The PQ has a 'new' strategy. Why do we put up with this?

Sovereignists have returned to old tactic, despite the constitution

PQ - état des lieux et refondation

Here we go again. The Parti Quebecois has embarked on a "new" strategy to achieve the secession of Quebec. But is it really new? More important, is it tolerable? According to the media, the big news in Quebec's sovereignty movement - apart from Gilles Duceppe's "error" and Pauline Marois's likely coronation - is that the PQ will no longer commit itself to holding a referendum on independence "as soon as possible in a new mandate." Pauline Marois, the leader-in-waiting, said so in her Sunday declaration speech.

"The Parti Quebecois must break away from the trap of setting a timetable or an obligation to hold a referendum. That is the first thing that I want to talk about with the members, in all regions of Quebec." That, of course, repudiates the official party program adopted in June 2005, the platform on which ex-leader Andre Boisclair fought the March 26 Quebec election and on which he brought the party to a third-place finish. But was that the really significant part of her speech? It merely meant a return to the doctrine propagated by previous leaders Rene Levesque - after he lost the 1980 referendum - Pierre-Marc Johnson, Lucien Bouchard and Bernard Landry. All said there should be no referendum on secession without the likelihood of winning.

Obviously, this recognizes that Quebecers are not committed to independence. It confesses that the PQ's only hope to provoke secession is to catch the Quebecois in a rare moment of turbulence and resentment when they could be lured into voting a majority Yes to a question set unilaterally by a PQ government.
If other Canadians were not so complacent, they would be outraged at such a barefaced cynical invitation to play Pequiste roulette when there are winning conditions. But there was even worse in her speech.

"No people can renounce its sovereignty. No political party has the moral right to set aside definitively the right of a people to self-determination. But all the time and all the energy spent on debating the mechanism (of secession) are time and energy which are not devoted to convincing (people) of the necessity of this sovereignty." Marois, thus, affirmed every people on Earth - there are at least 3,000 - has a right to sovereignty. She also repeated the well-worn fallacy the "right to self-determination" is a right to secede from an existing country and form a new sovereign state. That is entirely contrary to international law, which recognizes the right of secession only to colonies. It is contrary to the constitution of Canada, which requires any amendment to the constitution - as would be the secession of Quebec - can only be effected legally by following the amending procedures laid out in the Constitution Act.

In 1991-92, the Quebec government consulted five experts, none from Canada, probably the most reputable on international law in the Western world. They delivered this legal opinion: "The right to secession does not exist in international law." And this: "The Quebec people exercises effectively its right to self-determination within the framework of the Canadian whole and it is not legally qualified to invoke it to justify a future accession to independence." There was no ambiguity in their carefully reasoned legal opinion. But the Quebec government of Robert Bourassa did its best to bury the report it had commissioned. The five experts were never, as initially planned, called as witnesses before the committee of the National Assembly studying the conditions of secession in anticipation of a referendum in 1992.

Likewise, the 1998 advisory opinion on Quebec's secession of the Supreme Court of Canada has been widely misrepresented. The court recognized that Quebec's secession could be effected legally, but that would require an amendment to the constitution according to the amending formula, which in turn would require a negotiated agreement in which the rights of all concerned, such as the provinces and official-language minorities, must be protected. Otherwise, secession would be a revolution.

But the Parti Quebecois has never, at least since the leadership of Jacques Parizeau, ever accepted to secede under the terms set by the constitution or the courts. On the contrary, its leaders repudiated explicitly the conditions set by the Supreme Court of Canada. Like Pauline Marois, they claimed a fictitious right to secede, unconditionally.

The foxes are cunning and will try "new" tricks. The lambs, as usual, are silent.

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