March 17, 2008 / 12:30 AM / in 10 years

Quebec separatists tone down independence stance

TORONTO (Reuters) - The separatist Parti Quebecois has softened its stance on breaking away from Canada and will no longer make an early referendum on Quebec independence a cornerstone of its policy, Canadian media said.

<p>Newly elected Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois looks at former member of the National Assembly Rosaire Bertrand (not pictured) as the session resumes at the National Assembly in Quebec City October 16, 2007. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger</p>

Radio Canada said a weekend Parti Quebecois congress had approved the idea of not holding a referendum on independence during the party’s first term in office.

But the party, currently only the third largest in the legislature of the French-speaking province, said it remained committed to the Quebec people and the French language.

“Our work this weekend has clearly sent the signal as to who we are -- a people, a nation, an identity. A Quebec open to the world. A Quebec with a past to share, a history with which to enrich new cultures, (with) a common language that is French,” party leader Pauline Marois said in a statement on the Parti Quebecois Web site.

The Parti Quebecois has twice called referendums on whether Quebec should break away from Canada. Voters have twice said “no” -- the second-time with a razor-thin majority.

That 1995 ballot asked Quebecers whether the province “should become sovereign after having formally offered Canada a new economic and political partnership.”

Opinion polls show between 45 and 50 percent of Quebecers would currently vote in favor of the 1995 ballot question.

But polls also give the party little chance of winning an election now, in part because voters dislike the idea of a new referendum on independence.

Reporting by Janet Guttsman; Editing by John O'Callaghan

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