1998 - Supreme Court Decision
In 1998, the Supreme Court of Canada released an opinion on the legality of the unilateral secession of Quebec. In Reference re Secession of Quebec, the Supreme Court stated
- Since, the principle of federalism and the desire to “reconcile diversity with unity” applies to Canada holistically, which has included Quebec since its inception, unilateral secession was not legal. However, if it were to be decided in a referendum that it was the wish of Quebec to secede, the rest of Canada would have no right to deny them independence.
- International law “does not specifically grant component parts of sovereign states the legal right to secede unilaterally from their ‘parent’ state” and that the right of a people to self determination was expected to be exercised within the framework of existing states, by negotiation, for example.
Both sides of the debate claimed to be happy with the court’s decision. The Prime Minister Jean Chrétien was pleased that Quebec could not secede unilaterally, while Quebec premier Lucien Bouchard claimed that the ruling validated the referendum strategy which separatists had been pursuing since 1998.