The Legality of a Unilateral Declaration of Independence under Canadian Law




Webber, Jeremy

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McGill Law Journal


This paper explores the legality of a unilateral declaration of independence ("U.D.I.") by Quebec under Canadian law. It first addresses the role of arguments of legality in comparison to broader arguments of legitimacy. It discusses what branch of the amending formula would apply to secession (if the amending formula does apply), and whether Aboriginal peoples' consent would be required. It evaluates a variety of alternative means of secession - secession by revolution, and claims that a U.D.L would be authorized by constitutional convention, by the compact theory of Confederation, by the incorporation of principles of international law, or by a direct appeal to democratic principle. Above all, it discusses whether the Canadian constitution's amending formula applies to the case of secession, and if so, whether it applies exhaustively. In the course of addressing this issue, it offers reflections on the role of constitutional norms, indeed on the nature of legal norms generally.




Webber, J. (1997). The legality of a unilateral declaration of independence under Canadian law. McGill Law Journal, 42(2), 281-318.