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Clearing House Congressional Testimony
September 25, 1996, Wednesday
SECTION: CAPITOL HILL HEARING TESTIMONY
LENGTH: 2799 words
HEADLINE: TESTIMONY September 25, 1996 TOM CAMPBELL CONGRESSMAN
RELATIONS WESTERN HEMISPHERE SITUATION
STATEMENT OF CONGRESSMAN TOM CAMPBELL
BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE
HOUSE INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS COMMITTEE
THE ISSUE OF QUEBEC SOVEREIGNTY
AND ITS POTENTIAL IMPACT ON THE UNITED STATES
September 25, 1996
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this most important
My interest in Canada is long-held and ongoing.
As a White House Fellow, I and my colleagues
as the country we wished to visit and to study for that year. As a
professor at Stanford, teaching international commercial law and economics,
where I still teach, I have been able to study the most profound changes in
international trade laws affecting the United States in the last decade --
first the 1988 US-Canada Free Trade Agreement, then, in 1993, NAFTA.
My reason for raising the question of US interests in a
possible division of Canada
stems both from my longtime interest in Canada,
and also from my concern that these questions are
not adequately being considered by our government. In
answer to the question, "Why now?" I would say this:
"Why hasn't a committee of Congress held hearings on this subject
On October 30, 1995, the citizens of Quebec
held a referendum on whether they wished to remain united with Canada
or form their own independent state. This referendum was
defeated by the narrowest of margins; 50.6% voted No to sovereignty,
and 49.4% voted Yes. The turnout at the polls was extremely high, with
93.5 percent of eligible Quebecers voting. When I traveled to Canada earlier this year, I had the
opportunity to speak with many Canadians of good will representing the full
range of opinions on the national unity debate vis-a-vis
Each person with whom I spoke had a different perspective on the issue of
separation itself, but all were unanimous in advising me that the recent
referendum in Quebec was an event of
critical importance in Canadian history -- despite the fact that it had gone
relatively unnoticed in the United
In addition, almost all were convinced that another
referendum on Quebec
secession would be held within the next two or three years. Most
believe that such a referendum will occur immediately following the next Quebec provincial
elections in 1998. It could, however, occur
sooner if national elections do. Of course, that there likely will be another
referendum on this issue does not mean that the referendum will succeed.
There is also the possibility that an accommodation can be reached
between Quebec and Canada that will allow this issue
to be resolved without the need for another referendum but,
based on all I have learned, that contingency is quite remote. On the
contrary, I have been advised by all of the parties with
whom I have met that it is likely there will be another referendum on Quebec separatism.
The only question is when it will occur.
Thus, given the closeness of the vote in the last
referendum, is there a real question that this issue will come up again and
that this time Quebec
will vote to secede? Absolutely.
Therefore, on my return to the US,
I resolved to learn more about how a potential independent Quebec
might affect the interests of the United States. After further
thought and discussion with various experts on Canada, I concluded that US
interests in this matter were real and possibly far
reaching. Yet, despite the fact that Canada
is our greatest trading partner and one of our closest allies, there has been
little attention paid by the US Congress or the Administration to the
specific consequences to the US
should a change occur in the status of the Canadian federation. For
this reason, I asked the Chairman to schedule this hearing for
the purpose of clarifying the stakes for the United States should partition occur, hoping
as I did so to generate concrete recommendations for US policy to safeguard our
national interests. My hope also is that this hearing will raise the
awareness of the American people and the Congress to this compelling event in
the history of our friends north of the
border. I am deeply grateful to the Chairman for scheduling these
hearings. Where others have been content to look away and pray for the best,
he has been willing to become involved.
I hope that our panel of US experts on Canada will be able
today to assist the Congress in answering the following questions:
First, if there is agreement among our panel of experts
that there is a strong likelihood that there will be another referendum in Quebec?
What factors might affect the timing of such a vote? Is
there any way for the United
States to predict the imminence of such a
referendum, if not the outcome?
It has been widely speculated that, if another referendum is to occur, it would be held within the next three years.
Factors that may affect the timing of such a referendum could include
the anticipation of parliamentary elections in 1998. The outcome of a
legal dispute that has arisen over how the Canadian Constitution plays into
this equation could bring the date of another referendum forward. The legal dispute to which I refer was filed by Mr. Guy Bertrand, a Quebec
City attorney, who is challenging Quebec's unilateral right to secede under the Canadian Constitution.
Mr. Bertrand's suit requests
a permanent injunction against the holding of any future referenda that could
lead to unilateral secession of Quebec from Canada. Quebec
opposes the injunction, and the Canadian government has intervened arguing
that a Quebec referendum to secede would
merely be expressive and would still require Quebec
to negotiate with Canada.
Alternatively, it argues, a constitutional amendment would be
required with the approval of the rest of Canada.
This case recently survived a significant litigation hurdle when the Quebec Superior Court
rejected the Quebec
government's motion to dismiss the suit on jurisdictional grounds. The case is now
expected to proceed through the courts up to the Canadian Supreme
Court, if necessary. The outcome of this case could very well be a
ruling that Quebec is not constitutionally permitted to
secede from Canada
without a constitutional amendment. Is it possible that the Quebec separatists
will not want to wait for such a decision, which would tie their hands, and instead
move to hold another referendum before 1998? A statement that appeared
recently in a prominent Canadian newspaper illuminates this point:
. . the government of Premier Lucien
Bouchard is left with only two choices: fight in court and hope for a 'Solomon-like j judgment' that leaves
the question undecided, or call a snap election and get the blessing of the
electorate for another referendum. Come to think of it,
. . . the arguments in favor of a spring
election are more valid than ever." (Globe and Mail, September 5, 1996). For its part, the Quebec government has decided that, rather
than take an appeal, it will refuse to participate in the case. Quebec
Justice Minister Paul Begin was quoted as saying, "
the only judge that should decide Quebecers' future is Quebecers
themselves. We've decided not to go ahead with the appeal and not to be
there when the case continues before the courts." (The Ottawa Citizen, September 5, 1996).
Thus, the questions
that arise in my mind are: Is there doubt that there
will be another referendum and, if not, is
there any expectation that it would fail? What of the Bertrand case and its potential
effect on the timing of another Quebec
referendum? Is it possible that Quebec
could be facing another referendum as early as next spring? What, if any, are
other factors that could affect the timing of a referendum? I hope today to
hear our panel of experts explore these questions insofar as the US
should be alert to whether and/or when another referendum may occur.
The second question is really in two parts: (1) What are the potential political,
economic, and security concerns for the United
States should a
division of Canada
How can the United States
anticipate, manage, and protect those interests?
At the time of the 1995 referendum, President Clinton
articulated the official US
position that America
enjoys excellent relations with a strong and united Canada. Some believe this
statement by the President of the United States, made just prior to
the last referendum vote, had an impact on the ultimate decision of the
electorate not to secede. The US
has also steadfastly maintained that the issue of secession is an internal
matter for the people of Canada
to resolve, and I could not agree more. What has not been discussed
publicly by our government, however, is to what extent US interests may be
affected by Quebec's secession from Canada, should that occur.
Indeed, the State Department has chosen today not to send
any representative to testify at this hearing, even though it has had
exclusive control over our policy from well before the last Quebec
referendum. The Administration was asked to
provide a witness for this hearing on Canada
so that our principal Canada
policy officials could assist the Congress in outlining where US interests
lie in the event Quebec secedes from Canada.
One week ago, the State Department's representative told the Canadian
Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) that it would be unable to provide a witness
for this hearing because they "simply don't have a person available due
to the press of business, the very important business that we have to do
here." I wonder what else is more importantly occupying the State
The US and Canada
enjoy the largest bilateral trade relationship in the world. According
to the most recent Survey of Current Business published by the Commerce
Department, total US-Canadian trade in 1995 reached US$306.4 billion, or
approximately US$840 million per day. A recent CRS publication reports
that a Canadian Member of Parliament recently announced that the United States exported more to the Canadian province of Ontario
in 1994 than it did to Japan.
In 1994, US trade with Quebec alone was approximately US$34 billion, which
would have made Quebec
our ninth largest trading partner. Canada,
even without Quebec,
would remain our largest trading partner by far. I think it is fair to
say, Mr. Chairman, that the issue of Quebec
independence is an issue of the utmost importance to the United States. Should the
next referendum succeed, its impact will be felt by
thousands of US businesses and millions of ordinary Americans.
Those living and working in the border
states will be particularly
affected. It is astonishing to me that, in light of the many
Americans who would be directly affected by a
partition of Canada,
the Administration declined to accept an invitation from the United States
Congress to come before the people and participate in enlightening us all on
US interests in this issue.
Perhaps it would be convenient if the Congress did not ask such questions,
but it is our duty to do so. So, let us proceed to pose these
questions: Does the US
have interests in this issue? Absolutely. What
might some of those interests be?
(1) NAFTTA: We signed an agreement with a united Canada
in 1993. When an American automobile shipped from Detroit
to Windsor, Ontario,
ends up at a dealership in Montreal,
we expect it to be duty-free. Quebec
insists it will apply NAFTA to the U.S.
-- but the terms of its separation from Canada are not clear. If it
imposes tariffs on goods from the rest-of Canada, the good in my example
would be subject to a tariff. The U.S. would thus lose the benefit
of what it bargained for in NAFTA. The Canadian Finance
Minister, just prior to the last referendum, warned Quebec that a new
economic union with a separate Quebec may not be in Canada's interests, which
reflect a balance among all of the regional interests of the country, and
that a new economic arrangement between Canada and an independent Quebec may
not be achievable because it would
"jeopardize hard-won, major trade advantages negotiated with other
countries," as, for example, under NAFTA. (Attachment
(2) Debt/Economy: The public debt of Canada will be apportioned
and the rest-of-Canada. Perhaps they will not agree on the precise
percentage, and perhaps the percentage assumed by Quebec will overload its already
struggling economy. The result will be a devaluation
for any holder of Canadian government bonds. Americans hold a large
number of such debt instruments, and it is likely such holders will suffer a
loss in value. In addition to debt instruments, other US investments could also suffer if Quebec nationalizes certain industries or if Quebec is weakened economically. Prior to the last
referendum, Indian nations (Mohawk, Cree and Inuit) in Quebec
held their own referenda that determined they would prefer to remain part of Canada and determine their own future in the
case of Quebec
sovereignty. I have been
advised that New England and New
York receive roughly I 0%
of their energy from Hydro Quebec. Thus, if separation of Quebec from Canada
leads to further separation within Quebec,
especially of Cree lands in the north where much
hydroelectric power originates, with whom do American cities and
states negotiate over electric power supply?
(3) Canadian troops assist in NATO operations; will Quebec troops as well?
If not, the value of Canada's
current contribution to NATO will be much less. In addition, NORAD may be implicated depending on the location of radar and
other US security
interests in Quebec.
Of great concern to the US
would be a division of the Canadian armed forces, diluting the strength and
effectiveness of our ally to the north. Four days
prior to the last referendum, a Member of Parliament of Canada's Official
Opposition party, the Bloc Quebecois, who was also then the Vice-Chairman of
the Standing Committee on National Defence, faxed a Communique
to Canadian bases in effect commanding Quebecois
troops in the Canadian armed forces in the event of a Yes vote to
"respect the people's accession to sovereignty" and "transfer
their loyalty to the new country whose security they will ensure."
He also stated unequivocally that "Quebec will be part of
NATO." A copy of this communique, in French
and its English translation, is attached to this
statement. (Attachment B). An independent Quebec
might also receive support from other nations that may wish to increase their
connection to North America, posing other security concerns for the U.S.
(4) Atlantic Canada/St. Lawrence Seaway: If Quebec
secedes, the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland,
and Prince Edward Island -- collectively
known as Atlantic Canada -- will be geographically isolated from the rest of Canada.
These provinces are net welfare recipients and form the poorest region
in the Canadian federation. If Ontario
and Western Canada decide not to continue to support these provinces, America
may be presented with a new territory along its Northeastern border that includes seriously depressed
economies and under-funded welfare agencies. Under this scenario,
emigration to the US
would likely increase. Perhaps of necessity, strategic alliances
detrimental to the United States
might also seem alluring to Atlantic Canada in return for foreign aid from
countries not necessarily friendly to the United States. The status
of these provinces might threaten control of the St. Lawrence Seaway -- jointly
operated by the US and Canada
-- and what that means for commerce to the Midwest United States.
(5) A Period of Unrest: Suppose Canada takes the view that
separation can only be the decision of all of Canada,
not by Quebecers voting alone (as the US did in 1861). Suppose Quebec disagrees and a
referendum approves separation. A period of hostility on our border
with our largest trading partner, with possible trade impediments and
political demonstrations, could ensue. If a period of uncertainty obtains
for some time, with whom does the US negotiate regarding St. Lawrence Seaway matters?
Who would form NAFTA dispute panels? Who would attend NATO meetings regarding
radar defenses [sic] in the arctic?
This list of potential US
interests in the Quebec
separatism question is not meant to be exhaustive.
It is my hope that thoughtful commentary from this
panel of distinguished members of the US academic community and experts on
US/Canada relations will shed light on the potential impact of Quebec separatism
on the United States and provide Congress with a recipe for action should
Canada, our greatest trading partner and one of our most trusted and valued
allies, determine for itself a course that results in separate governments.
LOAD-DATE: September 26, 1996