DOES QUEBEC HAVE A RIGHT TO SECEDE AT INTERNATIONAL LAW?

Authors

  • NEIL FINKELSTEIN
  • GEORGE VEGH
  • CAMILLE JOLY

Abstract

This article addresses the issue of whether Québec has the right to secede from Canada, and claim international recognition at international law. The authors argue that, absent recognition by the Government of Canada, the answer to both questions is in the negative. The authors review conventional and customary international law respecting the right to self-determination, and conclude that that right is only applicable where the secessionist movement meets certain subjective criteria. First, the seceding unit must be comprised of "people" meeting both subjective and objective international law standards. Second, that people must have been subject to denial of political freedom or human rights in a discriminatory manner. Third, the seceding unit must demonstrate in practical terms that it can, and indeed has, created a practicable and governable state which can assert effective control over reasonably well defined and recognized territory. The authors conclude that the province of Québec does not meet these criteria. As a result, if a third party State purports to recognize Québec's independence in the absence of Canadian recognition, that State would be challenging Canada's territorial integrity and thus be acting contrary to conventional and customary international law.

Keywords:

International Law

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Published

1995-06-01

Issue

Section

Legal Commentary

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