This article critically analyzes provincial authority to unilaterally amend the Constitution of Canada. Via an assessment of the purported amendments in Quebec’s Bill 96, which would recognize Quebecers as a nation and French as the only language of the province, the article argues that provinces cannot make direct amendments altering, adding, or repealing provisions of the Constitution of Canada. This argument is reflected in the wording of the various constitutional amending procedures, the historical and contemporary constitutional practice, and the underlying purpose of, and fundamental distinction and complex relationship between, the Constitution of Canada as supreme law and the constitution of the province. Notwithstanding this argument, the article also analyzes the specific matters in the Bill 96 provisions and concludes that their addition requires recourse to an amending procedure other than section 45. Adding recognition of Quebecers’ status as a nation to the Constitution Act, 1867 exceeds the scope of provincial authority, in part because it would not reflect a statement by Quebec in its own provincial constitution, something it would be free to enact via ordinary legislation. Instead, what Quebec proposes is to confer such recognition by the entire country. The language provision requires recourse to either the bilateral procedure under section 43 or the unanimity procedure of section 41, given the express requirements of those amending procedures. Finally, the unilateral enactment of these amendments would be contrary to the constitutional architecture. The article concludes by briefly examining subsequent provincial attempts to amend the Constitution, finding them equally illegitimate.
"Provincial Constitutions, the Amending Formula, and Unilateral Amendments to the Constitution of Canada: An Analysis of Quebec’s Bill 96."
Osgoode Hall Law Journal