Jacques Parizeau, Quebec referendum, 1995

In this controversial 1995 speech, Quebec premier Jacques Parizeau blamed his side;s loss in the referendum on money and the ethnic vote

Early in the 1995 referendum campaign on Quebec sovereignty, it appeared that the federalist NO side would win easily. But on October 30, the NO side won by a razor thin majority with 50.6 per cent of the vote. Premier Jacque Parizeau created controversy in his concession speech by blaming the loss on “money and the ethnic vote.” The Premier had also pre-recorded a speech in the event of victory and it was circulated under embargo to some outlets. That speech was released publicly some years later. Video links to both speeches can be found below.  

“Money and the ethnic vote”

Friends, we have lost, but not by a lot. It was successful in one sense. Let’s stop talking about the francophones of Quebec. Let’s talk about us. Sixty per cent of us have voted in favour.

We fought a good battle and we did manage to clearly show what we wanted. We lost by a tiny margin. What do you do? Well, you roll up your sleeves and you begin all over again.

I would have liked for it to go through. I would really have loved for it to go through. We were so close to having our country. Well, it’s just put off for a short while, not for a long time.

A country of our own

We won’t wait another 15 years this time. What has happened is wonderful. In one meeting after another, these people who had said the future of our country isn’t that important were coming along and saying we want that country of our own. And we will get it. We will end up with our country.

It’s true we have been defeated, but basically by what? By money and the ethnic vote.

All it means is that in the next round, instead of us being 60 or 61 per cent in favour, we’ll be 63 or 64 per cent. My friends . . . there were people who were so afraid that the temptation to seek revenge is going to be great. Never will it be so important to have a Parti Quebecois government to protect us till the next round.

The independence of Quebec remains the cement that binds us. We want a country and we shall have it. Now, my friends, we are entering another stage during which each and every one of us will want to put our fists on the table not to mention anything else, but let’s stay calm.

Let us resist any provocation. As the Prime Minister of Canada was saying a few days ago, we’re going to really have to work through this. Let us be calm, let us smile. The next round is just around our corner and we are going to have our country.

Don’t be discouraged

There’s no doubt in my mind that you younger people out there voted in the immense majority in favour of a country. But now I’m talking to battle veterans, people of my own age who have been seeking a country for years and years, and I’m telling you don’t be discouraged. The young people are just starting in the battle, it’s just a slight setback, they’re going to be successful in the long run.

But you veterans remain in the fray because we need all of you.

In the coming days people are going to speak out against us, they will say we don’t know what we want, it is just the way it always was. But it is not. Don’t forget that three-fifths of us voted Yes. It wasn’t quite enough but very soon it will be enough.

Within our grasp

Our country is within our grasp. Be calm. Be smiling even if that doesn’t come easily, and bear in mind that from this solidarity among people from the right and the left, the solidarity among people from the union movement and the bosses, the unemployed and those who have jobs, altogether.

Here in Quebec we are not going to sacrifice ourselves in that movement to the right that the rest of Canada is taking. We are going to demonstrate that we are able, even if we don’t have a country as yet, that we will raise a French society that has its heart in the right place, and in the long run, finally, we will have our own revenge and we will have our own country.

Long live hope, long live Quebec.



CBC Digital Archives: Jacques Parizeau’s English referendum victory speech now public
Note: This link contains Parizeau’s concession speech in French with simultaneous translation. However, prior to that speech, the CBC provides a victory speech, in English, which Parizeau’s staff had provided to some outlets on embargo. It was made public years lager by the national archives in Quebec. The CBC link also provides context about both the speeches and the referendum.

More information

CBC National News: Startling details of the Quebec Referendum


Wikipedia Commons

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