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2nd Session, 35th Parliament,
45 Elizabeth II, 1996-97

The House of Commons of Canada

BILL C-341

An Act to establish the terms and conditions that must apply to a referendum relating to the separation of Quebec from Canada before it may be recognized as a proper expression of the will of the people of Quebec

Preamble

Whereas the Parliament of Canada recognizes that a referendum or plebiscite on the independence of Quebec, if the question is ambiguous or unclear, would be contrary to the interests of Canadians in Quebec and elsewhere;

And whereas the Parliament of Canada recognizes that any attempt on the part of the government of Quebec to act unilaterally on the basis of such a referendum or plebiscite would be an illegal and unilateral attempt to amend the Constitution of Canada and a threat to the peace, order and good government of Canada;

Now, therefore, Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada, enacts as follows:

Short title

1. This Act may be cited as the Quebec Contingency Act (referendum conditions).

Prohibited questions

2. The Government of Canada shall not recognize any referendum or plebiscite carried out under the authority of the government or legislature of Quebec on the question of the separation of Quebec from Canada if the question is ambiguous or unclear or implies that the government or legislature of Quebec would or might be empowered by an affirmative vote in the referendum or plebiscite to unilaterally amend the Constitution of Canada relative to the position of Quebec in Canada.

Determina-
tion of violation

3. (1) For the purposes of section 2, a question is deemed to be ambiguous or unclear or imply that the government or legislature of Quebec would or might be empowered by an affirmative vote in the referendum or plebiscite to unilaterally amend any part of the Constitution of Canada relative to the position of Quebec in Canada if the Governor in Council issues an order to that effect.

Reference to House of Commons

(2) The Governor in Council may seek the opinion of the House of Commons prior to issuing an order pursuant to subsection (1) by authorizing a Minister of the Crown to move a motion in the House that proposes that the question to be put in the referendum does or does not infringe one or both of the conditions mentioned in section 2.

Time for debate

(3) The House may allow such time as it may determine on a motion of the Minister of the Crown for the debate on the motion, but the Speaker may extend the time so set if it appears to the Speaker that further time is advisable.

Consequences of declaration

4. If the Governor in Council issues an order under subsection 3(1),

    (a) the Minister of Foreign Affairs shall advise the representative in Canada of every State with which Canada has diplomatic relations that Canada does not recognize the referendum or plebiscite as valid;

    (b) the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs shall inform the Government of Quebec that Canada does not recognize the referendum or plebiscite as valid; and

    (c) the Governor in Council may prohibit the participation of any minister of the Crown in the public debate on the referendum or plebiscite, and the expenditure of any public funds of Canada with respect to the referendum or plebiscite, if it is of the opinion that the participation or expenditure would give the impression that the Government of Canada considers that the referendum or plebiscite would be a legitimate expression of the will of the people of Quebec.

Parallel referendum

5. (1) If the Governor in Council issues an order under subsection 3(1), the Governor in Council shall order the Chief Electoral Officer to issue a writ of referendum for a referendum to be held, in Quebec, under the provisions of the Referendum Act, on the same day as the referendum or plebiscite is held by the government of Quebec.

Questions

(2) The ballot at the referendum held under subsection (1) shall bear the following two questions:

    (a) should Quebec separate from Canada and become an independent country with no special legal ties to Canada - YES or NO?

    (b) if Quebec separates from Canada, should my community separate from Quebec and remain a part of Canada - YES or NO?

Affirmative vote in valid referendum

6. Subject to section 7, if a majority of the ballots cast in a referendum or plebiscite

    (a) held by the government of Quebec on the question of Quebec separation that has not been the subject of an order under subsection 3(1), or

    (b) held by the Government of Canada under section 5

are cast in the affirmative, the Government is authorized to enter into discussions with the government of Quebec to conclude an agreement on the terms on which Quebec might separate from Canada.

Limitations

7. In any discussions under section 6, the Government of Canada must

    (a) consult with the provinces to seek the consent of each province to the terms;

    (b) obtain the consent of any province to any matter that requires an amendment to the Constitution of Canada to which the province must consent;

    (c) require the inclusion of a provision that the agreement will not become effective until it is approved by a majority of voters who reside outside Quebec, decided by a vote in a referendum under the Referendum Act; and

    (d) permit the inclusion of a provision allowing for the government of Quebec to seek the approval of voters who reside in Quebec, decided by vote in a referendum or plebiscite under Quebec law.

Unilateral declaration of independence

8. A unilateral declaration of independence by the government of Quebec or the legislature of Quebec, or the refusal of either to submit to any Canadian law that applies in Quebec, is unlawful and of no force and effect with respect to the Constitution of Canada and the general laws of Canada and does not affect

    (a) the jurisdiction of Parliament to pass laws that have effect in Quebec;

    (b) the ability of the Government of Canada to govern Quebec as a province of Canada;

    (c) the jurisdiction of the courts to apply the law of Canada in Quebec; or

    (d) the continuance of Quebec as a part of Canada under Canadian law.

Coming into force

9. This Act comes into force on a day to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council.

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