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Canadians rally for a united country

Chretien pledges to stop Quebec's separatist move

October 28, 1995
Web posted at: 1:16 p.m. EDT (1716 GMT)

From Correspondent Ed Garsten

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MONTREAL, Quebec (CNN) -- Beginning Thursday night, Canadians flooded into Montreal from all over the country to beg Quebeckers not to vote for sovereignty in Monday's referendum. Over 100,000 people -- Canada's largest ever political rally -- gathered in the city's Place de Canada on Friday to voice their support for unity.

"We have the best country in the world and we want to communicate that to our French brothers and sisters," said one demonstrator. "They're a part of our country and we want them to be part of our country. (100K AIFF sound or 100K WAV sound)

Another, a French-speaking Quebecker, said that she was "proud to be a Quebecker and a Canadian," and didn't understand the need for Quebec to separate from Canada.

The increased pressure from the rest of Canada put more political heat on Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, who said that concessions would be made to prevent Quebec from seceding.

"We will make the changes that are needed ... so that Canada will move in the 21st century united from sea to sea," Chretien told the cheering crowd.

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The polls show the vote -- on whether Quebec should become an independent country - too close to call. The two most recent have the 'yes' camp slightly ahead, but a large bloc of undecided voters could tip the results.

"We give generally two-thirds of the undecided people to the 'no' side and one-third to the 'yes' side," said pollster Claude Gauthier.

Despite Friday's massive show of unity, the separatists are feeling very heady going into Monday's vote and say Chretien's efforts are too little, too late. And separatist leader Lucien Bouchard said that the only course now for Quebec is sovereignty.

"We want to be a country," he said. "The bottom line, the real bottom line is that the people in Quebec feel to be a nation by themselves, a nation so different, so different from Canada with language, culture, business."

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Indeed, while most of Canada is bilingual, in some parts of Montreal only French is seen, and heard.

But those who attended the unity rally were saying "That's okay, have your culture, we understand, but we're all better off as one." (140K AIFF sound or 140K WAV sound)



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