Former Quebec separatist leader Parizeau dies at 84

Tue Jun 2, 2015 2:57pm EDT
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(Reuters) - Former Quebec premier Jacques Parizeau, a separatist who nearly succeeded in turning the French-speaking Canadian province into an independent country, has died. He was 84.

Parizeau's wife, Lisette Lapointe, announced his death late Monday in a post on Twitter, saying Parizeau had died peacefully and surrounded by love.

Parizeau's Parti Quebecois won the 1994 provincial election after promising to hold a referendum on separation from Canada within a year.

But on referendum day in October 1995, the separatist message fell just short of convincing a majority of Quebec people, who rejected independence by a 50.6 percent to 49.4 percent vote.

A majority of French speakers, who made up 82 percent of the Quebec population, voted for independence. But an overwhelming majority of English speakers and immigrant groups rejected secession.

A defeated Parizeau lashed out at these latter groups as the failure of the separatists became clear.

"We are beaten, it is true. But by what? Money and the ethnic vote," he told supporters, in a quote that came to symbolize francophone frustrations and Parizeau's own bitterness.

That was the second time that Quebec voters had rejected separatism in 15 years, after a failed vote in 1980.

Parizeau, who had trained as an economist, resigned as Quebec's premier a day after the referendum.   Continued...

Former Quebec premier Jacques Parizeau talks to supporters as the campaigns with Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe in the Montreal suburb of Longueuil, April 25, 2011.   REUTERS/Shaun Best