Will Canada Fall Apart?

May 11, 1990

Report Outline
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Canada's attempts to patch up quarrels over its Constitution have fanned the flames of Quebec separatism once again—and irked English-speaking Canadians in the process. With only a slim chance that the provinces will reach agreement by a June 23 deadline, Canada faces difficult political times ahead. Quebec may secede, other provinces may think twice about their ties with Ottawa, and the 123-year-old Canadian confederation may break up.

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There was an element of prescience in last month's meeting in Ottawa between President Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. Both North American leaders praised the peaceful nature of Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev's handling of the political crisis in Lithuania, whose non-communist government had declared the Baltic state's independence from the Soviet Union.

But neither Bush nor Mulroney hinted at the increasing likelihood that Mulroney himself soon will face a similar dilemma. After a decade of relative calm in the historical conflict between Quebec's majority Francophone, or French-speaking, population and the English speakers who dominate the rest of Canada, Quebec separatism has flared once again. And this time, the province may well follow the example of Lithuania and other Soviet breakaway republics. “It's not as though we suddenly seem to have found ourselves thrust into this situation where there may be a separate Quebec,” says Maurice Mandale, senior economist of the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. “But I honestly think we're in a lot worse situation in this respect than we were in 1980 when the last thing of this kind emerged.”

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
Regional Political Affairs: Canada