English Canadians, Quebec anglos wary of constitutional changes: poll (Reports)

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A new Léger poll shows Canadians and Quebecers sharply divided on the idea of Quebec unilaterally amending the Constitution.

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QUEBEC – Canadians and Quebecers differ strongly in their views on whether Quebec should be allowed to unilaterally amend the Constitution, a new poll shows.

However, the opinions of francophones and non-francophones inside Quebec are also far apart, a Léger poll conducted for the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) and the Association for Canadian Studies (ACS) found.

Released Friday, the poll shows 62 per cent of Quebecers believe a province should be able to amend the Constitution on its own, but only 17 per cent of Canadians living outside the province think the same way.

The rate in English Canada is lowest in Alberta, where only eight per cent agree with that statement.

Inside Quebec, while 37.9 per cent of francophones strongly agree Quebec should be able to make amendments (35.3 per cent of francophones somewhat agree), only 3.5 per cent of non-francophones strongly agree (18.6 per cent somewhat agree).

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“Canadians and Quebecers are clearly divided on this issue, and we need to take the time as a country and as a province to truly understand the implications of what the Quebec government is proposing,” QCGN president Marlene Jennings said in a statement.

“This is a complex issue that needs to be studied and debated, not only by our politicians in Quebec City and Ottawa but also discussed with and understood with Canadians from coast to coast.”

“Many Quebecers and other Canadians legitimately want to know what, if anything, such an amendment might mean for federal-provincial relations and minority rights,” added ACS president Jack Jedwab, who oversaw the poll.

The poll was conducted in reaction to the Coalition Avenir Québec government’s recent tabling of Bill 96 overhauling the Charter of the French Language.

In the bill, the provincial government proposes adding two new clauses to the Canadian Constitution Act of 1867 stating that Quebec forms a nation and that French should be the only official language of Quebec as well as the common language of the Quebec nation.

Earlier this week, Premier François Legault said he is not surprised some anglophones are not happy with Bill 96.

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The poll also reveals the traditional split between Canadians and Quebecers on more specific details such as whether Quebec should be recognized as a nation in the Constitution.

The poll concludes that while 67 per cent of Quebecers totally agree with that idea, only 15 per of Canadians outside Quebec totally agree with that idea.

In Quebec alone, 51.4 of francophones totally agree, but only 5.7 per cent of non-francophones feel the same.

In the event that Quebec is recognized as a nation and French is its official language, the mood shifts when it comes to the idea of Quebec signing the 1982 Constitution, something it has always refused to do.

If Quebec did get this recognition, 57 per cent of Canadians and 72 per cent of Quebecers agree Quebec should sign the 1982 Constitution.

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In Quebec alone, a majority of francophones (77.9 per cent) and a slim majority of non-francophones (54.5 per cent) say Quebec should sign the Constitution if such an amendment comes to pass.

The poll of 1,623 Canadians was conducted via a web panel from May 21 to 23. A poll this size would have a margin of error of plus or minus 2.95 per cent 19 times out of 20.

The QCGN is an umbrella organization of Quebec English language community groups.

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