1. Québec is a sovereign country.
When becoming a sovereign country, Québec will cease to be part of Canada. It will become an independent nation like France, the United States of America and the other members of the United Nations.
Québec will then have full control over all its taxes, and Québec taxpayers will no longer pay income tax or other taxes to Ottawa. But neither will they be represented in the Canadian Parliament.
Current federal laws and existing treaties will remain in force, but all new laws will be passed by the Québec National Assembly and new treaties will be signed by the Québec government.
2. The Government is authorized to conclude, with the Government of Canada, an agreement the purpose of which is to maintain an economic association between Québec and Canada.
Such an agreement must be approved by the National Assembly before being ratified.
The free movement of goods and services, of capital and of persons that currently prevails between Québec and Canada is not perfect, but it is of obvious advantage to both parties. It must be preserved for the mutual benefit of Québec and Canada.
At the present time, Québec is, after the United States, the main economic partner of Canada, while Canada is the foremost export market for Québec businesses. Total trade between Québec and Canada exceeds $100 billion. It is in the interest of both Canada and Québec to keep the current economic space intact.
Québec has clearly indicated that it does not intend to establish a customs barrier between itself and Canada. And Canada would contradict its own trade policy and penalize itself if it were to do so.
The retention of the common economic market could be enshrined in an agreement that would lay down all its terms, like the many economic association agreements existing throughout the world. Such an accord could, should the parties so desire, include the creation of intergovernmental agencies for the joint management of certain components of the economic association, such as the St. Lawrence Seaway.
3. The Government shall, in accordance with the procedure determined by the National Assembly, see to the drafting of a constitution for Québec and to its adoption.
The constitution shall include a charter of human rights and freedoms. It shall guarantee the English-speaking community that its identity and institutions will be preserved. It shall also recognize the right of Aboriginal nations to self-government on lands over which they have full ownership. Such guarantee and such recognition shall be exercised in a manner consistent with the territorial integrity of Québec.
The constitution will provide for the decentralization of specific powers to local and regional authorities together with sufficient fiscal and financial resources for their exercise.
The constitution of a sovereign Québec must reflect its long democratic tradition, one of the oldest in the world. The National Assembly will determine how the constitution will be drafted, discussed and adopted. Until this new constitution comes into effect, the present constitutional rules will apply.
Québec already has its own Charter of human rights and freedoms. Its laws also guarantee the Anglophone community and the aboriginal nations certain rights. These rights could be better defined and protected by enshrining them in the new constitution.
Also, the repatriation of federal powers will pave the way for a true decentralization in favour of local and regional authorities. The nature of this decentralization will be discussed with the interested parties and its main features will be enshrined in the constitution.
4. Québec shall retain the boundaries it has within the Canadian Confederation at the time section 1 comes into force. It shall exercise its jurisdiction over the maritime areas and the territories adjoining its coastline in accordance with the terms and conditions provided by the rules of international law.
Currently, Québec's borders are clearly defined by law and are subject to no conditions. Under the Canadian Constitution, they cannot be changed without Québec's consent.
Moreover, according to one of the most firmly established principles of international law, a country that becomes sovereign keeps its borders intact.
The presence of aboriginal nations and minority ethnic groups does not and has never prevented a country from becoming sovereign. Indeed, rare are the countries that have become sovereign without having minorities in their midst. Furthermore, aboriginal and ethnic communities are protected by international conventions that Québec intends to respect fully.
5. Every person who holds Canadian citizenship and is domiciled in Québec at the time section 1 comes into force is a Québec citizen.
Every person who, after the coming into force of section 1, is born in Québec or is born outside Québec to a father or mother holding Québec citizenship is also a Québec citizen.
Québec citizenship may also be acquired in the manner determined by the National Assembly.
Québec citizenship may be held concurrently with citizenship of Canada or of any other country.
According to current Canadian law, any Canadian citizen can obtain one or even a number of nationalities without losing his or her Canadian citizenship. This tends to be the general rule, given the increase in exchanges and the opening of borders.
This would also be true in a sovereign Québec, which would allow its nationality to be held along with that of any other country, including Canada..
6. The legal currency of Québec shall continue to be the Canadian dollar.
Quebecers hold nearly a quarter of Canada's currency (bills and deposits in banks and caisses). This represents more than $100 billion. There is no way to take away from Quebecers what belongs to them, or to prevent a sovereign Québec from using the Canadian dollar if it so wishes.
Up to now, Québec has never been consulted on the monetary policy followed by the Bank of Canada (especially in regards to interest rates). With sovereignty, the situation can only gradually improve..
7. Québec shall assume the obligations and enjoy the rights arising out of the treaties to which Canada is a party and the international conventions to which Canada is a signatory, in accordance with the rules of international law.
Countries sign treaties with each other because it is in their interest to do so. Once the treaties are signed, it is in the interest of the signatories to maintain them. This is why international law favours the maintenance of treaties when a new country becomes sovereign. This is what is called "State succession", by which the new country succeeds automatically to the rights and obligations of the country of which it was formerly a part.
Québec will comply with this practice of the continuity of treaties..
8. The Government is authorized to apply for the admission of Québec as a member of the United Nations Organization and other international bodies.
When it is admitted to the United Nations, Québec will become its 185th member. It will be the 18th largest member in terms of territory, the 11th in terms of per capita wealth and the 80th in terms of population.
It should be pointed out that Montréal is already the headquarters of one of the official agencies of the United Nations, the International Civil Aviation Organization, as well as of many other major international institutions.
Nowadays, it is not unusual for new countries to emerge. Over the past ten years, some 28 countries have joined the United Nations Organization.
9. Québec shall take the necessary steps to remain a member particularly of the Commonwealth, the French-speaking community, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the North American Aerospace Defence Command, the North American Free Trade Agreement and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
Québec meets all the conditions for joining the various alliances of which Canada is already a member. In fact, these alliances have historical, cultural, political or economic foundations that Québec , like Canada, can claim.
In some of these alliances, particularly the World Trade Organization, which has succeeded the GATT, Québec could be admitted simply by State succession. In other cases, like the North American Free Trade Agreement, admission could also be by State succession with the consent of the signatories.
10. Laws passed by the Parliament of Canada that apply in Québec at the time section 1 comes into force, and the regulations under such laws, shall remain in force until amended or repealed by the National Assembly.
11. Pensions and supplements payable to the elderly shall continue to be paid by the Government according to the same terms and conditions. Permits, licences and authorizations that have been issued shall remain in force until their expiry.
12. The courts of civil or criminal jurisdiction shall continue to exist; the judges presiding over them shall continue in their appointment and retain their authority. Cases pending may be continued until judgment. The Court of Appeal of Québec shall become the court of highest jurisdiction until a Supreme Court is established under the new constitution provided for in section 3.
The judges of the Federal Court and of the Supreme Court of Canada who were members of the Québec Bar shall become, if they so wish, judges of the Superior Court and of the Court of Appeal of Québec, respectively.
13. The government may, in keeping with the procedure provided by law, appoint all persons required and take all steps necessary to facilitate the application of the Canadian laws that continue to apply in Québec pursuant to section 10. The sums required for the application of those laws shall be taken out of the consolidated revenue fund.
In making appointments under this section, the Government shall give priority to the public servants and other employees of the Government of Canada or of an agency or body thereof who reside in Québec.
14. Until the coming into force of the new constitution provided for in section 3, the laws, rules and conventions which govern the internal constitution of Québec and access to English-language schools shall remain in force.
Explanation of sections 10 to 14
There will not be any legal vacuum when Québec becomes sovereign. All the necessary steps will have been taken for the Québec government to immediately take over from the federal government.
In most cases, services will continue to be provided by the same public servants and other employees of the federal government working in Québec , who will simply perform their duties as before, but as employees of the Québec government. In other cases, measures will be taken so that people receive federal services with no interruption.
All federal public servants and other employees residing in Québec will be able to become employees of the Québec government if they wish to do so. Their services will be required to enable Québec to take over from the federal government. This is why the Draft Bill on the Sovereignty of Québec provides that they be hired as a priority to carry out the new duties assumed by the Québec government..
15. The government may conclude, with the government of Canada, any agreement relating to the apportionment of the property and debts of Canada, and to any other matter susceptible of facilitating the application of this Act.
The rules of international law governing the apportionment of property and debts in the event of the accession to sovereignty of a new country are quite complex and depend upon the particular circumstances of the countries involved. But there are plenty of examples on which to draw upon since many countries have had to carry out such an arrangement.
Québec is prepared to comply with the rules of international law and to conclude with Canada an agreement on the apportionment of property and debts that will supplement the arrangements to be made on transitional measures and on the retention of the common economic market..
16. This Act comes into force one year after its approval by referendum, unless the National Assembly fixes an earlier date.
However, section 2, 3 and 15 come into force on the day following the day this Act is approved by referendum.
Québec will not become a sovereign country on the day after the referendum. Accession to sovereignty must be carefully prepared and discussions must be held with the Government of Canada on the manner of apportioning Canada's property and debts, on the best ways to retain the common economic market and on the various other transitional measures.
The one-year transition period provided for in the Draft Bill was that recommended by the Bélanger-Campeau Commission and specified in the Act respecting the process for determining the political and constitutional future of Québec (Bill 150), adopted by the National Assembly in 1991.
This period may, of course, prove to be too long, and the National Assembly will be able to adjust it accordingly.
However, the legal provisions required to prepare accession to sovereignty, like those dealing with negotiations with Canada and the drafting of a new constitution, will come into effect soon after the Draft Bill has been approved by the people..
17. This Act shall be submitted to a referendum.
This Act may not come into force unless a majority of the votes cast by the electors in a referendum held in accordance with the Referendum Act on the following question are cast in the affirmative:
"Are you in favour of the Act passed by the National Assembly declaring the sovereignty of Québec ? YES or NO"
The Referendum Act, adopted in 1978, provides that a referendum may be held either on a question or on a draft bill.
When a referendum is held on a draft bill, the Referendum Act provides that the bill must first be adopted by the National Assembly, but it cannot become an effective law unless it is approved by a majority of the votes in the referendum.
The majority rule provided in the Draft Bill is the rule universally followed by all democratic societies in determining the political future of a nation..
Robert Keith Elias (Quebec, Qc, Canada)
Legal Studies Department
University of Massachusetts/Amherst 01003