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Canada's Two Solitudes: Constitutional and International Law in Reference re Secession of Quebec

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This article begins by examining two different perspectives on the accommodation of Quebec and the French fact in Canada. The first, exemplified by Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, emphasised equality of the French and English languages across Canada. The second approach, adopted by Trudeau's contemporary René Lévesque, Prime Minister of Quebec, focused on the province of Quebec, and the state of the French language there. The second part of the article recounts the history of Quebec in Canada, emphasising throughout the varied range of legal and political accommodation that has occurred over the years. This section concludes with a brief description of the constitutional falling out between Quebec and Canada which has occurred over the past twenty or so years. The article concludes with a detailed analysis of the recent Supreme Court of Canada decision in Reference re Secession of Quebec. This case is especially important for the way in which it mixes cons iderations of international law and domestic constitutional law. The author concludes by asserting that the survival and strength of the French fact in Canada is dependent upon a strong Quebec; and that a strong Quebec must show corresponding respect and recognition for its own minorities: aboriginal, anglophone and other.

Affiliations: 1: School of Law, King's College, London


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