Abstracts from Volume XIII, Number 2 (July 2000)


GUEST EDITOR: Michael Milde

1. "Constitutional Theory and The Quebec Secession Reference", Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence, Vol. XIII, Number 2 (July 2000) pp. 143-169.

Sujit Choudhry
Faculty of Law
University of Toronto,
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Robert Howse
University of Michigan Law School
Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA

The judgment of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Quebec Secession Reference has produced a torrent of public commentary. Given the fundamental issues about the relationship between law and politics raised by the judgment, what is remarkable is that that commentary has remained almost entirely in a pragmatic perspective, which asks how positive politics entered into the motivations and justifications of the Court, and looks at the results in terms of their political consequences, without deep or sustained reflection on the ultimate grounds for the role the Court took upon itself, or on the normative sources of its reasoning. In this article, we explore the Quebec Secession Reference through the lens of constitutional theory. In particular, we highlight three unconventional aspects of the Court's reasoning: (a) the supplementation of the written constitution through an explicit process of amendment-like interpretation to craft a new legal framework governing the secession of a province from Canada, (b) the vesting by the Court of substantial, if not exclusive responsibility for interpreting the constitutional rules on secession in particular situations or contexts with political organs, not the courts, and (c) the ascent by the court to abstract normativity, in articulating a normative vision of the Canadian constitutional order, whence it derived the legal framework governing secession. In addition to drawing attention to these unusual aspects of the judgment, we articulate the theoretical justifications that both explain and justify those features of the judgment, and identify issues for future discussion.

2. "From Quebec Veto to Quebec Secession: The Evolution of the Supreme Court of Canada on Quebec-Canada Disputes", Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence, Vol. XIII, Number 2 (July 2000) pp. 171-183.

Nathalie Des Rosiers,
Faculty of Law< br />University of Western Ontario
London, ON, Canada

The Supreme Court of Canada has changed its approach in dealing with the complex symbolic issues surrounding Quebec's role in the Canadian constitution as shown in two decisions: The Quebec Veto Reference (1982) and the Quebec Secession Reference (1998). This paper argues that, in the matter of Quebec/Canada disputes, the court should, as they did in the second decision, see themselves more as a forum for public debate than as simply a place for rule imposition. Process-oriented suggestions as well as framing principles are therapeutically better answers in this matter.

3. "National Self-Determination: A Sub- and Inter-State Conception", Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence, Vol. XIII, Number 2 (July 2000) pp. 185-205.

Chaim Gans,
The Buchmann Faculty of Law
Tel Aviv University
Tel Aviv, Israel

The right of national groups to self-government should be universally conceived of in sub-statist forms. Instead of interpreting the right to national self-determination in terms of independent statehood, it should in all cases be conceived of as a package of privileges to which each national group is entitled in its main geographic location, normally within the state that coincides with its homeland. According to this sub-statist conception, self-determination is not a right of majority nations within states vis-a-vis national minorities, but rather a right of homeland groups vis-a-vis non-homeland groups. It is a right to which each national group in the world is entitled, and which must be realized in at least one place.

4. "Federalism and Secession: At Home and Abroad", Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence, Vol. XIII, Number 2 (July 2000) pp. 207-224.

Will Kymlicka
Department of Philosophy
Queen's University
Kingston, Ontario, Canada

Western democracies have developed a number of effective models for accommodating ethnocultural diversity. One of these involves the use of federal or quasi-federal forms of territorial autonomy to enable self-government for national minorities and indigenous peoples. These forms of territorial autonomy are in general a success. The merits of these models have been underestimated because many people measure success by an inappropriate criterion: namely, the absence of secessionist mobilization. This cannot be the correct standard for evaluating democratic multination states. The success of a common Western approach to territorial autonomy is related, in a complex way, to a particular view about the legitimacy and perhaps even inevitability of secessionist mobilization.

5. "The Ethics of Secession and a Normative Theory of Nationalism", Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence, Vol. XIII, Number 2 (July 2000) pp. 225-251.

Margaret Moore
Political Science
University of Waterloo
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

The three major normative theories of secession are just-cause theories, choice theories, and national self-determination theories. Just-cause and choice theories are problematic because they view secession in terms of the application of liberal theories of justice or a liberal principle of autonomy, without regard for the dynamics of nationalist mobilitization and national politics. National self-determination theories can be supported by a collective autonomy argument. This is related to a particular view of the relationship between collective self-government and territory.

6. "Toward a Proceduralist Theory of Secession", Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence, Vol. XIII, Number 2 (July 2000) pp. 251-262.

Daniel Marc Weinstock
Department of Philosophy
Universite de Montreal
Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Substantive theorists of secession face a problem explaining why the international community ought on their view to withhold recognition from secessions which involve a loss in terms of the substantive criteria they privilege; this is so because the normal electoral politics giving rise to such a loss should not in their opinion meet with any adverse international reaction. The substantive theory of David Miller uses criteria for the legitimacy of secessions which give rise to strangely amoral consequences. A procedural theory of secession is to be preferred on both moral and pragmatic grounds; this is one which that countenance secession when appropriate procedural hurdles are cleared, regardless of the substance of the claims put forward by secessionists to justify secession.