Foreign Policy Blogs

The Separatists

People hold Catalan pro-independence “estelada” flags during a demonstration in Barcelona, on 18 October 2019, on the day that separatists have called a general strike and a mass rally. Picture: AFP

Some of the strongest nations in the world today were created by separating from a larger nation. While many of these separatists often formed rather large nations themselves, the basis for separatist movements often came from a mix of power and the feeling of being excluded from forming their own destiny. The modern versions of these movements may not have much in relation to those in others regions that are trying to separate from their own larger nation, but they often succeed when exclusion meets power, and the larger nation acts in a way to turn them into martyrs for their own cause.

Many situations in the world today are more of a result of a nation going through a process of Balkanisation into many different parts, as is the case in Syria and Iraq. The movements that may be more successful however are actually based in those countries that are federated states, are stable economically and somewhat politically, and are in the midst of being challenged by a Federal government that is making the situation worse by their response to alienated people in those regions.

The regions that may have a greater chance of separating are mostly in the West. They would likely be able to manage their own economy and foreign affairs, and may be at an advantage having an independent voice for their region in the wider global community. This base of power can also be contrasted with a Federal capital that treats them in an unfair manner, or even cripples their growth intentionally.

Recent riots in Spain’s region of Catalonia is an example of a region that may successfully separate, and is feeling the pressure from Madrid in their discussions over an independent Catalunya. The response to discussions on a vote for separating from Spain was met with a curt and abrupt response against separatist leadership from the Catalan community. The government in Madrid did not allow for a vote to take place without focusing their efforts on making Catalan leaders virtual criminals within the wider nation of Spain, even extending to other EU nations. With Catalonia being an industrial region that often pays more into the Federal state than it takes out, and the belief that Catalans would do better economically without having to compensate for Madrid’s costly economic policies, Catalans have the money, power and unity to push away from Spain. Without the ability to relieve the pressure through a vote and fair democratic means of representation, the streets of Barcelona have become strained and police physical actions against Catalan protestors serve to promote a need for an independent nation as seen by many Catalanes. Catalunya also was somewhat independent, even enduring sieges during the Spanish Civil War. It is well known that Catalans will push back against the capital, and with more regions having increased power within the EU, Catalunya is in the position to become a country. It is up to Madrid to address separatist sentiments in a manner that is seen as having roots in democratic institutions and actions. A Federal government by their response can split a country in only one generation.

A Federal government by its actions may have created a divided Canada as well. With the impression that Canada’s Prime Minister has diminished his own reputation at the cost of his citizens, Canada may not exist in its current form over the next ten years. The Prime Minister gave a large boost to Quebec separatist by eluding that many Quebecois may not have a place in Canada if they do not agree with his policies. This gave rise not only to nationalist sentiments in Quebec, but allowed for political parties opposed to being part of Canada to win regionally and become a large part of Canada’s Parliament.

A similar policy approach to Western Canada is seen as the Federal government belittling Western Provinces and instituting a permanent bureaucratic red taping of Canada’s energy industry. Many Western Canadians see these acts as intentionally putting many in the Provinces out of work and has given rise to an expressive and powerful separation movement in Western Canada. The Western separatist movement erupted after an election where Canada’s colourful Prime Minister won a minority government, despite eye-watering scandals and a history of racially absurd behaviour. Corruption is always bad for the economy, especially if you are on the other side of that corruption, and if you cannot work because someone in a capital 3000 km away is preventing you from doing so, then why be part of that country?

With an economically strong Quebec, an Alberta and West with diminishing wealth and power and a weak central government, Canada’s power balance has shifted drastically. Much of these problems were self made, mostly due to the same individuals who weakened Central Canada now running the Prime Minister’s Office in the capital. The wealth that once held the country together from Central Canada, now has been spoiled due to scandals and corruption at the top. Historically, Canada was never a country that wanted to be united, and someone who does not understand its people or history can tear the country apart quite easily. To save countries like Spain and Canada, the government of the day must not turn separatist movements into a narrative of martyrs. They become separatists for a reason, and while no one would like any country divided, there should also not be catalysts creating the need for separation. Without the impression of fairness and justice, no leader will be able to keep their countries together, nor should those of one region be punished for not acquiescing to corruption and immoral actions supported by a small group of elites in a city far away.

 

Author

Richard Basas
Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration

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