Canada is a great country, but it is not my country. I respect Canadians, and sense we share more similarities than differences. We will make good neighbours one day, and would like to know you as friends.
I travelled through Canada for years and learned this: Canadians would first treat me as a kind of fanatic, as though I ate babies for breakfast, but then acknowledge I was always respectful of the Canadian people. I never denounced Canada, I was for Québec.
Twenty years ago Québec cried for change. It was an incredible year, 1993.
Canadians like to count politics by the numbers, so I will relate this phenomenon by figures: the Bloc Québécois grew from a dream to an organization of more than 100,000 members and 29,000 contributors; we won more than 1.8 million votes; and elected 54 MPs on a voter turnout of 77 percent, the highest participation rate in the country.
It was something new – a change! In politics it is very difficult to fight a popular sentiment for change; I know this personally.
Our members were not professional politicians. They were grassroots people stung by Canada’s rejection of the Meech Lake Accord, who dreamt of our own country where we could live as we pleased without Ottawa’s permission. We wanted to send a message – and did.
“The door is wide open now for sovereignty,” Lucien Bouchard said. I’ll carry memories of that campaign all my life: the excitement, the anticipation, the incredulity of Canadians in seeing the Official Opposition in the hands of a sovereigntist party.
We expected to have our nation at last. Twenty years ago many Québecers said, “Well, this is the time.” We were so optimistic.
Twenty years seems a long time in the life of one man, but in human history is a very small snapshot.
It didn’t happen.
In a democracy you face realities: sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Nobody is happy in defeat, but we always respect the verdict of the people.
I remain convinced I will see a sovereign Québec in my lifetime.
(Editor’s note: the author was the first Bloc Québécois MP elected to the Commons, and former Leader of the Official Opposition; his commentary was first published October 6, 2013)