The Quebec Sovereignty Movement

Parliament building in Quebec City, home of the legislaive assembly of the province of Quebec.
The provincial flag of Quebec waving in the wind.
Pin placed on the province of Quebec and southwest of Quebec City.
Charles de Gaulle, president of France in the 1960s.

In a surge of nationalism, a couple of decades after World War II, French-Canadians mounted a strong campaign to win independence for their French-Canadian province of Quebec. As part of this campaign, many forms of organizations focusing on sovereignty and the rights of Quebecers sprang up. The provincial government, too, had an active role in the struggle, and took measures to increase Quebec’s autonomy. Among other things, the provincial government asserted control over Quebec’s schools, formerly run by the Catholic Church, and secured state-controlled energy distribution by buying out private owners. Even France’s president, Charles de Gaulle, a powerful non-Canadian, fomented the independence efforts when he utteredVive le Québec libre!” to a cheering crowd during a mass meeting in Montreal.

Voting on independence

By the late 1970s, it seemed, efforts to convince Quebeckers to distance themselves from Anglo-Canada had been successful, and a referendum on independence was called in 1980. Quite contradictorily, however, in this referendum, a clear majority voted to remain a part of Canada. As it turned out, not everybody who supported preservation of French-Canadian culture wanted to go so far as breaking with Ottawa.

Another referendum

The result in 1980 notwithstanding, another vote on independence for Quebec was scheduled for 1995. Leading up to this referendum, the rest of Canada actively lobbied for Quebec to stay as a part of Canada, but despite their efforts the new vote became a nail-biter. Only one percentage point, this time, would separate the yes and no votes, and throughout the election night, champions of independence had high hopes. Ultimately though, just like in 1980, the final tally favored those who wanted to remain in Canada, a result that relieved Ottawa but devastated many French-Canadians.

Hardly inspiriting supporters of Quebec independence, though interesting nevertheless, an analysis of the 1995 Quebec vote shows that it would have come out in favor of sovereignty had it not been for Quebec’s Anglo-Canadian minority overwhelmingly voting to stay in Canada.