The Right to National Self-Determination: The Faroe Islands and Greenland

By Sjúrður Skaale | Go to book overview

6 - The Quebec-Canada Case
Compared to The Faroes and
Greenland

Lauri Hannikainen


What Is the Legal Significance of the Advisory Opinion (Judgment) of the
Canadian Supreme Court on Quebec’s Claimed Right to Secede from the
Canadian Confederation to The Faroes and Greenland?

Among the French-speaking majority population of Quebec there is substantial support for the view that Quebec should secede from Canada and form its own sovereign State. There came a time in the mid-1990’s when the Canadian Government found it advisable to request an interpretation from the Supreme Court - how the alleged right of secession should be assessed in Canadian constitutional law and in international law. The Supreme Court was requested to give an advisory opinion. It is the practice of the Supreme Court to issue its advisory opinions in the form of judgments. As a legal pronouncement of the highest court of Canada these judgments/advisory opinions are treated as binding.

The first question posed to the Canadian Supreme Court by the Governor in Council in 1996 in the case Reference re Secession of Quebec1 inquired about the competence of the leading organs of Quebec, under the Canadian Constitution, to effect the secession of Quebec from Canada unilaterally. The second question read as follows:

“Does international law give the National Assembly, legislature or Government of
Quebec the right to effect the secession of Quebec from Canada unilaterally?

1 Reference by the Governor in Council concerning certain questions relating to the secession of Quebec from Canada, as set out in Order in Council RC. 1996–1997, dated the 30th day of September, 1996. The decision can be found in International Legal Materials, Vol. XXXVII, November 1998, pp. 1340–1377.

-139-

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