Quebec Mohawks say if Quebec separates, they’ll separate from Quebec

Quebec Mohawks say if Quebec separates, they’ll separate from Quebec

The minds that have drawn up a strategy for Quebec's separation from Canada might imagine a strong, unified nation doused in blue fleur-de-lis French song, sung in celebration.

But the more likely result of a successful sovereigntist movement would more likely be a fractured region further split along linguistic and cultural lines. That reality came into focus this week when the Chief of a First Nations community near Montreal announced that they would hold their own referendum, should Quebec secede.

The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne released a public statement on Tuesday saying Quebec sovereignty would create "very real concerns" for the First Nations community.

“If Quebec ultimately chooses to separate, I would advise our Council and community to hold our own vote in order to determine whether we would stay within the borders of Quebec or separate ourselves,” MCA Grand Chief Mike Kanentakeron Mitchell said in the statement.

The question of Quebec separatism has been top of mind in recent months as the province moves toward an election in early April. Premier Pauline Marios, the leader of the separatist Parti Quebecois government, has previously said a vote on whether to separate from Canada would likely follow the party’s re-election. She has stepped away from those talking points more recently, likely due to polling number that suggests the party is falling behind its non-separatist opposition.

Still, in the case that a Parti Quebecois forms a majority government on April 7, a referendum could be held. Regardless of an apparent case of “Quebec separatism fatigue” in the rest of Canada.

[ Related: Canadians outside of Quebec fed-up with sovereignty talk ]

That creates a very real question about what a post-separatist Quebec would look like. Marois has previously said an independent Quebec would continue using the Canadian dollar and the Bank of Canada. She also said she envisioned a Quebec with open borders with Canada.

There hasn't been a lot of talk recently about where those borders would actually stand. The common presumption is that Quebec would retain its current territory, but the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne's contradiction should be noted.

[ Related: Notorious Rob Ford drug video detailed in latest Project Brazen 2 documents ]

There are 43 aboriginal communities in Quebec, which represent a total of 10 Nations, of which Mohawk is one. Quebec's First Nation community comprises some 140,000 people, or two per cent of Quebec's total population.

Ghislain Picard, chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, told CBC News this week that First Nations hold the right to decide their own future. And it's unlikely they would decide to throw their lot in with Quebec. Ahead of the 1995 referendum, Quebec's Cree and Inuit communities held their own votes and ruled overwhelmingly against Quebec independence.

Through the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne's recent announcement, the concerns raised by Quebec independence are clear. First, two-thirds of Mohawk territory is in Quebec, meaning a vote on Quebec separation would also be a vote to split their territory between separate countries.

Second, there's no telling what a new set of Quebec laws would look like, or what they would mean for the First Nation community. Further, the community speaks Mohawk and English on a daily basis and rarely French. This would mean an independence movement based on language merely creates more linguistic problems.

This issue could be expanded beyond the First Nations question. Quebec itself is a province divided by language. A recent survey found that half the English-speaking Quebec residents have considered leaving the province in the past year.

It has also been previously suggested that the English hub of Montreal should separate from Quebec, should Quebec separate from Canada.

Heck, if First Nations community and Montreal are going to reconsider their place in an independent Quebec, other regions within the province should have a chance as well. The result? A patchwork of Canadian and Quebec territories with a handful of independent regions tossed in the mix.

Messy, sure. But we’re talking about slicing a nation into pieces. Things are bound to get messy.

Want to know what news is brewing in Canada?
Follow @MRCoutts on Twitter.