Quebec ( or ; ) is a province in east-central Canada. It is the only Canadian province that has a predominantly French-speaking population, and the only one to have French as its sole provincial official language.
Quebec is Canada's largest province by area and its second-largest administrative division; only the territory of Nunavut is larger. It is bordered to the west by the province of Ontario, James Bay and Hudson Bay, to the north by Hudson Strait and Ungava Bay, to the east by the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick. It is bordered on the south by the US states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York. It also shares maritime borders with Nunavut, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia.
Quebec is Canada's second most populous province, after Ontario. Most inhabitants live in urban areas near the Saint Lawrence River between Montreal and Quebec City, the capital. English-speaking communities and English-language institutions are concentrated in the west of the island of Montreal but are also significantly present in the Outaouais, Eastern Townships, and Gaspé regions. The Nord-du-Québec region, occupying the northern half of the province, is sparsely populated and inhabited primarily by Aboriginal peoples.
Quebec independence debates have played a large role in the politics of the province. Parti Québécois governments held referendums on sovereignty in 1980 and 1995; both were voted down by voters, the latter defeated by a very narrow margin. In 2006, the House of Commons of Canada passed a symbolic motion recognizing the "Québécois as a nation within a united Canada."
While the province's substantial natural resources have long been the mainstay of its economy, sectors of the knowledge economy such as aerospace, information and communication technologies, biotechnology and the pharmaceutical industry also play leading roles. These many industries have all contributed to helping Quebec become a very economically influential province within Canada, second only to Ontario in economic output.
Indigenous peoples and European exploration
At the time of first European contact and later colonization, Algonquian, Iroquois and Inuit tribes were the peoples who inhabited what is now Quebec. Their lifestyles and cultures reflected the land on which they lived. Seven Algonquian groups lived nomadic lives based on hunting, gathering, and fishing in the rugged terrain of the Canadian Shield: (James Bay Cree, Innu, Algonquins) and Appalachian Mountains (Mi'kmaq, Abenaki). St. Lawrence Iroquoians, a branch of the Iroquois, lived more settled lives, planting squash and maize in the fertile soils of the St. Lawrence Valley. They appear to have been later supplanted by the Mohawk tribe. The Inuit continue to fish and hunt whale and seal in the harsh Arctic climate along the coasts of Hudson and Ungava Bay. These people traded fur and food and sometimes warred with each other.
Basque whalers and fishermen traded furs with Saguenay natives throughout the 16th century. The first French explorer to reach Quebec was Jacques Cartier, who planted a cross in 1534 at either Gaspé or Old Fort Bay on the Lower North Shore. He sailed into the St. Lawrence River in 1535 and established an ill-fated colony near present-day Quebec City at the site of Stadacona, a village of the St. Lawrence Iroquoians. Linguists and archaeologists have determined these people were distinct from the Iroquoian nations encountered by later French and Europeans, such as the five nations of the Haudenosaunee. Their language was Laurentian, one of the Iroquoian family. By the late 16th century, they had disappeared from the St. Lawrence Valley.
Around 1522–1523, the Italian navigator Giovanni da Verrazzano persuaded King Francis I of France to commission an expedition to find a western route to Cathay (China). Late in 1523, Verrazzano set sail from Dieppe, crossing the Atlantic on a small caravel with 50 men. After exploring the coast of the present-day Carolinas early the following year, he headed north along the coast, eventually anchoring in what is now the Narrows of New York Bay. The first European to discover the site of present-day New York, he named it Nouvelle-Angoulême in honour of the king, the former count of Angoulême. Verrazzano's voyage convinced the king to seek to establish a colony in the newly discovered land. Verrazzano gave the names Francesca and Nova Gallia to that land between New Spain (Mexico) and English Newfoundland.
In 1534, Jacques Cartier planted a cross in the Gaspé Peninsula and claimed the land in the name of King Francis I. It was the first province of New France. However, initial French attempts at settling the region met with failure. French fishing fleets, however, continued to sail to the Atlantic coast and into the St. Lawrence River, making alliances with First Nations that would become important once France began to occupy the land. French merchants soon realized the St. Lawrence region was full of valuable fur-bearing animals, especially the beaver, an important commodity as the Eurasian beaver had almost been driven to extinction. Eventually, the French crown decided to colonize the territory to secure and expand its influence in America.
Samuel de Champlain was part of a 1603 expedition from France that travelled into the St. Lawrence River. In 1608, he returned as head of an exploration party and founded Quebec City with the intention of making the area part of the French colonial empire. Champlain's Habitation de Québec, built as a permanent fur trading outpost, was where he would forge a trading, and ultimately a military alliance, with the Algonquin and Huron nations. Natives traded their furs for many French goods such as metal objects, guns, alcohol, and clothing.
From Quebec, coureurs des bois, voyageurs and Catholic missionaries used river canoes to explore the interior of the North American continent, establishing fur trading forts on the Great Lakes (Étienne Brûlé 1615), Hudson Bay (Radisson and Groseilliers 1659–60), Ohio River and Mississippi River (La Salle 1682), as well as the Saskatchewan River and Missouri River (de la Verendrye 1734–1738).
After 1627, King Louis XIII of France introduced the seigneurial system and forbade settlement in New France by anyone other than Roman Catholics. Sulpician and Jesuit clerics who founded missions in Trois-Rivières (Laviolette) and Montreal or Ville-Marie (Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve and Jeanne Mance) to convert New France's Huron and Algonquian allies to Catholicism. The seigneurial system of governing New France also encouraged immigration from the motherland.
New France became a Royal Province in 1663 under King Louis XIV of France with a Sovereign Council that included intendant Jean Talon. This change ushered in a golden era of settlement and colonization in New France, including the arrival of les "Filles du Roi". The population grew from about 3,000 to 60,000 people between 1666 and 1760. Colonists built farms on the banks of St. Lawrence River and called themselves "Canadiens" or "Habitants". The colony's total population was limited, however, by a winter climate much harsher than that of France, by the spread of diseases, and by the refusal of the French crown to allow Huguenots, or French Protestants, to settle there. The population of New France lagged far behind that of the Thirteen Colonies to the south, leaving it vulnerable to attack. In 1689, the English–allied Mohawks attacked Lachine, committing the worst massacre in the history of New France. Many donnes (the assistants to the Jesuit priests) tried to convert the natives of New France during the 17th century.
Seven Years' War and capitulation of New France
Authorities in New France became more aggressive in their efforts to expel British traders and colonists from the Ohio Valley. They began construction of a series of fortifications to protect the area. In 1754, George Washington launched a surprise attack on a group of Canadien soldiers sleeping in the early morning hours. It came at a time when no declaration of war had been issued by either country. This frontier aggression known as the Jumonville affair set the stage for the French and Indian War (a US designation; in Canada it is usually referred to as the Seven Years' War, although French Canadians often call it La guerre de la Conquête ["The War of Conquest"]) in North America. By 1756, France and Britain were battling the Seven Years' War worldwide. In 1758, the British mounted an attack on New France by sea and took the French fort at Louisbourg.
On September 13, 1759, General James Wolfe defeated General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm on the Plains of Abraham outside Quebec City. With the exception of the small islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, located off the coast of Newfoundland, France ceded its North American possessions to Great Britain through the Treaty of Paris (1763) in favor of gaining the island of Guadeloupe for its then-lucrative sugar cane industry. The British Royal Proclamation of 1763 renamed Canada (part of New France) as the Province of Quebec.
At roughly the same time as the northern parts of New France were being turned over to the British and beginning their evolution towards modern-day Quebec and Canada, the southern parts of New France (Louisiana) were signed over to Spain by the Treaty of Fontainebleau of 1762 As a result of double cession of Quebec to the British and Louisiana to the Spanish, the first French colonial empire collapsed, with France being expelled almost entirely from the continental Americas, left with only a rump set of colonies restricted principally to scattered territories and islands in the Caribbean.
After the capture of New France, the British implemented a plan to control the Canadiens and to entice them to assimilate into the British way of life. They prevented Catholics from holding public office and forbade the recruitment of priests and brothers, effectively shutting down Quebec's schools and colleges. This first British policy of assimilation (1763–1774) was deemed a failure. Both the demands in the petitions of the Canadiens' élites and the recommendations by Governor Guy Carleton played an important role in persuading London to drop the assimilation scheme, but the looming American revolt was certainly also a factor, as the British were fearful that the French-speaking population of Quebec would side with the rebellious Thirteen Colonies to the south, especially if France allied with the Americans as it appeared it would.
With unrest growing in the colonies to the south, which would one day grow into the American Revolution, the British were worried that the French-speaking Canadians might also support the growing rebellion. At that time, French-speaking Canadians formed the vast majority of the population of the province of Quebec (more than 99%) and British immigration was not going well. To secure the allegiance of the approximately 90,000 French-speaking Canadians to the British crown, first Governor James Murray and later Governor Guy Carleton promoted the need for change. There was also a need to compromise between the conflicting demands of the French-speaking Canadian subjects and those of newly arrived British subjects. These efforts by the colonial governors eventually resulted in enactment of the Quebec Act of 1774.
The Quebec Act provided the people of Quebec their first Charter of Rights and paved the way to later official recognition of the French language and French culture. The act also allowed Canadiens to maintain French civil law and sanctioned freedom of religion, allowing the Roman Catholic Church to remain, one of the first cases in history of state-sanctioned freedom of religious practice. Further, it restored the Ohio Valley to Quebec, reserving the territory for the fur trade. New France had thus been restored, so that it could play the same role as it did before the Conquest in North America.
Effects of the American Revolution
Although the Quebec Act was unrelated to the events in Boston of 1773, and was not regarded as one of the Coercive Acts, the timing of its passage led British colonists to the south to believe that it was part of the program to punish them. The Quebec Act offended a variety of interest groups in the British colonies. Land speculators and settlers objected to the transfer of western lands previously claimed by the colonies to a non-representative government. Many feared the establishment of Catholicism in Quebec, and that the French Canadians were being courted to help oppress British Americans.
On June 27, 1775, General George Washington decided to attempt an invasion of Canada by the American Continental Army to wrest Quebec and the St. Lawrence River from the British. A force led by Brigadier General Richard Montgomery headed north from Fort Ticonderoga along Lake Champlain and up the St. Lawrence River valley. Meanwhile, Colonel Benedict Arnold persuaded Washington to have him lead a separate expedition through the Maine wilderness. The two forces joined at Quebec City, but were defeated at the Battle of Quebec in December 1775. Prior to this battle, Montgomery (killed in the battle) had met with some early successes, but the invasion failed when British reinforcements came down the St. Lawrence in May 1776 and the Battle of Trois-Rivières turned into a disaster for the Americans. The army withdrew to Ticonderoga. Although some help was given to the Americans by the locals, Governor Carleton punished American sympathizers and public support of the American cause came to an end.
The American Revolutionary War was ultimately successful in winning independence for the Thirteen Colonies. In the Treaty of Paris (1783), the British ceded their territory south of the Great Lakes to the newly formed United States of America.
In 1778, Frederick Haldimand took over for Guy Carleton as governor of Quebec. Haldimand, like the previous governors of the Province of Quebec, appreciated the hard-working Canadiens and acted in his power to keep the English merchants in line.
The arrival of 10,000 Loyalists at Quebec in 1784 destroyed the political balance that Haldimand (and Carleton before him) had worked so hard to achieve. The swelling numbers of English encouraged them to make greater demands for recognition with the colonial government. To restore stability to his largest remaining North American colony, King George III sent Carleton back to Quebec to remedy the situation.
In ten years, Quebec had undergone a dramatic change. What worked for Carleton in 1774 was not likely to succeed in 1784. Specifically, there was no possibility of restoring the previous political balance – there were simply too many English people unwilling to reach a compromise with the 145,000 Canadiens or their colonial governor. The situation called for a more creative approach to problem solving.
Separation of the Province of Quebec
Loyalists soon petitioned the government to be allowed to use the British legal system they were used to in the American colonies. The creation of Upper and Lower Canada in 1791 allowed most Loyalists to live under British laws and institutions, while the French-speaking population of Lower Canada could maintain their familiar French civil law and the Catholic religion.
The fact was that the two peoples simply could not co-exist. Therefore, Governor Haldimand (at the suggestion of Carleton) drew Loyalists away from Quebec City and Montreal by offering free land on the northern shore of Lake Ontario to anyone willing to swear allegiance to George III. The Loyalists were thus given land grants of per person. Basically, this approach was designed with the intent of keeping French and English as far apart as possible. Therefore, after the separation of the Province of Quebec, Lower Canada and Upper Canada were formed, each with its own government.
Patriotes' Rebellion in Lower Canada
In 1837, residents of Lower Canada – led by Louis-Joseph Papineau and Robert Nelson — formed an armed resistance group to seek an end to the unilateral control of the British governors. They made a Declaration of Rights with equality for all citizens without discrimination and a Declaration of Independence of Lower-Canada in 1838. Their actions resulted in rebellions in both Lower and Upper Canada. An unprepared British Army had to raise militia force; the rebel forces scored a victory in Saint-Denis but were soon defeated. The British army burned the Church of St-Eustache, killing the rebels who were hiding within it. The bullet and cannonball marks on the walls of the church are still visible to this day.
After the rebellions, Lord Durham was asked to undertake a study and prepare a report on the matter and to offer a solution for the British Parliament to assess. The final report recommended that the two provinces of Upper and Lower Canada be united, and that the French-speaking population of Lower Canada be assimilated into British culture. Durham's second recommendation was the implementation of responsible government across the colonies. Following Durham's report, the British government merged the two colonial provinces into one Province of Canada in 1840 with the Act of Union. However, the political union proved contentious. Reformers in both Canada West (formerly Upper Canada) and Canada East (formerly Lower Canada) worked to repeal limitations on the use of the French language in the Legislature. The two colonies remained distinct in administration, election, and law.
In 1848, Baldwin and LaFontaine, allies and leaders of the Reformist party, were asked by Lord Elgin to form an administration together under the new policy of responsible government. The French language subsequently regained legal status in the Legislature.
In the 1860s, the delegates from the colonies of British North America (Canada, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland) met in a series of conferences to discuss self-governing status for a new confederation. The first Charlottetown Conference took place in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, followed by the Quebec Conference in Quebec City which led to a delegation going to London, Britain, to put forth a proposal for a national union.
As a result of those deliberations, in 1867 the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed the British North America Acts, providing for the Confederation of most of these provinces. The former Province of Canada was divided into its two previous parts as the provinces of Ontario (Upper Canada) and Quebec (Lower Canada). New Brunswick and Nova Scotia joined Ontario and Quebec in the new Dominion of Canada. The other provinces then joined the Confederation, one after the other: Manitoba and the Northwest Territories in 1870, British Columbia in 1871, Prince Edward Island in 1873, Yukon in 1898, Alberta and Saskatchewan in 1905, Newfoundland in 1949 and finally Nunavut in 1999.
Canada is a federal state and not a confederate association of sovereign states – the usual meaning of confederation — but is often considered to be among the world's more decentralized federations. In this Canadian context, confederation generally describes the political process that united the colonies in the 1860s and related events, and the subsequent incorporation of other colonies and territories.
Quebec at war
When the Great Britain had declared the war on August 4, 1914, Canada was automatically involved as a colony. About 6,000 volunteers from Quebec has participated in European front. Although reaction to conscription was favorable in English Canada the idea was deeply unpopular in Quebec. The Conscription Crisis of 1917 did much to highlight the divisions between French and English-speaking Canadians in Canada. During the first world war, the first french Canadian regiment was created under the name of 22e Bataillon d'infanterie and later renamed as Royal 22e Régiment. It was the first time since 1759 the francophones became responsible of the Citadelle de Québec and the defense of Quebec city. One of the most important contribution of Quebec during the war was during the Battle of Flers–Courcelette and during the Battle of Arras (1917). Between 1914 to 1918, the only francophone regiment involving during the war, lost 1 074 soldiers and 2 887 were injured which totaling 67% of the Royal 22e Regiment. During the second world war, the participation of Quebec was more important but lead to the conscription Crisis of 1944 and opposition. Many Quebecers fought against axis power between 1939 to 1945 with the involvement of many francophone regiments such as Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal, le Régiment de la Chaudière and many more. One of the most important contribution was during the battle of France, invasion of Italy, liberation of the Netherlands and the western Allied invasion of Germany. The contribution was also very important during the Battle of the Atlantic.
The conservative government of Maurice Duplessis and his Union Nationale dominated Quebec politics from 1944 to 1959 with the support of the Catholic Church. Pierre Trudeau and other liberals formed an intellectual opposition to Duplessis's regime, setting the groundwork for the Quiet Revolution under Jean Lesage's Liberals. The Quiet Revolution was a period of dramatic social and political change that saw the decline of Anglo supremacy in the Quebec economy, the decline of the Roman Catholic Church's influence, the nationalization of hydroelectric companies under Hydro-Québec and the emergence of a pro-sovereignty movement under former Liberal minister René Lévesque.
During the Quiet Revolution, the government of Quebec invested heavily in the province's industries, in an attempt to modernize the economy and to encourage the development of francophone businesses. It was during this period that the government established the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, the Régie des rentes and the Société générale de financement to promote the development of the industries in Quebec. In 1961, the Conseil d’orientation économique was established to promote economic growth of the regions of Quebec, growth which was once heavily funded by the Government of Canada.
With the Quiet Revolution, Quebecers affirmed their identity, especially in the arts, culture and language. It was during the revolution that the government of Quebec formed the Ministry of Culture which focused mainly on defending the French language and culture. The transformation of Quebec was also marked by the adoption of the Law on the assurance-hospitalisation, guaranteeing universal health care through a tax-funded public delivery system. In 1964, Quebec had recognized the equality between men and women and allows all women to have jobs which were once exclusively for men.
Beginning in 1963, a paramilitary group that became known as the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ) launched a decade-long series of propaganda and terrorism that included bombings, robberies and attacks directed primarily at English institutions, resulting in at least five deaths. In 1970, their activities culminated in events referred to as the October Crisis when James Cross, the British trade commissioner to Canada, was kidnapped along with Pierre Laporte, a provincial minister and Vice-Premier. Laporte was strangled with his own rosary beads a few days later. In their published Manifesto, the militants stated: "In the coming year Bourassa will have to face reality; 100,000 revolutionary workers, armed and organized."
At the request of Premier Robert Bourassa, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau invoked the War Measures Act. In addition, the Quebec Ombudsman Louis Marceau was instructed to hear complaints of detainees and the Quebec government agreed to pay damages to any person unjustly arrested (only in Quebec). On February 3, 1971, John Turner, the Minister of Justice of Canada, reported that 497 persons had been arrested throughout Canada under the War Measures Act, of whom 435 had been released. The other 62 were charged, of whom 32 committed crimes of such seriousness that a Quebec Superior Court judge refused them bail. The crisis ended a few weeks after the death of Pierre Laporte at the hands of his captors. The fallout of the crisis marked the zenith and twilight of the FLQ which lost membership and public support.
The Oka Crisis was a land dispute between a group of Mohawk people and the town of Oka beginning on July 11, 1990, and lasted until September 26, 1990. One person died as a result. The dispute was the first well-publicized violent conflict between First Nations and the Quebec government in the late 20th century. The crisis developed from a local dispute between the town of Oka and the Mohawk community of Kanesatake. The town of Oka was developing plans to expand a golf course and residential development onto land which had traditionally been used by the Mohawk. It included pineland and a burial ground, marked by standing tombstones of their ancestors. The Mohawks had filed a land claim for the sacred grove and burial ground near Kanesatake, but their claim had been rejected in 1986. On August 8, Quebec premier Robert Bourassa had announced at a press conference that he had invoked Section 275 of the National Defence Act to requisition military support in "aid of the civil power", a right available to provincial governments. Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was reluctant to have the federal government and, in particular, the army, so involved. Under the act however, the solicitor general of the province, under direction from Premier Robert Bourassa, had the right to requisition the armed forces to maintain law and order as a provincial responsibility; this move had precedent in Canada, including two decades earlier during the October Crisis.
Parti Québécois and national unity
In 1977, the newly elected Parti Québécois government of René Lévesque introduced the Charter of the French Language. Often known as Bill 101, it defined French as the only official language of Quebec in areas of provincial jurisdiction.
Lévesque and his party had run in the 1970 and 1973 Quebec elections under a platform of separating Quebec from the rest of Canada. The party failed to win control of Quebec's National Assembly both times – though its share of the vote increased from 23 percent to 30 percent – and Lévesque was defeated both times in the riding he contested. In the 1976 election, he softened his message by promising a referendum (plebiscite) on sovereignty-association rather than outright separation, by which Quebec would have independence in most government functions but share some other ones, such as a common currency, with Canada. On November 15, 1976, Lévesque and the Parti Québécois won control of the provincial government for the first time. The question of sovereignty-association was placed before the voters in the 1980 Quebec referendum. During the campaign, Pierre Trudeau promised that a vote for the "no" side was a vote for reforming Canada. Trudeau advocated the patriation of Canada's Constitution from the United Kingdom. The existing constitutional document, the British North America Act, could only be amended by the United Kingdom Parliament upon a request by the Canadian parliament. Sixty percent of the Quebec electorate voted against the proposition. Polls showed that the overwhelming majority of English and immigrant Quebecers voted against, and that French Quebecers were almost equally divided, with older voters less in favour and younger voters more in favour. After his loss in the referendum, Lévesque went back to Ottawa to start negotiating a new constitution with Trudeau, his minister of Justice Jean Chrétien and the nine other provincial premiers. Lévesque insisted Quebec be able to veto any future constitutional amendments. The negotiations quickly reached a stand-still.
Then on the night of November 4, 1981, (widely known in Quebec as La nuit des longs couteaux and in the rest of Canada as the "Kitchen Accord") Federal Justice Minister Jean Chrétien met with all of the provincial premiers except René Lévesque to sign the document that would eventually become the new Canadian constitution. The next morning, they presented the "fait accompli" to Lévesque. Lévesque refused to sign the document and returned to Quebec. In 1982, Trudeau had the new constitution approved by the British Parliament, with Quebec's signature still missing (a situation that persists to this day). The Supreme Court of Canada confirmed Trudeau's assertion that every province's approval is not required to amend the constitution. Quebec is the only province not to have assented to the patriation of the Canadian constitution in 1982.
In subsequent years, two attempts were made to gain Quebec's approval of the constitution. The first was the Meech Lake Accord of 1987, which was finally abandoned in 1990 when the province of Manitoba did not pass it within the established deadline. (Newfoundland premier Clyde Wells had expressed his opposition to the accord, but, with the failure in Manitoba, the vote for or against Meech never took place in his province.) This led to the formation of the sovereigntist Bloc Québécois party in Ottawa under the leadership of Lucien Bouchard, who had resigned from the federal cabinet. The second attempt, the Charlottetown Accord of 1992, was rejected by 56.7 percent of all Canadians and 57 percent of Quebecers. This result caused a split in the Quebec Liberal Party that led to the formation of the new Action démocratique (Democratic Action) party led by Mario Dumont and Jean Allaire.
On October 30, 1995, with the Parti Québécois back in power since 1994, a second referendum on sovereignty took place. This time, it was rejected by a slim majority (50.6 percent NO to 49.4 percent YES).
The referendum was enshrouded in controversy. Federalists complained that an unusually high number of ballots had been rejected in pro-federalist areas, notably in the largely Jewish and Greek riding of Chomedey (11.7 percent or 5,500 of its ballots were spoiled, compared to 750 or 1.7 percent in the general election of 1994) although Quebec's chief electoral officer found no evidence of outright fraud. Moreover, this accusation had been brought despite the fact that only 1.82% of total votes were rejected on a total participation rate of 93,5% which is lower than the normal rejection rate. The federal government was accused of not respecting provincial laws with regard to spending during referendums (leading to a corruption scandal that would become public a decade later, greatly damaging the Liberal Party's standing), and of having accelerated the naturalization of immigrants in Quebec before the referendum in order that they could vote, as naturalized citizens were believed more likely to vote no. (43,850 immigrants were naturalized in 1995, whereas the average number between 1988 and 1998 was 21,733.)
The same night of the referendum, an angry Jacques Parizeau, then premier and leader of the "Yes" side, declared that the loss was because of "Money and the ethnic vote". Parizeau resigned over public outrage and as per his commitment to do so in case of a loss. Lucien Bouchard became Quebec's new premier in his place.
Federalists accused the sovereigntist side of asking a vague, overly complicated question on the ballot. Its English text read as follows:
Do you agree that Québec should become sovereign after having made a formal offer to Canada for a new economic and political partnership within the scope of the bill respecting the future of Québec and of the agreement signed on June 12, 1995?
After winning the next election in 1998, Bouchard retired from politics in 2001. Bernard Landry was then appointed leader of the Parti Québécois and premier of Quebec. In 2003, Landry lost the election to the Quebec Liberal Party and Jean Charest. Landry stepped down as PQ leader in 2005, and in a crowded race for the party leadership, André Boisclair was elected to succeed him. He also resigned after the renewal of the Quebec Liberal Party's government in the 2007 general election and the Parti Québécois becoming the second opposition party, behind the Action Démocratique. The PQ has promised to hold another referendum should it return to government.
Statut particulier ("special status")
Given the province's heritage and the preponderance of French (unique among the Canadian provinces), there is an ongoing debate in Canada regarding the unique status (statut particulier) of Quebec and its people, wholly or partially. Prior attempts to amend the Canadian constitution to acknowledge Quebec as a 'distinct society' – referring to the province's uniqueness within Canada regarding law, language, and culture – have been unsuccessful; however, the federal government under Prime Minister Jean Chrétien would later endorse recognition of Quebec as a distinct society.
On October 30, 2003, the National Assembly of Quebec voted unanimously to affirm "that the people of Québec form a nation." On November 27, 2006, the House of Commons passed a symbolic motion moved by Prime Minister Stephen Harper declaring "that this House recognize that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada." However, there is considerable debate and uncertainty over what this means.
At present, nationalism plays a large role in the politics of Quebec, with all three major provincial political parties seeking greater autonomy and recognition of Quebec's unique status. In recent years, much attention has been devoted to examining and defining the nature of Quebec's association with the rest of Canada.
In the most recent poll (January 2012) 43% of Quebecers supported separation. In April 2010, a minority of 39.9 percent of Quebecers supported separation and a majority of 52.8 percent opposed separation, with 7.3 percent undecided. The number of Quebecers who support separatism has remained relatively stable since the year 2000, hovering around at roughly 38–43 percent. There was a decline in support after the failed 1995 referendum, where voter support for separation was at 49.4 percent.
Since the 1960s, the proportion of Francophones who call themselves Quebecer rather than Canadian or French-Canadians has risen steadily: it increased from 21% in 1966 to 67% in 2007. Two polls realized by the Association for Canadian Studies (ACS), show that young Quebecers aged between 18-24, would vote "yes" at 58% to a referendum on Quebec independence. Quebecers aged between 25-34, 35-44 and 45–54 years old, the rate ranges between 69% to 78%.
According to a recent poll realized by Global News and Postmedia News, about 49% of Canadians are little concerned about a possible separation of Quebec. According to a recent poll realized by Abacus Data, about 26% of Canadians would be willing to vote for the expulsion of Quebec in the federation if they were given a chance to vote in a referendum. 52% would vote against and 22% of respondents did not know which way they would vote. Approximately 36% of Albertans would vote "Yes" in a referendum for the secession of Quebec, while the Ontarians would vote "No" by 56%. Approximately 88% of Canadians said all provinces "should be treated equally, even if this may offend the province of Quebec and cause a risk of separation". Only 12% of people would agreed to do everything in its power to keep Quebec within Canada, even if this requires a special status.
Expert from the Fraser Institute had declared recently, that the separation of Quebec would be better for the economy of Quebec and the economy of Canada. Twenty years ago, the same institute had declared the separation of Quebec would hurt the economy in Quebec. Researcher Robert Laplante from the Institut de recherche en économie contemporaine (IREC), said the Canadian federation is very far from helping the economy of Quebec. He said that even the province of Ontario could benefit a better economy if separated from Canada.
How places in Canada are organized
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