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Experts will look at new powers to be exercised by Quebec

Photo: Karoline Boucher The Canadian Press François Legault said Friday that he had “strengthened the constitutional foundations of Quebec.” “But at the same time, the federal government has intensified a worrying trend of centralization and encroachment. »

Marco Bélair-Cirino in Quebec

Published yesterday at 12:10 a.m. Updated yesterday at 7:23 p.m.

  • Quebec

In a new nationalist impulse, Prime Minister François Legault announced Friday — three days before a new meeting with his federal counterpart, Justin Trudeau — the formation of the advisory committee on the constitutional issues of Quebec within the Canadian federation, the task is to identify new powers to be exercised by Quebec.

“It has the mandate to recommend [by October 15] ways to protect and promote the collective rights of the Quebec nation, ensure respect for values ​​and our common identity, guarantee respect for Quebec's areas of jurisdiction and increase its autonomy within the Canadian federation,” explained Mr. Legault in a solemn declaration to the National Assembly, Friday.

The Minister of Justice, Simon Jolin-Barrette — and not the minister responsible for Canadian Relations, Jean-François Roberge — will supervise the work of the committee, which will analyze “Quebec's capacity to make its own choices, particularly in terms of language, of secularism, culture and in all areas affecting national cohesion”. “We must continue to strengthen Quebec's autonomy, reserve its rights and obtain more powers in fundamental areas such as immigration,” declared Mr. Legault in front of an attentive audience.

The government wants to know not only “Quebec's powers in matters of immigration”, but also the “costs” resulting from “the increase in administrative formalities”, the “means of promoting the autonomy of Quebec law, in particular the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms”, as well as the limits of the Gérin-Lajoie doctrine – thanks to which Quebec can, in the eyes of the CAQ, “speak with its own voice abroad, not only in all areas that fall within its jurisdiction, but also on other subjects of interest to the Quebec nation.”

The advisory committee on constitutional issues will be co-chaired by former Minister of Education Sébastien Proulx and University of Sherbrooke law professor Guillaume Rousseau. They will be supported by the former chief of staff of the PQ prime ministers René Lévesque and Pierre Marc Johnson and former deputy minister, Martine Tremblay, as well as by the professor and holder of the Chair in taxation and public finance of the University of Sherbrooke, Luc Godbout, and by law professors from the University of Quebec in Outaouais Amélie Binette and UQAM Catherine Mathieu.

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“A unique responsibility in the face of history”

In the House, the Prime Minister recalled the “unique responsibility in the face of history” of the Quebec state and its Parliament. “For 400 years, Quebecers have formed a nation with its own values ​​and institutions. The Quebec state, the only French-speaking state in America, has a unique responsibility in the face of history. This is also the case of the National Assembly, the only democratic institution on which the Quebec nation can count to make its own choices and exercise its parliamentary sovereignty,” he underlined.

The head of the Quebec government said that since coming to power in 2018, he had gotten Quebec out of its “impasse” by not waiting for the green light from Ottawa or the great evening of independence to “strengthen[s] “constitutional foundations” in particular through the bills on the secularism of the Quebec state (bill 21) and on the official and common language of Quebec, French (bill 96), by which the Quebec Parliament inscribed the specificity of Quebec — its culture, its language — in the Constitution of Canada.

The idea for the CAQ is to continue on this path; not to force constitutional negotiations with the Rest of Canada or to prepare the ground for a referendum on the sovereignty of Quebec, indicated François Legault.

“But at the same time, the federal government has intensified a worrying trend of centralization and encroachment. “It too often acts as if Canada was a unitary, centralized regime, and not a federation,” he added, while evoking the possibility of “perhaps” taking a position in favor of the political party most adhering to its vision of federalism during the next federal elections. According to the Prime Minister, “we cannot remain indifferent” to “spending and intrusions into Quebec’s areas of jurisdiction” on the part of the federal government.

Robert Bourassa and René Lévesque cited

“The Quebec nation is free and capable of assuming its destiny and its development,” concluded Mr. Legault , taking a selected piece from his predecessor Robert Bourassa's speech after the failure of the Meech Lake Accord, almost 24 years ago. Only the CAQ deputies gave him a standing ovation.

His minister Simon Jolin-Barrette preferred to quote, in a written statement, former prime minister René Lévesque: “Our chances as individuals as well as our collective chances will always depend on a constitutional situation. »

The leader of the official opposition, Marc Tanguay, said he saw the establishment of the advisory committee on Quebec's constitutional issues within the Canadian federation as “an admission of failure” of his third-way or federalist policy. neither separatist, but nationalist.

“At this stage, it is difficult not to see in the Prime Minister's approach a recognition that, until now , his efforts were largely in vain,” continued Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois.

The parliamentary leader of Québec solidaire questioned the “very restricted” mandate of the committee as well as its composition. “The Prime Minister has decided to entrust the co-chairmanship of this group to a person who has in the past made very, very partisan remarks against my political party, a person [Guillaume Rousseau] who, until “Just recently, he accused us of being “accomplices of sharia”, he lamented.

The leader of the Party Quebecer, Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, “welcomed the lucidity of the Prime Minister” before “extending his hand” so that the mandate of the committee be broadened so as to escape the constitutional “cul-de-sac” of the Quebec. “Canada is irreformable, and I know that, deep down, the Prime Minister knows it very well,” said Mr. St-Pierre Plamondon.

With François Carabin

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116