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Monday, September 10, 2012

Separatists Take Power in Quebec

The gunman who allegedly killed one person and injured another at a rally for the newly elected premier of Quebec last week is now in police custody and is expected back in court next month.

Richard Henry Bain opened fire at a victory rally for Pauline Marois, whose separatist Parti Quebecois party won the provincial election by a slim margin. The alleged shooter yelled “The English are waking up!” as police dragged him out of the rally. Quebec is a majority French-speaking province where tensions over language issues have resulted in two referendums — both unsuccessful — on separating from Canada.

So what is the current state of French/English coexistence in the province, and can we expect another referendum on separation?

Guest:

  • Philip Authier, senior political writer, The Montreal Gazette

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  • Cat

    Quebec’s separation from the rest of Canada is a non-starter.  The only reason this is on the American radar is because of the person who shot people a few nights ago.

    In 1995, the PQ tried to have a provincial referendum, which then prime minister Jean Chretien decided would be a national referendum.  The result surprised Quebec residents when almost half of the country voted to let them secede.  The vote was 50.5% for staying in Canada, 49.5% for leaving.

    At the time, Quebec represented 25% of the nation’s population but represented a significantly higher proportion of the national debt (I may be inaccurate, but I believe it was 40%).  They were told that if they seceded, they would still use Canadian currency and hold Canadian passports.  After three decades of accommodating Francophone needs, the rest of the country was tired of hearing the increasing demands.  It began to sound as though they were never going to cooperate as a part of Canada, so it made more sense to let them leave.

    At the time, I was a Canadian living and working in the US, and it amazed me to consider that my country might no longer exist as I had grown up understanding it.  Almost twenty years later, the standoff continues.  I have no doubt that if Quebec voted to leave the country, everyone would just move on and might in fact be better off (Canada’s government could drastically cut costs by going back to operating in one language; non-french speaking citizens would be able to get jobs vacated by those who chose to leave;  a balanced budget would result virtually overnight).

    Fun fact:  When Canada gained its own constitution in 1982, Quebec refused to sign on, the only province to decline.  As far as I know, they have never been legally protected under the Canadian constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Still, they are accorded the day-to-day freedoms found across the country.  To know how important this is, Google “October Crisis and CBC” to learn about the day the whole nation came under marshal law because of separatists.

    Cheers

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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