Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What If Wednesday: Quebec Declares Independence in 1995

From the AltHistory Wiki.
In 1995, Quebec held a referendum to decide whether or not they should become an independent country. By a margin of 1.16%, Quebec narrowly voted to remain a part of Canada. With such a small margin, it begs the question, could the vote have gone the other way?

Maybe the Federalists run a poorer campaign or else recognizable names (like Bill Clinton) fail to come out in support of Canadian unity. Either way on October 30, 1995 the result of the vote is "Yes". What happens next? Wikipedia does list some contingencies in case of a "Yes" vote and things did not bode well for peace. Sovereigntists threatened to take possession of Canadian military bases in the area, while the Canadian government seemed likely to reject the outcome of a pro-independence vote.

If Quebec voted "Yes" and the Canadian government refused to recognize the vote, Quebec may have unilaterally declared independence. Some military units may have sided with the new government, while other would have stayed loyal to Ottawa. Those could have been surrounded by pro-independence groups, raising tensions. Then there is also the First Nations of Quebec. Most voted to stay with Canada and if there was a "Yes" vote they may have tried to rejoin Canada if they felt there rights would not be represented. When you consider events like the Oka Crisis, there is no guarantee Quebec will respect aboriginal rights or allow them to take Quebec territory back to Canada.

It is not completely implausible to think that violent conflict could have erupted. Regrettably, I do not know enough about Canadian history and politics to craft a plausible scenario. If you want to take a shot, please do so in the comments below or send me an email for a chance to be published on The Update. I will say this: history rarely happens in a vacuum. Events in Canada could easily have an impact elsewhere, especially to their southern neighbor.

Only a minority of Americans recognize a state's right to secede. There are a variety of reasons for this, including the fact that many secessionists hold extreme political views that are rejected by most Americans, but a big reason is that there hasn't been a successful secession since the country's foundation. Having Quebec secede (peacefully) would bring the idea of secession into mainstream society as a realistic possibility. New groups would form and old groups would change their message to attract new members. While I still find it unlikely that an American state would successfully secede in this timeline, since most states lack the cultural differences Quebec has with the rest of Canada, it could potentially shift public opinion to further limit the power of the federal government.

In fact it may even encourage Ron Paul to run for President as a Libertarian again. He ran as a Libertarian in 1988 and considered doing it again in 1992. With the shifting political landscape he could decide the time is right to make another run at the White House. This could backfire on the growing state's rights movement as it could split the conservative vote and give the election to Al Gore. How would a Gore administration handle a stronger state's right movement? Could he screw things up enough that a state would actually hold their own referendum? That is the fun thing about alternate history, you just never know what direction your new history is going to go until you start researching the possibilities.

So what did I get right? What did I get wrong? What did I miss completely? Let me know in the comments and if want to submit your own scenario email me at ahwupdate at gmail dot com for a chance to be featured on What If Wednesday.

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Matt Mitrovich is the founder and editor of Alternate History Weekly Update and a blogger on Amazing Stories. Check out his short fiction. When not writing he works as an attorney, enjoys life with his beautiful wife Alana and prepares for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

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