Breaking Point, Quebec • Canada: The 1995 Referendum


486 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 2-89579-068-X
DDC 971.4'04




Translated by Ferdinanda Van Gennip with Mark Stout
Reviewed by Hugh Mellon

Hugh Mellon is an associate professor of political science at King’s
College, University of Western Ontario.


Even with the passing of more than a decade, the 1995 Quebec referendum
remains an intense controversy. Why was the outcome so close? What gave
Lucien Bouchard his oratorical and political power? Would Canada’s
relations with Quebec have been better had the Meech Lake or
Charlottetown accords been approved? These and a host of contentious
issues remain staples of political discussion.

This book helps bring to mind the tense days of 1995 by weaving
together the memories and comments of key participants in a history of
that momentous referendum campaign. It provides a riveting account of
the campaign’s evolution through the eyes of the players. Quotations
from the central figures dominate the narrative, and the writing is
crisp and clear. Political junkies will be right at home reliving the
highs and lows and recalling campaign turning points. Those absorbed in
making the case for the excitement of studying Canadian history will
find plenty of supporting material here. The quotations reveal that
feelings still run high and that notable controversies remain
unresolved. The CBC is to be commended for supporting this work as well
as a companion documentary.

There are several main strengths in the approach adopted here. The
story is gripping. The quotations convey a sense of immediacy and the
progression of events is dynamic. There are some limitations, however.
Knowledge of Canadian federalism and the 1990s political climate is
necessary to appreciate the quotations fully. The enthralling tumult of
a referendum campaign makes it difficult to step back and get
perspective at times. While there are extensive endnotes, there is no
index. Further, several major figures—including Lucien Bouchard and
Bernard Landry—chose not to contribute.

Overall, though, Breaking Point, Quebec Canada is an engaging and
spirited recollection of the hard-fought referendum and the dreams held
on both sides of the separatism divide. The book is both a welcome
teaching tool and a fascinating read.


Cardinal, Mario., “Breaking Point, Quebec • Canada: The 1995 Referendum,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 24, 2024,