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Pierre Trudeau speaks after 1980 Quebec Referendum

The Story

In a half-empty arena in Verdun, Claude Ryan's "No" campaign proudly but quietly celebrates its victory. The results of the 1980 referendum are in: 59.5 per cent have voted "No" to proceeding with sovereignty negotiations. Premier René Lévesque concedes that the people of Quebec have decided to give the federalists a second chance. But, the victory is bittersweet for the federalists. Prime Minister Trudeau admits that he can't get the disappointed "Yes" voters out of his mind as he and the premiers prepare to return to the constitutional bargaining table.

Medium: Television
Broadcast Date: May 20, 1980
Program: The National
Reporter: Mike Duffy, Knowlton Nash
Guests: Pierre Trudeau, Ed Broadbent, Joe Clark
Duration: 3:18

Did You know?

• Quebecers voting in the referendum were asked: "The Government of Quebec has made public its proposal to negotiate a new agreement with the rest of Canada, based on the equality of nations; this agreement would enable Quebec to acquire the exclusive power to make its laws, administer its taxes and establish relations abroad -- in other words, sovereignty -- and at the same time, to maintain with Canada an economic association including a common currency; any change in political status resulting from these negotiations will be submitted to the people through a referendum; on these terms, do you agree to give the government of Quebec the mandate to negotiate the proposed agreement between Quebec and Canada?"

• The pro-federalist campaign was led by Quebec Liberal leader Claude Ryan. In his conciliatory speech, Ryan admitted that constitutional issues needed to be addressed. "We have difficulties and problems to which we have drawn your attention on many, many occasions in the past," he said. "The verdict of today calls for action and change."

• Following the referendum, the premiers settled down to resolve the constitutional questions at hand. Ontario Premier William Davis suggested that the leaders reconvene immediately. Premier Richard Hatfield of New Brunswick optimistically suggested that the constitution could be settled within a five-year time frame.

• As the leaders headed into the next round of discussions, two issues remained urgent. First, Quebec and Saskatchewan refused to patriate the constitution without first agreeing upon a clear division of powers. Secondly, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia did not agree with the principle that education in English and French was a constitutional right.


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