Quebec Separatism

November 4, 1977

Report Outline
Specter of Canadian Dissolution
Federal and Provincial Authority
Outlook for Canadian Federalism
Special Focus

Specter of Canadian Dissolution

Dominant Issue Since 1976 Quebec Election

It was a year ago—Nov. 15, 1976—that the Parti Québécois, led by René Lévesque and dedicated to the independence of Quebec province from Canada, won a majority of seats in the province's National Assembly. That victory created shock waves not only throughout Canada but in the United States as well. Canadians were faced with the possibility that national disintegration might actually come about. For Americans, there was the specter of a left-wing regime on their northern border and the disruption of their largest foreign market.

After almost a year in power, Premier Lévesque has done little to quiet Canadian or American fears that he intends to proceed toward eventual separation. Although he played down the separatism issue during last year's election campaign, it has dominated Canadian thought since then. There is little doubt that provincial independence remains his goal. Lévesque points out that four-fifths of Quebec's six million people are French by descent, language and cultural heritage. Quite a few of these Quebecers, he told the Economic Club in New York last Jan. 25, “believe we are a nation with all the essential requirements: a clearly defined territory, our own history, a common language and culture, a collective will to live together and maintain a national identity.”

Lévesque's separatist aspirations have brought him into conflict with another French Canadian, Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau. The Prime Minister told the nation nine days after the Parti Québécois victory that “Quebec does not believe in separatism.” It was noted that the separatist party had not won a majority of the popular vote in the province. Moreover, opinion polls indicate that Trudeau may be right. A survey sponsored by the Toronto Star and Southam Press Limited, published Sept. 25, showed that less than 30 per cent of the Quebecers who responded to the question said they favored independence. A similar poll last March found 32.4 per cent in favor of separation.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Oct. 06, 1995  Quebec Sovereignty
Apr. 12, 1991  The Deepening Canadian Crisis Over Quebec
May 11, 1990  Will Canada Fall Apart?
Mar. 08, 1985  Canada's Time of Change
Dec. 24, 1981  Canada's Political Conflicts
Nov. 04, 1977  Quebec Separatism
Nov. 05, 1976  Canadian-American Relations
Oct. 18, 1972  Canadian Nationalism
Dec. 09, 1970  Canada's Troubled Economy
Feb. 04, 1970  Canada's Changing Foreign Policy
Jun. 12, 1968  Canadian Unity
Oct. 07, 1964  Canadian Separatism
Jun. 06, 1962  Canadian Election
May 29, 1957  Relations with Canada
May 06, 1941  Canada's War Effort
Jul. 18, 1930  Canadian General Election, 1930
Aug. 10, 1929  Canada and the American Tariff
Sep. 21, 1926  Canadian Politics and the Imperial Conference
Imperialism, Colonization, and Independence Movements
Regional Political Affairs: Canada