Stéphane Dion and Quebec Separatism

Digging in the crates over the Christmas holidays led to a journal article read in my days as a political science major at Simon Fraser University. Writing an article titled "The Dynamic of Secessions: Scenarios after a pro-Separatist Vote in a Quebec Referendum" in the September 1995 edition of the Canadian Journal of Political Science, a professor at the Université de Montréal reviewed several books by his contemporaries discussing what impact--economic, bureaucratic, political, etc.--the largely French-speaking province of Canada deciding to leave confederation would have both on the "Rest of Canada" (ROC) and the newly created country itself. The author of that article: the former leader of the Liberal party of Canada, Stéphane Dion.

Along with Jean Chrétien, then prime minister of Canada, Dion architected the Canadian government's position on the conditions under which Canada would negotiate with a separate Quebec. Reading Dion's review article after more than a dozen years to simmer, Dion appears to have clearly thought about the questions surrounding what happens not leading up to the referendum, but in the days after a Yes vote.

I offer for consideration the sections in the article I highlighted back in 1997, well after the 1995 referendum. (I was at basketball practice in high school the day of.) In this section, Dion reviews Nationalism et démocracie: réflexion sure les illusions des indépendentistes québecois by Jean-Pierre Derrienic, Dion writes:

the secessionist claim of legitimacy is certainly disputable. The position adopted by Quebec secessionist leaders suffers from a double moral standard: allowed a right to secede from Canada, they deny anyone the right to secede from an independent Quebec. They cannot justify such a double standard on the grounds of either Canadian Constitutional law or public international law. They consider a 50 per cent plus one vote sufficient to justify secession, while democratic conventions hold that critical decisions, those that cannot be reviewed without high costs, must be taken by qualified majorities.

I appear to have spent most of my attention towards the article looking at the 50%+1 rule. I also highlighted the following text along with a footnote. First the text:

As fro the 50 plus one rule, the view that a slight majority for the Yes vote in Quebec is sufficient to secede is likly to be challenged if the proportion of citizens that agree with this rule remains so low, both in Quebec and the ROC.

In the footnote for that section, I highlighted the following: “With respect to the 50 per cent plus one rule, only 19 per cent in the ROC and 43 per cent in Quebec think that it is sufficient to allow secession.”

Dion concludes with his estimations of what will happen during the referendum (saying in a footnote that “[a] Yes victory seems to me unlikely”). Though by this time a staunch federalist, Dion admits there was one very compelling reason to secede from Canada:

intellectual curiosity. One would like to know which scenario is the most accurate: the inevitable secession, the impossible secession...or the Parizeau scenario [i.e. a smooth secession]. As a political scientist, my clear interest lies in voting Yes. But I am a citizen, after all!