The Bloc Quebecois is a party that only contests federal House of Commons seats in the province of Quebec. It is an outgrowth of the Parti Quebecois at the provincial level, that has advocated independence for that province since 1968.
After the failure of the Meech Lake Accord to assuage Quebec's concerns about the new federal constitution in the 1980s, there was greater impetus to push the Quebec nationalist position at the federal level.
The Bloc began as an informal organization of Quebec MPs from the other parties. Then, in 1993, the Bloc began contesting federal general elections as a separate party.
In the chaos of 1993, with the conservative vote being split between the Progressive Conservatives and the Reform Party, the Bloc was able to amass the second highest number of seats, after the governing Liberal Party. Their 54 seats made them the official opposition party.
There have been some ups and downs in the meantime; they currently hold 48 seats.
Gilles Duceppe has been party leader since 1997.