As a journalist, I have stationed as a correspondent in Teheran, Paris and Rome, in particular, having spent seven years in France. Then, I came back to Japan in 1998, and have been in touch with the Quebec government Tokyo office since then. In that connection, I was invited to visit Quebec and stayed over there for about a week in February 2003, when I interviewed a number of specialists on politics, business, culture and languages in Quebec. The following are the impressions and thoughts that I had on my visit.
First, Quebec is a testbed for globalism, where Quebec has a definite advantage in maintaining its identity, especially in North America. This is because the French language serves as a buffer for cultural identity in Quebec, whereas English-speaking regions are facing an identity crisis in U.S.-led globalization. Second, the Quebec culture is a mixture of French passion and Anglo-Saxon pragmatism. One example is the Montreal-based Cirque de Soleil, famous for its performance, Saltimbanco, which is a combination of French-style pure art and American-style sport. At the same time, Quebec signifies the founding principle for Canada, that is to succeed the tradition of Europe, in contrast to the American principle to build a new nation after a clean break from Europe. Finally, Quebec may serve as a model for some local regions in Europe in terms of language policy, as those regions are trying to maintain or revive their own local languages and cultures when their nation is losing its power within the EU framework.
As for Japan-Quebec relations, Japan can learn from Quebec regarding language and cultural policies. Japan should realize how important cultural identity is and how effective the role of the language is in maintaining it in the process of globalization. This will become crucial as Japan is going to accept more immigrants in the near future. Another point is business relations. In recent years, some business collaboration between Japan and Quebec is taking place in exporting industries, looking to the expanding Asian market. But there is much more room for business cooperation, especially in high-tech fields such as the aerospace industry, where excellent Canadian companies like Bombardier would benefit the Japanese industries.
On the other hand, Japan can help Quebec understand East Asia better, as Quebec is beginning to realize how important its relationship with East Asia is. For that purpose, it may be a good idea to hold regular meetings or conferences for intellectual exchange at various levels of policymakers, academia and journalism.
(Written by Takahiro Miyao) ---------------------------------------------------------------- 西川恵氏とのインタビュー 西川恵氏：毎日新聞社 専門編集委員 （2006年10月3日、毎日新聞社東京本社にて、聞き手は宮尾尊弘）