15-year agreement between Canada and Quebec concerning UNESCO: an entity that asserts itself specifically
Aerial view of Old Quebec. On the left side of the frame is a Canadian flag in front of the golden sunset. To the right of the window is Old Quebec, including the Frontenac Palace and the Diffrine Terrace. Credit: iStock
The fifteenth anniversary of the conclusion of this agreement between Canada and Quebec on UNESCO is an opportunity to assess the progress made and to envision the future on new and more promising foundations, at both levels and for the future. ‘Organization which must be linked to the constraints of the current century.
From the outset, the Ministère des Relations internationales et de la Francophonie cleared up any ambiguity about Quebec’s role within this organization, in relation to Canada. In particular, he specifies that this province is represented by the permanent delegation of Canada within UNESCO. In other words, it “does not lie strictly within this organization”.
If Quebec is not seated, is it simply playing a symbolic role, leaving all the space and decision-making to Canada?
The oath answered in the negative, because this agreement marked a turning point in international relations in Quebec.
“He realizes that Quebec’s particularity makes it play a special role at the international level. – This agreement establishes, for the first time, an official presence of the Government of Quebec within a Canadian delegation to a United Nations agency.
The agreement effectively allows Quebec to exist, because it recognizes privacy in Canada and its capacity for multilateral action, giving it the possibility of being fully represented and participating in decision-making within this organization.
Thus, Quebec can confirm its point of view at a conference, but must intervene to integrate itself into Canada’s arguments. It means working upstream between levels of government to make sure that we speak with one voice and that we defend the same goals and positions within this organization.
This coordinated approach is necessary when it comes to voting, adopting a resolution or negotiating an agreement or any other international project under the auspices of UNESCO. Quebec stands out as the only Canadian province to benefit from such a privilege, due to its unique history in Canada.
It is the crucible of the French language in North America. As such, this province ensures that the language is preserved and enhanced and that the resulting unique culture is supported.
Thus, the French language is seen as a tool to assert a different identity and position within a diversified international entity, due to the differences between the 193 Member States. Being able to defend one’s interests in relation to Canada’s global ambitions at UNESCO is more than vital for the province of Quebec.
“Quebec, on this continent, has its own mission, and many francophone communities outside of France and French Canada that belong to a cultural world whose axis is in Europe rather than in America. Consequently, Quebec has become more than just a federal state among others. The political tool of a distinct and united cultural group in greater North America. “(The Paul Giren-Laue doctrine).
Thus, the ministry affirms that UNESCO works in fields of particular importance for Quebec, taking into account its specificities and its competences, which justifies the participation of the territorial government to intervene in its fields of competence. And, that is to say in the application of the doctrine established by Guérin-Lajoie.
“Quebec is not sovereign in all areas: it is a member of a federation. But it is, from a political point of view, a state. It has all the elements: land, people and autonomy. It is also the political expression of a people distinct in many ways from the English-speaking societies where it lives in North America. (The Guérin-Lajoie doctrine).
Delimitation of the boundaries between matters of federal and regional competence at UNESCO
Several issues are addressed together between Ottawa and Quebec, in particular:
- Diversity of cultural expressions,
- Ethics and Artificial Intelligence,
- Promote open science.
We can thus observe the participation of Quebec in the Canadian delegation to intergovernmental meetings of experts on the draft normative instruments on the ethics of artificial intelligence and open science.
However, matters related to education are an exception, with the provinces and territories of Canada having exclusive jurisdiction. In this regard, the Government of Quebec is collaborating with the Canadian Council of Ministers of Education.
Responsibility for all matters relating to foreign policy rests solely with the Government of Canada.
In its direct interventions within UNESCO, Quebec has made the defense of the French language a priority. This is what stimulates its participation in the Francophone group with this organization. It is a group that guarantees the application of VADE-MECUM in relation to the use of the French language in international organizations. He also oversees the organization of activities to celebrate the International Day of La Francophonie.
In addition to supporting its language, Quebec defends its expertise in ethics and artificial intelligence, the diversity of cultural expressions in the digital age and the ability to discover Francophone cultural content online. According to the Ministry of La Francophonie, this is “a fundamental issue in terms of cultural and economic identity, as well as with regard to the conditions of scientific researchers”.
UNESCO reform focused on pluralism and pluralism
In the 21st century, many voices have been raised around the world to question the relevance of certain international organizations.
Many of them are seen as outdated and doomed to disappear. Others are obsolete and need to be fixed. This is the case of UNESCO which, in the opinion of the Minister for La Francophonie in Quebec, should adopt an approach centered on pluralism.
It is a necessity, because the world is facing new realities in various fields which require more cooperation and exchange:
Climate change and degradation of biodiversity;
Impact of advanced technologies and artificial intelligence.
Hate speech and the rise of extremism.
Disinformation and decline of press freedom;
– threats to the world’s cultural heritage;
Diversity of cultural expressions;
– unequal access to knowledge and technologies;
Discrimination of all kinds: race, sex, etc.
It is about sifting through the effects of these facts on human life, the economy and the environment, among others, to better meet the challenges, globally, globally and multilaterally, such as the health crisis of COVID- 19 who they suffered from. It disrupted human life for almost two years.
The Quebec delegation and the Canadian delegation can boast of having played a front-line role since the start of this epidemic in March 2020. This is evidenced by the multiple aid to underprivileged countries, which are the two entities. From UNESCO to Member States, inviting them to examine the Organization’s draft medium-term strategy for the period 2022-2029.
The aim is to develop tools to document the problem and support countries in finding solutions. On this occasion, the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, underlined the importance of international cooperation.
She explained that this “is essential for effective action and reminds us of UNESCO’s essential role in terms of the mandates entrusted to it by the international community”.
Of course, this inter-state cooperation is important, but according to Quebec, UNESCO would also benefit from going further to get closer to the population.
Its in-depth transformation underway aims to strengthen and modernize the organization. UNESCO must have a collective, transversal and innovative approach if it is to be able to effectively meet the complex challenges of our time. »- Ministry of La Francophonie.
Avec des informations issues d’une entrevue avec un porte-parole du ministère des Relations internationales et de la Francophonie du Québec, ainsi que des extraits de la Doctrine Guérin-Lajoie.
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