MONTREAL — Some selected quotes from participants and players looking back at the 1995 referendum:
"You can't let the debate of the day mask the fact that Canadians care deeply in their country. Including Quebecers — from all origins and language. Quebecers care deeply about their country. The idea of Canada and its unity is not something that is set in stone forever, or that is solved. We need to always work towards building this country."
— Jean Charest, premier of Quebec 2003-12; leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada 1993-98.
"There are profound and symbolic things that have changed in Quebec since the 1995 referendum. There are no more French-Canadians. That was the word for years, with the hyphen. We are Quebecers. The young people call themselves Quebecers. They are no longer sentimentally attached to Canada, like we were when I was young. We used to sing 'Oh Canada' with our hand on our heart, in elementary school. That ended a long time ago."
— Bernard Landry, premier of Quebec 2001-03.
"If, during those conditions, which were pretty favourable, after the failure of Meech Lake, with the popularity of Lucien Bouchard, a coalition of three political parties that made up the Yes side, take all that together and if there is still a majority — even a tight majority — that says no, for me it's because it is what Quebecers want. You need to recognize that. In 1995 we talked about independence for a year; if there is something the Yes side forgot to talk about, I don't know what it is."
— Mario Dumont, leader of Action democratique du Quebec 1994-2009; member of Yes campaign.
"I'm not saying that Quebec sovereignty is in any way imminent, but since nothing has been done to stem the cause of discontent, it could rise again given the right circumstances. You can't predict it. What could trigger it, I cannot say."
— Jean-Francois Lisee, Parti Quebecois MNA and former speechwriter for premier Jacques Parizeau.
"I think what stands out is Mr. Lucien Bouchard coming in and basically replacing Mr. Jacques Parizeau as principle spokesman of the Yes camp. Poll numbers started to move in favour of the Yes side and it was extremely difficult. (Bouchard) tightened the ship. When you look at pre-referendum polls, we were as much as ten points ahead and at the end of the day, we were pretty much even. What made us win the referendum was probably the fact that a lot of Quebecers who normally don't vote and who didn't want independence got out and voted."
— John Parisella, strategic adviser for No campaign, former chief of staff to two Quebec premiers.
"The sound system and everything (for the Unity Rally) was turned on for the speeches with Jean Charest and Jean Chretien for noon. But up until then they unplugged the mics. We were going to do a (warm up for the crowd) before they got there and that was when the No side pulled the plug on the electricity. We were never allowed to speak. They told us we weren't from Quebec and we weren't supposed to say anything."
— Sheila Copps, deputy prime minister of Canada 1993-96; helped organize the Unity Rally in Montreal.
"It felt like everyone at the Vancouver airport was going to Montreal. In the days before Facebook and Twitter, it was pretty wild to get the sense that everyone was talking about the same thing. I can tell you everyone I knew in Vancouver was talking about the same thing. Everyone was making calls, saying: 'Are you going? How you getting there?'"
— Mark Leiren-Young, 53, attended Unity Rally in Montreal.
"The whole lead-up to the referendum had been quite sterile. Not too much excitement until the last week when the polls came out and it showed the Yes side had a pretty substantial lead and everyone got quite concerned. People who had otherwise thought this was going to be a boring event all of a sudden realized if they cared about the country they grew up in they had better do something about it."
— Christopher Dye, 38, No side volunteer who attended Unity Rally in Montreal.
The Canadian Press