Intergovernmental Affairs, Privy Council Office

October 20, 2013 20:32 ET

Statement from Minister Lebel

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Oct. 20, 2013) - In response to the Marois government's statements on the Henderson case, the Honourable Denis Lebel, Minister of Infrastructure, Communities and Intergovernmental Affairs and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, made the following comments:

"The statements made by the Marois government earlier today are not true. We have no intention of reopening this constitutional debate. The federal government's traditional position remains the same.

The Supreme Court of Canada's opinion in the Quebec Secession Reference clearly states that the secession of a Canadian province would result in an amendment to the Constitution. This is nothing new.

"Furthermore, the federal government suggests that the Court interpret the scope of Bill 99 so as to make it compatible with the Constitution. That is also not a new interpretation technique, and it certainly is not a frontal attack.

"Only if the Court was unable to interpret the contested provisions of Bill 99 in a way that was consistent with constitutional law was the Court supposed to examine their validity.

"In addition, bear in mind that the federal government did not initiate the proceedings. We are involved because it is a question of Canadian unity. It is completely normal for the federal government to defend Canadian laws."

History of the Henderson case

August 20, 1998: The Supreme Court of Canada delivers its opinion in the Quebec Secession Reference, which mentions the clarity of the question and referendum majority.

December 13, 1999: Introduction of Bill C-20, the Clarity Act, for first reading.

June 29, 2000: The Parliament of Canada enacts the Clarity Act. Quebec opposes the Clarity Act, maintaining that it aims to reduce the powers of Quebec's National Assembly with regard to accession to sovereignty.

The Bouchard government is unable to agree with the opposition parties on the wording of a formal motion, so it introduces Bill 99.

December 13, 2000: Enactment of Bill 99 (Act respecting the exercise of the fundamental rights and prerogatives of the Québec people and the Québec state); the official opposition party voted against the enactment of this legislation and expressed doubts about its constitutionality.

2001: Keith Henderson, leader of the Equality Party, had taken part in the parliamentary commission debates. He decides to take the Government of Quebec to court, seeking to have several sections of Bill 99 struck down.

The Attorney General of Quebec slows down the proceedings by challenging Mr. Henderson's right to present his case. This interrupts the proceedings until a final decision is reached on the issue. The Attorney General of Canada, who is involved in the case, argues before the Superior Court (in 2002) and before the Quebec Court of Appeal (in 2007) that the validity of Bill 99 is a question for the courts.

2007: The Quebec Court of Appeal recognizes Keith Henderson's right to be heard in Court. Mr. Henderson is therefore able to continue his case in Superior Court.

May 15, 2013: The Government of Quebec responds to the Superior Court, sending its defence and its expert reports to Mr. Henderson's and the Attorney General of Canada's lawyers; the proceedings pick up speed.

October 16, 2013: Date set by the three parties in the Court to file the federal position.

Contact Information

  • Michele-Jamali Paquette, Director of Communications
    Office of the Minister of Infrastructure, Communities and
    Intergovernmental Affairs and Minister of the Economic
    Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec