Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Quebec Sovereigntists Prepare for Battle with Ottawa over Right to Secede

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Quebec Sovereigntists Prepare for Battle with Ottawa over Right to Secede

Article excerpt

Quebec prepares for battle over right to secede

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MONTREAL - Leaders of Quebec's sovereignty movement are gearing up for a fight with the federal government over its decision to intervene in a provincial court case challenging a law at the heart of their cause.

The head of the Bloc Quebecois, Daniel Paille, contends the federal justice department is infringing on Quebec's right to make its own decisions.

The province's Parti Quebecois government, meanwhile, is planning a news conference for Sunday to lay out its own objections.

Alexandre Cloutier, the PQ's minister of intergovernmental affairs, said Saturday on Twitter that Ottawa's actions demanded an "exceptional response."

The federal government filed a legal intervention last Wednesday in a court challenge that argues a Quebec law outlining the grounds for secession is limited by the Canadian constitution.

Bill 99, passed in the year 2000, declares that the province's voters and its legislature are the only ones that can decide Quebec's future on the question of independence.

Under the law, a referendum vote that gets 50 per cent plus one in favour of independence should be considered enough to separate from Canada.

A Quebec English-rights activist launched a challenge shortly after the law was passed, but it's only now set to be heard by a Quebec superior court.

The legislation was introduced by Lucien Bouchard's Parti Quebecois government in response to the federal Clarity Act, which was brought forward by Jean Chretien's Liberals.

The Clarity Act, in contrast to Bill 99, stipulates that a Quebec referendum must result in a "clear majority" in favour of secession before beginning any negotiations.

And so, after more than a decade of relative peace on the constitutional front, echoes of 1990s battles are resounding again.

The PQ, hardcore Quebec federalists, and the federal government could soon be scrapping it out in court.

Only this time, the governing party isn't Liberal, the prime minister is not from Quebec, and the party has little representation in the province. …

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