The blue and white fleur-de-lis ripples across Quebec as the province celebrates National Day, marking the holiday with block parties, big concerts and fireworks.
It’s a display of Quebec pride and nationalism that comes as a debate over whether the province’s de facto separation from Canada is already underway.
In recent weeks, the Liberal opposition in Quebec’s National Assembly has accused Premier Francois Legault of promoting sovereignty and carrying out his not-so-hidden agenda of making the province a country.
Legault is a former member of the Parti Québécois, a party dedicated to separation. But as leader of the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ), he has promised never to hold a referendum and to leave behind old separatist-federalist divisions.
But opponents jumped on news that the party has recruited Bernard Drainville, a high-profile separatist who also served in the Parti Québécois, to run as a candidate for the CAQ in the October provincial election.
Liberals say it’s a sign that Legault is set to step up the promotion of sovereignty. But in an interview, Drainville denied that joining the ranks of the CAQ continues its march towards a referendum, saying that the sovereignist option simply does not have the numbers on its side.
“Quebecers are past this debate. We’ve been debating sovereignty and federalism for 50 years,” he told CTV News Montreal. “50 years.”
Polls show that a majority of Quebecers would vote against sovereignty if given the chance. These figures have been relatively stable for more than a decade. However, analyst Philippe Fournier says the polling data reveals even grimmer news for the separatists about the supporters. https://lactualite.com/politique/souverainete-les-electeurs-de-la-caq-et-de-qs-sont-divises/
“We see that between 60 and 65% of Quebecers would vote no, including a majority of Francophones, which is critical,” he said.
Fournier also said the younger generation is less likely to sign.
“It’s a massive change. In 1980, the majority of young voters were much more sovereignist than the rest of the population,” he said.
But André Pratte, a former senator and journalist, maintains that a separation process is already underway. He says that over time, Quebec has had less and less ties with the rest of Canada.
“I think it’s important for Quebec to continue to work with other parts of the country to solve national issues,” Pratte said. “If it’s the other way around, then we don’t have a country anymore. So it’s not separatism, not independence in the sense that we have this huge party on referendum night, but it’s de facto a separation.”
He added that Quebec is already becoming “more and more sovereign in all areas and all jurisdictions”.
Pratte points to the CAQ’s attempt to reignite a debate over whether the province should have more powers over immigration. It also refers to Quebec’s use of the notwithstanding clause of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The province protected Bill 96, a revamped language law, and Bill 21, the law banning religious symbols for certain people in positions of authority, from Charter challenges using the clause.
“I think there is obviously a wall being built between Canada and Quebec, and Bills 96 and 21 are part of it. The fact that the majority of Quebecers are willing to put fundamental rights aside and not care about them is, I think, significant,” said Pratte. .
Fournier said the CAQ’s latest moves are also part of a long-standing tradition that sees parties increasingly portray themselves as defenders of Quebec’s interests ahead of an election. He says that often means stepping up the fight against the federal government.
“You want to be captain Quebec,” he said.
Legault says that the CAQ is not a sovereignist party, but a nationalist party. When asked to define what that means, he explained that it is the role of the party to promote and protect the French language, as well as Quebec values.
If the polls are correct, it seems that a large majority of Quebecers are willing to side with him.
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