CBC Digital Archives

1995: Chrétien's passionate plea for unity

Nationally broadcast addresses from Canadian prime ministers are a rare occurrence. They usually happen only during times of war, constitutional or political crisis. The CBC Digital Archives presents some of the most significant historic addresses by Canada's prime ministers from 1939 to 2008.

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Just days before the 1995 Quebec referendum, an emotional Jean Chrétien addresses the nation through a live, televised broadcast calling for Canadian unity. In this heartfelt speech, the prime minister pledges to recognize Quebec as a distinct society while repeatedly emphasizing its importance to Canada. He also implores Quebecers not to break up the country, asking "Have you one reason, one good reason, to destroy Canada?''
• While the Canadian government urged Quebecers to vote No in the referendum, the Bloc Québécois, a political party devoted to the sovereignty of Quebec, supported the Yes vote.

• Both Chrétien and Bloc leader Lucien Bouchard addressed the nation ahead of the referendum. Although Chrétien delivered the same speech in English and French, Bouchard used a harsher tone in his French speech to warn Quebecers not to believe the prime minister's distinct society promise. • U.S. president Bill Clinton chimed in to support the No vote by describing Canada as a "model to the world" and expressing concern over a possible split.

• Five days after Chrétien's plea for unity, Quebec chose to stay in Canada by a very narrow margin, with the No side winning 50.58 per cent of the vote.  

Medium: Television
Program: Jean Chrétien Addresses the Nation
Broadcast Date: Oct. 25, 1995
Speaker: Jean Chrétien
Duration: 11:48

Last updated: February 27, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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