The Grand Council of the Crees

50 Percent Plus One Vote Insufficient

50 Percent Plus One Vote Insufficient

Posted: 0000-00-00

Bit by bit some of the hard questions about the Quebec government's secessionist option are forcing their way into the federal election --- but always in a context in which the interests of the Aboriginal people are treated as though they don't really exist.

The latest flare up of this kind is around the statement Monday by Prime minister Jean Chr?tien that a simple 50 per cent plus one vote in favor of separation would be insufficient to break up Canada. Predictably, this has brought out the separatist leaders huffing and puffing about democracy. BQ leader Gilles Ducepppe thundered that this was an assault against Quebec, and added: "What Mr. Chr?tien is saying is clearly undemocratic... the rules are being changed.... it is the end of democracy."

Chr?tien in response said there had been two referendums and the people of Quebec had indicated clearly that they wanted to stay in Canada..."So when they talk about democracy they should start to respect the wishes of the people of Quebec."

Chr?tien has an even more telling argument at hand to expose Duceppe's hypocrisy, but he failed to use it: if the separatists are so wedded to concepts of democracy, how come they have not recognized the 95, 96 and 99 percent votes of the Crees, Inuit and Innu people in Quebec against being forced to secede from Canada? Surely, that is a clinching argument. But Chr?tien shrank from using it probably because to do so would suggest that the federal government, in face of an illegal declaration of Quebec independence, would have to recognize Canada's legal and treaty obligations to the Aboriginal peoples of Quebec.

The separatist leaders have repeated many times that other Canadians can have no say in Quebec's decision, as Lucien Bouchard made clear in 1995:"The Quebec people do not have to ask the permission...of anyone, to decide its own future." Yet as Professor Peter Russell has pointed out,"(Aboriginal peoples) are not nations that can be yanked out of Canada against their will by a provincial majority.... With few exceptions (they)wish to enjoy their right to self-government within Canada, not within a sovereign Quebec." International human rights expert Erica-Irene Daeswarns that to deny the right of self- determination to indigenous peoples"will leave the most marginalized and excluded of all the world's peoples without a legal, peaceful weapon to press for genuine democracy..."

Grand Chief of the Grand Council of the Crees Matthew Coon Come has already dealt with the separatist arguments about the simple majority: "I find it totally hypocritical," he said in 1994, "that Mr. Bouchard and the separatists can say these things, and at the same time deny the democratic rights of all Aboriginal peoples in Quebec to determine their own future."

In this as in so many other issues, the separatists depend on a bewildering range of fallacious arguments, which would be open to public attack if this question of the simple majority were to be thoroughly debated in the election campaign.

Here are some of the reasons put forward by the Grand Council of the Crees for challenging the validity of the simple majority: