Great divide strikes home

Quebec referendum: Family ties and friendships break down as polls indicate a 50-50 result

HUGH WINSOR

Ottawa

Whatever the results of today's referendum on Quebec's sovereignty, the acrimonious campaign which preceded it has already opened sharp divisions in the province's society - between the old-stock French-speakers and the immigrant and English-speaking communities.

While the latest polls say the vote on whether to end the union with English-speaking Canada is too close to call, the referendum has also created bitter ruptures within the Francophone community itself, splitting families and fracturing friendships.

Even if the No side wins by a small margin (anything less than 10 per cent), it will mean that a majority of Francophones will have voted for separation but will have been frustrated by the solid pro-federalist vote by the Anglophone and immigrant (referred to here as Allophone) communities, which together account for about 20 per cent of the voting population. A Groupe Leger & Leger poll published on Saturday found 46.8 per cent of Quebeckers would vote Yes, 42.4 would vote No and the rest were undecided or would not say - results in keeping with polls published a few days earlier. But experience in Quebec elections has shown that polls tend to over-estimate support for sovereignty and for the separatist parties because federalists are more hesitant to give their opinion, fearing ostracism by the nationalists. Experience also shows that the largest portion of the undecideds vote conservatively. As a result, Leger & Leger predicted the vote as 50 Yes, 50 No.

In the final weekend of campaigning, Jacques Parizeau, the Quebec Premier, and Lucien Bouchard, who leads the Bloc Quebecois separatist party in the federal parliament, complained bitterly about what they considered unwarranted outside interference.

They were trying to neutralise the impact of a huge pro-Canada rally on Friday, when thousands of Canadians travelled to Montreal in an attempt to show that Quebeckers are loved and wanted by the rest of the country. The two national airlines offered discount "unity fares", school boards provided buses and telephone companies planned to offer free five-minute calls, some of which would have been "cold calls" to numbers taken from Quebec directories.

"Why don't they just get off our backs and let us vote?" Mr Parizeau said on Saturday.

Thousands of Canadians ignored Mr Parizeau's criticism last night to attend candle-lit vigils in most provincial capitals. Many churches outside Quebec also held special services to pray for national unity.

When the referendum was originally announced, no one expected the outcome to be as close as it now appears. Mr Parizeau has a reputation for abruptness and arrogance, had accrued little personal following, and the polls indicated 10 to 15 percentage point leads for the federalists. Facing what appeared to be certain defeat, the separatists forced the unpopular Premier to the sidelines and Mr Bouchard took over the campaign.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

£23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

Recruitment Genius: Developer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future