Advertisement

Quebec nearly divorced Canada in referendum 25 years ago

Click to play video 'Former Quebec premier Jean Charest looks back on 1995 referendum' Former Quebec premier Jean Charest looks back on 1995 referendum
In 1995, Jean Charest was the leader of the federal Progressive Conservative Party of Canada and a champion of national unity. In this extended interview, Charest looks back on the 1995 sovereignty referendum in Quebec that nearly split the country. – Oct 30, 2020

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 Québécois leader Lucien Bouchard against prime minister Jean Chrétien 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.

Click to play video 'Looking back at the 1995 Quebec referendum' Looking back at the 1995 Quebec referendum
Looking back at the 1995 Quebec referendum – Oct 30, 2020

READ MORE: New Parti Québécois leader makes first appearance at Quebec National Assembly

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 Québécois first swept to power.

Story continues below advertisement

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.

Click to play video 'New PQ leader’s first visit to National Assembly since victory' New PQ leader’s first visit to National Assembly since victory
New PQ leader’s first visit to National Assembly since victory – Oct 14, 2020