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Canada Asks Court to Rule on Quebec Independence Vote

September 27, 1996| From Associated Press

TORONTO — To the wrath of separatists, the Canadian government asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to rule on Canada's most volatile political question--whether Quebec has the right to secede unilaterally.

Separatism in the mostly French-speaking province has been the dominant national issue for decades, yet federal officials have never before sought a court ruling on the legality of unilateral independence.

The announcement by Justice Minister Allan Rock was swiftly denounced by Quebec's separatist government.

"There is only one court that will decide on the future of Quebec," said Lucien Bouchard, Quebec's premier. "The verdict will come from the Quebec people in the next referendum."

Quebec has twice held referendums on seceding from Canada, including a vote 11 months ago in which the separatists stunned the nation by winning 49.4% of the votes. The provincial government intends to hold another referendum within the next few years, and Rock said he wanted a definitive legal ruling before the vote is held.

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