Supreme Court says Quebec can't separate unilaterally

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that Quebec cannot separate from Canada unilaterally.

The court was asked by the federal government to make a legal judgement on Quebec separation. The court said it cannot unilaterally happen within Canadian law or within international law.

It said separation would have to be negotiated with the federal government and the provinces. It means that if Quebec votes in favour of separation, it would be necessary for negotiations to begin with the rest of the country. The Supreme Court also says there must be a clear majority on a clear question in a referendum.

Quebec's Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Jacques Brassard says the ruling won't have much of an impact on Quebec's plans. He said an absolute majority of 50 per cent plus one vote in the next referendum on independence would be enough to start the process of secession.

"We think that 50 plus one will permit us to launch the process of sovereignty," he said.

The high court also said aboriginal rights would have to be taken into account in any future negotiations on separation, although the nine judges gave no specifics.

Matthew Coon-Come, grand chief of Quebec's Cree, said he interpreted the judgment to mean the court recognized the protection of native rights in the Constitution.

The Canadian dollar was largely unaffected by the decision. It went up shortly after the announcement, and held steady throughout the day. The TSE was down slightly by the end of the day.