It was 16 years ago that the people of Québec marginally rejected a bid by the Parti Québécois (PQ) to separate from Canada in the 1995 Québec referendum. It was one of the most emotional moments for Canada as residents poured in from all over the country to gather in Montreal and support national unity and discourage Québec’s separation. The province has come a long way since October 1995. The PQ is no longer in power and the notion of Sovereignty in Québec seems to be out of mind and out of sight for the most part. More importantly, the PQ has been experiencing a plethora of setbacks recently that have put the idea of Québec sovereignty on hold. It makes us ask the question, is separatism in Québec dead?
2011 started off as quite a bumpy ride for the PQ, beginning with the founding of the Coalition for the Future of Québec by former PQ Minister Francois Legault back in February. Although not an official political party yet, it claims to be an appealing alternative to both the PQ opposition and the current Charest Liberal Government. The movement claims that education and the economy are its’ primary concerns, however, its principles state that it recognizes Québec as a distinct society in Canada due to cultural gaps between Québecois culture and the rest of the Canadian provinces. Legault’s views are that separatism in Québec needs to be “put on the backburner” for the time being and that the provincial government needs to focus more on preserving the unique identity that makes Québec what it is. A majority of polls show that if Francois Legault’s political movement were to form a political party here in Québec, it would easily finish on top of the supposedly corrupt Liberals and the defunct PQ.
In the meantime, we need not forget that on May 2nd of this year the Federal allies of the PQ suffered their worst defeat ever. Being reduced to a mere 4 seats in the House of Commons during the federal election, the Bloc Québecois saw its support in Québec completely collapse due to the orange wave of NDP support. This recent turn of events coupled with the resignation of half a dozen PQ MNAs this summer has severely disrupted support for the PQ in Québec as of late.
Furthermore, there has been much debate over the future of the party under Pauline Marois’s leadership. Recently it seems that she hasn’t truly been able to command her party effectively or energize her supporters. Many supporters of Québec nationalism see her as unable to lead them towards that goal and would prefer to see Gilles Duceppe, the former leader of the Bloc Québecois take her place in the National Assembly. Although Marois claims that she will still be around for the next provincial election, the polls suggest that her support is falling rapidly.
All things considered, it would seem as though the Province of Québec is truly heading into uncharted territory. With the emergence of new political leaders like Legault who would rather focus on maintaining Québec’s identity in addition to decreasing support for the PQ, its leader and its partner in federal politics, it seems as if the notion of separatism in Québec may soon be merely something in the history books.
– Matthew Eidinger