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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 November 2006, 04:39 GMT
Canada backs Quebecer nationhood
Stephen Harper
Mr Harper's motion is largely symbolic
Canada's parliament has approved a government motion recognising the people of mostly francophone Quebec as a nation within a united Canada.

The motion passed by 266 votes to 16 with support from opposition MPs.

PM Stephen Harper proposed the motion last week to seek reconciliation with the separatist Bloc Quebecois.

But cabinet minister Michael Chong resigned in protest, saying he could not support recognition of what he called "ethnic nationalism".

The motion tabled, to include a reference to Canada as a united state, was drafted to ward off a similar proposal from a Quebec separatist party that would not have included the reference to a united Canada.

And while most members of the government obeyed an order to vote in favour, Mr Chong said there were dangers in passing the motion.

"While I'm loyal to my party and to my leader, my first loyalty is to my country," Mr Chong said.

"It is for this fundamental principle that I cannot support the motion recognising Quebecois as a nation."

'No more powers'

Mr Harper said he had proposed the measure in an effort to promote national reconciliation over the often divisive issue of the status of Quebec.

Mostly francophone Quebec rejected independence in referendums in 1980 and 1995.

It won't give Quebecers more powers
Maxime Bernier
Quebecer politician
The BBC's Lee Carter, in Toronto, says that separatist sentiment appears to have been on the wane since then, although most Quebecers want their distinct French culture recognised.

Constitutional experts say the motion carries no legal weight and would be unlikely to give Quebec separatists a lever to extract more political powers from Ottawa.

Mr Harper himself has stressed as much, describing the move a gesture to recognise Quebec's unique cultural heritage within Canada.

"It won't change anything in their day-to-day lives," Industry Minister Maxime Bernier, a leading Quebec legislator, said in parliament.

"It won't give Quebecers more powers."

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