20 August 1998

The Supreme Court of Canada rules that Quebec cannot legally secede from Canada without the federal government’s approval.

There have been historical and ongoing discussions and debates regarding Quebec’s relationship with the rest of Canada, including the possibility of Quebec seceding and becoming an independent nation.

One of the most notable instances of this debate was the 1995 Quebec independence referendum. The Quebec government, led by the Parti Québécois and its leader Jacques Parizeau, held a referendum on whether Quebec should become a sovereign state. The referendum question asked whether Quebec should become a sovereign state with a partnership offer from Canada or remain within Canada. The vote was very close, with the “No” side winning by a slim margin of 50.6% to 49.4%.

The idea of Quebec independence has deep historical roots, stemming from cultural, linguistic, and political differences between Quebec and the rest of Canada. Quebec is predominantly French-speaking and has its own distinct culture and legal system. Over the years, there have been various political movements advocating for greater autonomy or outright independence for Quebec.

The Canadian federal government and various provincial governments have worked to address Quebec’s concerns and promote national unity. In 1982, Canada’s constitution was amended to include the Constitution Act, which recognized the province of Quebec as a distinct society and provided certain protections for its language and culture.

20 August 1997

Over 64 people are killed in the Souhane massacre in Algeria.

The largest of the Souhane massacres took place in the small mountain town of Souhane about 25 km south of Algiers, between Larbaa and Tablat on 20–21 August 1997. 64 people were killed, and 15 women kidnapped; the resulting terror provoked a mass exodus, bringing the town’s population down from 4000 before the massacre to just 103 in 2002.

Smaller-scale massacres later took place on November 27, 1997 18 men, 3 women, 4 children killed and 2 March 2000, when some 10 people from a single household were killed by guerrillas. The massacres were blamed on Islamist groups such as the GIA.

20 August 1866

The USA, President Andrew Johnson declares the American Civil War over.


The highest-ranking Confederate general, Robert E Lee, surrendered to his opposing number, Ulysses S Grant. The Confederate capital in Richmond, Virginia, had been taken, and the Confederate president, Jefferson Davis, was on the run. The American Civil War was won – but it was far from over.

The war came at a terrible human cost. The marvels of the industrial revolution – the railroads, the telegraph and the assembly lines – all contributed to making it the bloodiest war in terms of American lives lost to date.

But the war also came at a high financial price, and arguably changed American economic policy forever. By the middle of 1861, the year fighting began, the government’s spending was $1.5m a day, notes economic historian John Steele Gordon in Barron’s. By the end of the war, spending had risen to $3.5m a day.

It was only on 20 August 1866 that President Andrew Johnson could finally and officially declare the American Civil War over: “Order, tranquillity, and civil authority now exists in and throughout the whole of the United States of America.”