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The Clarity Act of Canada closed the door to the call for a new referendum in Quebec after those held in 1980 and 1995. In Canada secession is admitted as a possibility; not as a right. The government of a province has no right to self-proclaim government of an independent state. Neither international nor Canadian law grants that right.

Rafael Jorba

Domingo, 14/07/2019 – 23:00

The language of the ‘procés’ uses and abuses unbeatable concepts: right to decide, self-determination, human rights … Now the president of the Parliament, Roger Torrent, has put on the table “a pact of clarity to hold a referendum”. The proposal of the leader of ERC with greater institutional rank was formulated on Thursday of last week in Madrid and was interpreted as a waiver of the unilateral route of 1-O to negotiate a referendum in the Canadian way.

The problem is that the clarity that is invoked, in reference to the Clarity Act (Clarity Act) approved in 2000 in Canada, has not served for Quebec to hold a referendum. On the contrary, it was the lock that, de facto, closed the door to the call for a new referendum after those held in 1980 and 1995. After the second consultation, with a victory of ‘no’ for the minimum (50.58% ), the federal government raised an interpretative question to the Supreme Court (1998) and registered the principles of the response in the Clarity law (2000).

Possibility, not right

Stéphane Dion – a Québécois liberal who piloted that process as federal minister of Intergovernmental Affairs – has explained it at several conferences in Barcelona and Madrid. Here is a synthesis.

1. “In Canada, is secession a right?

No. Secession is admitted as a possibility; not as a right. The government of a province has no right to self-proclaim government of an independent state. Neither international nor Canadian law grants that right. “

2. “What is a clear question?

The Supreme Court speaks of ‘the will not to continue being part of Canada’. If he insisted on the clarity of the question, it is because it was questioned in the referendums of 1980 and 1995. The 1995 question was: ‘Do you agree that Quebec is sovereign after having made a formal offer? to Canada for a new economic and political association within the framework of the bill on the future of Quebec and the agreement signed on June 12, 1995? ‘”.

3. “What is a clear majority?

The Supreme Court says that the principle of democracy goes beyond the rule of the simple majority and that the obligation to enter into a negotiation on secession can only arise from a clear majority. There are two reasons. The first is that the more irreversible a decision is, the more it commits future generations. The second reason is that negotiation would be a difficult and full of obstacles. It should not happen that, while the negotiators try to reach an agreement, the majority change their opinion and oppose secession. “

4. “Who assesses the clarity of the question?

The Supreme Court assigns this role to the ‘political actors’. It is the responsibility of the Government of Quebec to choose the question that should be asked. The Law of Clarity establishes that the House of Commons (the equivalent of our Congress of Deputies), after due consultation and deliberation, must determine, by means of a resolution and before the referendum, if the question is clear. “

5. “Who determines the clear majority?

After a referendum on a clear question, if the Government of Quebec believes that it has obtained clear support, the House of Commons will study the clarity of the majority. Only if, after consultations and deliberations, the House concludes that there is a clear majority, the Government of Canada can and should begin negotiations on secession. “

In short, a referendum to the Canadian not only needs a clear question and a clear majority, but it is the Lower House of the Federal Parliament that is responsible for determining the clarity of both the question and the majority required. This is the reason why nationalists opposed the law. They called it Clarity, but in practice it set the bar so high that it closed the door to a third independence referendum in Quebec.

Stéphane Dion, beyond the legal framework of reference in each State, evokes the underlying issue in the secession-democracy binomial: “The democratic ideal encourages all citizens of a country to be loyal to each other, beyond the considerations of language, ethnicity, religion or regional belonging. Secession is an exercise, rare and unusual in democracy, by which you choose the citizens you want to keep and those who want to become foreigners.

Yes, let’s be clear. The language of the ‘proces’ uses and abuses substitutes to avoid the fundamental debate. Secession – political divorce – affects an essential issue: the dissolution of relations with others. They called it Clarity



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