Watching Brexit from afar …

Last night, the UK decided to pull out of the EU.

It’s massive, it;s going to have far-reaching effects on everything from global trade, to security, to the price of milk at the corner store. I’m not from the UK but I have a lot of friends there and I’m concerned about how they are doing amid all the hand-wringing in the wake of last night’s vote. Believe it or not, I can identify with how a lot of folks across the Atlantic are feeling about this gravitational shift in the political and trade structure of Europe. Any Canadian over thirty can probably relate and here’s why: in the last 36 years, Canada has been brought to the edge of breaking apart via referendum, only in our case, it wasn’t a national one, it was provincial.

We are an officially bilingual country (French and English) made up originally of three dominant groups: the English. The French. The people who were here before the two aforementioned groups decided to claim the continent for themselves.

I was twelve when the Province of Quebec had its first referendum on leaving Canada inn 1980. I’m old enough to remember how it dominated headlines, given that it happened on the heels of a separatist provincial government coming into power in 1976. The Partis Quebecois existed then and still exists to get Quebeckers to leave Canada and we in the rest of Canada are always waiting for yet another referendum on separation. Because, you see, after the “no” side won in 1980, by 59.56% to 40.44% we had another referendum fifteen years later that, quite frankly, scared the living shit out of anyone who wants a united Canada that included Quebec.

It was close. It was nail-bitingly close. The “no” side won by a razor-thin margin: 50.58% to 49.42.  I remember watching the returns that night twenty-one years ago knowing that only a handful of votes tipping the scales to the yes side would have fundamentally changed Canada forever.

Here’s a sample of what I watched that night:

So, folks, I get what you are going through right now. All Canadians, probably better than most people completely freaking get it.

And if you’re really interested in our dalliance with breaking apart in 1995, here’s a fantastic documentary that spells everything out.

Brexit means a lot of things to a lot of people. Lots of opinions are flying across social media. Everybody is passionate about what happened. We now hear that Scotland will probably want a referendum similar to our 1995 Quebec referendum – and you guys just went through that.whole experience just two years ago.

Analyst Warren Kinsella has an excellent “winners and losers” posting here – it’s worth a read.

Here in Canada, separatism has simmered down for a while. But we know that one day there will likely be another referendum like the one in 1995. National Unity debating is Canada’s official hobby and for at least ten year’s it hasn’t reared its ugly head. We are right now knee-deep in finally addressing the longstanding concerns of our first nations people – the folks who were here before the French and English. I hope we can solve that. I hope that we can be unified here at home and I hope that across the ocean, people are going to take stock of what has happened and what it all means.

We Canadians know how you feel. Hang in there.


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