|Deception...part of the PQ's sovereignty plan|
Sovereigntists, as we see in our comments sections, are adept at denial, twisting and spinning and use the minutest of facts to confound the debate.
So what I'll write is simple and to the point, and I appreciate comments that pertain only to the subject at hand, because we have many more pieces of this sort in the future, covering all aspects of the sovereignty issue.
It's funny how sovereigntists constantly militate for an independent Quebec while continuing to ignore, consider or publicly debate the actual modalities or repercussions, as if the consequences are no matter, akin to the Rapture, where all that matters is the actual event itself.
Not since the last referendum have sovereigntists considered the realities of leaving Canada and when then PQ minister Richard le Hir conducted some internal studies about the economic ramifications of sovereignty, the results were so unfavourable that the whole thing was downplayed and in fact trivialized by Lucien Bouchard, who when questioned about the studies in the middle of the referendum campaign disavowed their legitimacy by saying;
"They aren't mine, they belong to Richard LeHir. It's in the past, part of an old campaign"It has been the narrow policy of sovereigntists to discuss ad nauseam the road to sovereignty without ever discussing, speculation or assessing the effects, the day after, the year after or the decade after.
Where have you seen any reasonable attempt to describe Quebec after Canada, both socially, politically or economically? You'd think separatists would wax eloquently over the subject on the pages of vigile.net, but 99% of the conversations are about achieving the Holy Grail of sovereignty and getting out of the rat-trap that Canada is perceived to be.
The future of an independent Quebec after Canada according to sovereigntists is, as Doris Day sang.. 'Que Sera Sera!'
Let us start by broaching a few uncomfortable subjects, starting with the right of Quebecers to determine for themselves the prerogative to secede from Canada.
So today we'll discus the prepostebrous notion that it is up to Quebec to decide its future and whether that decision is Quebec's alone.
A very quick review of history, before we proceed.
After the referendum loss in 1995, the federal government tabled a law called the Clarity Act that set forth conditions and rules that could lead to Quebec sovereignty following a successful referendum.
"The Clarity Act is legislation passed by the Parliament of Canada that established the conditions under which the Government of Canada would enter into negotiations that might lead to secession following such a vote by one of the provinces.In essence, Quebec's Bill 99 thumbed its nose at the Clarity Act declaring that Quebec wouldn't necessarily abide by its provision, (not quite, but close enough)
Although the law could theoretically be applied to any province, the Clarity Act was created in response to the 1995 Quebec referendum and ongoing independence movement in that province. The content of the Clarity Act was based on the 1998 secession reference to the Supreme Court of Canada made by the federal government of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.
Two days after the Clarity Act had been introduced in the Canadian House of Commons, the Parti Québécois government passed Bill 99 an act respecting the exercise of the fundamental rights and prerogatives of the Québec people and the Québec State in the National Assembly of Quebec." Wikipedia
My friend Brent Tyler is contesting the validity of Bill 99 and will have his day in court next year. You might recall that Ottawa recently decided to get involved in that case as an intervenor on the side led by Tyler opposing the law.
This freaked out the Quebec government because they've been advised by their own lawyers that the law is a dog and will be struck down, and the fact is that Ottawa's involvement will make the loss more painful.
In response the Quebec National Assembly passed a unanimous motion (yes our useful idiot Anglo MPs voted for the motion) denouncing Ottawa's participation. Link
"The parties in Quebec's legislature all voted in favour of a motion Wednesday to denounce the federal government's court challenge of a 13-year-old provincial law known as Bill 99 on the rules for Quebec sovereignty.All right, enough with the boring historical stuff, it all comes down to this question.
The legislature called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government to withdraw its participation in a legal challenge, filed in Quebec Superior Court last week.
The motion tabled by Premier Pauline Marois "condemns the intrusion by the Government of Canada into Quebec democracy." Link
Can Quebecers decide on their own whether to secede from Canada and under what conditions that decision would be based on?
You can easily imagine how seductive to Quebecers the idea is, that they alone can decide their future.
But unfortunately our society doesn't work like that, we can't always get what we want and seldom do.
We don't decide on what we pay for products or services and if Quebecers voted unanimously in a referendum for $1 gas at the pumps, they wouldn't get that neither.
Our society operates on the holy principle that a deal is a deal and that no party can modify that deal without the consent of the other, or by another clearly defined process clearly outlined in law.
Quebec has been a party to the BNA act that binds it to Canada for over 140 years and while there are those who would argue that the people of Quebec were forced into the union, it is a little too late to complain.
For 147 years Quebec has benefited from its inclusion in Canada and has been a willing partner in the social, economic and political fabric of Canada. Quebec on two occasions has reaffirmed this commitment, so there is no pretending that the province isn't bound by the terms of the agreement of union. In fact the referendum rejections actually undermine completely any attempt by sovereigntists to assert that they are in confederation under duress.
So Quebec is intrinsically part of Canada and bound by the terms of union. Extricating itself from Canada is not as easy as saying 'I want out' because there is a contract that cannot be abrogated without consent of the other party or parties.
It is the same for the other nine provinces who cannot kick Quebec out of Canada without Quebec's consent, even if a majority of those in the ROC vote to do so via a referendum.
You can't change a contract without the other party's agreement. Period. End of discussion.
Try telling Rogers that you no longer want to use their services or the bank that you no longer feel bound by the mortgage agreement and that the decision is yours and your's alone to make. Think they'll agree?
Perhaps you are an obnoxious tenant in your apartment building and the majority of the other residents vote to kick you out. Do you think that the vote would have legal standing?
It is easy for Quebecers to believe that they and they alone may modify the terms of union, it just seems so right that if a majority of Quebecers want out, their will should prevail.
But it doesn't work that way...
Imagine the people of Newfoundland holding a referendum deciding whether they should withdraw from the terms of the contract agreement for power with Hydro-Quebec.
I imagine that 95% of the Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans would vote to abrogate the deal.
But I also I imagine Quebec would object, telling the Newfies that a deal is a deal and that no referendum can modify the terms of a contract, not without Hydro-Quebec's consent.
Just because the Newfoundlanders vote to cut ties with Hydro-Quebec, they plainly can't do it.
In fact the Supreme Court has already told Newfoundland the exact same thing.
Tough noogies, a deal's a deal.
The Clarity Act is actually a godsend to Quebec separatists, because it is a legal road map to achieving independence.
Ask a clear and unambiguous question and get a clear majority. Voila!
The only issue to be decided is what that clear majority might be and that issue should represent the entire debate.
Quebec telling the rest of the country that it is their decision alone to decide on the terms of divorce is patently ludicrous.
Stephane Dion made known these facts known to Quebec through a series of three professorial letters directed at Quebec leaders in person and the public in general. While the message and the messenger were not to the liking of separatists, Dion was indeed pointing out the stark reality of Quebec succession. I'm reprinting this analysis because it is worthy of our respect.
"In the first open letter, Dion challenged three assertions that Bouchard had made: that a unilateral declaration of independence is supported by international law, that a majority of "50% plus one" was a sufficient threshold for secession, and that international law would protect the territorial integrity of Quebec following a secession. Against the first assertion, Dion argued that the vast majority of international law experts "believe that the right to declare secession unilaterally does not belong to constituent entities of a democratic country such as Canada." In regard to the simple majority argument, Dion argues that due to the momentous changes to Quebecers' lives that would result from secession, a simple majority that could disappear in the face of difficulties would be insufficient to ensure the political legitimacy of the sovereigntist project. In regard to the territorial integrity of Quebec, Dion retorts that "there is neither a paragraph nor a line in international law that protects Quebec's territory but not Canada's. International experience demonstrates that the borders of the entity seeking independence can be called into question, sometimes for reasons based on democracy."Quebec needs Canada's approval to separate, because a deal's a deal.
In Dion's second open letter to Jacques Brassard, Quebec's intergovernmental affairs minister, Dion expands upon his earlier arguments against the territorial integrity of Quebec following secession by highlighting the inconsistency in the argument that Canada is divisible but Quebec is not. Secondly, Dion underscores that without recognition by the Government of Canada and when opposed by a strong minority of citizens, a unilateral declaration of independence faces much difficulty in gaining international recognition.
In Dion's third open letter to Lucien Bouchard, he criticizes the Quebec premier for accepting some aspects of the Supreme Court ruling on Secession (such as the political obligation for the Government of Canada to negotiate secession following a clear expression of will from the people of Quebec) and not other sections of the ruling (such as the need for a clear majority on a clear question and the unconstitutionality of a unilateral declaration of independence). In regard to the ruling, Dion makes three claims: that the federal government has a role in the selection of the question and the level of support required for it to pass, that secession can only be achieved through negotiation rather than a "unilateral declaration of independence", and that the terms of negotiation could not be decided solely by the Government of Quebec. Wikipedia
The only other path is a unilateral declaration of independence, whereby Quebec tells Canada that it is independent without permission, a scenario that even Quebecers would reject, because those situations lead to partition and possibly armed conflict.
Leading up to the legal challenge over Bill 99 next year and Mr. Tyler's contention that Quebec cannot decide its future unilaterally, what is important to remember is that a 'deal is a deal'....just ask the Newfies.