Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Quebec Legislature Slams Federal Input in Secession Law Court Case

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Quebec Legislature Slams Federal Input in Secession Law Court Case

Article excerpt

Quebec legislature raps Ottawa input in court case

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QUEBEC - The parties in Quebec's legislature all voted in favour of a motion Wednesday to denounce the federal government's court challenge of a 13-year-old provincial law on the rules for Quebec sovereignty.

The legislature called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government to withdraw its participation in a legal challenge, filed in Quebec Superior Court last week.

The motion tabled by Premier Pauline Marois "condemns the intrusion by the Government of Canada into Quebec democracy."

While the vote was unanimous, there were varying levels of optimism for the motion from different parties. The Liberals, who voted against the PQ's Bill 99 when it was proposed in 2000, gave Wednesday's motion tepid support.

Last week, the federal government intervened in a court case brought by two Quebecers which challenged Bill 99, which sets the bar to achieve sovereignty at a simple 50-per-cent-plus-one majority.

The Quebec law, passed by the PQ government of then-premier Lucien Bouchard, was a challenge to the Clarity Act brought in by Ottawa in the wake of the razor-thin federalist win in the 1995 Quebec referendum. It sets its own rules for Quebec independence.

The Liberals warned at the time that the bill would be struck down in court. A court case against Bill 99 was filed in 2000 and it has advanced at a snail's pace since then.

Before the motion was presented in the legislature, Quebec Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Alexandre Cloutier insisted that Ottawa's intervention in the case "is a disturbing assault on Quebecers' freedom of political expression."

The Liberals' Pierre Moreau said his party's support for the motion should only be seen as reaffirmation of the belief that only the national assembly has the power to determine conditions for a referendum on Quebec's political or constitutional future.

And that's where his agreement with the PQ ended. Moreau went on to argue that the entire dispute with the federal government stemmed from the fact that both times the PQ held an independence vote, in 1980 and 1995, the questions were lengthy and unclear. …

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