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Quebec mourns separatist ex-premier Jacques Parizeau

Jacques Parizeau, the Quebec separatist and former premier who nearly took the French-speaking province out of Canada, has died. His 1995 referendum on independence was rejected by a very narrow margin.

Canadian and Quebec leaders paid tribute on Tuesday to the 84-year-old European-trained economist who in his final years continued to argue that sovereignty was still possible for Quebec.

Pierre Karl Peladeau, the current leader of the separatist Parti Quebecois, said the whole province was in mourning. He described Parizeau (pictured above) as "one of the great builders of modern Quebec."

Condolences also came from Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and current Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, whose anti-separatist Liberals won elections last year, vowing reconciliation.

Parizeau's wife, Lisette Lapointe, said her husband had died peacefully on Monday.

Parti Quebecois elected 1994

Parizeau's Parti Quebecois won the province's election in 1994 after promising to hold a referendum on separation from Canada within a year.

On referendum day in October 1995, a majority of French speakers, who made up 82 percent of Quebec's population, voted for independence.

But it was rejected by Quebec's English-speaking residents and immigrant groups, with a very narrow margin at 50.6 percent to 49.4 percent.

A bitter Parizeau, who had campaigned for separation since the 1960s, asked: "We are beaten, it is true. But by what? Money and the ethnic vote."

Parizeau resigned as premier the next day.

Studied economics

Parizeau was born into a well-to-do suburb of Montreal, studied at its university business school and then in Paris, before earning a doctorate at the London School of Economics.

He told a gathering of Quebec nationalists in 2013 sovereignty was still possible. "Do not be afraid of your dreams, do not be afraid of the obstacles in your path."

ipj/kms (Reuters, AP)

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