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Perspectives on the Quebec Referendum Separatism vs. Federalism.

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Presentation on theme: "Perspectives on the Quebec Referendum Separatism vs. Federalism."— Presentation transcript:

1 Perspectives on the Quebec Referendum Separatism vs. Federalism

2 PARTI QUEBECOIS – SEPERATIST “OUI” The election of the Parti Quebecois in 1976 marked the first time in Quebec’s political history that Quebec voters brought to power a party advocating for Quebecs consent to sovereignty. In the past, Quebec’s efforts to reform the division of jurisdiction, giving more power to Quebec, were ignored. Concluding that Canadian federalism had failed because it could not renew itself and decentralize to meet the national aspirations of Quebecers, the government of Rene Levesque saw Quebec sovereignty combined with economic association with Canada as the means of linking political autonomy with economic interdependence and as the contemporary expression of Quebec continuity. The “sovereignty- association” project proposed Quebec’s acquisition of sovereignty and maintaining Quebec’s relations with Canada through an international association modeled on the European Union. The association would consist of an economic union and common currency. The Lévesque government insisted on the recognition of the Quebec-Canada duality, that Quebec was unlike the other provinces due to its distinct culture and language, and on the necessity of looking anew at the division of powers.

3 FEDERAL GOVERNMENT – FEDERALIST “NON” The Federal government did not want Quebec to negotiate sovereignty-association; it desired to reform or repatriate the constitution. Through the 60s and 70s the Federal government and the other provinces were unsympathetic to Quebec’s many demands, and gave priority to reestablishing Canada’s power by amending its constitution. Remember, Canada was not a fully sovereign country from the legal perspective, for the British Parliament reserved the power to amend the constitution of its former colony. Moreover, the federal government, which claimed to be the country’s only national government, felt it was necessary to centralize power even more than ever before. During the 1980 referendum campaign, Prime Minister Trudeau promised Quebecers that their “No” to sovereignty-association would be interpreted as a willingness to renew federalism. Many Quebec federalists believed that this promise would bring about recognition of Quebec’s distinct or national character and greater autonomy. This was definitely not the case.

4 1982 REPATRIATION OF CANADA’S CONSTITUTION In late 1980, the Federal government called a constitutional conference and announced it intention to proceed with repatriating Canada’s constitution, with or without the provinces’ approval. Several provinces, including Quebec were strongly opposed to this unilateral move. By 1981, the government succeeded in isolating Quebec and negotiated the repatriation with the nine other provinces. The unilateral repatriation of Canada’s constitution in 1982 meant a loss of status and jurisdiction for Quebec. Canada celebrated being fully sovereign, with a new Charter of Rights and Freedoms, enshrined collective rights of the Aboriginal peoples, made commitments with regard to regional inequalities, clarified powers of the provinces with respect to natural resources and acquired a formula for amending its new constitution. But it was not a day for rejoicing in Quebec. A major reform of federalism was being carried out, a reform that excluded Quebec and impose a considerable loss of powers and status on it. Having long believed that Canada came into being through an agreement between two founding nations, Quebec entered a new system where it’s very existence as a nation, people or distinct society didn’t count. Subject to the principle of the formal equality of the provinces, it lost its historic right of veto over constitutional reform and found itself subject to the authority of language rights shaped by the courts, which narrowed Quebec’s jurisdiction over education and language.


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