Quebec Separatism: A Historical Controversy from Issues & Controversies in History

Quebec Separatism: A Historical Controversy from Issues & Controversies in History

Canadian flag and flag of Quebec

Should the province of Quebec secede from Canada and become a sovereign nation? Be sure to check out Issues & Controversies in History’s complete and unbiased coverage of this issue. Learn more about the issue and check out a sample of the pro/con arguments on both sides below.

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By 1700, longtime rivals Great Britain and France had both colonized large areas of North America. British victory in the French and Indian War in 1763 gave Britain possession of New France and its French-speaking population in Canada, which came to be centered in what is today the province of Quebec. After Canada became an independent nation in 1867, English speakers dominated cultural and political life. Many French-speaking Canadians came to believe that Quebec should separate from the rest of Canada and form its own nation. In 1980 and 1995, Quebec held referendums on the issue. Should Quebec secede from Canada and form a separate nation? Or should Quebec maintain its status within Canada even though its French culture sets it apart from the rest of the country?

Arguments for Supporting Quebec Secession: Arguments for Opposing Quebec Secession:
Quebec is different from the other provinces of Canada. In the rest of the country Canadians speak English, whereas the vast majority of Quebec’s people speak French. Quebec’s history, religion, and traditions differ from those of English-speaking Canadians. This makes Quebec a distinct society with a distinct cultural identity. No longer willing to passively accept domination by their English colonizers, French-speaking Quebecers—who rightly prefer to be called Québécois—believe that only by seceding from Canada can they secure their identity and take control of their future. Political conditions beg for separation. In a country dominated politically by English speakers, French Canadians are a minority whose civil rights are regularly violated. Secession will also help Quebec’s economy. The province’s resources are vast, and once Quebec is free to make its own decisions, economic growth will follow. Those calling for Quebec to secede from Canada have little idea of the consequences of such a radical act. They do not realize how valuable it is to be part of a federal system that treats the provinces as equals and has gone out of its way to meet Quebec’s demands for autonomy and for recognition of its distinct French language and culture. By agreeing to join the nation of Canada in 1867, Quebec became legally bound to that political system. Quebec lacks a strong industrial base, and secession will hurt the province’s economy. Canada today is a thriving nation, extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, but Quebec’s misguided quest for sovereignty threatens to split the country in two geographically—which could split it politically as well. This and other potential repercussions of secession clearly speak against any attempt by Quebec to achieve independence.

Issues & Controversies in History links this pro/con article to rich related resources that enhance the debate. Students and researchers can delve into primary sources—including speeches, manifestoes, laws, charters, court decisions, editorial cartoons, and demographic tables—that provide context, a topic-specific timeline, a bibliography, and a thought-provoking “What if…” section that speculates what might have happened had Quebec voted to secede.

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