Charest's a federalist?

Quebec, according to the Premier, is bound to Canada by nothing more than its own self-interest, says WILLIAM JOHNSON

Nous avons les moyens de faire l'indépendance

Just how federalist is the Liberal Party of Quebec? Prime Minister Stephen Harper is prone to praise Jean Charest for his federalism. "This is the strongest federalist premier in my lifetime," he has repeated.
Oh? So what has Mr. Charest done lately to earn that endorsement? On Friday in Paris, the Premier taped an interview with France's TV5. His statement on secession earned him big headlines in Saturday's newspapers, including Montreal's La Presse: "A surprising statement by Jean Charest on French TV: 'Quebec has the means to become independent.' " Parti Québécois Leader André Boisclair declared triumphantly: "It is a definitive victory for the sovereigntists." Former premier Bernard Landry added that Mr. Charest "has just sterilized all the economic fears and panics that some federalists agitated and abused."
The Premier was moved by the outcry to send a letter to La Presse that was published on Sunday. There, he outlined his conception of the federal bond with respect to Quebec: It simply doesn't exist. "Quebec possesses the means of choosing its destiny and is free to do so, but it is not in the interest of Quebeckers to turn its back on Canada to become a separate state." So Quebec, according to the Premier, is bound to the federation and to Canada by nothing more than its own self-interest. It has no obligation toward this country and enjoys total freedom to remain or to leave.
He explained again, in his letter: "We have always recognized that Quebeckers could and should exercise freely their right to pronounce themselves democratically on the question of the political status of Quebec. On the other hand, whether it be Robert Bourassa or myself, we have never recognized the pertinence of separation, from either an economic or political point of view."
That unqualified freedom of choice was also asserted, even more clearly, on July 2 by Benoît Pelletier, Quebec's minister of Canadian Intergovernmental Affairs, and a former professor of constitutional law: "Within Canadian federalism, Quebec remains 'free to chose its destiny,' as Robert Bourassa used to say. Moreover, the Supreme Court of Canada recognized, in 1998, that the secession of Quebec, even if it were unilateral, was possible. Quebeckers may quite properly decide to take collective responsibility for themselves in the framework of a sovereign state, just as they may - just as legitimately - seek to do so within the Canadian federative bond."
Both Mr. Charest and his minister said the direct opposite of what the Supreme Court ruled in its 1998 advisory opinion on the secession of Quebec. Far from asserting that Quebeckers were equally free to secede or to remain in Canada, the court found that Quebec was bound by the rule of law, the Constitution of Canada and the principle of federalism. "The democratic vote, by however strong a majority, would have no legal effect on its own and could not push aside the principles of federalism and the rule of law, the rights of individuals and minorities, or the operation of democracy in the other provinces or in Canada as a whole. Democratic rights under the Constitution cannot be divorced from constitutional obligations."
Two paths could lead to Quebec's secession, the court found - either a revolution successfully carried out against the law, or an amendment to the Constitution that allowed Quebec to secede under the rule of law. This would not be up to Quebec alone to decide, as Mr. Charest has maintained, but would be a decision taken by all Canadians under the terms of the Constitution. A condition for the enabling amendment would be a negotiated agreement in which the rights of all Canadians were secured. "Negotiations would need to address the interests of the other provinces, the federal government and Quebec and indeed the rights of all Canadians, both within and outside Quebec, and specifically, the rights of minorities."
Mr. Charest is, at best, a quasi-federalist. He acknowledges all the advantages that Quebec derives from its participation in the federation. But he denies Quebec's corresponding obligation to abide by the Constitution of Canada. He perpetuates an entirely unfounded and subversive myth: that Quebec is free as a bird to fly the coop at will.
In a speech in Montreal in January of 2002, Stephen Harper, then a candidate for the leadership of the Canadian Alliance, said: "Speaking of not fanning separatist flames, let me also state unequivocally that the Canadian Alliance, while it must defend legitimate provincial jurisdiction, must never defend those who interpret provincial power as including a right to unilateral secession. Any act of secession on the part of any part of the country must be done within the confines of the current Constitution, which includes the rule of law and clear democratic consent."
What does Mr. Harper think now of his friend Jean Charest, who fans the separatist flames by claiming that Quebec holds a right to unilateral secession?
William Johnson, a former president of Alliance Quebec, is the author of Stephen Harper and the Future of Canada.

Laissez un commentaire

Aucun commentaire trouvé