Alberta separatists rally in the hundreds but experts warn Wexit faces steep obstacles
Published Saturday, November 2, 2019 5:37PM MDT
Last Updated Saturday, November 2, 2019 8:53PM MDT
EDMONTON -- Hundreds of Alberta separatists rallied in Edmonton on Saturday in a show of support for independence and despite expert warnings that any province attempting to leave Canada faces steep and likely insurmountable political and institutional obstacles.
Wexit Alberta, a group with over 30,000 Facebook members, organized the rally and estimated nearly 700 people turned out.
"We're just not convinced Jason Kenney is going to be able to protect us," said Mike Gibbons, a Wexit supporter.
Those there expressed frustration with the country's political dynamic, saying the Conservatives are unlikely to be elected to government, meaning Alberta will continue to be on the outside of Confederation looking in.
"The choice is very clear," said Peter Downing. "Be ruled by Justin Trudeau or somebody worse for the rest of our lives or vote for separation."
Legal and history experts warn that separation would be a tortuous process.
"The image maybe to put in your mind is crossing the Rockies by barefoot," said Eric Adams, a constitutional law scholar at the University of Alberta.
"Is it possible? It's possible. But the obstacles to doing so are numerous."
Adams says the hypothetical first step to separation would be a referendum akin to the ones held by Quebec in 1980 and 1995. Both times the province elected to remain within Canada.
Adams points out any such referendum would also have to be won by a clear majority of voters. He also points out issues like currency, taxes, national debt, military forces and free trade deals would need to be sorted out in what would likely be a long and contentious process.
Economists have also questioned if separation would move the province any closer to its goal of getting oil to tidewater.
FIRST NATIONS' SOVEREIGN SAY
There's also the issue of Indigenous land titles and sovereignty.
"A province has no real authority to decide to leave Canada without First Nations' consent, because they are not part of the Treaties that allow their citizens to be on these lands," said Regional Chief Marlene Poitras with the Assembly of First Nations.
Any separation referendum would also require the provincial government to be onboard as well, something Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has shown no public interest in endorsing.
"We've got allies across the country," Kenney said. "And, we're not going to get one inch closer to a pipeline by closing in on ourselves by being a landlocked province."
With files from Sarah Plowman