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Abstract or Description

Quebec has a long history of political struggles for autonomy, stemming back to Britain’s conquest of New France in 1759. Since then, tensions have increased between Anglophone and Francophone Canada. These tensions are manifested in the current separatist movements, which first gained substantial ground in the 1960’s. The Parti Québécois, an influential political party in Quebec calling for sovereignty, has been the main driver for independence. The separatists want an independent Quebec, and often base their nationalism on a French-Québécois identity, including French as the primary language and a shared identity going back to the French settlers. However, as they define their own unique culture, and pit Quebec against the rest of Canada, separatists marginalize or ignore minority groups and the First Nations of the province. Despite this fact, the First Nations are crucial actors in the separatist debates, and their position sheds light on a seldom-seen dimension of Quebec separatism. The First Nations have a long history of inhabiting the region, and place great importance on the territory of their ancestors. Through the use of international standards and local organizations, First Nations vocally assert their position against separatism. Some of the main issues they see as pertinent in the separatist debates are issues of land rights, resource management, and their right to self-determination. For this reason, it becomes clear that separatism does not only concern French-Quebec and English-Canada, but that it concerns the First Nations as well. In this paper, I provide an overview of these debates, placing them in the context of the history of the First Nations, indigenous issues internationally, and current First Nations responses to separatism. I argue the Quebec separatist debates and the First Nations’ responses expose the complexities of separatism and the longstanding tensions between the Canadian government and indigenous groups


Advisor: Karen Faulk

Department of History

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