BIG Region – Québec

Photo Credit: Rich Martello (unsplash)

Québec’s long border with America faces four American states: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York, and meanders through Lake Le Beau Lac, along the Saint-François River to the Pohénégamook lake, heads down to the Saint-Jean River following the watershed delineation to the Hall River and then follows the 45th parallel onto the international rapids of the Saint-Laurence River.

There are some 33 different land border crossings between the US and Québec as well as a number of major air and maritime border crossings, most notably Montreal International Airport and Montreal International Port. And we cannot forget of course Québec’s northern border.

The province’s majority francophone population, a unique situation in North America, raises the obvious question amongst researchers: Precisely how central is the linguistic issue to consideration of borders?

A wide range of questions follows from this. How does language add to the “thickness” of the border and the perception of the fluidity of the flows? What is the impact of the sovereignist discourse on the perception of the border? What is the additional cost of this perhaps “thicker” compared to where the border bifurcates two Anglophone regions?

How does language influence trade flows and regulations? How does the (non) development of corridors as a result of the language barrier impact the fluidity of migration and trade? How does language affect border patrol practices? How must governance of the border – on both sides – be adjusted to take into account this language reality? How does the governance of the border – on both sides – adjusts (on an organizational level) to this language reality?

Beyond the language question, researchers also explored whether Québec’s northern border is also to be thought of as an external border and how Québec understands its “nordicity” in terms of borders. Relatedly, they will ask what role indigenous groups and reservations play in cross-border governance. How is this role perceived by the government? Additionally, researchers wanted to interrogate how NAFTA and 9/11 have had an impact on border-related issues along the Québec border, and explore the role of non-governmental entities such as businesses on border governance.

Finally, 2013’s deadly Lac Megantic train derailment incident offers a recent and high-profile case study for a consideration of the relations of borders to sustainability in the province. An unattended 74-car freight train carrying crude oil ran away and derailed, resulting in multiple tank car explosions, 42 dead, and the destruction of 30 buildings in the Lac Megantic town centre. Researchers wanted to know whether the Lac Megantic incident exemplify non-sustainable governance of the border? Or could the disaster actually promote better cooperation between the province and its neighbours?

Dr. Elisabeth Vallet at the Université du Québec à Montréal led the Québec region.