03/05/2013 05:27 EST | Updated 05/05/2013 05:12 EDT

Free Quebec From the Yoke of the Clarity Act


Second reading debate on Bill C-457, An Act to repeal the Clarity Act, has concluded, and today you will be asked to vote on this important bill in the House of Commons. For a debate that some call an "old quarrel," it has made a fairly big impact, both in Quebec and the rest of Canada, even leading to the NDP's introduction of a clarity bill 2.0.

The House of Commons has already recognized Quebec as a nation and thus its right to self-determination. Nations decide their own future. Both the current Clarity Act and the NDP version trample on this fundamental right.

The current law, devised by the Liberal Party of Canada and accepted by the Conservative Party, and the bill introduced by the NDP both place Quebec under federal supervision. Under the Clarity Act, Quebec is supervised by the House of Commons and other Canadian parliamentarians. Under the NDP bill, this supervision would be the federal government's responsibility. Whether its 1,042 parliamentarians who do not sit in our National Assembly or the Prime Minister of Canada and his or her government, such supervision is equally unacceptable.

If the NDP's bill were in force, Stephen Harper would decide whether Quebec has the right to decide its own future.

Writing Quebec's referendum question in advance and including it in the NDP bill is an insult the Liberal Party never dared attempt. To have any say in the wording of the question, you must be elected to the Quebec National Assembly. Since the Clarity Act was passed, no Quebec government has recognized the federal government's authority to interfere with Quebec's referendum process. That is how we uphold Quebec's Referendum Act and the concept of nationhood.

Along with all these federal restraints, the NDP seems to propose the 50% +1 standard, but would only apply it to a question accepted by the federal government. Nothing in the NDP's clarity bill indicates that 50% +1 would apply to a question drafted by the National Assembly and subjected to a free vote of the people of Quebec or to tacit recognition of the outcome. Indeed, under both versions of the Clarity Act, the federal government reserves the right to veto the referendum result based on its assessment of the process. In short, this is a sea of tricks and subterfuge.

The results of the referenda of 1980, 1992 (where the majority in Ontario was only 14,248 votes) and 1995 (which was defeated by only 54,288 votes) were accepted as democratic because the standard was 50% +1 and especially because Quebec could hold its referenda under its own laws, unthreatened by a federal sword of Damocles. There was no Clarity Act to muddy the waters.

The next time Quebeckers make their choice, they will decide for themselves according to their own laws. The international community, which respects Quebec's democratic process, will acknowledge the obvious. Members of the House of Commons, I urge you to be equally respectful of our nation.

I encourage you to rise in support of the Bloc Québécois bill to repeal the Clarity Act. Its passage will not create a legal black hole -- quite the contrary. It will remove a yoke from Quebec's democracy.

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