Paul at All Agitprop points out a Montreal Gazette article about a biography of Canadian Prime Minister Jean ChrÃ©tien. In it, it’s revealed that
Former Defence Minister David Collenette was prepared to call in the Canadian armed forces to protect federal property and assets in Quebec in the event of a referendum victory by sovereignist forces in 1995.
Apparently, the Canadian government was prepared to take a much harder line if the referendum passed than they publicly admitted.
” ‘My view,’ Collenette would explain in a later interview, ‘was that these guys aren’t going to get away with this. This is my country. I don’t care what the numbers are. It’s one thing to say you want to separate. But now we start playing hardball. Because we’re not going to abandon all those people who want to stay in Canada.’ “
I don’t know enough about Canadian politics or the issues to really have an opinion on the matter, but it sure sounds like things could have quickly spun out of control. It raises interesting questions about the will of the voters against the will of the government.
It seems to me that something similar happened in the United States, once upon a time. It wasn’t pretty. The moral ground and origin of the American Civil War was based on the slavery issue, but the actual war was fought to keep the nation whole, even though most of the people in the Southern states wanted to run their own government.
Would an issue in Quebec have exploded into a massive Canadian Civil War? It certainly doesn’t seem likely, but the powder keg was there. And so, apparently, was the match to light it.
Let’s all thank God that the UN didn’t have to try to defuse that situation.