The election of Stéphane Dion as the new leader of the Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) certainly left me with a frosty feeling not because I disagree with most of his political point of view. On the contrary, Stéphane Dion, as a politician, possesses great management skills, but unfortunately, he’s not endowed with the character of a leader. After all, let’s grant him the benefit of doubt. Now, many Quebeckers see Stéphane Dion as the creator of the Clarity Act, but whether you like to hear it or not, most people are uselessly making a fuss over it.
Many public separatist figures in Quebec, such as Jean Dorion (the president of the Société Saint-Jean Baptiste of Montreal) said that the delegates of the LPC elected the candidate who is the most “intransigent towards the national aspirations of Quebec”. How true is this statement, eh? Stéphane Dion is highly attached to Canada, but nonetheless, Dorion is confusing for no reason the interests of Quebec’s separatists and those of the entire population.
Dion did upset Quebec’s separatists, because since he entered politics in 1996 as the deputy of St-Laurent-Cartierville, the PQ was in power at the National Assembly since 1994. Eventually, Jean Charest’s Liberal Party of Quebec (LPQ) will defeat the PQ in 2003. Stéphane Dion didn’t get the Quebecker federalists’ ire completely up (remember the Mulcair affair), because he only had to deal with the LPQ for only three years whereas the separatists had to endure him for nine years. Think about it: nine years of frustration from the separatists.
Speaking about “the national aspirations of Quebec”, the leader of the Parti Québécois (PQ) André Boisclair declared that Quebeckers still remember the Clarity Act. Why didn’t Boisclair reveal the things that are to be remembered from this law? The Clarity Act is not a coercive law that aims to forbid Quebec to separate; it’s a governmental document that indicates a set of condition that must be followed if a province wants to separate from Canada.
According to this law, “there is no right, under international law or under the Constitution of Canada, for the National Assembly, legislature or government of Quebec to effect the secession of Quebec from Canada unilaterally”. Furthermore, in a further paragraph, it is said “that the government of any province of Canada is entitled to consult its population by referendum on any issue and is entitled to formulate the wording of its referendum question”.
Obviously, that consultation must be done with a clear question and be won by a clear majority that truly expresses the willingness of that province’s population. Many Quebecker separatists have so many reasons to be angry! On the 29th of June 2000, the promulgation of the Clarity Act was necessary, because Quebecker separatists tried to lure Quebeckers twice (in the referendum 1980 and then in 1995) with ambiguous questions that were meant to conceal their secessionist objectives. All in all, this law made by Stéphane Dion takes away the PQ’s privilege to decide on its own about the question, the day of the referendum and its condition.
Under the Clarity Act, besides accepting democratically the separation of a province with reluctance, the Parliament of Canada gets the right to fairly decide how a question of referendum will be asked. The Parliament is making sure that there’s only one way to interpret the question and that the question itself is short, concise and precise. In fact, if you look at the respective question of the two previous referendums, you’d see that the question was just uselessly long and it barely talked about separation.
Finally, the Quebecker separatists can certainly sing whatever they want about the Clarity Act, but this law is here just to make sure that they prepare a referendum honestly. Moreover, the separatists should be elated, because there’s no law in Canada that forbids Quebeckers to separate from Canada if they feel like doing it. Unless I’m wrong, Quebecker separatists are still going to be stuck on representatives (i.e. Gilles Duceppe and André Boisclair) who are often ready to tell lies. There’s a difference between facts and lies.