Stephane Dion with Brian Lee Crowley

With Quebec election looming, former Liberal leader picks up cudgels on behalf of democracy and the rule of law in deciding Quebec's future.

May 25, 2011, Ottawa, ON – Within a year the Province of Quebec faces a provincial election that, if the polls are to be believed, will return the Parti Quebecois to power, raising afresh the spectre of a referendum on Quebec independence. Now more than ever Canadians need clarity on the legality and constitutionality of secession and the tolls that we possess to ensure that our future unfolds in a way that is both democratic and respectful of the rule of law.

In that context the Macdonald-Laurier Institute (MLI) today released a timely Commentary, Secession and the Virtues of Clarity, written by Hon. Stéphane Dion, PC, former leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, and author of The Clarity Act.

In Secession and the Virtues of Clarity, Mr. Dion discusses how the international community views the phenomenon of secession – the precedents for secession within and between states in the global context and in terms of domestic and international law.  He uses Kosovo and South Sudan as examples of cases where secession was the best means available to end untenable situations.  He then takes us through the events leading up to the Supreme Court of Canada's opinion on secession (August 20, 1998) as well as the events and discussions that have taken place since.

Mr. Dion underlines the fact that unilateral secession would fail because it would have no legal foundation and might not be the true will of the people.  The only possible path towards a successful, democratic and legal secession for Quebec would be through open and clear negotiations within the Canadian constitutional context and with the full and informed will of Quebeckers to leave Canada and form an independent state.

Mr. Dion concludes, "The break-up of a modern state such as Canada would be a very difficult goal to attain – and an unreachable one if pursued without clarity and outside the rule of law.  This is a lesson of value for Canada, and certainly not for Canada only.  It highlights the universal scope and significance of the opinion of the Supreme Court of Canada."

Mr. Dion is Member of Parliament for the riding of Saint-Laurent-Cartierville in Montreal.  This Commentary is based on Mr. Dion's presentation, entitled Secession and the Virtues of Clarity, which was delivered at the 8th Annual Michel Bastarache Conference at the Rideau Club on February 11, 2011.


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