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The split over sovereignty

The Story

Was it really "the ethnic vote" -- anglophones and allophones -- that dashed the Yes side's hopes in the referendum? In Quebec's rural Gaspé region, sovereigntist shipworkers tell a CBC Radio reporter they don't believe it. For them, it's simple: if more francophones had voted Yes, the sovereigntist side would have won. In blaming "money and the ethnic vote" for the defeat, Jacques Parizeau carefully ignored the 40 per cent of francophones who voted No. The day after the referendum, Parizeau announced his resignation as leader of the Parti Québécois. Many Quebecers believe Lucien Bouchard will quit federal politics to replace him. And most believe the close result means Canada will have to take Quebec's demands seriously and open new negotiations about the province's future. "We finally gave the ultimate, ultimate, ultimate, last, ultimate, penultimate, last, last chance to Canada. Now, do something," says lawyer André Gobeil. Whether they voted Yes or No, most Quebecers agree that the referendum defeat isn't the end for the sovereigntist movement. "Too many people are for it. They've been hoping to get the independence for a long time, so they're not going to quit," says a francophone man. An anglophone man agrees. "They're going to keep on going until they finally get a Yes." 

Medium: Radio
Program: Sunday Morning
Broadcast Date: Nov. 5, 1995
Guests: Richard Beaupre, Jeanette Couture, Serge Derosier, Lucille Gaultier, André Gobeil, Réal Isabelle, Denise Verrault
Host: Ian Brown
Reporter: Luana Parker
Duration: 14:02

Did You know?

• On Oct. 31, 1995, Jacques Parizeau held a press conference to announce he was stepping down as premier. He had decided months earlier that if the referendum result was No, he would resign.

• During the same press conference, Parizeau did not apologize for his remarks about "money and the ethnic vote." "I used words that were strong last night, but they underline a reality that exists," he said. "I'm sorry that it exists."

• Many Quebecers were dismayed with Parizeau's remarks. "The sovereignty movement has never been so strong - and in a few words, he wiped out that progress," said political science professor Alain Noël. "Now many people are ill at ease for having voted Yes."

• Listen to an additional clip in which Canadians from inside and outside Quebec respond to Parizeau's referendum-night speech.

• Many Quebecers, like the man heard in this clip, believed the narrow referendum result meant Canada would be forced to open new negotiations on the future of Quebec. But that never happened.

• "A door opened the night of Oct. 30 [1995], and it closed again right away. Quebec is all the poorer for it, and Canada is too." - Mario Dumont, Yes campaigner and leader of the Action Démocratique du Québec, October 2005.

• In December 1999, the Liberals introduced legislation in the House of Commons that would define the terms of negotiations following any future vote on Quebec's separation. The close referendum result had convinced Jean Chrétien that a clearer question was necessary for separation.

• When Stéphane Dion, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, announced the bill, Bloc Québécois MPs derided him as a traitor, an anti-democrat, a sellout and a fascist.

• The bill was passed in 2000. Called the Clarity Act, it specifies that Quebec or any other province may not secede from Canada without a "clear" majority of voters deciding on a "clear" question. The act does not define what "clear" means in either case.

• The act also specifies that the other provinces and the First Nations be part of any negotiations after a Yes vote. Parliament may also override the results if it feels the referendum contravenes any part of the Clarity Act.


Separation Anxiety: The 1995 Quebec Referendum more