British Journal of Canadian Studies

Secession and Constitutional Principles: Working with the Supreme Court's Statement of Principles

British Journal of Canadian Studies (2007), 20, (2), 211–229.

Abstract

In the 1990s the Canadian Supreme Court was presented with the daunting challenge of assessing the legality of unilateral secession. It produced a ruling with the well-known conclusion that in the event of a clear expression of democratic will to secede, there was a duty on the part of all concerned to negotiate. There has been much debate about the idea of a duty to negotiate. Another aspect of the judicial decision that merits attention was the court's reliance on four principles (federalism, democracy, legitimacy and the rule of law, and respect for minorities) and their depiction of these principles. This essay reviews how the judiciary framed these principles and analyses the strengths and weaknesses of their conceptualisation. While the court's decision was a landmark in constitutional debates, the conceptual treatment of individual principles merits renewed attention, and various issues (such as the treatment of aboriginal peoples) warrant further reflection.

Access Token
£25.00
If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Cairns, A.C., 'The Constitutional Obligation to Negotiate', in D. Schniederman (ed.), The Quebec Secession: Perspectives on the Supreme Court Ruling on Secession (Toronto, ON: James Lorimer and Company, 1999), 143–8. The Constitutional Obligation to Negotiate The Quebec Secession: Perspectives on the Supreme Court Ruling on Secession 143 8. Google Scholar

Choudhry, S. and R. Howse., 'Constitutional Theory and the Quebec Secession Reference', Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence, 13: 2 (July 2000), 143–69. Constitutional Theory and the Quebec Secession Reference Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence 13 143 69 Google Scholar

Creighton, D., John A. Macdonald: The Old Chieftain (Toronto, ON: Macmillan, 1965). John A. Macdonald: The Old Chieftain Google Scholar

Expert Panel on Equalization and Territorial Financing, Achieving a National Purpose: Putting Equalization Back on Track (Ottawa, ON: 2006). Google Scholar

Gibson, D., 'Constitutional Vibes: Reflections on the Secession Reference and the Unwritten Constitution', National Journal of Constitutional Law, 11 (1999-2000), 49–64. Constitutional Vibes: Reflections on the Secession Reference and the Unwritten Constitution National Journal of Constitutional Law 11 49 64 Google Scholar

Greschner, D. 'Goodbye to the Amending Formulas?', in D. Schniederman (ed.), The Quebec Secession: Perspectives on the Supreme Court Ruling on Secession (Toronto, ON: James Lorimer and Company, 1999), 153–8. 'Goodbye to the Amending Formulas?' The Quebec Secession: Perspectives on the Supreme Court Ruling on Secession 153–8 Google Scholar

Hueglin, T.O. and A. Fenna, Comparative Federalism: A Systematic Enquiry (Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 2006). Comparative Federalism: A Systematic Enquiry Google Scholar

Jackson, R. and D. Jackson, Politics in Canada: Culture, Institutions, Behaviour and Public Policy, fifth edition (Toronto, ON: Prentice Hall, 2001). Google Scholar

Kelly, J.B. and M. Murphy, 'Shaping the Constitutional Dialogue on Federalism: Canada's Supreme Court as Meta-Political Actor,' Publius, 35:2 (Spring 2005), 217–43. Shaping the Constitutional Dialogue on Federalism: Canada's Supreme Court as Meta-Political Actor Publius 35 217 43 Google Scholar

Ladner, K.L. 'Up the Creek: Fishing for a New Constitutional Order', Canadian Journal of Political Science, 38:4 (December, 2005), 923–53. Google Scholar

Leclair, J. 'Canada's Unfathomable Unwritten Constitutional Principles', Queen's Law Journal, 27:2 (Spring 2002), 389–43. Canada's Unfathomable Unwritten Constitutional Principles Queen's Law Journal 27 389 43 Google Scholar

McCormick, P., 'New Questions about an Old Concept: The Supreme Court of Canada's Judicial Independence Decisions', Canadian Journal of Political Science, 37:4 (December 2004), 839–62. New Questions about an Old Concept: The Supreme Court of Canada's Judicial Independence Decisions Canadian Journal of Political Science 37 839 62 Google Scholar

McLachlin, B., 'Remarks of the Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin given at the 2005 Lord Cooke Lecture' (December 1 2005, Wellington, New Zealand) http://www.scc-csc.gc.ca/aboutcourt/judges/speeches/Unwritten Principles_e.asp Google Scholar

McRoberts, K., 'Québec: Province, Nation, or Distinct Society', in M. Whittington and G. Williams (eds) Canadian Politics in the 21st Century, sixth edition (Toronto, ON: Thomson-Nelson, 2004), 399-–426. Google Scholar

Monahan, P.J., 'The Public Policy Role of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Secession Reference', National Journal of Constitutional Law, 11 (1999–2000), 65–104. The Public Policy Role of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Secession Reference National Journal of Constitutional Law 11 65 104 Google Scholar

Monahan, P.J., Constitutional Law, second edition (Toronto, ON: Irwin Law, 2002). Google Scholar

Morton, W.L., The Critical Years: The Union of British North America 1857–1873 (Toronto, ON: McClelland and Stewart, 1964). The Critical Years: The Union of British North America 1857–1873 Google Scholar

Radan, P. '"You Can't Always Get What You Want": The Territorial Scope of an Independent Québec', Osgoode Hall Law Journal, 41:4 (Winter 2003), 629–63. "You Can't Always Get What You Want": The Territorial Scope of an Independent Québec Osgoode Hall Law Journal 41 629 63 Google Scholar

Roach, K., The Supreme Court on Trial: Judicial Activism or Democratic Dialogue? (Toronto, ON: Irwin Law, 2001). The Supreme Court on Trial: Judicial Activism or Democratic Dialogue? Google Scholar

Russell, P.H., Constitutional Odyssey: Can Canadians Become a Sovereign People?, third edition (Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press, 2004). Google Scholar

Usher, D., 'The New Constitutional Duty to Negotiate', Policy Options, 20:1 (January–February, 1999), 41–44. Google Scholar

Waite, P.B., The Life and Times of Confederation, 1864–1867: Politics, Newspapers and the Union of British North America (Toronto, ON: University of Toronto, 1962). The Life and Times of Confederation, 1864–1867: Politics, Newspapers and the Union of British North America Google Scholar

Young, R.A., 'Jean Chrétien's Quebec Legacy: Coasting then Stickhandling Hard', Review of Constitutional Studies, 9:1/2 (2004), 31–52. Jean Chrétien's Quebec Legacy: Coasting then Stickhandling Hard Review of Constitutional Studies 9 31 52 Google Scholar

Young, R.A., The Struggle for Quebec (Montreal, QC: McGill-Queen's, 1999). The Struggle for Quebec Google Scholar

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Details

Author details

Mellon, Hugh