Sun, Nov 26, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Canada's Bloc Quebecois backs PM's Quebec motion

AP , TORONTO

The separatist Bloc Quebecois agreed to support a move recognizing French-speaking Quebec as a nation within Canada, the latest twist in a dispute that threatens to reopen the thorny issue of independence for the province.

Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe said on Friday that his party would vote in favor of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper's motion.

He had earlier said he would put forward his own motion demanding the province be deemed a nation, but with no mention of Canada.

"Objectively, Quebec forms part of Canada," Duceppe told the House of Commons. He acknowledged his party's motion would not be approved, so he opted for the next best thing.

"We are delighted by the fact that Canada will become the first country to officially recognize the Quebec nation," he said.

Canada's Liberal party also has agreed to support Harper's motion, adding political weight to a move that has escalated tensions over the long-divisive issue.

Quebecers have twice voted down referendums seeking independence from Canada, though the last one was only narrowly defeated in 1995. Some fear that by deeming Quebec a nation, even within a united Canada, other provinces or indigenous peoples could make similar moves.

The motion, which is a symbolic designation and does not alter Quebec's status, now likely will easily pass through the House of Commons next week.

Supporters cheered Harper's motion as a bold political step, while critics slammed it as a political smoke screen and a recipe for tearing apart the country.

Harper insisted that four words -- within a united Canada -- would prevent Quebec separatists from trying to use the motion to re-ignite their demands for an independent state.

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