In Search of the Qualitative Clear Majority: Democratic Experimentalism and the Quebec Secession Reference


  • Cristie L. Ford



This article attempts to marry direct democratic deliberation with the enforcement of important constitutional norms in the context of a real-life policy question. The question is the secession of Quebec. The author argues that a referendum is neither the most legitimate nor the most effective way to address the issue. The debate over Quebec's future needs to be reoriented by reference to the broad normative framework set out by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Secession Reference, combined with a renewed democratic process. The author introduces an innovative non-Canadian constitutional model called "democratic experimentalism," which seeks to ensure legitimacy, participation, and accountability within heterogeneous, complex democratic systems as a fresh perspective on Canada's troubled federalism debate. The author concludes that democratic experimentalism is compatible with Canada's constitutional values and traditions, and with the standard of the "clear qualitative majority" vote set down by the Supreme Court of Canada. Equally, the Secession Reference approach contains within it an important new understanding of how pluralist democracies globally should approach fundamental constitutional questions.