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15 Years of Canada / Quebec Agreement Concerning UNESCO: A Specific Self-Affirming Entity – RCI

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Maria Gill
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Aerial view of Old Quebec City. 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 City, 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 envision the future on new and more promising foundations, on both levels and for the Organization that must be linked with the constraints of the current century.

From the start, the Ministry of International Relations and Francophonie removed any ambiguity about Quebec’s role within this organization, in relation to Canada. In particular, it specifies that this province is represented by the permanent delegation of Canada within UNESCO. In other words, it “doesn’t strictly sit inside this organization”.

If Quebec isn’t seated, is it just playing a symbolic role, leaving all space and decision-making in Canada?
The oath replied in the negative, because this agreement marked a turning point in international relations in Quebec.

“He realizes that the peculiarity of Quebec makes it play a special role at the international level. – This agreement established, for the first time, an official presence of the Quebec government within a Canadian delegation to a United Nations agency.”

The agreement effectively allows Quebec to exist, because it recognizes the privacy within Canada, and its capacity for multilateral action, giving it the opportunity to be fully represented and to participate in decision-making within this organization.

Thus Quebec can confirm its view at a conference, but must intervene to integrate with Canada’s arguments. This assumes working upstream between levels of government to ensure that we speak with one voice and defend the same goals and positions within this organization.

This coordinated approach is required 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 enjoy such a privilege, due to its unique history in Canada.

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It is the melting pot of the French language in North America. As such, this province ensures that the language is preserved and enhanced and the unique culture that results from it is supported.

Thus, the French language is seen as a tool to affirm a different identity and position within a diverse international entity, due to the differences between the 193 member states. Being able to defend its interests in relation to the global ambitions of Canada at UNESCO is more than vital for the province of Quebec.

“Quebec, on this continent, has its own mission, and many French-speaking communities outside of France, and French Canada that belong to a cultural world whose axis is in Europe rather than in America. As a result, Quebec has become more than just a federal state among others. The political tool of a distinct and united cultural group in the great North America. ” (The Paul Giren-Laue Doctrine).

Therefore, the Ministry affirms that UNESCO is working in areas of special importance to Quebec, given its specificities and competencies, which justifies the participation of the territorial government in order to intervene in its areas of competence. And, that is, 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, population, and autonomy. It is also a political expression of a people distinct in many respects from the English-speaking societies that are She lives in North America. ” (The Guérin-Lajoie Doctrine).

Former Prime Minister Paul Martin praises Canadian Heritage Minister Lisa Frolla (left) and Quebec Minister of Arts and Culture, Lynne Beauchamp, during a press conference announcing Canada’s work to become the first country to ratify the UNESCO Convention on Cultural Diversity, Wednesday November 23, 2005, Montreal. (Photo by CP / Francois Roy)

Delineating the boundaries between issues of federal and regional jurisdiction in UNESCO

Several issues are dealt with together between Ottawa and Quebec, including:

  • Diversity of cultural expressions,
  • Ethics and Artificial Intelligence,
  • Promote open science.
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Thus we can observe Quebec’s participation in the Canadian delegation in the intergovernmental meetings of experts on 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 working with the Canadian Council of Education Ministers.

Responsibility for all matters relating to foreign policy rests solely with the Government of Canada.

In its direct interventions within UNESCO, Quebec has made defending the French language a priority. This is what stimulates its participation in the Francophone group with this organization. This is a group that guarantees the application of VADE-MECUM in relation to the use of the French language in international organizations. It also supervises the organization of activities to celebrate the International Day of 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 Francophone Ministry, this “is a fundamental issue in terms of cultural and economic identity, as well as with regard to the conditions of scientific researchers.”

May 22, 2019. UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, France

UNESCO reform focused on pluralism and pluralism

In the twenty-first century, many voices have been raised around the world questioning the relevance of some international organizations.

Many of them are considered outdated and destined to disappear. Others are outdated and must be fixed. This is the case of UNESCO, which, in the opinion of the Minister of Francophonie of Quebec, should adopt an approach focusing on pluralism.

It is a necessity, as the world faces new realities in various fields that require more cooperation and exchange:

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Climate change and biodiversity degradation;
Impact of advanced technologies and artificial intelligence.
Hate speech and the rise of extremism.
Misinformation and a decline in the freedom of the press;
– threats to the world cultural heritage;
Diversity of cultural expressions;
– unequal access to knowledge and technologies;
Discrimination of all kinds: race, gender, etc.

It is a matter of sifting through the effects of these facts on human life, the economy, and the environment, among others, to better meet the challenges, in a global, global and multilateral manner, such as the COVID-19 health crisis that they have suffered from. It disrupted human life for nearly two years.

The Quebec delegation and the Canadian delegation can boast that they have played a frontline role, since the start of this epidemic, in March 2020. This was demonstrated by the multiple aid to the underprivileged countries, which are the two entities. From UNESCO to Member States, inviting them to consider the draft medium-term strategy of the Organization for the period 2022-2029.

The aim is to develop tools to document the problem and support countries in the search for solutions. On this occasion, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay stressed the importance of international cooperation.

She explained that this “is central to effective action and reminds us of the essential role of UNESCO with regard to the mandates entrusted to it by the international community.”

Sure, this interstate cooperation is important, but according to Quebec, UNESCO would also benefit from going further to get closer to the population.

Its ongoing in-depth transformation aims to strengthen and modernize the organization. UNESCO must have a collective, transversal and innovative approach if it is to be able to effectively address 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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