Un Conte Effrayant pour Halloween

Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the 1995 referendum to see whether Quebec would secede from Canada and form its own independent country.

I don't remember the event firsthand at all, I was only 13 at the time and ignorant of world politics, but I know a lot of people now who remember it well. It was a nail-biter. And there're murmurs that the province may try it again in the next five years.

I got hooked on this "Breaking Point" documentary on CBC last night, watching it with my Anglo-Franco roommate who remembers the time well. What quickly became apparant to us both was what a huge political crisis it really would have been had it succeeded - the biggest example being that the Prime Minister at the time, Jean Chretien, was of Quebecois origin... can the leader of Canada come from another country, and not just a belligerent province? No one even talked about wild questions like this till the last week before the vote. They were occupied instead of endless debate over the question itself that would go on the ballot, "Do you agree that Quebec should become sovereign after having made a formal offer to Canada for a new economic and political partnership within the scope of the bill respecting the future of Quebec and of the agreement signed on June 12, 1995?"

Marches in the streets, meetings in secret, huge gatherings for the oui and non sides... and on the night itself the whole country watched the polls waver back and forth... it was the US election 2000 all over again; er, five years sooner. Anyway the result was a frightening 50.6% no and 49.4% yes. And that's why it was the most frightening Halloween in Canada ever.

...and some say the ghost of Lucien Bouchard's severed leg walks the halls of the Parliament building to this day...

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