The Quebec referendums - Commons Library Research Paper

Published 25 July 2013 | Research papers RP13/47

Authors: Ben Smith

Topic: Elections, International politics and government, North America

After a turbulent and violent history, relations between English-speaking and French-speaking Canadians remained difficult in the 20th century. In 1976, with the election to power of the Parti Québécois in the province, Quebec set in motion a process for an independence referendum. This first referendum, held in 1980, failed by a relatively wide margin.

After generally unsuccessful attempts to amend the constitution, a second referendum was arranged for 1995. The wording of the question, set only by the Quebec government, was highly controversial. There were heated debates about what an independent Quebec’s relations with the rest of Canada would be, about currencies and about future membership of international organisations.

In the event, the referendum failed by the narrowest of margins. After the rejection, the Canadian Supreme Court made rulings on the role of the rest of Canada and the clarity of the question in any future referendum.

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