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Banner: First Among EqualsPierre Elliott Trudeau banner

Speech at the Paul Sauvé Arena, Montreal, Quebec, May 14, 1980


Mr. Chairman


Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you very much.


No, no. Thank you very much.


Mr. Chairman, fellow Canadians.


First of all, I want to thank you for this warm welcome. I think it is obvious by this immense gathering- it is obvious that these are historic moments.

There are very few examples in the history of democracy of one part of a country choosing to decide, for itself and by itself, whether, YES or NO, it wants to be part of the country to which it has always belonged. There are very few occasions when this has happened in the history of democracy. And I believe that all those here this evening, all those who have worked for the NO in this province for over a month, will be proud to reply when�when our children and perhaps, if we are lucky our grandchildren, ask us in twenty or thirty years:

You were there in May 1980. You were there when the people of Québec were asked to decide freely on their future. You were there when Québec had the option to stay in Canada or to leave. What did you do in May 1980- "No, that was our answer."


I should like to ask you this evening to reflect on the question that is asked of us, and on the consequences of the answers we may give to these questions.

Allow me-perhaps for the last time before going to the polls-allow me to remind you of the essence of the question. There are two issues involved:

The first is the sovereignty of Québec, and that is defined in the question itself as: the exclusive power to make its laws, levy its taxes and establish relations abroad�in other words, sovereignty.

And while we in this room answer NO, in other rooms in other parts of the province, there are people who answer YES; who truly and honestly want sovereignty.

I share your opinion: this is the false option; an option that means, as Jean Chrétien said, that we will no longer send Québec MPs to govern us in Canada; an option that means independence; an option that means the separation of Québec from the rest of the country.

To this our answer is NO.

But it is not to those who are for or against sovereignty that I wish to address my remarks this evening.

After the referendum, I hope we will continue to respect one another's differences; that we will respect the option which has been freely chosen by those who are for or against independence for Québec.


In this question, therefore, there is sovereignty and there is everything else.

Everything else is a new agreement. It is equality of nations. It is at the same time economic association. It is a common currency. It is change through another referendum. It is a mandate to negotiate.

And we know very well what they are doing, these hucksters of the YES vote.

They are trying to appeal to everyone who would say YES to a new agreement. YES to equality of nations. YES at the same time to association. YES at the same time to a common currency. YES to a second referendum. YES to a simple mandate to negotiate.

It is those who say YES through pride of because they do not understand the question, or because they want to increase their bargaining power, and to those among the undecided who are on the brink of voting YES, to whom I am addressing myself this evening, because what we have to ask ourselves is what would happen in the case of a YES vote, as in the case of a NO vote.

And it is the undecided, those who are on the YES side through pride, or because they are tired and fed up, who, in these last few days, must be addressed.

So let us consider this. The Government of Canada and all the provincial governments have made themselves perfectly clear.

If the answer to the referendum question is NO, we have all said that this NO will be interpreted as a mandate to change the Constitution, to renew federalism.


I am not the only person saying this. Nor is Mr. Clark. Nor is Mr. Broadbent. It is not only the nine premiers of the other provinces saying this. It is also the seventy-five MPs elected by Quebecers to represent them in Ottawa�


�who are saying that a NO means change. And because I spoke to these MPs this morning, I know that I can make a most solemn commitment that following a NO vote, we will immediately take action to renew the Constitution and we will not stop until we have done that.

And I make a solemn declaration to all Canadians in the other provinces, we, the Québec MPs, are laying ourselves on the line, because we are telling Quebecers to vote NO and telling you in the other provinces that we will not agree to your interpreting a NO vote as an indication that everything is fine and can remain as it was before.

We want change and we are willing to lay our seats in the House on the line to have change.

This would be our attitude in the case of a NO vote.

Mr. Lévesque has asked me what my attitude would be if the majority of Quebecers voted YES.

I have already answered this question. I did so in Parliament. I did so in Montréal and in Québec City. And I say it again this evening: if the answer to the referendum is YES- I have said it clearly in the House of Commons- Mr Lévesque will be welcome to come to Ottawa, where I will receive politely, as he has always received me in Québec City, and I will tell him that there are two doors. If you knock on the sovereignty-association door, there is no negotiation possible.


Mr. Lévesque continues to repeat, "But what about democracy-what would you do if a majority of the Québec people voted YES? Would you not be obliged, by the principle of democracy, to negotiate?"

No indeed!

It is like saying to Mr. Lévesque, "The people of Newfoundland have just voted 100 percent in favour of renegotiating the electricity contract with Québec. You are obliged, the name of democracy, to respect the will of Newfoundland, are you not?"

It is obvious that this sort of logic does not work.

The wishes of Quebecers may be expressed through democratic process, but that cannot bind others-those in other provinces who did not vote to act as Québec decides.

So by that reasoning, Mr Lévesque, there will be no association. Now, if you want to speak, if you want to speak of sovereignty, let me say that you have no mandate to negotiate that, because you did not ask Quebecers if they wanted sovereignty pure and simple.

You said: Do you want sovereignty on the condition that there is also association?

So, with no association, you have no mandate to negotiate sovereignty; you do not have the key to open that door, and neither do I.


I do not have that mandate either, because we were elected on February 18, scarcely a couple of months ago- for the specific purpose of making laws for the province of Québec.

So don't ask me not to make any, don't ask me to give full powers to Québec.


On the other hand, if Mr. Lévesque, by some miracle, and it truly would be a miracle, knocked on the other door, saying: I have a mandate to negotiate, and would like to negotiate renewed federalism then the door would be wide open to him, and I would say: you did not have to go to the trouble of holding a referendum for that; if it is renewed federalism you want, if that is what you wish to negotiate, then you are welcome.

But is it really possible that Mr. Lévesque would say that, because what are the YES supporters saying?

The YES supporters are saying-and I asked Mr. Lévesque this a couple of weeks ago: What will you do if the majority votes NO? What will you say then? Will you respect the will of the people, or will you claim that a NO vote does not mean as much as a YES vote, and that a NO does not count for the moment, but that another referendum needs to be held?

I asked Mr. Lévesque that, and this was his answer: We will not refuse a few crumbs of autonomy for Québec, but we will still be going around in circles.

Mr. Lévesque, if the people of Québec vote NO, as I believe they will�


�won't you say that since the people have rejected sovereignty-association, it is your duty to be a good government and put an end to the status quo on which you place so much blame, and to join us in changing the Constitution.

Mr. Lévesque told us: we will still be going around in circles.

Well, that should enlighten all those who intend to vote YES in order to increase Québec's bargaining power, all those who intend to vote YES out of pride, and all those who intend to vote YES because they are fed up.

If Mr. Lévesque does not want renewed federalism even if the people note NO, then, clearly, if the people vote YES, he is going to say:

"Renewed federalism is out of the question."

For my part, I will say: Sovereignty-Association is out of the question.


Which means that we have reached an impasse and those who vote YES must realize right now that a YES vote will result in either independence, pure and simple, or the status quo-that is what the YES option boils down to: the independence of Québec, the separation of Québec, or else the status quo, no change, because Mr. Lévesque refuses to negotiate.

That's what we have to say to the YES side: if you want independence, if you vote YES, you won't get independence because you made it conditional on there being an Association, an Association being achieved along with independence.

If you want Association, your YES vote doesn't mean anything because it is not binding on the other provinces, which refuse to join in an association with you. And if you vote YES for a renewed federalism, your vote will be lost as well, because Mr. Lévesque will still be going around in circles.

So you see, that is the impasse that this ambiguous, equivocal question has led us into, and that is what the people who are going to vote YES out of pride, that is what they should think about.

Voting YES out of pride means that we are putting our fate in the hands of the other provinces, which are going to say NO, no association, and then we will have to swallow our pride and our YES vote.

And those who are saying YES in order to get it over with, YES to break away, Yes to get negotiations started, they read in the question itself that there will be a second referendum, and then maybe a third, and then maybe a fourth. And that, my friends, that is precisely what we are criticizing the Parti Québecois government for; not for having want independence- that is an option we reject and we're fighting it openly.

But what we are criticizing the Parti Québecois for is for not having the courage to ask: INDEPENDENCE, YES or NO?


YES or NO?


You, the supporters of the NO side, you know the divisions this referendum has caused. You have seen the divisions it has caused with families. You have seen the hatred it has created between neighbours. You know it has widened the generation gap. You know that the deep suspicion and mistrust between supporters of the YES side and those of the NO side will last for a long time to come.

You know what kind of trial the referendum is. Well, you have been told by the Parti Québecois government that there will be other referendums and you know that the hatred, the differences, the enormous wast of energy in Québec will go on and on. Well, we are saying NO to that. NO, it will not go on.


Here is a party whose goal was separation, then independence, then sovereignty, then Sovereignty-Association, and then they even said that Sovereignty-Association was only for the purposes of negotiation. Here is a party that, in the name of pride, said to Quebecers: Stand up, we are going to move on to the world stage and assert ourselves.

And now, this party, on the point of entering the world stage, gets frightened and stays in the wings. Is that pride? Should we use that as a reason to vote for a party that tells us it will start all over again if the answer is YES, that there will be another referendum?

Well, that is what we are criticizing the Parti Québecois for-not having the courage to ask a clear question, a question a mature people would have been able to answer, really a simple question: DO YOU WANT TO LEAVE CANADA, YES OR NO?



Well, it's because the Parti Québecois knew how the vast majority of Quebecers would answer the question: DO YOU want to stop being Canadians. The answer would have been NO and that is why it has failed to enter the world stage.

Well, we know there is a clear answer, there is an unambiguous answer and that answer is NO. That answer is NO to those who want, as Camil Samson, I think said, to take our heritage away from us and from our children.

The answer is NO to those who advocate separation rather than sharing, to those who advocate isolation rather than fellowship, to those who -basically- advocate pride rather than love, because love involves challenges coming together and meeting others half-way, and working with them to build a better world.

So then, one must say, leaving that whole convoluted question aside, one must say NO to ambiguity. One must say NO to tricks. One must say NO to contempt, because they have come to that.

I was told that no more than two days ago Mr. Lévesque was saying that part of my name was Elliott and, since Elliott was an English name, it was perfectly understandable that I was for the NO side, because, really, you see, I was not as much of a Quebecer as those who are going to vote YES.

That, my dear friends, is what contempt is. It means saying that there are different kinds of Quebecers. It means that saying that the Quebecers on the NO side are not as good Quebecers as the others and perhaps they have a drop or two of foreign blood, while the people on the YES side have pure blood in their veins. That is what contempt is and that is the kind of division which builds up within a people, and that is what we are saying NO to.

Of course my name is Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Yes, Elliott was my mother's name. It was the name borne by the Elliotts who came to Canada more than two hundred years ago. It is the name of the Elliotts who, more than one hundred years ago, settled in Saint-Gabriel de Brandon, where you can still see their graves in the cemetery. That is what the Elliotts are.

My name is a Québec name, but my name is a Canadian name also, and that's the story of my name.

Since Mr. Lévesque has chosen to analyse my name, but let me show you how ridiculous it is to use that kind of contemptuous argument.

Mr. Pierre-Marc Johnson is a Minister. Now, I ask you, is Johnson an English name or a French name?

And Louis O'Neill- a former Minister of Mr. Lévesque's and Robert Bruns, and Daniel Johnson, I ask you, are they Quebecers, yes or no?

And, if we are looking at names, I saw in yesterday's newspaper that the leader of Quebec's Inuit, the Eskimos, they are going to vote NO. Do you know what the leader's name is? His name is Charlie Watt. Is Charlie Watt not a Quebecer? These people have lived in Quebec since the Stone Age; they have been here since time immemorial. And Mr. Watt is not a Quebecer?


And, according to yesterday's newspaper, the chief of the Micmac Band, at Restigouche, the chief of fifteen hundred Indians- what is his name? Ron Maloney. Is he not a Quebecer? The Indians have been there for a good two thousand years. And their chief is not a Quebecer?

My dear friends, Laurier said something in 1889, nearly one hundred years ago now, and it s worth taking the time to read these lines: "My Countrymen," said Laurier, "are not only those in whose veins runs the blood of France. My countrymen are all those people- no matter what their race or language- whom the fortunes of war, the twists and turns of fate, or their own choice, have brought among us."

All Quebecers have the right to vote YES or NO, as Mrs. De Santis said. And all those Nos are as valid as any YES, regardless of the name of the person voting, or the colour of his skin.


My friends, Péquistes often tell us: the world is watching us, hold our heads high; the world is watching us, the whole world is watching what is happening in our democracy. Let's show them we are proud.

Well, I just received what is apparently the last pamphlet that will be put out by the YES committee. Go pick it up somewhere. I recommend it. It's a historic document.


We don't once find the word SEPARATISM. We don't find the word INDEPENDENCE, either. We don't find the word SOVEREIGNTY. We don't find, not even once, the term SOVEREIGNTY-ASSOCIATION.

That's what pride is!

That's what deceiving the public is. And I don't know what historians will say about those who lacked courage at this historic turning point, but I know that they will be hard on those who sought to deceive the public and who say, in this last pamphlet- who say this: Some would have you believe that the question deals with separation. That's false.

That's false. Your question is about SOVEREIGNTY. Take a stand, you PQ supporters. Show us your true colours. Are you for independence?

(From the floor: NO)

No. We are against independence. Of course the world is watching us. The world will be a bit astonished by what it sees. I admit, because in today's world�.


�you see, things are unstable, to say the least. The parameters are changing, to use a big word. And that means that there is fire and blood in the Middle-East, in Afghanistan, in Iran, in Vietnam, that means that there is inflation which is crippling the free economy; that means that there is division in the world; that means there is perhaps a third of the human race which goes to bed hungry every night, because there is not enough food and not enough medicine to keep the children in good health.

And that world is looking at Canada, the second largest country in the world, one of the richest, perhaps the second richest country in the world�.


�.a country which is composed of the meeting of the two most outstanding cultures of the Western world: the French and the English, added to by all the other cultures coming from every corner of Europe and every corner of the world. And this is what the world is looking at with astonishment, saying: These people think they might split up today when the whole world is interdependent? When Europe is trying to seek some kind of political union? These people in Quebec and in Canada want to split it up?

(From the floor: NO)

� they want to to take it away from their children�.

(From the floor: NO)

� they want to break it down? NO. That's what I am answering.

(Applause- NO, NO, NO)

I quoted Laurier, and let me quote a father of Confederation who was an illustrious Quebecer: Thomas D'Arcy McGee: The new nationality-he was saying-is thoughtful and true; nationalist in its preference, but universal in its sympathies; a nationality of the spirit, for there is a new duty which especially belongs to Canada to create a state and to originate a history which the world will not willingly let die.

Well, we won't let it die. Our answer is: NO, to those who would kill it.


(Prime Minister repeats in French last part of D'Arcy McGee quotation)

We won't let this country die, this Canada, our home and native land, this Canada which really is, as our national anthem says, our home and native land. We are going to say to those who want us to stop being Canadians, we are going to say a resounding, an overwhelming NO:


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Source: Trudeau, Pierre Elliott. Transcript of a speech given by the Right Honourable Pierre Elliott Trudeau at the Paul Sauvé Arena in Montreal on May 14, 1980. [Ottawa]: Office of the Prime Minister, 1980. 15 p.


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