OTTAWA -- Recognizing the Quebecois form a nation without defining what it means is a dangerous move that could harm national unity, says former Reform leader Preston Manning.
In an interview Friday, Manning said the resolution adopted by Parliament risks being interpreted one way in Quebec and another way in the rest of the country.
"If recognizing Quebec as a nation is mainly symbolic then when the Quebecois find that out then they are disappointed and we have been there before," he said.
"But if the phrase really leads directly or indirectly through the courts to conferring powers and benefits on Quebec not conferred on the other provinces then you've got a divisive situation again.
"The dangerous ground you get onto, I think, is disappointment on the one hand and disillusionment and humiliation on the part of some Quebecers and suspicion and divisiveness in the rest of the country," he later added.
Manning's comments come two weeks after the House of Commons voted in favour of a motion introduced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper recognizing "the Quebecois" form a nation within a united Canada.
Ever since then, however, contradictory versions have emerged of what exactly the resolution means _ particularly who constitute "the Quebecois."
While some MPs have maintained it refers to everyone who lives in Quebec, other MPs are convinced it refers only to those living in Quebec of French Canadian origins.
Harper himself has done little to clear up the confusion, saying cryptically, "The Quebecois know who they are."
That confusion should be cleared up, says Manning.
"Unless you can really clarify these terms Ethen the discussion isn't worth the confusion and potential dangers inherent in it."
Throughout the interview, Manning was careful not to blame Harper directly _ pointing out the motion began as a "blunder" by Liberal leadership candidate Michael Ignatieff that was seized on by the Bloc Quebecois, which brought the initial question to the floor of parliament.
Manning said his own understanding of the term Quebecois is that it refers to those of French-Canadian origins.
An Ekos poll made public Dec. 9 suggests interpretation of the term varies significantly across the country.
While 62 per cent of Quebec residents interpreted it as anyone living in Quebec, a majority of those outside Quebec indicated it refers to those who are French speaking.