Twenty-five years ago, Quebec nearly divorced Canada

OTTAWA — Twenty-five years ago today, Quebec came within a small margin of separating from Canada.

The referendum on Oct. 30, 1995, saw 4.7 million Quebecers vote on whether the province should “become sovereign,” yielding a razor-thin victory for the “No” side that garnered less than 51 per cent of the ballots.

The question pitted premier Jacques Parizeau and Bloc Quebecois leader Lucien Bouchard against prime minister Jean Chretien and provincial Liberal leader Daniel Johnson, culminating in a “unity rally” hastily arranged by the “No” side in Montreal three days before the vote in an attempt to turn the tide.

The vote was the second referendum in 15 years and considered the high-water mark of the separatist movement, coming on the heels of two failed constitutional accords and nearly two decades after the Parti Quebecois first swept to power.

Today the PQ is at one of the lowest points in its history, ranking fourth out of four parties in the Quebec national assembly, where it holds only nine out of 125 seats.

But the Bloc, which also stands for a sovereign Quebec, remains broadly popular as questions around Quebecers’ distinct identity continue to simmer, and holds 32 seats in the House of Commons.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 30, 2020.

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