History and Government Faculty Presentations

Document Type

Conference Presentation

Event Date



American Political Science Association Conference


Seattle, WA


Rights are an important facet of a democracy. One such battle for rights has been the long debate over the possible secession of Quebec, Canada’s second most populous province. Drawing on ten interviews with political elites from the Bloc Quebecois (BQ) and the Parti Quebecois (PQ), this paper investigates the sovereignty movement and their adoption of more civic based nationalist policy platforms as a means to reach out and include immigrant and minority populations. Rights plays a key role in this ongoing transition to make sure that all people in Quebec feel like they play a role in society and that an independent Quebec is not just for Quebecois de souche (Quebecers that can trace their ancestry back to France).

According to the polls and their most recent by-election victory in a Liberal Party ―safe seat‖ in Kamouraska-Temiscouata, the PQ is seemingly poised to win the next provincial election and this could radically change politics in the province. Given the possibility of a PQ majority in the National Assembly in 2012 or 2013, the strategy and governance of the PQ will look very different to that of their 1994 election victory which quickly led to a referendum vote in October 1995.

While a referendum was set very early during Parizeau’s premiership, a Pauline Marois government would take more time to set a referendum date. Moreover, before a possible referendum, political elites from the PQ and BQ both note that there are a range of strategies aimed at employing a set of new rights for Quebecers such as citizenship and constitutional rights that differ from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. By implementing a new strategy and providing Quebecers with a contrasting set of rights to the rest of Canada, it is hoped that the sovereignty movement will appeal to over fifty percent of the electorate in order to obtain a successful referendum result. Therefore, this new battle for rights in Quebec will be a major part of the sovereigntist narrative in the near future and the backdrop of this argument will likely decide the future status of Quebec.

This paper examines the new push for rights in Quebec along with changing demographics in the province. The sovereignty movement has responded by attempting to adopt more civic-based nationalist policy platforms in order to widen the appeal of independence. However, significant institutional constraints remain. Given this situation, the governance of Quebec and the relationship between the federal and provincial government under a PQ government will be extremely important for the future of Canada and for rights of all Canadians.


Bloc Quebecois, Parti Quebecois, Canada, public policy, nationalism, Quebec, sovereignty



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