October 27, 1995
Web posted at: 2:45 p.m. EDT (1845 GMT)
From Detroit Bureau Chief Ed Garsten
MONTREAL, Quebec (CNN) -- Thousands of Canadians are flocking to Montreal in support of a united Canada. The rally is designed to keep Quebec from breaking away from the rest of the nation. Residents of Quebec go to the polls Monday to vote on whether to begin the secession process.
Prime Minister Jean Chretien is expected to make one last pitch for unity. The latest opinion polls show separatists have a slight lead.
When people in Quebec sing (34K AIFF sound or 34K WAV sound) of separation they sing only in French. They say "oui" to Quebec saying "adieu" to Canada and its English-speaking majority. Quebec, they say, has a distinct society, a society separatists believe cannot live in Canada any longer.
"We cannot develop as Quebeckers, our culture, our language, and all," said a Quebecker.
"The aspirations of Quebeckers are different from those of Canadians, and this is not recognized," said another person.
Recognizing the distinctiveness is not always easy, even for Quebeckers.
"People have a different approach to things by their gestures, by all kinds of things, maybe by their smell, I don't know," joked a Canadian.
And it certainly goes deeper than the language difference itself.
"She does not feel the same when she is with them, and their culture, their language their way of being is different, she does not associate herself with them," a woman was translated saying.
This isn't simply a case of a cultural melting pot suddenly boiling over. The fire was lit back in 1763 when the British first took over Quebec. Even as a part of Canada, many of the French-speaking Quebeckers felt like second-class citizens.
"People feel that the country they belong to doesn't affect them. It's as if they weren't there. It's as though everyone else was there but they just don't figure into the picture. It's very explosive."
-- Professor Charles Taylor, McGill University.
The difference between "yes" and "no" is very thin at this point. The latest polls show both sides in a virtual dead heat, with just a few days to go before Monday's vote. Indeed, many Quebeckers still haven't made up their minds.
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