Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist)

Draft Program for a new communist party

4. Canada is a prison of nationalities

The bourgeoisie has made this country a true prison-house of nationalities. National oppression is one of the pillars on which its power rests. This is so because not only does capitalism exploit and oppress the working people in general, but it also oppresses certain peoples who have distinct national characteristics differing from those of the ruling bourgeoisie.

The Canadian monopoly bourgeoisie maintains national oppression

It is the Canadian monopolist bourgeoisie which is responsible for this oppression. But it is the entire bourgeoisie, including its less-developed fractions, which profits from national oppression.

The bourgeoisie has always tried to forcibly assimilate the weakest nationalities to the English-Canadian nation, or else to keep them in a condition of inequality or in an inferior position, and wipe out their language, culture and way of life.

The bourgeoisie has much to gain from national oppression. It makes huge profits from it. The oppressed nationalities have always been used as cheap labour. The capitalists have made millions by plundering the natural resources of the lands they have stolen from the Native people.

They draw another advantage as well from national oppression. It enables them to apply the old “divide and rule” tactic. The capitalists propagate great nation chauvinism, trying to incite English-Canadian workers against Quebecois workers, Acadians, etc. They use racism to try to pit white Canadians against Native people, Blacks, Chinese, and so on.

The oppressed nationalities are a reserve of the revolution

The national question is fundamentally a class question. Nations themselves first appeared with the birth of capitalism and the decline of feudalism. At that time the rising bourgeoisie was developing its internal markets in order to assure its economic development.

The capitalist class of certain economically and militarily stronger nations attempted not only to exploit the working class of their own nations, but also to dominate the manpower and markets of weaker nationalities. This explains the annexation, oppression and domination of some nations by others.

Because of the close relationship between capitalism and national oppression, the struggles of the oppressed nationalities for their liberation, whether those of the peoples of the colonies, semi-colonies and developing countries of the third world, or those of the oppressed nationalities within the imperialist countries themselves, all deal a direct blow to the imperialist system.

In the era of imperialism the oppressed nationalities, because they fight against the bourgeoisie of the dominant nations, are invaluable allies or reserves of the working class.

Socialism is the only solution to national oppression

Only the destruction of capitalism and the establishment of socialism will guarantee the liberation of the oppressed nationalities. Not until the bourgeoisie is overthrown will the national question in Canada be resolved.

The working class, because it has no interest in oppressing nations, will put an end to such oppression under socialism. The legal equality of all nationalities will be recognized, and there will guarantees for the full development of their languages, cultures and so on.

In a socialist Canada, the Quebec nation will have a guaranteed right to self-determination. It will be able to choose whether to found a separate state, or remain within the multi-national Canadian state with full guarantees that its rights will be respected.

Under socialism, all oppressed nationalities will have the right to regional autonomy in areas where they are concentrated. Regional autonomy, that is regional self-government, will enable these nationalities to run their own economic, political and cultural life within the multinational state.

The scars of the old oppression will be washed away. The new state will apply special policies to ensure the recovery and full development of the formerly oppressed nationalities.

Unity of the multinational working class

This unity can only be achieved on the basis of equality. This means that English-Canadian workers must recognize and defend the just demands of oppressed nationalities.

We must denounce chauvinism and do away with it. This ideology affirms that some nationalities are superior to others. It is vicious propaganda created and spread by the ruling class.

Karl Marx, founder of scientific socialism, said: “A nation which oppresses another will never itself be free.”

English-Canadian workers have nothing to gain from the oppression of the other nationalities. They make no economic profit from the low wages, the worse working conditions or the unemployment that the capitalists impose on the workers of the oppressed nationalities.

For their part, workers of the oppressed nationalities have the task of combating narrow nationalism. It too divides the working class and hurts the fight for socialism, because it refuses to recognize that national oppression is rooted in the capitalist system not in the masses of the oppressor nation. Narrow nationalism can only serve the bourgeois elements within the oppressed nation.

Between chauvinism and narrow nationalism, chauvinism represents the greatest danger to the unity of the working class and working people.

The working class must win the leadership of national struggles

The great majority of members of the oppressed nationalities are working people. They suffer a double oppression: the oppression of their class and national oppression. They have always fought particularly hard against capital. But without a correct orientation and leadership their struggles can never be definitively victorious.

The bourgeoisie, the capitalist elements and reformist politicians within the oppressed nationalities try to manipulate the struggle against national oppression to serve their own ends. They propagate narrow nationalism.

These elements who are defenders of capitalism are no allies of the working class; they are not part of the reserve of the proletarian revolution. Only the masses of the oppressed nationalities can be considered part of this reserve.

In order for the socialist revolution to triumph and eliminate national oppression, the working class must win the leadership of the struggle against national oppression. Only the working class can lead this fight along the proper road to overthrow the bourgeoisie.

Our Party is a multinational party that will unite workers of all the nationalities in Canada. We fight great-nation chauvinism and narrow nationalism wherever they appear, whether within or outside our ranks. National contradictions within the working class can be resolved by education and united struggle against the bourgeoisie. Our Party will combine the powerful force of the oppressed nationalities with that of the working class, and with these two will create an invincible movement for socialist revolution.

Our general demands

It is the revolutionary duty of the Canadian working class to take up a determined struggle against all forms of national oppression and for the full equality of all nationalities. Under capitalism the working class fights for full democratic rights for all the oppressed nationalities. Only by immediately taking up this struggle for democratic rights will the proletariat win the leadership of the oppressed peoples’ movements for their national rights.

We demand:

•  the right to self-determination, up to and including separation for Quebec, and regional autonomy for all oppressed nationalities;

•  full and equal rights for all nationalities, including:

•  abolition of discrimination in hiring on the basis of nationality or language;

•  equal pay for equal work;

•  the right of all nationalities to work in their own language in areas where there are significant numbers of them;

•  the right to speak and to be served in their language at all state levels and by all state services, including the right to a trial in one’s own language and by one’s peers;

•  the right to enjoy and to develop their own culture and written and spoken language;

•  the right to equal education in their own language in areas where nationalities are concentrated;

•  the right to decent living conditions and health standards;

•  the full right to join unions, and to use their own languages, with translation provided, in the unions.

The Quebecois

The five and a half million Quebecois constitute an oppressed nation. The ancestors of the Quebecois nation are the French colonists who came to settle on the banks of the Saint Lawrence in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. After the British conquest of New France in 1760 the population resisted forced assimilation, and despite fierce oppression came to constitute a nation in the first half of the nineteenth century.

Quebec has all the characteristics of a nation. “A nation is a historically evolved, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture.” (Stalin, Marxism and the National Question.)

But throughout its history and to this day, the Quebec nation has never been permitted to exercise its right to self-determination, its right to choose whether or not it wishes to be a part of Canada as such. The Quebec people have always been denied their right to live and work in their own language, and are often forced to use English on the job. For those who do not speak English, the possibilities of advancement are limited.

Within Quebec, the English-speaking minority has always had a separate system of education and health care, receiving better services and larger grants than those serving Quebecois.

An English-speaking Montrealer with no French earns on the average 66% more than a Quebecois who doesn’t speak any English. Ontario, a province economically similar to Quebec, has only 35% more population but 66% more elementary and secondary schools, and three times more universities than Quebec. And it’s no accident that Quebec always has a higher unemployment rate and lower wages than Ontario.

As for the Canadian bourgeoisie’s bilingualism and multicultural policies, these are nothing but skillful pretexts for continuing to deny the basic rights of the Quebec people, as well as those of the other oppressed nationalities.

The Quebec people have always fought this oppression in many ways – they took up arms in 1837-1838, they rose up in the anti-conscription movement in 1918 and in the struggles and demonstrations of the ’60s and ’70s.

The Quebec national question is at the heart of the political crisis presently wracking our country and so is crucial to the strategic outcome of our revolutionary struggle.

The Right To Self-Determination

The denial of the Quebec people’s right to self-determination is at the heart of its national oppression.

Every nation has the fundamental right to determine its own future.

Our Party supports the Quebec people’s right to self-determination, up to and including separation. Socialism will guarantee this right. But our Party is taking up the fight right now for this democratic demand of the Quebec people.

At the same time as the working class defends the right of oppressed nations to self-determination, it must also evaluate in all concrete conditions whether it supports or opposes separation. This must be done on the basis of the interests of the proletariat and the revolutionary struggle for socialism. Our Party opposes the separation of Quebec at this time.

Separation would weaken the whole Canadian proletariat in its struggle against our common enemy, the capitalist class.

It would also strengthen the Quebec nationalist bourgeoisie’s hold in Quebec. These capitalists would use the slogan “common national interests” to keep Quebecois workers down. We need only look at the kind of anti-labour and pro-capitalist policies the Parti Quebecois has already adopted if we want to convince ourselves of this.

Separation would also give the superpowers, particularly the US, an excellent pretext to interfere in our country. By dividing the working people, separation would weaken the fight against the two imperialists giants.

The PQ’s acts of collaboration and submitting to US imperialism have already proven this danger.

Oppose Bourgeois Federalism And Bourgeois Nationalism

Our Party opposes both the chauvinist policies of the Canadian monopolist bourgeoisie and the narrow nationalism of the PQ.

The Canadian bourgeoisie continually stirs up great-nation chauvinism against the Quebecois people. It puts the blame on Quebec for all of the country’s economic ills. It tries to stir up English-Canadian workers against their class brothers in Quebec. It has fabricated a scenario on how some sort of “French Power” would attempt to take over Canada. All the bourgeois parties, Liberals, Conservatives and NDP, support the oppression of the Quebec people and deny their just national rights.

The PQ bourgeois nationalists offer no real solution to the oppression of the Quebec people. Since they have come power they have done nothing to really defend the national rights of the Quebec people. They have completely done away with any efforts to defend the right to work in French, and instead reducing the inequalities with English Canadians in areas like health care and education, they have in fact increase them with their drastic budget cuts.

The PQ uses nationalism to consolidate its domination over the Quebec working people. Separation is the focal point of a strategy designed to strength the nationalist bourgeoisie and enable it to develop into a monopolist bourgeoisie, master of a new state.

A variation of narrow nationalism, the “independence and socialism” line, or “independence first, socialism later,” has an influence over many workers, who want to fight national oppression. Followers of these theories figure that independence must be achieved now. They make separation necessary condition for the eventual struggle for socialism in Quebec.

But in fact, this nationalist thesis also leads to the division of the working class and the delay of the victory of socialism in Canada. The only result it can have at this time is to furnish support for the PQ, which is the only political force capable of achieving separation right now.

Our Party Fights For These Rights

The Quebecois people will win their rights only through the struggles of the masses. Our Party energetically works to develop the struggle to defend the Quebecois people’s democratic rights, including all those listed above, and for particular demands such as:

•  Quebec’s right to self-determination up to and including separation.

•  The right of the Quebec people to work in their own language. In Quebec, this means that at work, all manuals and written and oral instructions must be in French for Quebecois.

•  An end to job discrimination. We must put an end to situations like that at Air Canada in Montreal where 80% of the workers are English-Canadian in a province where 80% of the population is Quebecois.

•  A single, secular public school system in Quebec, with equal access and quality of educational services and methods for all. The existence at the present time of several different boards based on language and religion only perpetuates inequalities in access and quality.

Quebecois are provided with services that are inferior in quality to those available to English Canadians. The English-Canadian minority must have the right to education in its language within this single system. We do not want to take away the rights of some nationalities, but rather to win the same rights for those who are presently deprived of them.

•  One single hospital network, serving the Quebecois population in French and the other nationalities in their languages.[1]

•  We also demand the extension of services and the building of hospitals in all regions, in order to ensure an equal right to health care for the whole population.

•  Respect for the territorial integrity of Quebec, while at the same time respecting the territorial rights of the Native peoples in the province. This means that the federal government must not be permitted to unilaterally annex parts of Quebec’s territory, as it is presently doing in the Hull region.

•  Measures aimed at protecting and preserving the Quebecois culture, and the guarantee of its full development in the future.

The Native peoples

Of all the oppressed nationalities in Canada, the Native peoples have suffered the most barbarous persecution. The European colonialists exterminated Native peoples, chased a great many of them off their lands, shunted many of them off to reserves and imposed unequal treaties.

There are over one million Native people in Canada.

Today the languages, cultures and ways of life of the Native peoples are suppressed. They suffer cruel discrimination and racism. In order to take over their territories the bourgeoisie forces them to sell their lands cheap. The monopolies pollute the land and destroy the animal life on which the Native people depend for their survival. Each year Native people are gunned down by police. Although they make up only 4.5% of the population, Native people account for 44% of those held in Canadian prisons, and over 80% in Saskatchewan prisons.

The life expectancy of a Native person is 42.5 years, while the average for all Canadians is 72 years. And the bourgeoisie has never given up its policies of genocide and extermination: reports have revealed the practice of forced sterilization of Indian and Inuit women.

Of course the Native peoples have never given up their resistance. With the wars they waged in the last century, the occupation of Anicinabe Park in Kenora, Ontario in 1974 and the protest marches they have staged, they have continued their struggle against ruthless repression.

To survive, many Native people today continue to practise their traditional activities of hunting, trapping, fishing and other forms of small-scale production. Others are reduced to living on welfare, and still others leave the reserves to join the ranks of the proletariat.

The Native peoples constitute a certain number of distinct national minorities, each with its own language, culture and territory. The progress and development of the Native peoples’ societies were brutally interrupted by European colonization.

Today, despite the genocidal policies directed against them, these people fight to maintain their distinct national characteristics, their traditions, and their pride in their identity.

The Indian peoples are made up of various linguistic and cultural groups. They constitute a certain number of distinct national minorities. Their history of struggle goes back to the earliest days of colonialism. They took up arms to fight the theft of their lands. Led by chiefs like Big Bear and Poundmaker, they fought side by side with the Metis.

Today they are demanding that their right to work, to health care and decent living conditions be respected; they are also demanding their territorial rights as for example the Dene people in the Northwest Territories are doing.

The Metis, who have their origins in the intermarriage of Native people and French, English and Scottish settlers, developed into a distinct nationality in the West of the country in the second half of the nineteenth century. Today they are mostly concentrated in the Prairies.

The Metis have a rich heritage of resistance. They twice took up arms, in 1869 and in 1885, to defend their national rights. Today the bourgeois state does not recognize their national status. They have no treaties, no specific rights, and are the object of racism and chauvinism. But they continue to resist this oppression.

The Inuit people, whose communities are scattered throughout the Canadian North, have a population of about 22,000. They make up a distinct national minority. Although they live over a vast territory, the Inuit have a common language and similar customs. Today they are fighting the capitalists’ policies throughout the North. In the Northwest region of the country they are fighting for their territorial rights threatened by the capitalists’ pipeline schemes.

In Northern Quebec, a large group has rejected the James Bay Agreement.

Our Party firmly supports the struggles of the Native peoples.

In addition to the general demands mentioned above in this chapter, our Party demands:

•  full regional autonomy in the regions where they are concentrated;

•  the recognition of the just territorial demands of the Native peoples;

•  a halt to the pillage of their territories by the state and the monopolies;

•  full hunting and fishing rights on then lands;

•  an end to police repression and racist and chauvinist attacks, as well as the right to armed self-defence;

•  the right to education and the use of their own languages, and the right to choose their second language;

•  financial and technical assistance to develop their written languages;

•  an end to discrimination in hiring and housing, etc.

•  an end to forced sterilization of Native women, and to the genocidal policies of the bourgeoisie.

The Acadians

There are about 350,000 Acadians in the Maritimes. They constitute an oppressed national minority. The Acadians are the descendents of the first French settlers who lived in what is today Nova Scotia. After Acadia was ceded to Great Britain, the Acadians were persecuted and in 1755, the new masters arranged to deport them to England, France and various regions of the United States.

Many Acadians escaped deportation by fleeing to other parts of the Maritimes. Others managed to return after many years, and were forced to swear allegiance to the King of England.

Today, the Acadians are mainly concentrated in the northeastern, the northwestern and the southeastern parts of New Brunswick. They make up one third of the population of this province. There are other concentrations of Acadians in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

From the time of the British conquest and the deportations, the Acadians have suffered harsh oppression. They were chased off their land and obliged to work the poorest soils. They were subjected to repeated attempts at forced assimilation. Their culture, language and national traditions were suppressed.

The Acadians have mounted an unyielding opposition to assimilation. The fight to preserve education in French has been a central point in their struggle.

In the past ten years in particular there has been a rebirth of the Acadian national movement. Although the Acadian bourgeoisie is attempting to direct this movement towards its own ends, there is a powerful revolutionary potential in this current. Its potential is shown in actions like the occupation of the University of Moncton in 1969, or the occupation of Kouchibougouac Park in 1976.

Our Party demands full democratic rights for the Acadian people, in order to fight their national oppression. They include:

•  regional autonomy in areas where Acadians are concentrated;

•  the right to education in French;

•  access to government services in French;

•  the right to speak and work in French;

•  access to local French media (television);

•  an end to all discrimination.

The French Canadians

In addition to the Quebecois and Acadian people, there are more than one million French Canadians in other parts of the country. They are mainly descendents of Quebecois forced to leave Quebec in search of land or jobs, from the mid-nineteenth century on. These French Canadians have their own historical development and have become a national minority.

There are major concentrations of French Canadians in Ontario, the Prairies, and BC.

French Canadians are oppressed. They are refused the right to speak, work and study in their language. The provincial governments still systematically refuse to adopt any legislation recognizing these rights. The bourgeoisie spreads flagrant and chauvinist lies about them.

French-Canadian communities all over the country have resisted efforts to assimilate them for over one hundred years. Today they are waging tough battles for their rights, especially for their linguistic rights. The struggle for French-language schools continues to strike blows at the chauvinist policies of the Canadian bourgeoisie.

Our Party demands full democratic rights for French Canadians across Canada, including:

•  regional autonomy in areas where they are concentrated;

•  the right to speak and work in French;

•  access to government services in French.

The Black Canadians

Black Canadians constitute an oppressed national minority. The; are for the most part descended from the slaves brought to Canada by the British and American colonialists, and from slaves who fled the US in the nineteenth century. Today they are concentrated particularly in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and southern Ontario.

Black Canadians have always been subjected to vicious racism and have never been assimilated into the English-Canadian nation. They have been left’ with the worst land; until the ’60s they had separate schools, and up to this day Black Canadians suffer discrimination in employment, housing, and so on. The bourgeoisie completely denies the history of this minority.

Black Canadians have waged hard battles, like the struggle against the demolition of the Black community of Africville in Halifax in the ’60s.

Despite police repression they have stood up for their rights.

Our Party demands full democratic rights for Black Canadians, including:

•  regional autonomy in areas where they are concentrated;

•  an end to chauvinism, discrimination and racism against these people;

•  an end to discrimination in hiring, housing etc.;

•  an end to police repression, and the right to armed self-defence;

•  protection and development of their national culture.

The Chinese Canadians

The over 100,000 Chinese Canadians also constitute an oppressed national minority. Many Chinese immigrants came to Canada in the nineteenth century, many of them to work on the construction of the railways. Because of racism and persecution they were never assimilated into the English-Canadian nation, and they developed into a distinct national minority.

Chinese immigrants have stood up to fierce racism and oppression. Over 10% of those who worked building the railways died on the job.

In British Columbia, where many of them live, there was racist legislation on the books for a long time.

One federal law at the turn of the century denied them all democratic rights and in 1902 they had to pay a special $500 head tax to be permitted to stay in Canada. Strong protest movements were organized during this period.

Our Party demands full democratic rights for the Chinese-Canadian national minority, including:

•  regional autonomy in areas where they are concentrated;

•  an end to racist discrimination in hiring, housing, etc.

Other oppressed nationalities

Our Party is still young and has limited experience in working among the oppressed nationalities. The imperialist Canadian bourgeoisie spares no effort to crush the oppressed nationalities and to deny their existence.

Our Party is committed to developing its awareness and understanding of all the other oppressed nationalities that may exist in Canada, and to defending their rights.

Our Party’s task is to unite the struggles of the oppressed nationalities in Canada with that of the working class to form a powerful revolutionary movement in Canada.


[1] This means that in Montreal and other places where there are hospitals functioning only in English, these hospitals must provide services in French for the Quebecois in their areas, and in English for English Canadians.