Late in the evening of October 30, 1995, Jacques Parizeau states: "True, we've been defeated... at the very heart of it, by what? By money... and ethnic votes... essentially." National newspapers in Canada are not going to let anyone forget these words.
The "Yes" side started strong that evening and kept the lead for quite a while. It took some time before results from Montreal's West Island started to hurt that lead, more time than most Canadians from other provinces felt comfortable with. Before there was any sign of relief for the "No" side, commentators on both the CBC and CTV were openly hoping that the ethnic vote would save the day. They used the word "ethnic" candidly.
During the last US presidential campaign, political analysts used the expression "ethnic vote" to explain different demographic patterns and their impact. There was no significant difference in the use of the expression among Canadian and American political commentators.
In contrast, Parizeau's words provoked an important reaction. Both English and French media responded with similar disbelief. Why this uproar? Why this outrage? It's no secret that spending for the "No" side exceeded the amount permitted by law. It's no secret that Québec's sovereignty is less appealing to Anglophones and Allophones. Is anyone disputing these facts?
In his bitterness, Parizeau suggested that sovereignty could eventually be achieved without the new-stock Québécois. That was unfair to those who supported the sovereigntist option, but most and for all, it was misguided. Many Westerners displayed similar feelings toward the Québécois when Harper was stopped short of majority in 2008, but such behavior is unacceptable from a political figure of Parizeau's stature. His words hinted at alienating an important part of the province's population. Great politicians bring people together.
The 1995 speech aside, Parizeau hasn't done much to be labeled as a racist. His political actions don't concur with such a label, his personal life even less. He was married to Alice Parizeau (née Alicja Poznańska). Of Polish origin, she worked with the resistance movement of Poland during World War II and was made prisoner in the Bergen-Belsen war camp in Germany. The couple raised two children and spent 34 years together until she died of cancer in 1990.