Nationalist sentiments in Quebec are rooted in the 1759 defeat of French forces by the English in what is now Quebec City. That defeat, and France's abandonment of what was then called New France, is still referred to as "The Conquest." Today, many Quebeckers want to ensure that French culture and language do not become extinct in English-speaking North America. Here's a chronology of key events:
1534 - French explorer Jacques Cartier reaches what is present-day Montreal.
1605 - France founds its first permanent settlement in Quebec at Fort Royal.
1670 - The English establish a fur-trading post on Hudson Bay.
1759 - In its final battle for North America, Britain defeats France on the Plains of Abraham in today's Quebec City.
1763 - France cedes New France (part of present Quebec) to the English.
1774 - England guarantees French-speaking North Americans continued use of their language and extends Quebec borders.
1867 - British Parliament creates the Dominion of Canada, a confederation of the colonies of Lower Canada (Quebec), Upper Canada (Ontario), Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick.
1960 - Jean Lesage is elected Quebec premier and initiates the "Quiet Revolution," a movement to transform Quebec from a clerical to a secular society and gain power for the province vis-a-vis the federal government.
1969 - Canada makes French and English its two official languages.
1974 - Quebec's National Assembly votes to make Quebec officially a unilingual French-speaking province.
1976 - Rene Levesque and the separatist Parti Quebecois (PQ) are elected to govern Quebec.
1979 - A federal task force on Canadian unity calls for a new constitution.
1980 - Quebeckers vote "No" (60 percent to 40 percent) on a referendum question proposing that Quebec negotiate "sovereignty association" with Canada - a proposal calling for greater autonomy for Quebec while retaining many economic and political ties.
1982 - Canada's founding document, the 1867 British North America Act - after the addition of various amendments and a new Charter of Rights and Freedoms - is adopted by the federal Parliament with the endorsement of all provinces except Quebec. Though the Constitution is rejected by the Parti Quebecois, then in power in Quebec, that province comes under the jurisdiction of the revised Constitution.
1984 - Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and his Progressive Conservative Party are elected. One goal is to win Quebec's acceptance of the revised Constitution.
1985 - Quebec Liberals defeat the separatist PQ in provincial elections, but issue five conditions for signing the Constitution.
1987 - Mulroney and 10 provincial premiers meet at Meech Lake, Quebec, and agree in principle on a constitutional compromise. Also in 1987, Quebec outlaws the use of English on outdoor signs and relegates English-language messages to secondary status in indoor advertising.
1990 - Meech Lake constitutional amendments fail to gain ratification. A Quebec commission proposes a referendum on Quebec's future.
1990 - PQ leader Jacques Parizeau calls for Quebec political independence while maintaining close economic association with Canada.
1992 - All 10 provinces and two territories approve a second constitutional compromise in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, that grants new powers to all provinces and recognizes Quebec as a "distinct society."
Oct. 26, 1992 - In a referendum, Canadian voters reject the Charlottetown compromise.
Oct. 25, 1993 - Bloc Quebecois, with 53 seats, becomes the "official opposition" in the federal Parliament.
September, 1994 - Parizeau and new PQ government pledge to hold a referendum on Quebec sovereignty.
June 12, 1995 - Quebec National Assembly passes Bill 1 that allows (if a "Yes" vote is achieved in a referendum) the province to declare independence on Oct. 30, 1996, should negotiations on a new economic and political union with Canada fail.
Sept. 11 - Parizeau formally declares a referendum for Oct. 30.
Oct. 7 - With the "Yes" side lagging in the polls, Parizeau steps down as head of the "Yes" campaign, appointing Lucien Bouchard chief negotiator of a new deal with Canada should the referendum pass.
Oct. 10 - Bouchard begins an energetic, fiery campaign.
Oct. 27 - More than 150,000 from across Canada rally in downtown Montreal against Quebec separation.
Oct. 30 - A referendum is held on the question: "Do you agree that Quebec should become sovereign, after having made a formal offer to Canada for a new economic and political partnership, within the scope of the Bill respecting the future of Quebec and of the agreement signed on June 12, 1995?" The "Yes" vote loses by a narrow margin. Unless the Quebec legislature votes to change the law, there will be no further referendum until a provincial election is held, perhaps four years in the future. Meanwhile, further negotiations between the federal government and the provinces on Quebec's status within the confederation are expected.
Sources: "The Canadian Crisis," William H. Donner Foundation; 1995 Canadian Global Almanac