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WHAT IS PARLIAMENTARY SOVEREIGNTY?

Quebec’s Bill 96, An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Québec would add the following paragraph to the preamble of the Charter of the French Language:

“Whereas, in accordance with parliamentary sovereignty, it is incumbent on the Parliament of Québec to confirm the status of French as the official language and the common language and to enshrine the paramountcy of that status in Québec’s legal order, while ensuring a balance between the collective rights of the Québec nation and human rights and freedoms.”

In addition, the following was included in the preamble to Bill 21, An Act respecting the laicity of the State:

“AS, in accordance with the principle of parliamentary sovereignty, it is incumbent on the Parliament of Québec to determine the principles according to which and manner in which relations between the State and religions are to be governed in Québec.”

Parliamentary supremacy – although it’s referred to as sovereignty in both the preambles above – represents a core element of United Kingdom constitutional law. This is a principle to provide the legislative branch of government, Parliament, with the ultimate legal authority to create (or repeal) any law. In theory, British courts cannot overturn or change laws passed by Parliament. This is because the power to make laws is vested with the elected House of Commons, with the House of Lords reviewing legislation. British courts doled out the monarch’s (the executive branch of government) justice. In a nutshell, if the courts could overturn laws passed by the legislative branch, the monarch would be able to make an end-run and be empowered to thwart the will of the House of Commons. This system was carefully built on a series of compromises following the English civil wars of the 17th Century…

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