Canada suffers from post-Meech Lake trauma

That's why the ROC is so reluctant to reopen constitutional debate

La nation québécoise vue du Canada

There must be an explanation why this country's constitution has become an immovable object of fear rather than a living, breathing object of change.
It's clear that the current debate over the recognition of Quebec as a nation will lead to nothing. So here's the diagnosis: when it comes to the C-word, the Rest of Canada suffers from a serious case of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, that makes it fear anything constitutional.
Why PTSD? For one thing, logic fails to explain why the ROC doesn't understand that granting Quebec national status could satisfy enough soft nationalists to weaken the sovereignty option. So this is more of an emotional reaction than a rational one.
On the irrational side, there's also some francophobia left out there, where francophones are seen as not worthy of any national status. But seeing the panic that's overtaken the federal Liberal Party on this issue, as well as the stubborn refusal by most respected columnists in the ROC even to consider it, they seem to be suffering from a massive case of constitutional PTSD.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a shell-shock, or battle-fatigue syndrome. It develops after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event felt as threatening to one's existence.
For the Rest of Canada, the trauma is pretty obvious: the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords that recognized Quebec as a "distinct society" but whose failure cleared the path for the 1995 referendum where federalists nearly lost their country.
In real life, PTSD can create intense fear and a feeling of helplessness so strong that it keeps people from leading normal lives that include taking risks. But taking risks is seen as potentially threatening again.
Symptoms include flashbacks of the trauma. There can also be repeated signs of distress at the thought of going through the same thing again. Avoidance of anything that's reminiscent of the trauma can also turn into a coping mechanism that leads to fear of taking any action.
Now, if that's not the perfect reflection of the dominant reaction in the ROC at the slightest possibility or reopening the constitution, I don't know what is.
Bob Rae, one of the leading contenders in the Liberal leadership race, is a textbook case. To justify his refusal of any special status for Quebec, he keeps repeating that anyone who has gone through Meech and Charlottetown, like him, wouldn't dare try anything like it again.
Then he goes on and on about the nearly lost referendum, how sovereignists just wait to capitalize on any failure, and all that jazz.
It's as if the man lives in a perpetual Meech Lake flashback. So much so that he can not envisage any other outcome than a final, tragic failure that would send the Parti Quebecois laughing all the way to a winning referendum.
The man has been so traumatized that he has become unable to see success as a possible option. So what does he do? In typical PTSD style, he practises avoidance: no constitution, no failure, no separation.
Rae is like all those who suffer from Post-Meech trauma: been there, done that, want to run away. But running away is not real leadership.
The good news is that there are treatments for PTSD. "Exposure therapy" could be the best remedy here. It means reliving the trauma in a controlled environment to confront fears to become more comfortable in similar situations.
Maybe someone should take Rae and a bunch of federal politicians and columnists from the ROC for a weekend group therapy at Meech Lake.
Here's a neat little exercise for them: Try to imagine what would have happened if Meech had passed. Would there have been a referendum in 1995? Would the Liberal Party have escaped the ensuing shame of the sponsorship scandal?
Would Stephen Harper be a travelling fundraiser for right-wing think tanks while Jean Charest would be prime minister of Canada ?
So many therapeutic questions could be pondered and perhaps lead to some kind of recovery.

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