Elections Quebec intends to respond next week to the national assembly's request to lift the secrecy surrounding the illegal financing of the "No" camp in the 1995 sovereignty referendum on.

The Parti Québécois (PQ) had a unanimous motion adopted by the legislature last week to lift the publication ban on testimony and documents gathered during the investigation, which dates back to 2007.

According to leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, the public needs to know the truth about what happened during the referendum, in which the No side won by a narrow margin of 50.58 to 49.42 per cent.

Sovereigntists have often accused their opponents of cheating during the referendum campaign by not respecting the funding ceiling allocated to both camps under Quebec law.

The PQ asked in a letter on Wednesday when and how the Chief Electoral Officer intends to proceed with the disclosure of documents.

In an e-mail sent to The Canadian Press on Thursday, Élections Québec stated that it "does not have an answer" to our questions about the timetable and procedure that will be adopted.

But the agency said it hopes to "formulate a response to the national assembly by the end of the parliamentary session," in other words, by the end of next week.

The motion asks the Chief Electoral Officer to "disclose the Grenier Commission documents as soon as possible."

In an e-mail sent last week, Elections Quebec stated that it was taking note of the motion adopted and that "we are currently evaluating the applicable legal framework."

When asked to clarify, the organization did not wish to give any explanation of this assessment.

The commission chaired by Bernard Grenier was tasked with investigating allegations of illegal financing of the "No" camp. The commission submitted its report in 2007.

No fewer than 90 witnesses were heard on camera and 4,500 documents were submitted as evidence. But all of this was subject to a "non-disclosure, and non-dissemination of evidence order," with no time limit, issued by Grenier.

Grenier justified his order by saying that he was "sensitive to the warning expressed by some as to the risk of damaging after 11 or 12 years the reputation of people who have a heart for the No cause in good faith."

He also stated that he could see it as difficult to make the documents accessible at the time.

"The prejudice and injustice that we would have wished to avoid by proceeding in camera would thus be caused," he said.

No supporters in 1995


Grenier concluded that the "controversial funds" came from the Department of Canadian Heritage.

He also concluded that the Canadian Unity Council (CUC) and Option Canada had spent more than $11 million between 1994 and 1996 to promote the "No" vote in a period extending well before and after the regulated spending period, i.e. the 1995 referendum campaign.

The expenses were "not tainted by any irregularity in relation to the requirements of the law," it said. "During the referendum campaign, the No camp had respected the ceiling of nearly $5.1 million."

Love in at 1995 referendum

However, it was unable to determine who had financed the huge last-chance rally for Canada in Montreal at the end of the campaign, known as the "love-in" on Oct. 27, 1995.

"The evidence before me did not make it possible to determine the source of the funding for the October 27 rally in downtown Montreal," he wrote. "I am unable to conclude that the subsidies paid to the CUC or Option Canada were used to cover all or part of the costs of this rally."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on June 1, 2023.