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Reprieve not victory for Canadian government

From An Phoblacht/Republican News, November 2 1995

News and views of Sinn Fein, the Irish Republican movement.

MONDAY'S HAIR BREADTH DEFEAT of the referendum on independence in Quebec did little to resolve the long-running conflict between Quebecois separatists and English Canada.

It was a nailbiting count with the 'Oui' campaign having between a 2% and 1.2% lead in the early stages of the count. Only when 70% of the four and a half million votes had been counted did the 'Non' campaign eventually capture the lead. Then the two sides remained tantalisingly close, with less than half a per cent in the difference for most of the remainder. The count eventually finished with 50.6% voting Non and 49.6% Oui.

While there was relief and and joy for the 'Non' campaigners, not to mention the financial markets, the result shook the very foundations of the Canadian state. It was far from a defeat for the Quebecois separatists, the narrow margin clear ly strengthens their hand as they seek "distinct society status" and greater autonomy. As a Canadian government spokesperson put it, the result was not so much a victory for the 'Non' campaign as a reprieve for Canada.

After the defeat of the 1980 referendum on independence by a 60-40 margin, the Quebecois had expected greater autonomy and to be recognised as a "distinct society". As it happened they were to be bitterly disappointed. This time they are unlikely to be so willfully ignored.

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, speaking after the count, said that "for the second time in 15 years we have gone through a difficult period in an atmosphere of great emotion. We must now develop innovative solutions so that we never have to go through similar circumstances."

However, separatist leader Lucien Bouchard said in a speech accepting the result that "the next time will be a winning one", and he added, "it could come sooner than people think".