Canadian minister resigns over Quebec motion 2006-11-28 06:31:31

    OTTAWA, Nov. 27 (Xinhua) -- A minister from Canada's Conservative government announced his resignation Monday, saying he could not accept Prime Minister Stephen Harper's stand on Quebec.

    "I believe in this great country of ours and I believe in one nation undivided, called Canada," Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Michael Chong, who also holds the sports portfolio, announced his resignation at a news conference in Ottawa.

    In response to a Bloc Quebecois motion to recognize Quebec as a nation, Prime Minister Stephen Harper tabled his own Quebec motion in the House last Wednesday that specified the province is a nation, but only within a united Canada.

    Two opposition parties, the Liberals and the New Democratic Party, said immediately after Harper tabled the motion Wednesday that they would support it. Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe has also declared his party's support for the Conservative motion after amending his original motion to say Quebec should be recognized as a nation within Canada.

    But critics have expressed fears that the motion is divisive to national unity and could advance the separatist agenda.

    Many Conservative MPs who have long opposed any special status for Quebec are also upset by the Prime Minister's decision to recognize Quebecois as a nation, Independent MP Garth Turner told reporters Monday.

    As a cabinet minister, Chong is required to vote with the government. He said he had to resign in order to abstain from the vote. "This is a fundamental principle for me and not something on which I can or will compromise - not now, not ever. While I'm loyal to my party and my leader, my first loyalty is to my country. It is for this fundamental principle that I cannot support the motion recognizing the Quebecois as a nation," he said.

    Chong, 35, who represents the Ontario riding of Wellington-Halton Hills, said he remains a Conservative and still supports the government's direction on other key issues.

    The Quebec status debate erupted several weeks ago after Liberal leadership candidate Michael Ignatieff supported a resolution from the party's Quebec wing to recognize the province as a nation.

    Analysts say Harper may be mistaken in thinking that his motion will buy him enduring peace with Quebec as it may open the door for separatists to demand more rights and eventually sovereignty for Quebec.

    The province has held two failed referenda on independence, one in 1980 and another in 1995. 

Editor: Mu Xuequan
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