Quebec sovereignty movement explained

The Quebec sovereignty movement (French: Mouvement souverainiste du Québec) refers to both the political movement and the ideology of values, concepts and ideas that promote the secession of the province of Quebec from the rest of Canada. While some affiliations to the movement suggest a violent, militarist revolution for the creation of a separate country, most groups seek to use negotiation-based diplomatic interventions, which would eventually lead to Quebec becoming a country.

In practice, "separatist" and "sovereigntist" are terms used to describe individuals wanting the province of Quebec to separate from Canada to become a country of its own. However, the latter term is perceived as euphemistic by proponents of remaining within Canada while the former term is perceived as pejorative by the people within the sovereigntist movement.

Justifications for Quebec's sovereignty include its unique culture and French-speaking majority (80%).[1] Eight of the other Canadian provinces are overwhelmingly (greater than 90%) English-speaking, while New Brunswick is officially bilingual and about one-third Francophone. Another rationale is based on resentment to anti-Quebec sentiment.[2] With regard to the creation of the sovereigntist movement, language issues were but a sub-stratum of larger cultural, social and political differences. Many scholars point to historical events as framing the cause for ongoing support for sovereignty in Quebec, while more contemporary pundits and politicians may point to the aftermath of more recent developments like the Canada Act of 1982, the Meech Lake Accord or the Charlottetown Accord.

Overview

See also: Constitutional debate in Canada and Meech Lake Accord. Tension between the francophone, Catholic population of Quebec and the largely anglophone, Protestant population of the rest of Canada has been a central theme of Canadian history, shaping the early territorial and cultural divisions of the country that persist to this day.[3] Supporters of sovereignty for Quebec believe that the current relationship between Quebec and the rest of Canada does not reflect Quebec's best social, political and economic development interests. Moreover, many subscribe to the notion that without appropriately recognizing that the people of Quebec are culturally distinct, Quebec will remain chronically disadvantaged in favour of the English-Canadian majority. There is also the question of whether the French language can survive within the geographic boundaries of Quebec and where French-Canadian society and culture fits into what is an increasingly multicultural country. Further, given Canada's founding as a French colony and the constant and consistent influence of French-Canadian culture and society on Canada's historical development, it becomes increasingly difficult to determine whether Canada could exist at all without Quebec. Separatists and Independentists are generally opposed to some aspects of the federal system in Canada and do not believe it can be reformed in a way that could satisfy the needs of Quebec's French-speaking majority. A key component in the argument in favour of overt political independence is that new legislation and a new system of governance could best secure the future development of modern Québécois culture. Additionally, there is wide-ranging debate about defence, monetary policy, currency, international-trade and relations after independence and whether a renewed federalism would give political recognition to the Quebec nation (along with the other 'founding' peoples, including Canadian First Nations, the Inuit, and the British) could satisfy the historic disparities between these cultural "nations" and create a more cohesive and egalitarian Canada.

Several attempts at reforming the federal system in Canada have thus far failed because of, particularly, the conflicting interests between Quebec's representatives and the other provincial governments' representatives. There is also a degree of resistance throughout Quebec and the rest of Canada to re-opening a constitutional debate, in part because of the nature of these failures—not all of which were the result simply of sovereignists and federalists not getting along. To cite one case, in a recent round of constitutional reform, Elijah Harper, an aboriginal leader from Manitoba, was able to prevent ratification of the agreement in the provincial legislature, arguing that the accord did not address the interests of Canada's aboriginal population. This was a move to recognise that other provinces represent distinct cultural entities, such as the aboriginal population in Canada's Prairies or the people of Newfoundland (which contains significant and culturally distinct French-Canadian, English-Canadian, Irish-Canadian and Aboriginal cultures- and many more).

Contemporary politics

Perhaps the most significant basis of support for Quebec's sovereignty movement lies in more recent political events. For practical purposes, many political pundits use the political career and efforts of René Lévesque as a marker for the beginnings of what is now considered the contemporary movement, although more broadly-accepted consensus appears on the contemporary movement finding its origins in a period called the Quiet Revolution.

René Lévesque, architect of the first referendum on sovereignty, claimed a willingness to work for change in the Canadian framework after the federalist victory in the referendum of 1980. This approach was dubbed le beau risque ("the beautiful risk"), and it led to many ministers of the Lévesque's government to resign in protest. The 1982 patriation of the Canadian Constitution did not solve the issue in the point of view of the majority of sovereignists. The constitutional amendment of 1982 was agreed to by representatives from 9 of the 10 provinces (with René Lévesque abstaining). Although it has not been ratified by the Province of Quebec, the constitution applies to all citizens of Canada and is integral to the political and legal systems used in Quebec. See patriation for further details.

While it is suggested that there existed a belief amongst the people of Quebec that a harmonizing constitution geared to recognise the people of Quebec would be signed in 1982, there are unquestionably numerous other possible reasons the 'Yes' campaign went down to defeat. The economy of Quebec suffered measurably following the election of the sovereignist Parti Québécois and continued to during the course of the campaign. The Canadian dollar lost much of its value and, during coverage of the dollar's recovery against U.S. currency, there were repeated citations of the referendum and political instability caused by it cited as cause for the fall. Some have also suggested that faith in a promised constitutional agreement with the rest of Canada is widely acknowledged to be the cause of the failure of the Yes vote of the first referendum. But others suggest there were promises of constitutional reform to address outstanding political issues between the province and the federal government both before and since without any sign of particularly greater expectation those promises would be filled to any greater or lesser degree. There remains no conclusive evidence that the sovereignty movement derives significant support today because of anything that was promised back in the 1970s.

Proponents of the sovereignty movement sometimes suggest that many people in Quebec feel "bad" for believing the constitutional promises that the federal government and Pierre Trudeau made just before the 1980 Quebec referendum. The constitutional reform promises made by Trudeau and the federal government were not delivered on paper or agreed upon in principle by the federal government or the other provincial governments. But one conclusion that appears to be universal is that one event in particular – dubbed "the night of the long knives" – energised the sovereignist movement during the 1980s. This event involved a "back-room" deal, struck between Trudeau, representing the federal government, and all of the other provinces, save Quebec. It was here that Trudeau was able to gain agreement on the content of the constitutional amendment, while the separatist premier René Lévesque was simply left out. And it may well be that a certain number of Quebecers did and may even now feel "had" both about the nature of that deal and how Trudeau (a Quebecer himself) went about reaching it.

Regardless of Quebec government's refusal to approve the 1982 constitutional amendment because the promised reforms were not implemented (along with other numerous items within the constitution which infuriated Quebec politicians), the amendment went into effect. To many in Quebec, the 1982 constitutional amendment without Quebec's approval is still viewed as a historic political wound. The debate still occasionally rages within the province about the best way to heal the rift – and the sovereignty movement certainly derives some degree of support from a belief that healing should take the form of separation from Canada.

"I also criticised the unilateral repatriation of 1982, concluding that 'even in their moments of greatest mistrust, the Québécois never imagined that the pact of 1867 could ever be changed without their consent. Hence the impression they had in 1982 of a breach of trust, of a violation of the national bond's integrity. The descendants of George-Étienne Cartier did not expect this from the descendants of John A. Macdonald. Perceived as trickery in Quebec, the repatriation of 1982 has placed a time bomb in the political dynamics of this country". (p. 224, On the Record, Lucien Bouchard, former leader of the sovereignist federal political party, the Bloc Québécois.)

The failure of the Meech Lake Accord—an abortive attempt to redress the constitutional problems brought on by the adoption of the 1982 amendment without the Quebec government's approval—strengthened the conviction of most sovereigntist politicians and led many federalist ones to place little hope in the prospect of a federal constitutional reform that would satisfy Quebec's purported historical demands (according to proponents of the sovereignty movement). These include a constitutional recognition that Quebecers constitute a distinct society, as well as a larger degree of independence of the province towards federal policy.

"In Montreal, June 25, I walked along rue Sherbrooke to Olympic Stadium, submerged in the immense river of white and blue that seemed unstoppable on its march to sovereignty. Three days earlier, Bourassa, former minister of federalism, had hurriedly changed his tune: 'English Canada must understand that... Quebec is, today and forever, a distinct society, free and able to assume its destiny and its development.'" (p. 251, 'On the Record', Lucien Bouchard)

The contemporary sovereignty movement is thought to have originated from the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s, although the desire for an independent or autonomous French-Canadian state has periodically arisen throughout Quebec's history, notably during the 1837 Lower Canada Rebellion. Part of Quebec's continued historical desire for sovereignty is caused by Quebecers' perception of a singular English-speaking voice and identity that is dominant within the parameters of Canadian identity, with no incorporation of the Francophone identity. (This is a point contested in other parts of Canada – particularly in places like Manitoba which has a significant French-speaking population, and where in the 1990s that population tried to assert francophone language rights in schools. The separatist Parti Québécois-led government of Quebec offered up comment actually taking the side of the Manitoba government, which was opposing granting those rights. Speculation persists that the Quebec government opposed this assertion of francophone identity outside of the province because of the impact it would have on the assertion of anglophone language rights within its own borders.)

For a majority of Quebec politicians, whether sovereignist or not, the problem of Quebec's political status is considered unresolved to this day. Although Quebec independence is a political question, cultural concerns are also at the root of the desire for independence. The central cultural argument of the sovereigntists is that only sovereignty can adequately ensure the survival of the French language in North America, allowing Quebecers to establish their nationality, preserve their cultural identity, and keep their collective memory alive (see Language demographics of Quebec).

Quebec feels a lack of recognition has been given to them both domestically and on the international scene. In addition, the large Francophone population within New Brunswick and other areas of Canada often feel their culture is diminishing within Canada. The diminishing use of French outside Quebec is attributed to inadequate public infrastructures such as schools and "social integration" within a dominant English-speaking society.

"At the same time, a brutal gesture by the Saskatchewan legislature brought the first language crises to my doorstep. The legislature precipitously abrogated the only law guaranteeing linguistic rights to the French population. It was revenge for a recent Supreme Court decision that had confirmed the constraining power of the law requiring all provincial laws to be available in French. To avoid having to translate all their laws, Grant Devine's government moved to repeal the act. The French community reacted with indignation and asked for federal intervention". (p. 186, On the Record, Lucien Bouchard)

The threat to the French language outside of Quebec is a small contribution to the feelings of Quebec sovereigntists and separatists to form a fully independent Quebec nation free of any bonds to an English-speaking dominated federal government. Not every Quebec nationalist sees confederation as posing a threat to the status of the French language however, especially when the shrinking percentage of English-speaking Quebecers and the province's strict language laws are taken into account.

Legalities

It has been argued by Jeremy Webber and Robert Andrew Young that, as the office is the core of authority in the province, the secession of Quebec from Confederation would first require the abolition or transformation of the post of Lieutenant Governor of Quebec; such an amendment to the constitution of Canada could not be done without, according to Section 41 of the Constitution Act, 1982, the approval of the federal parliament and all other provincial legislatures in Canada. Others, such as J. Woehrling, however, have claimed that the legislative process towards Quebec's independence would not require any prior change to the viceregal post. Young also felt that the lieutenant governor could refuse Royal Assent to a bill that proposed to put an unclear question on sovereignty to referendum or was based on the results of a referendum that asked such a question.

Arguments against sovereignty

In a series of letters throughout the 1990s, Stéphane Dion (the federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister at the time) laid out an argument against sovereignty.

It has also been argued by prominent Quebecers (sovereigntists and ex-sovereigntists, including former Quebec premier Lucien Bouchard) that sovereignty politics has distracted Quebecers from the real economic problems of Quebec, and that sovereignty by itself cannot solve those problems. In 2005 they published their position statement, "Pour un Québec lucide," ("For a clear vision of Quebec") which details the problems facing Quebec.

Many federalists oppose the Quebec sovereignty movement for economic and political reasons, however many also oppose sovereignty on other grounds. For example, since the 1995 referendum, in regards to the declaration of Jacques Parizeau who blamed the loss on "money and the ethnic vote", many federalists considered the sovereignty movement as an expression of ethnic nationalism. The sovereignty movement is not exclusively ethnic French in terms of membership, and the PQ in particular has attempted to embrace the multicultural reality of Montreal and increasingly other cities in Quebec.

There has also been a host of arguments against sovereignty which claim that the movement ignores the fact that Quebec is, in its very essence, a state largely made up of multi-generational immigrants - and as such, a claim to state sovereignty ignores the fact that First Nations, existed with their own social orders and economies prior to the creation of Quebec, and that since the colonial era Francophone governments, as a part of assimilation and colonization, have at times chosen to strategically ignore, suppress, include, or appropriate the desires, cultures, and struggles of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people in order to advance a eurocentric version of sovereignty.[4] The sentiment is summed up by a quotation from a Mohawk named Akwsasne Mohawk: "How can Quebec, with no economic base and no land base, ask to become sovereign? How can Quebec be a nation when they have no constitution? We have had a constitution since before the American revolution." Here the argument expresses the fact that the Mohawk nation has a more legitimate claim to distinct nationhood on the basis of traditional lands and a constitution predating confederation (and the creation of Quebec and a Québécois identity) and thus should be afforded the right of self-determination.[5]

Similarly, the Cree have also asserted for many years that they are a separate people with the right to self-determination recognized under international law. They argue that no annexation of them or their territory to an independent Quebec should take place without their consent, and that if Quebec has the right to leave Canada then the Cree people have the right to choose to keep their territory in Canada. Cree arguments generally do not claim the right to secede from Canada; rather, the Crees see themselves as a people bound to Canada by treaty (see the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement), and as citizens of Canada.[6]

The Crees have stated that a unilateral declaration of independence by Quebec would be a violation of fundamental principles of human rights, democracy and consent. If secession were to proceed, the Crees argue they would seek protection through the Canadian courts as well as asserting Cree jurisdiction over its people and lands.[6]

Professor Peter Russell has pointed out,"(Aboriginal peoples) are not nations that can be yanked out of Canada against their will by a provincial majority.... With few exceptions (they)wish to enjoy their right to self-government within Canada, not within a sovereign Quebec."[7] International human rights expert Erica-Irene Daes warns that to deny the right of self- determination to indigenous peoples "will leave the most marginalized and excluded of all the world's peoples without a legal, peaceful weapon to press for genuine democracy...."[7] This concern is connected to the fact that if Quebec were to be considered its own autonomous nation-state then it need not honour the treaties and agreements that were formed between Aboriginal peoples and the British and French monarchies and is now maintained by the federal Canadian government.[8] This is a concern for many Aboriginal peoples in Quebec, whose rights, which include among others, the right to protect their Indigenous culture, would be without the legal or constitutional protection which is currently provided for in Canada. Concern for this may stem from what Aboriginal peoples perceive as neo-colonial or eurocentric attitudes which persist in the leadership of contemporary separatist leaders, such as Robert Bourassa, former Premier and self-proclaimed "Conqueror of the North".[9]

Sovereignty-association

See main article: Mouvement Souveraineté-Association. The history of the relations between French and British descendants in Canada is one filled with a lot of rocky moments. After discovering Canada and establishing some outposts and cities, France lost it to Great Britain. After the Seven Years' War ended in 1763, France abandoned claims on Canada (except for the two small islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon) and Great Britain gave the West Indies islands of Guadeloupe, Martinique and some others back to France in the Treaty of Paris, at which time France limited its activities to parts of North America south of present-day Canada.

From that point on, at different moments in Canada's history, some leaders and groups have risen to claim authority. The use of the word "sovereignty" and many of the ideas of this movement originated in the 1967 Mouvement Souveraineté-Association of René Lévesque. This movement ultimately gave birth to the Parti Québécois in 1968.

Sovereignty-association (French: Souveraineté-Association) is the combination of two concepts:

  1. The achievement of sovereignty for the Quebec state.
  2. The creation of a political and economic association between this new independent state and Canada.

It was first presented in Lévesque's political manifesto, Option Québec.

The Parti Québécois defines sovereignty as the power for a state to levy all its taxes, vote on all its laws, and sign all its treaties (as mentioned in the 1980 referendum question).

The type of association between an independent Quebec and the rest of Canada was described as a monetary and customs union as well as joint political institutions to administer the relations between the two countries. The main inspiration for this project was the then-emerging European Community.

The hyphen between the words "sovereignty" and "association" was often stressed by Lévesque and other PQ members, to make it clear that both were inseparable. The reason stated was that if Canada decided to boycott Quebec exports after voting for independence, the new country would have to go through difficult economic times, as the barriers to trade between Canada and the United States were then very high. Quebec would have been a nation of 7 million people stuck between two impenetrable protectionist countries. In the event of having to compete against Quebec, rather than support it, Canada could easily maintain its well-established links with the United States to prosper in foreign trade.

Sovereignty-association as originally proposed would have meant that Quebec would become a politically independent state, but would maintain a formal association with Canada — especially regarding economic affairs. It was part of the 1976 sovereignist platform which swept the Parti Québécois into power in that year's provincial elections – and included a promise to hold a referendum on sovereignty-association. René Lévesque developed the idea of sovereignty-association to reduce the fear that an independent Quebec would face tough economic times. In fact, this proposal did result in an increase in support for a sovereign Quebec: polls at the time showed that people were more likely to support independence if Quebec maintained an economic partnership with Canada. This line of politics led the out-spoken Yvon Deschamps to proclaim that what Quebecers want is an independent Quebec inside a strong Canada, thereby comparing the sovereignist movement to a spoiled child that has everything it could desire and still wants more.

In 1979 the PQ began an aggressive effort to promote sovereignty-association by providing details of how the economic relations with the rest of Canada would include free trade between Canada and Quebec, common tariffs against imports, and a common currency. In addition, joint political institutions would be established to administer these economic arrangements. But the sovereignist cause was hurt as many politicians (most notably the premiers of several of the other provinces) publicly refused to negotiate an economic association with an independent Quebec, contributing to the Yes side losing by a vote of 60 percent to 40 percent.

This loss laid the groundwork for the 1995 referendum, which stated that Quebec should offer a new economic and political partnership to Canada before declaring independence. An English translation of part of the Sovereignty Bill reads, "We, the people of Quebec, declare it our own will to be in full possession of all the powers of a state; to levy all our taxes, to vote on all our laws, to sign all our treaties and to exercise the highest power of all, conceiving, and controlling, by ourselves, our fundamental law."

This time, the sovereignists lost in a very close vote: 50.6 percent to 49.4 percent, or only 53,498 votes out of more than 4,700,000 votes cast. However, after the vote many within the sovereignist camp were very upset that the vote broke down heavily along language lines. Approximately 90 percent of English speakers and allophones (mostly immigrants and first-generations Quebecers whose native language is neither French or English) Quebecers voted against the referendum, while almost 60 percent of Francophones voted Yes, and 82 percent of Quebecers are French-speaking. Quebec premier Jacques Parizeau, whose government supported sovereignty, attributed the defeat of the resolution to money and the ethnic vote. His opinion caused an outcry among English speaking Quebecers since it exposed the ethnocentric perspective of the leader, who focused blame for the defeat on minority communities as if to discount the influence of 40% of Francophones who voted no.

An inquiry by Le directeur général des élections concluded in 2007 that at least $500,000 was spent by the federalist camp in violation of Quebec's election laws. This law imposes a limit on campaign spending by both option camps. Parizeau's statement was also an admission of failure by the Yes camp in getting the newly arrived Quebecers to adhere to their political option.

The 'Yes' side was also involved in dirty tricks during the referendum campaign. An orchestrated effort of 'election engineering' in several polling stations located in areas with large numbers of non-francophone voters resulted in unusually large proportions of rejected ballots. Afterward, testimony by PQ-appointed polling clerks indicated that they were ordered by PQ-appointed overseers to reject ballots in these polling stations for frivolous reasons that were not covered in the election laws.

While opponents of sovereignty were pleased with the defeat of the referendum, most recognized that there were still deep divides within Quebec and problems with the relationship between Quebec and the rest of the country.

After the signing of the free trade agreement between Canada and the United States, supporters of sovereignty-association revisited their options, and the need for an association with the rest of Canada was made optional. That is, an association with Canada is still wished for, but were it to fail, sovereignty would be economically viable because of the belief that Quebec could freely export to the U.S. market due to Canada's membership in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Some observers believe that Quebec's participation in NAFTA would be contingent upon the unanimous approval of the three original signatories. Currently, PQ members and outside supporters will often speak of 'sovereignty' alone, insisting on the idea that a sovereign Quebec would be legally capable of entering into international agreements it would deem suitable. In realistic terms, Quebec would be forced to enter the NAFTA agreement to ensure its sovereign survival.

Those in favour of independence vacillate between terming it "sovereignty" and "independence," but the two terms are considered to be synonymous. A small group of people prefer "independence" over the other term. The use of the term "sovereignty-association" is much less frequent, but is still heard (refer to the Modernization section below). Federalists almost always refer to sovereigntists as "séparatistes" or separatists. Supporters of Quebec sovereignty claim this to be a more negative, contemptuous term. However in common Canadian usage it carries no such pejorative connotation, and such terms as separatist, separatism, and separation are largely preferred by Federalists because of their lack of ambiguity concerning the goal of Quebec independence. The terms are applied equally to the smaller pro-secession movements in other parts of Canada (e.g., "Western separatism").

History

See main article: History of the Quebec independence movement.

Precursor ideas and events

See also: Quebec nationalism. Sovereigntism and sovereignty are terms that refer to the modern movement in favour of the political independence of Quebec. However, the roots of Quebec's desire for self-determination can be traced back as far as the Patriotes Rebellion, the Alliance Laurentienne of 1957, the writings of Lionel Groulx in the 1920s, the Francoeur Motion of 1917, and Honoré Mercier's flirtation with this idea (especially in his historic speech of 1893.)

Emergence

The Quiet Revolution in Quebec brought widespread change in the 1960s. Among other changes, support for Quebec independence began to form and grow in some circles. The first organization dedicated to the independence of Quebec was the Alliance Laurentienne, founded by Raymond Barbeau on January 25, 1957.

On September 10, 1960, the Rassemblement pour l'indépendance nationale (RIN) was founded, with Pierre Bourgault quickly becoming its leader. On August 9 of the same year, the Action socialiste pour l'indépendance du Québec (ASIQ) was formed by Raoul Roy. The "independence + socialism" project of the ASIQ was a source of political ideas for the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ).

On October 31, 1962, the Comité de libération nationale and, in November of the same year, the Réseau de résistance were set up. These two groups were formed by RIN members to organise non-violent but illegal actions, such as vandalism and civil disobedience. The most extremist individuals of these groups left to form the FLQ, which, unlike all the other groups, had made the decision to resort to violence in order to reach its goal of independence for Quebec. Shortly after the November 14, 1962, Quebec general election, RIN member Marcel Chaput founded the short-lived Parti républicain du Québec.

In February 1963, the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ) was founded by three Rassemblement pour l'indépendance nationale members who had met each other as part of the Réseau de résistance. They were Georges Schoeters, Raymond Villeneuve, and Gabriel Hudon.

In 1964, the RIN became a provincial political party. In 1965, the more conservative Ralliement national (RN) also became a party.

The historical context of the time was a period when many former European colonies, such as Cameroon, Congo, Senegal, Algeria, and Jamaica, were becoming independent. Some advocates of Quebec independence saw Quebec's situation in a similar light; numerous activists were influenced by the writings of Frantz Fanon, Albert Memmi, and Karl Marx.

In June 1967, French president Charles de Gaulle, who had granted independence to Algeria, shouted Vive le Québec libre! during a speech from the balcony of Montreal's city hall during a state visit to Canada. In doing so, he deeply offended the federal government, and English Canadians felt he had demonstrated contempt for the sacrifice of Canadian soldiers who died on the battlefields of France in two world wars. The visit was cut short and de Gaulle left the country. Many Canadians also saw his comments as being hypocritical given the historic and present intolerant policies towards minority languages and cultures (such as the Breton language, Basque language, Corsican language) the German language in Alsace-Lorraine and the Dutch language in French Flanders by French governments, in contrast to Canada's policy of bilingualism.

Finally, in October 1967, former Liberal cabinet minister René Lévesque left that party when it refused to discuss sovereignty at a party convention. Lévesque formed the Mouvement souveraineté-association and set about uniting pro-sovereignty forces.

He achieved that goal in October 1968 when the MSA held its only national congress in Quebec City. The RN and MSA agreed to merge to form the Parti Québécois (PQ), and later that month Pierre Bourgault, leader of the RIN, dissolved his party and invited its members to join the PQ.

Meanwhile, in 1969 the FLQ stepped up its campaign of violence. The group claimed responsibility for the bombing of the Montreal Stock Exchange, and in 1970 the FLQ kidnapped British Trade Commissioner James Cross and Quebec Labour Minister Pierre Laporte; Laporte was later found murdered.

The early years of the (PQ) Parti Quebecois

Jacques Parizeau joined the party on September 19, 1969, and Jérôme Proulx of the Union Nationale joined on November 11 of the same year.

In the 1970 provincial election, the PQ won its first seven seats in the National Assembly. René Lévesque was defeated in Mont-Royal by the Liberal André Marchand.

In the 1973 election, the PQ won six seats, a net loss of one. However, its share of the popular vote had significantly increased.

The referendum of 1980

See main article: Quebec referendum, 1980. In the 1976 election, the PQ won 71 seats — a majority in the National Assembly. With voting turnouts high, 41.4 percent of the electorate voted for the PQ.

On August 26, 1977, the PQ passed two main laws: first, the law on the financing of political parties, which prohibits contributions by corporations and unions and set a limit on individual donations, and second, the Charter of the French Language.

On May 17 PQ Member of the National Assembly Robert Burns resigned, telling the press he was convinced that the PQ was going to lose its referendum and fail to be re-elected afterwards.

At its seventh national convention from June 1 to 3, 1979, the sovereigntists adopted their strategy for the coming referendum. The PQ then began an aggressive effort to promote sovereignty-association by providing details of how the economic relations with the rest of Canada would include free trade between Canada and Quebec, common tariffs against imports, and a common currency. In addition, joint political institutions would be established to administer these economic arrangements.

Sovereignty-association was proposed to the population of Quebec in the 1980 Quebec referendum. The proposal was rejected by 60 per cent of the Quebec electorate.

In September, the PQ created a national committee of Anglophones and a liaison committee with ethnic minorities.

The PQ was returned to power in the 1981 election with a stronger majority than in 1976, obtaining 49.2 per cent of the vote and winning 80 seats. However, they did not hold a referendum in their second term, and put sovereignty on hold, concentrating on their stated goal of "good government".

René Lévesque retired in 1985 (and died in 1987). In the 1985 election under his successor Pierre-Marc Johnson, the PQ was defeated by the Liberal Party.

Repatriation, Meech Lake, Charlottetown

The economic "association" part of the Sovereignty-Association concept was in some ways a forerunner of the later Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement of 1987 and the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The referendum of 1995

See main article: Quebec referendum, 1995. The PQ returned to power in the 1994 election under Jacques Parizeau, this time with 44.75% of the popular vote. In the intervening years, the failures of the Meech Lake Accord and Charlottetown Accord had revived support for sovereignty, which had been written off as a dead issue for much of the 1980s.

Another consequence of the failure of the Meech Lake Accord was the formation of the Bloc Québécois (BQ), a sovereigntist federal political party, under the leadership of the charismatic former Progressive Conservative federal cabinet minister Lucien Bouchard. Several PC and Liberal members of the federal parliament left their parties to form the BQ. For the first time, the PQ supported pro-sovereigntist forces running in federal elections; during his lifetime Lévesque had always opposed such a move.

The Union Populaire had nominated candidates in the 1979 and 1980 federal elections, and the Parti nationaliste du Québec had nominated candidates in the 1984 election, but neither of these parties enjoyed the official support of the PQ; nor did they enjoy significant public support among Quebecers.

In the 1993 federal election, which featured the collapse of Progressive Conservative Party support, the BQ won enough seats in Parliament to become Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition in the House of Commons.

At the Royal Commission on the Future of Quebec (also known as the Outaouais Commission) in 1995, the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada made a presentation in which the party leader, Hardial Bains, recommended to the committee that Quebec declare itself as an independent republic.

Parizeau promptly advised the Lieutenant Governor to call a new referendum. The 1995 referendum question differed from the 1980 question in that the negotiation of an association with Canada was now optional.

The "No" camp again won, but only by a very small margin — 50.6% to 49.4%.[10] As in the previous referendum, the English-speaking (anglophone) minority in Quebec overwhelmingly (about 90%) rejected sovereignty, support for sovereignty was also weak among allophones in immigrant communities and first-generation descendants. The lowest support for Yes side came from Mohawk, Cree and Inuit voters in Quebec, some first Nations chiefs asserted their right to self determination with the Cree being particularly vocal in their right to stay territories within Canada. More than 96% of the Inuit and Cree voted No in the referendum. However, The Innu, Attikamek, Algonquin and Abenaki nations did partially support Quebec sovereignty. In 1985, 59 per cent of Quebec's Inuit population, 56 per cent of the Attikamek population and 49 per cent of the Montagnais population voted in favour of the Sovereignist Parti Québécois party. That year, three out of every four native reservations gave a majority to the Parti Québécois party.[11]

By contrast almost 60 per cent of francophones of all origins voted "Yes". (82 per cent of Quebecers are Francophone.) Later inquiries into irregularities determined that abuses had occurred on both sides: some argue that some "No" ballots had been rejected without valid reasons (even if no proof of this has ever been submitted), and the 27 October "No" rally had evaded spending limitations because of out-of-province participation. An inquiry by "Le Directeur général des élections" concluded in 2007 that the "No" camp had exceeded the campaign spending limits by $500,000.

On referendum night, Premier Jacques Parizeau attributed the defeat of the resolution to "money and the ethnic vote". Most sovereigntists politicians condemned the declaration, which eventually led to Parizeau's resignation from his position as chief of the PQ, announced on October 31, the day following the referendum.

At the end of the 20th century

The Parti Québécois won re-election in the 1998 election despite losing the popular vote to Jean Charest and the Quebec Liberals. In the number of seats won by both sides, the election was almost a clone of the previous 1994 election. However, public support for sovereignty remained too low for the PQ to consider holding a second referendum during their second term. Meanwhile, the federal government passed the Clarity Act to govern the wording of any future referendum questions and the conditions under which a vote for sovereignty would be recognised as legitimate. Federal liberal politicians stated that the ambiguous wording of the 1995 referendum question was the primary impetus in the bill's drafting.

While opponents of sovereignty were pleased with their referendum victories, most recognised that there are still deep divides within Quebec and problems with the relationship between Quebec and the rest of Canada.

The Clarity Act

In 1999, the Parliament of Canada, at the urging of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, passed the Clarity Act, a law that, amongst other things, set out the conditions under which the Crown-in-Council would recognise a vote by any province to leave Canada. Controversially, the act gave the House of Commons the power to decide whether a proposed referendum question was considered clear, and allowed it to decide whether a clear majority has expressed itself in any referendum. It is widely considered by sovereigntists as an illegitimate piece of legislation. However the Supreme Court of Canada disagreed when the matter was referred to that body, ruling that the Act is constitutional and, just as Canada is divisible, so is Quebec, a ruling that has significant implications for linguistic and ethnic minorities within Quebec, the bulk of whom have traditionally opposed secession. Chrétien considered the legislation among his most significant accomplishments.

Present

Modernisation

"Sovereignty-Association" is nowadays more often referred to simply as "sovereignty". However, in the 1995 Quebec referendum, in which the sovereignty option was narrowly rejected, the notion of some form of economic association with the rest of Canada was still envisaged (continuing use of the Canadian dollar and military, for example) and was referred to as "Sovereignty-Partnership" (in French Souveraineté-Partenariat). It remains a part of the PQ program and is tied to national independence in the minds of most Quebecers. This part of the PQ program has always been controversial, especially since Canadian federal politicians usually refuse the concept.

In 2003, the PQ launched the Saison des idées ("Season of ideas") which is a public consultation aiming to gather the opinions of Quebecers on its sovereignty project. The new program and the revised sovereignty project was adopted at the 2005 Congress.

In the 2003 election, the PQ lost power to the Liberal Party. However, in early 2004, the Liberal government of Jean Chrétien had proved to be unpopular, and that, combined with the federal Liberal Party sponsorship scandal, contributed to a resurgence of the BQ. In the 2004 federal elections, the Bloc Québécois won 54 of Quebec's 75 seats in the House of Commons, compared to 33 previously. However, in the 2006 federal elections the BQ lost three seats and in the 2008 federal elections lost an additional seat, bringing their total down to 49, but was still the most popular federal party in Quebec up until the 2011 Canadian federal election, when the BQ was devastated by the federalist NDP, with a total of 4 seats and loss of official party status in the Commons, compared to the NDP's 58, Conservatives 6 and the Liberals 7.

Polling data by Angus Reid in June 2009 showed the support for Quebec separation was very weak at the time and separatism unlikely to occur in the near future. Polling data showed that 32% of Quebecers believe that Quebec had enough sovereignty and should remain part of Canada, 28% thought they should separate, and 30% say they believe that Quebec does need greater sovereignty but should remain part of Canada. However the poll did reveal that a majority (79%) of Quebecers still desired to achieve more autonomy. The number one area of autonomy that those polled had hoped for was with regard to culture at 34%, the next highest areas of autonomy cherished were the economy at 32%, taxation at 26%, and immigration and the environment at 15% each.

The 2009 Angus Reid poll also revealed some effects of the Clarity Act in which they asked two questions, one a straightforward question for a separate nation, and the other a more muddled version on separation similar to the one posed in the 1995 referendum. The data on the questions revealed as follows to the first hard line question of "Do you believe that Quebec should become a country separate from Canada?" 34% replied yes, 54% said no, and 13% were unsure. To the less clear question of "Do you agree that Quebec should become sovereign after having made a formal offer to Canada for a new economic and political partnership within a scope of the bill respecting the future of Quebec?" support for separation increased to 40% yes, the no vote still led with 41%, and the unsure increased to 19%. The most startling revelation of the poll was in the fact that only 20% or 1 in 5 polled believed that Quebec would ever separate from Canada.

In the aftermath of the 2011 federal election, Léger Marketing and Le Devoir conducted a poll on the question.[12] When asked whether they would vote Yes or No in the event of a referendum, 41% of the respondents said they would vote Yes.

Allies and opponents

Provincial

The separatist movement draws above the left and right spectrum, a sizeable minority of more conservative Quebecers supporting the PQ's political agenda because of the sovereignty issue, despite reservations about its social democratic political agenda.

Right and Left must be interpreted within the provincial context; Liberal Party politics generally coincide with those of other liberal parties, while PQ politics are more social democratic in orientation. There is no mass conservative movement in Quebec's political culture on the provincial level, due notably to strong government interventionism and Keynesianism shared by all parties since the 1960s (the so-called "Quebec Consensus" since the Quiet Revolution), and the province's Catholic heritage.

There are, of course, quite a few exceptions. Notable examples include:

Sovereignty has little support among Quebec Anglophones, immigrant communities, and aboriginal First Nations. About 60% of Francophones voted "Yes" in 1995, and with the exception of weak "Yes" support from Haitian, Arab and Latin American communities, most non-Francophones massively voted "No" (see Demolinguistics of Quebec). The opponents of the sovereignty movement view the project as ethnically exclusive based on its rejection by non-Francophones. This is a position sometimes disputed by the PQ, which attempts to present its project as all-embracing and essentially civic in nature.

Partitionism

See main article: Partition of Quebec. There is an undercurrent of feeling amongst "ethnic" and "anglo" voters that sometimes surfaces as a desire to separate from Quebec. This would create a new province of Canada, from the southwestern and southern portions of the province (comprising half of Montreal, parts of the Outaouais, the Eastern Townships).

This feeling is exemplified by the statement - "If Canada is divisible, then so is Quebec" made by federalists in 1995 or "If Quebec can separate from Canada, then we can separate from Quebec".[13] In contemporary times most mainstream political parties in Quebec deny or refuse to comment on the idea that Quebec can be divided up. During the 2007 Quebec election, federalist and Liberal Party of Quebec leader Jean Charest said that "All of these things are hypothetical questions...I do not think that Quebec is divisible. And if ever we were to go there, and end up in that situation, I know the question would be asked."[13] This last statement shows that Charest is avoiding clear support of the issue, he does however say that if the question of separatism again arises the issue of the partitioning of Quebec will rise with it.

However the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled in favour of the legality in partitioning Quebec, determining that Quebec is in fact divisible according to the same logic, legalities, and democratic tests that render Canada divisible. A panel of Quebec civil servants wrote a report arguing that International law guarantees the territorial integrity of Quebec [14] should Quebec become an independent state.

Cree separation

See also: The Canadian Crown and Aboriginal peoples. There was a feeling amongst the Cree of Northern Quebec, that should the province separate, they would remain part of Canada, and would force the province to return to its pre-1912 boundaries, and re-establish the Ungava district of the Northwest Territories, or a new territory or province created in its place.

Rest of Canada

The other nine provinces of Canada have generally been opposed to Quebec sovereignty. Alberta has seen parties promoting secession, mainly during the controversy of the National Energy Program, such as the Separation Party of Alberta, but these have been marginal. In 1982, Gordon Kesler was elected to the Alberta legislature under the banner of the Western Canada Concept Party, while in British Columbia no separatist party has ever had representatives elected to the provincial legislature.

The Charter of the French Language and other legislative acts approved by the National Assembly have reinforced the position of French as the primary language in Quebec. Since the enactment of the charter in 1977 French has been the only official language of Quebec. A broad range of services in English are maintained for the English-speaking community, including education and health care.

Reaction in the other nine provinces to the assertion of French-language rights and the strengthening nationalism amongst Francophones in Quebec has been mixed. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, the federal parliament enacted the Official Languages Act, making both French and English official languages throughout Canada, resulting in real efforts to improve accessibility to French services from the federal government. New Brunswick, with a large French-speaking minority, has become officially bilingual. Governments of other provinces, such as Ontario, which has a sizeable Francophone population, have increased the level of government services available to Francophone residents. French language education is now being made available to Francophones in many communities in Canada, and many English-Canadians are taking advantage of French immersion programs to encourage their children to acquire a basic working ability to communicate in French.

In general, francophones outside Quebec oppose sovereignty, while non-francophones, particularly the anglophone minority in Montreal, also have remained opposed. After polling heavily on the subject, Leger president Mark Leger concluded: “These numbers surprise me, they’re so clear across the country.... You look at Francophones outside Quebec, it’s the same result.... Overall, outside the French in Quebec, all the other groups across the country are against this notion.” The exact question of the November 2006 poll was, "Currently, there is a political debate on recognizing Quebec as a nation. Do you personally consider that Quebecers form a nation or not?" Canadians from every region outside Quebec, non-Francophone Quebecers (62 per cent), Francophone Canadians outside Quebec (77 per cent) all resoundingly rejected the idea.

France

In France, although openness and support is found on both sides of the political spectrum, the French political right has traditionally been warmer to sovereigntists (like President Charles de Gaulle, who shouted his support of independence in Montreal in 1967) than the French left (like President François Mitterrand, who was distrustful of nationalism and snubbed Lévesque at their first meeting in the 1970s).

This used to be a paradoxical phenomenon because of the Parti Québécois and most sovereigntists being to the political left. Michel Rocard (who became Prime Minister of the French Republic) has been one of the French Socialists that broke that so-called rule the most, maintaining a close and warm relationship with Quebec sovereigntists. More recently, Ségolène Royal, a leader of the French Socialist Party, indicated support for "Quebec sovereignty" but it was seemingly a reflexive answer to an "out of the blue" question from a Quebec journalist in Paris. On a later visit to Quebec City she gave a more nuanced position, mentioning a Parliamentary motion recognizing the Québécois as a "nation", but also describing 400 years of "oppression" and resistance of francophones in Canada.

The French Foreign Office motto concerning Quebec "national question" is "non-ingérence et non-indifférence" ("no interference and no indifference"), which epitomises the official position of the French State. In other words, while the Quebec people vote to stay within Canada, France will officially support the Canadian Confederation the way it is. That is why bilateral relations between both governments (Canada and France) have been so strong for many years. Similarly, Canada supports and even encourages the special institutional ties that exist between Quebec and France (annual meetings of both Heads of governments in either country; very dense university and research co-operation; administrative agreements; etc.).

Current French President Nicolas Sarkozy has stated on the record that he opposes the separation of Quebec from Canada.[15]

Sovereigntist organizations

Political parties

Non-partisan organizations

Defunct organizations

Sympathetic organizations

Sovereigntist media

Quebec sovereignty movement in fiction

See also

External links

Notes and References

  1. Carens, Joseph H., ed. (1995), Is Quebec Nationalism Just?: Perspectives from Anglophone Canada, Montreal, McGill-Queen's University Press. (ISBN 0773513426)
  2. Web site: Canada. Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. 2011-12-13.
  3. A Clash of Quiet Revolutions: Quebecers meet Native Nationalism. - http://http-server.carleton.ca/~gfrajkor/zine97/group3/quebec.html; Quebec’s “territorial integrity” against First Nations, The Red Flag, http://theredflag.ca/node/62; Taiaiake. Alfred. Then and Now, For the Land. Socialist Studies: the Journal of the Society for Socialist Studies. 6. 1. 2010. 93–95.
  4. Mark van der Maas, "Claims to Identity in Determining Resources for Indigenous Social Movements in Canada", http://www.utoronto.ca/ethnicstudies/vanderMaas.pdf (pg. 12)
  5. Parliamentary Research Branch (PRB) of the Library of Parliament, "ABORIGINAL PEOPLES AND THE 1995 QUEBEC REFERENDUM: A SURVEY OF THE ISSUES" http://www2.parl.gc.ca/content/lop/researchpublications/bp412-e.htm#A. Aboriginal Perspectives(txt)
  6. The Grand Council of the Crees, "50 Percent Plus One Vote Insufficient" http://www.gcc.ca/archive/article.php?id=116
  7. Jenson. Jane. Martin. Papillon. Challenging the Citizenship Regime: The James Bay Cree and transnational action. Politics & Society. 2000. 28. 2. 245–264. 10.1177/0032329200028002005.
  8. The Grand Council of Crees, Cree Legal Struggle Against the Great Whale Project, http://www.gcc.ca/archive/article.php?id=37
  9. Drouilly Pierre, L'année politique au Québec 1997-1998 _Les tendances du vote 1985-1995 Université du Québec à Montréal, 1999
  10. News: Dutrisac. Robert. Sondage Léger Marketing-Le Devoir - L'appui à la souveraineté ne fléchit pas. March 24, 2011. Le Devoir. March 14, 2011.
  11. News: Partition splits Quebec leaders. 7 March 2007. CBC News. 7 November 2010.
  12. Thomas Franck et al., The Territorial Integrity of Quebec in the Event of the Attainment of Sovereignty, Report prepared for the Quebec Department of International Relations (1992)
  13. News: Sarkozy’s sovereignty comments spark anger in Quebec. 2 February 2009. National Post. 8 November 2010.