In a column titled "The beautiful free ride of Gilles Duceppe" published by The Globe and Mail on Jan. 12, 2006, Lawrence Martin writes: "... the potential costs of secession: Economic turmoil. Major civil strife, if not bloodshed. Seething partitionist pressures in Quebec. Endless conflict with the rest of the country over ownership of capital and resources. A diminished Canada, subject to further breakup."
I've been expanding my sources of information with English media for many years. I've seldom witnessed references to possible violence in the event of a sovereign Québec from French-speaking circles, be they federalist or sovereigntist. When such a possibility is brought up, it almost exclusively comes from English sources. And I wonder... under what circumstance, and by whom, would fighting be considered desirable?
Of course, the province went through a somber episode in October 1970. The fact that this episode is rooted in the same ground than the current sovereignty movement may be tainting its general understanding. But the actors of the democratic thrust that prevailed before, and prevails even more since, unequivocally distanced themselves from these events. They even used them to actually galvanize support against violence in efforts for Québec's sovereignty.
Since, the province has gone through two referendums, 1980 and 1995. Both were peaceful. The fact that 1995 was lost by the sovereigntists by a hairline should have betrayed belligerent intents, if any. Nothing happened. Those nights were even more peaceful than the Canadiens' Stanley Cup victories of 1986 and 1993! The Québécois have their priorities.
So, could violence stem from outside the province? Could federalists be marching down the streets of Ottawa burning down Québec related symbols? Could federalists from outside the province be marching down the streets of Montréal or Québec City prompting local residents? It's not entirely impossible, but I don't see it happening.
The most "promising" potential for discord can probably be found between factions within the province. Like Mr. Lawrence, many believe that some residents would prefer to remain Canadians. Is this desire actually strong enough to lead to violence? What exactly would be worth taking up arms? It's not like anyone would be asked to go anywhere. English-speaking communities of Montréal's West Island would keep their land, so would Natives and any other group. It's a given that Natives feel they have a better shot at territorial claims with a Canadian government, but resorting to violence to simply maintain "a better shot" sounds like a convoluted scheme. If not for land, what would anyone be fighting for?... to keep the Canadian passport?... to keep the Canadian currency? I believe that the vast majority of Québécois would want to continue living in a peaceful Québec and that those who feel differently are overrating the Canadian identity.
Perhaps, Mr. Lawrence's point of view betrays his opinion that Canada would have more to loose from an independent Québec than the province itself.