Parliament formally recognized Quebec as a nation within Canada Monday, a symbolic gesture that ignited concerns over a renewed push for the French-speaking province's independence.
The motion presented by Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, which calls Quebec a nation within a united Canada, is largely symbolic in that it requires no constitutional amendment or change of law. The opposition Liberals and New Democrats supported the motion, so it passed easily through the House of Commons.
It was devised by Harper to pre-empt a similar attempt by the Bloc Quebecois, the separatist party in Parliament that represents Quebec, whose members reluctantly backed the resolution once they realized they had been outflanked by Harper.
The Tories are lagging in popularity in Quebec, and observers say Harper hopes that the formal recognition will win him favor among its traditionally liberal voters.
Others fear the recognition will be divisive, re-igniting hope among Quebec separatists for an independent nation and prompting other groups to demand similar nationhood.