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To refer a political question to an electorate for direct decision. Referendums do not fit well with a parliamentary system of government and Canada has used them infrequently. The first was in 1898 on a question of prohibition and the next in 1942 on the matter of conscription. English speaking Canada voted in support of allowing the government to use conscription, while French speaking Canada voted against it, thus creating a crisis for government. A federal referendum was also held in 1992 to seek support for a constitutional change (the Charlottetown Accord); this was soundly defeated. Provincial governments have relied on referendums somewhat more often. Newfoundland, for example, held a referendum in 1948 on the question of entry to Canada (it took two votes to win agreement, and then by only 52.3%); in 1988 the province of Prince Edward Island held a referendum on the question of whether a fixed link with mainland Canada should be established; in 1980 Quebec held a referendum on permission to negotiate-sovereignty-association with the rest of Canada (this was defeated by 60% of voters), and a second referendum was held in Quebec in 1995 on a more direct question of separating from Canada (this was rejected by 51% of the voters).

Last updated 2002--0-9-

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Athabaca University ICAAP

© Robert Drislane, Ph.D. and Gary Parkinson, Ph.D.
The online version of this dictionary is a product of
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*This social science dictionary has 1000
entries covering the disciplines of sociology, criminology, political
science and women's study with a commitment to Canadian examples and
events and names