October 29, 1995
Web posted at: 10:15 a.m. EST (1515 GMT)
From Correspondent Ed Garsten
MONTREAL, Quebec (CNN) -- Monday, residents of Quebec will decide whether their province should begin the process that could make it independent of Canada. The volatile issue has brought supporters of both sides to the streets in the final days of the campaign as they fight for every last vote.
The latest polls show voters split 50-50 heading into Monday's referendum. "It's impossible to predict who will win," said pollster Claude Gothier.
"North, South, East, West, this country is the best," students chanted as they waved flags at a boisterous rally in Montreal in support of a united Canada (43K AIFF sound or 43K WAV sound).
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Earlier in the week, separatists held several large rallies in Verdun outside Montreal to bolster support. Their movement has gathered momentum over recent weeks.
In response, Prime Minister Jean Chretien, who laid low through most of the campaign, suddenly raised his profile. He went on national television for the first time since he took power two years ago to make a final offer to Quebec of constitutional veto power. Chretien warned that a decision to pull out of Canada would be irreversible.
On Friday, at the largest political rally in Canada's history, he again offered to make changes to prevent Quebec from seceding from the federation.
Even Britain's Queen Elizabeth got caught up in the campaign when a Canadian radio personality phoned her posing as the prime minister.
"Our latest polls are showing that the separatists are going to win the referendum on the independence of Quebec," bluffed the radio announcer. Her Royal Majesty responded that separatists might indeed win, that "the referendum may go the wrong way (196K AIFF sound or 196K WAV sound)."
Each side will make its final pitches on Sunday -- for oui, or non (400K QuickTime movie). But even if 'yes' wins Monday's vote, independence would not be automatic. Separatists say it would give separatist leader Lucien Bouchard a mandate to negotiate a new partnership with Canada that would call for a common currency, broad trade ties, a shared army and joint security structure. If a deal is not reached, they say, Quebec would declare independence.
The federal government, for its part, could try to challenge the vote in court, or call a second referendum, either Canada-wide or in Quebec.
A 1980 independence referendum in Quebec was defeated by a 60-40 margin.
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