislation, but both would have to adopt the legislation for it to become law.
Furthermore the Aboriginal peoples must have the right to veto, on all matters pertaining to their national development. This structure will protect both fundamental democratic principles: equality of the rights of nations whatever their size, and majority rule. Structural changes reflecting this confederal arrangement would need to be made throughout the legal system and state apparatus.
A genuinely democratic constitution should correct the historic injustices suffered by the Aboriginal peoples by recognizing their full economic, social, national and political equality, and the just settlement of their land claims based on treaty rights, Aboriginal claims and scrip. This includes the rights and demands of Aboriginal women. The right of nations to self-determination must be entrenched in the Canadian constitution.
This fight for constitutional change is crucial to the overall struggle for democracy, social advance and for socialism. Uniting the working class across the country will not be possible without combating national oppression and fighting to achieve a new, equal and voluntary partnership of Canada’s nations.