In light of Brexit, could Quebec vote for independence?

Britain’s exit is triggering renewed fears of Quebec eyeballing another referendum vote on leaving Canada.
Britain’s exit is triggering renewed fears of Quebec eyeballing another referendum vote on leaving Canada. (Photo: REUTERS/Shaun Best/Files)

This was the vote that shocked the entire world: Britain voted to exit the European Union on June 24, 2016.

The consequences of the vote are immediately being felt, with world stock markets panicking, and the British pound dropping to record lows. The Canadian dollar dropped dramatically as well, marking its worst performance in a single day since 2010.

Not to mention other political parties throughout Europe started calling for their own referendums on exiting the European Union, with which many Europeans have become disenchanted.

Scotland, too, may be eying another independence vote from Britain —though the last one was just held in 2014.

Not surprisingly, Britain’s exit is triggering renewed fears of Quebec eyeballing another referendum vote on leaving Canada.

Quebec’s last referendum was held in 1995, after the separatist Parti Quebecois came into power in Quebec. They quickly passed Bill 1, An Act respecting the future of Quebec, which called for a referendum. The result of that referendum was that Quebec came dangerously close to leaving Canada, as only 50.58 per cent of Quebeckers voted to stay. That meant the yes vote was only short by 53,000 people.

After the defeat of Quebec independence, then-Premier Jacques Parizeau told the crowds “We did a good job, let’s try to win next time.”

Has the next time come, given the shocking Brexit exit and what are the laws surrounding referendums in Quebec?

Calling for referendums is not just the right of the federal government but also some provincial governments. A number of provinces have enacted referendum legislation in Canada, including Quebec, which allows the provincial governments to ask a question of the public relating to an important constitutional or political question and have the people directly decide the issue through a referendum vote.

If the Quebec government wanted to ask its people once again whether they thought it was time to exit Canada, all they would have to do is pass another bill calling for a referendum.

The question remains whether Brexit will renew Quebec separatists’ calls of “Vive le Québec Libre" and inspire another referendum.

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