Canadian House of Commons passes Quebecois nation motion

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Canadian House of Commons approved a motion recognizing the Québécois [the people of Quebec] as a nation within Canada, Monday night, by a margin of 266 to 16. The government motion was supported by the opposition Liberal, New Democratic and Bloc Québécois parties although 15 Liberal MPs voted against it along with Independent MP Garth Turner. Several Conservative MPs abstained from the vote including Michael Chong who resigned earlier in the day as Intergovernmental Affairs minister due to his opposition to the motion. While the dissenting Liberal MPs do not face censure by their party, Conservative backbenchers who opposed the resolution could only go as far as abstaining if they wished to remain in the Tory caucus, according to Mr. Chong.

The surprise motion was introduced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper on November 22 in response to a motion by the separatist Bloc Québécois that the House recognize Quebec as a nation. The government resolution substituted the word Québécois for Quebeckers and added the words "within a united Canada". The motion reads: "That this House recognize that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada."

The government has stated that they have no intention to amend the Constitution of Canada to recognize Quebec's national status although several political analysts have argued that such an attempt is now inevitable.

Recognizing Quebec as a nation is a concept that has divided the Liberal Party of Canada in the period leading to its leadership convention this weekend with leadership contender Michael Ignatieff proposing that idea earlier this fall. Leadership candidates Ken Dryden and Joe Volpe voted against the House of Commons resolution and contender Gerard Kennedy also expressed his opposition while Bob Rae and Stéphane Dion, who have both been critical of Ignatieff's call for a constitutional amendment have expressed their support for the House of Commons resolution.

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