The 1980 Quebec Referendum: Why Quebec Considered Separating from Canada

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As one of the founding nations of Canada, Québec felt that they have been mistreated and that the French language has been ignored by the rest of Canada. In 1968 René Lévesque, an ex-journalist, founded the first separatist political party in Canada, the Parti Québécois (www.pages.cpsc.ucalgary.ca). Lévesque wanted to address the fact that Québec society was distinct and had both a differing view of domestic and foreign policies than the rest of Canada and should therefore become a separate country from Canada (www.pages.cpsc.ucalgary.ca). On May 20, 1980 the first referendum in Québec took place. This referendum allowed public to vote on the role of Québec within Canada and whether Québec …show more content…
Although Lévesque wanted Québec to separate from Canada, he did not want to sever links with English Canada, which is why he developed the concept of sovereignty-association (Conway 93).The sovereignty-association would include commercial and tariff policies, monetary policies, the free movement of persons and apparently rail, sea and air transportation, labour market regulations and the right to elect domicile (Lamontagne 75). This proposal may also have the possibility of common citizenship and common passports as the rest of Canada (Lamontagne 75). Sovereignty association would give Québec more independence but would still allow Québec be connected to Canada (www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com).

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau pursued his strategy of federal bilingualism and French power in Ottawa, while he completely rejected any notion of special status for Quebec. (Conway 87). Trudeau outlined two possible courses of action: either a constitutional reform to renew federalism and promote unity or a national referendum on separatism to stop Lévesque's sovereignty-association referendum (www.pages.cpsc.ucalgary.ca). Trudeau preferred the first choice. Trudeau hoped that the negotiations for a new Canadian Federalism would be enough to reduce the strain between Québec and the rest of Canada (www.pages.cpsc.ucalgary.ca).

On May 20, 1980 the first ever referendum in Québec is held. A little over

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