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1980: ‘Non’ to sovereignty in Quebec referendum

The Story


With the election of his Parti Québécois in 1976, René Lévesque sets Quebec on the path toward a referendum on the question of independence for Canada's second largest province by population. Four years later, on Tuesday, May 20, 1980, the people of Quebec reply with a resounding No. Faced with the fact nearly 60 per cent of voters have rejected his political dream of a sovereign Quebec, a tearful Lévesque addresses an arena full of supporters with the promise, "'Til the next time."

Medium: Television
Program: CBC Television News Special
Broadcast Date: May 20, 1980
Guest: René Lévesque
Duration: 11:17

Did You know?


• While relieved by the result, Canada's Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, noted the 40.6 per cent of voters who sought an independent Quebec and said, "we have all lost a little in this referendum." Over the next four years, Trudeau's primary political objective became the repatriation of the Canadian constitution in an effort to appease Quebec.

• Over 85 per cent of eligible voters participated in the referendum. A total of 2,187,991 people voted No to Quebec independence, while 1,485,851 voted Yes.

• In response to the referendum loss, militant Quebec separatists adopted the slogan "Ça va barder" - "There's going to be trouble."


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René Lévesque's Separatist Fight more