Tuesday, September 16, 2014
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First Nations wouldn't recognize an independent Quebec

CTV Montreal

Mohawks in Kahnawake traditionally don't vote in provincial or federal elections, but some are considering breaking that tradition for the first time in their lives.

There's growing concern in the community about a possible referendum if the Parti Quebecois forms a majority government.

“They're very concerned that if Quebec would separate, how would it impact us? Whether it be our federal land claim or land grievance of the Seigneury of Sault St. Louis or our obligation to the Canadian government and vice-versa.,” said Mike Delisle, Grand Chief of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake.

It's unclear how current federal responsibilities would be transferred to a sovereign Quebec.

First Nations leaders say if Quebec separates, they won't recognize its authority.

Last week, Ghislain Picard, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, released a statement saying regardless of what may happen to Quebec, the province’s First Nations members will decide their own future.

"Quebec can decide what it wants in terms of its culture, its identity and its development, but it cannot claim sovereignty over a territory which is still, fundamentally, First Nation", he said.

Robert Leckey, McGill University law professor and expert on constitutional issues, says in the event of a vote to separate, Quebec would have a major challenge on its hands.

“Even if there's a referendum in Quebec and even if there's a clear question and a clear majority, it wouldn't mean that Quebec would simply be able to cut out the Quebec-shaped part of the Canadian map and head off its own,” he said,

“It would need to be negotiating with the minority groups in the province -- linguistic minorities and, clearly, the First Nations.”

Delisle pointed out that many of the ancient treaties and even modern day agreements are between the First Nations and the federal government, not the provincial governments.

“We still view Quebec, even if they separated, as part of Canada and I don't think we would be able to recognize them accepting that fiduciary obligation,” he said.

“I think even they would have a problem doing that as well. I don't know if they've taken that into consideration.”

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