An Act respecting the exercise of the fundamental rights and prerogatives of the Québec people and the Québec State
Bill 99 (R.S.Q., c. E-20.2) is a Quebec law concerning the consequences of any future referendum on independence; it was enacted in 2000 in response to the enactment of the federal Clarity Act by the Parliament of Canada. The full official title of the law is "An Act respecting the exercise of the fundamental rights and prerogatives of the Québec people and the Québec State" (French: Loi sur l'Exercice des droits fondamentaux et des prérogatives du peuple québécois et de l'État du Québec). It has no formal short title and so is commonly referred to as "Bill 99", the designation under which it was introduced in the Quebec legislature.
The Act was introduced by Joseph Facal to the National Assembly of Quebec in emergency on 15 December 1999, two days after the introduction of the Clarity Act before the Canadian House of Commons. It was adopted on 7 December 2000, by a majority of 69 against 41. The bill was opposed by Liberal leader Jean Charest, who would have preferred the National Assembly pass a motion rather than a law.
Whereas the federal act states that, in the case of a referendum about the secession of a Canadian province, the House of Commons has the power to determine afterwards whether the question was clear enough and whether the obtained majority was large enough for the result to be accepted, the provincial act stipulates that Quebecers may determine unilaterally how to exercise their right to choose their political regime, including sovereignty, and that the winning option in a referendum is whichever obtains 50% of the votes plus one. Both acts are mandates given to their respective governments.
While opposed to Bill 99, the opposition Liberal Party tabled a motion agreeing with many of its central provisions, including the right of Quebec to decide any referendum question and the 50%-plus-one rule.
The motivating force behind passage of Bill 99 was to ensure that, even in the absence a referendum, Quebec's political fate could result only from decisions made by Quebecers and not by other Canadians. The constitutional validity of both the Clarity Act and Bill 99 has been questioned, however, with respect to the Constitution Act 1867's allocation of legislative powers between the federal and provincial government.
In August 2007, three justices of the Quebec Court of Appeal unanimously held that Keith Henderson, former Leader of the English-language rights group, the Equality Party, has standing to challenge the legality of the statute, which Quebec Superior Court has dubbed "Bill 99" in the absence of a short title for this particular statute.
Henderson's lawyer, Brent Tyler, declared that the Quebec government, which is contesting Henderson's standing to sue re Bill 99, can apply to the Supreme Court of Canada for permission to appeal from the Quebec Court of Appeal decision. However, Tyler did not anticipate that such an appeal would be authorized. The Quebec Superior Court is expected to hear the case in 2014.
- Canadian Annual Review of Politics and Public Affairs 1999, p. 151.
- MacLeans: "Exclusive: Stephen Harper’s legal challenge to Quebec secession" by Paul Wells Friday, October 18, 2013