The 39th Parliament
Foreign cases: Nations within nations
Last Updated November 23, 2006
CBC News

There are geographic disputes nearly everywhere in the world, and separatist movements, too. Many territories are sometimes mistaken for countries, but are dependencies, such as Bermuda, an overseas territory of the U.K. There are even countries located entirely within other countries (San Marino and Vatican City within Italy, and Lesotho within South Africa).

Most countries contain various ethnic and linguistic groups, and some such groups are spread out across more than one country, such as the Kurds in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey.

But rarely do countries recognize nations within themselves, as Stephen Harper proposes to do for the Québécois in Canada. Here are some other examples.


Under the 1994 constitution of Belgium, the national government shares legislative and executive power with three regional groups — the Flemish region, the Walloon region and the capital region of Brussels — and three linguistic “communities” — Flemish (Dutch-speaking), French and German. One council represents both the Flemish region and the Flemish community, while the Walloon region, Brussels region, French community and German community each have their own council.

Some refer to these cultural communities within Belgium as nations. Belgium, in turn, is part of the Benelux Economic Union (with the Netherlands and Luxembourg) and the European Union.

United Kingdom

England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are considered constituent countries (or, in the context of sports, home nations) within the country of the United Kingdom. They are referred to as countries in the U.K. census and the Office of National Statistics. All but England have their own devolved parliaments. However, these constituent countries have no international representation of their own.


The Basque country, Catalonia and Galicia are three of 17 autonomous communities within Spain, but are also recognized as “historic nationalities” in the Spanish constitution within the “indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation.”

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