News Release - April 14, 1997
SASKATCHEWAN INTERVENES IN QUEBEC SECESSION CASE
Saskatchewan has filed a written argument with the Supreme Court in the
federal government's reference case over Quebec's right to secede from
Premier Roy Romanow and Justice Minister John Nilson outlined details
of the province's argument (factum) today.
"One of the most important points Saskatchewan makes in its factum is
that Canada is a nation, with its own identity," Romanow said. "The
Fathers of Confederation created a new nation in 1867.
"Canada is not a contract that one can just walk away from. Canada is
a nation. It is both a nation and a federation because the Fathers of
Confederation wished to create a country which would develop a common
identity but which would also respect, rather than assimilate, the
distinctive identities of its citizens.
"The PQ's threat to unilaterally declare sovereignty prompted us to
intervene in this case. It is important to understand whether such an
action is authorized by law," Romanow said.
In its written brief:
Saskatchewan agrees with the federal government that Quebec does
not have the right to unilaterally secede either under Canadian
constitutional law or international law.
Saskatchewan also argues that significant changes to the
federation, such as the departure of a province, cannot take place
without the consent of a substantial number of provinces.
Premier Romanow reiterated his commitment to improve the federal system
and to prevent the possibility of a vote for sovereignty in Quebec.
"We need to continually work at modernizing our federation to ensure
our nation remains true to its values," Romanow said. "I believe most
of the issues facing our federation can be remedied without
constitutional amendment, through common-sense arrangements. Much has
already been done.
"I also believe that part of the issue can only be addressed through
constitutional change - addressing the issue of Quebec's role within
our nation. We require change that recognizes the distinct, unique and
historical position of Quebec. We need an intelligent discourse about
alternatives and movement towards a sensible and fair package which,
exhibiting one of Canada's great values of accommodation, embraces
Quebecers' hopes and aspirations," Romanow said.
Justice Minister John Nilson detailed the main points of Saskatchewan's
Quebec has no right to secede unilaterally under Canadian
constitutional law. Secession would require constitutional
amendments which can only be made in accordance with the amending
formulae contained in the constitution. As secession would be a
"significant constitutional upheaval", unilateral amendment by a
province is not authorized by the Constitution.
Further, because secession would affect provisions of the
Constitution which apply to all provinces, bilateral agreements,
agreed to solely by the federal government and the Government of
Quebec, are also not authorized by the Constitution. Thus, some
level of consent by other provinces would be required to amend the
Constitution to provide for Quebec secession.
International law does not give Quebec a right to secede from
Canada either. While Quebec may have a right to
self-determination, this right is fully accommodated within
Canada. This is clearly the case because Quebecers have the same
right to be represented in the national government as all other
Canadians and have a substantial level of autonomy, as provided
for by the federal system.
While there is no conflict between Canadian constitutional law and
international law regarding Quebec's right to secede, even if
there were such a conflict, the Constitution of Canada is the
supreme law of the country and would take precedence over
For more information, contact:
Phone: (306) 787-6349