MONTREAL – Quebec is standing tall and the world should make space for the new country, the late premier Jacques Parizeau said in a speech prepared in the event of a Yes victory in the 1995 sovereignty referendum.
Parizeau’s comments — made in English and French — were destined for media organizations but were not aired because of the No side’s win on Oct. 30, 1995.
The French version of the videotape was broadcast in January during a television show on Radio-Canada but Quebec’s national library uploaded the English copy to its website last week.
“The first task for us all tomorrow will be to take off our Yes and No labels so we can come together behind the democratic decisions Quebecers have made,” says Parizeau, sitting behind a desk in front of a Fleur-de-lis flag.
Discussions with Canada on a new “political and economic partnership” will begin immediately, he says, adding his government will choose a few members from the No side to sit on the negotiating committee.
Parizeau tells Quebecers it will take about one year for the legislature to declare independence “and after that things will become more simple.”
Lisette Lapointe, Parizeau’s widow, donated a copy of the videotape to Quebec’s national library and archives.
The tape’s official release by the library comes a few months after the 20th anniversary of the 1995 referendum and not long after Parizeau’s death last June.
During the last years of his life Parizeau often lamented the state of the sovereigntist movement and said the current edition of the political party he once led, the Parti Quebecois, was facing a “field of ruins.”
In the video, Parizeau tries to reassure anglophones that an independent Quebec will guarantee that “the identity of their community and institutions are preserved” in the new country’s constitution.
Refugees and new immigrants waiting for Canadian citizenship will get the right to stay on the territory and apply for Quebec citizenship, he says.
Jean-François Lisee, a PQ member of the legislature and the man who wrote the words being read by Parizeau on the tape, said part of the speech’s goal was to reassure anglophones, natives and the world that the transition toward independence would be peaceful.
“Every box was checked (in the speech) in terms of reassuring people this would be an orderly, respectful transition,” Lisee said.
Before signing off, Parizeau looks at the camera, and says all Quebecers will be able to tell their children and grandchildren in a few years: “Look at this new Quebec … I contributed to its birth, and now I’m giving it to you.”