Wei Jingsheng Foundation News and Article Release Issue: A150-M10



Release Date: September 11, 2005



Topic: The Canadian Federal Experience: What can we learn from it for China's future federal system? -- Michael To

标题:加拿大的联邦经验对未来中国的意义 -- 杜智富


Original Language Version: Chinese (Chinese version at the end)



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We recommend the following article to our readers, although its contents do not represent either Mr. WEI Jingsheng or the Wei Jingsheng Foundation's opinion or stand. 




The Canadian Federal Experience

What can we learn from it for China's future federal system?

--Michael To



1. China's Future is a Flexible Federal System


China has been trying to modernize itself for the past 100 years. But China still faces major hurdles going forward. Two major issues stand out, China's political mindset and the level of diversity and complexity it faces.


The dominant Chinese political mindset is about achieving absolute power and control by suppression. This power obsession was true in dynastic China and still very true under the communist rule today.


Absolute power and suppression can only lead to cycles of instability. Two thousand years of dynastic China clearly showed this cyclic characteristic. In the name of stability, dynastic China would sacrifice economic, technological and other human developments. Today, we see the same sacrifice in China's refusal of political reform and its insistence of "stability trumps everything".  It is time China outgrows this outdated political mindset.


The other major difficulty China faces, is the diversities within its border. The diversities include ethnic, linguistic, cultural and geographical. Currently, there are independent and self rule demands from Taiwan, Tibet and Xin Jiang.


Power monopoly and suppression can not build a modern and vibrant China. It will only stifle it. Diversities need to be cherished and given freedom to flourish.


The goal of a modern China must be of human development and security. It must allow its provinces and regions the freedom and dignity of self governance. At the same time the central government must guaranteed individual and minority rights. A flexible federal system is called for if China desires to hold all its diversities together.


This paper examines the Canadian experience to see what lessons we can learn for the future China. This paper is limited in its scope in that it covers only the Canadian experience. However, the Canadian experience is of particular relevance. Canada is particularly creative in its handling of a multi-race society and the Quebec Independence Movement.


The current Canadian effort in adapting to the internet and globalization world is also of value.



2. A Historical Outline of the Canadian Federation


Before the Canadian federation was formed, Canada already had many existing communities. These were the colonials scattered across the land. They were made up of two linguistic groups, the French colonials in Quebec and the English colonials in the rest of Canada.  These communities formed the Canadian Federation in 1867.


From 1867 to 1900, the first thirty years of confederation, most of the effort was spent on defining provincial power vs. federal power. This period established the fundamental nature of the Canadian federation. That is provincial power is fundamental and unchallengeable.


The 1960s and 1970s saw the rise of Quebec independence movement. This and other provincial rights triggered the Constitution Act of 1982. This Act stipulates a 2/3 majority of the provinces is required for any constitutional amendment. More importantly it added the Charter of Rights and Freedom to the Constitution to safeguard individual rights across the land. This is a federal responsibility and any separation will have to address the Charter's concern.


The Charter brought in a new dynamic and tension between provincial rights and individual rights. Quebec argued that an individual's potential can not be fully realized if the community he/she belongs to is not doing well. Therefore Quebec insists on the right to override individual rights in favor of collective rights (Bill 101, a bill for French language protection, overrides the Charter's freedom of expression right).


However, Quebec has not left Canada yet. This is largely due to the fact that Quebec is its own master within the province. At the same time it enjoys the benefit of being a part of Canada. This is better than being an independent but a very small country (6 million populations) and faces the real threat of assimilation by the English speaking North America.



3. Characteristics of the Canadian Federation


The Canadian system is a constitutional federation. This means sovereignty belongs to the people. It also means the division of power between the federal and the provincial government is spelled out in the constitution. The Supreme Court has the final authority in the interpretation of the constitution. It also acts as the umpire between the two levels of government.


The Canadian system is also a distributed and asymmetrical federation. The provincial power is roughly equal to that of the central government, but of different nature. Asymmetry arises due to the diversities between regions. The Canadian system allows different treatment of the provinces.


The Canadian system relies on flexibility in processes to function well. These include delegation of power, joint programs, tax and funding arrangements. The flexible process approach proved to be far more successful than the route of constitutional amendments.


The Canadian success is also due to the authority of the Supreme Court being accepted and obeyed by both levels of government.


The key features of the modern Canadian federation can be summed up as: individual rights and freedom, a vision of multiculturalism, and a distributed and asymmetrical federalism. Multiculturalism means equality in identity, and pride in ancestry, so that citizens feel secured and self confident. They will then be more open and accepting of other cultures leading to harmony.



4. The Canadian Mindset in Nation Building


From the beginning, the provincial power movement in Canada was motivated by the liberal ideal of self government. The 1982 addition of the Charter of Rights and Freedom is also based on liberalism but focused at the individual level. Although there are tensions between individual vs. collective rights, they both sprang from the same root of liberalism. Liberalism here means the belief in self government, the rule of law and freedom. Going forward, the Canadian approach will continue to seek a balance between individual vs. collective freedom while maintaining peace, order and good governance.


This liberal tradition contrasts starkly with the Chinese tradition of absolute power and suppression.



5. The Canadian Federal Principles


The most important concept of the Canadian federation is that it is built on provincial consent and not the other way around.


It is based on the principle of divided sovereignty. Each level of government is given its own exclusive jurisdictions by the Constitution.


It is also based on the principle of equality. Each level of government has roughly the same power, but of different nature, so that one level of government can not overwhelm the other. Over the years, some powers were transferred from one level of government to the other by mutual agreements.



6. The Division of Power and Responsibilities in the Canadian System


Provincial exclusive power of property and civic rights include: provincial tax, provincial land and resources, hospitals, charities, local works, solemnization of marriage, property rights and administration of justice.


Federal exclusive power of trade, commerce and external affairs include: public debt and property, trade, commerce, regulations, money bills, taxation, postal service, military, navigation, shipping, currency, banking, Indian Affairs, naturalization, criminal law (anti-hate and anti-discrimination laws), external affairs, old age security, Canada Pension, equalization, progressivity of income tax.



7. The Asymmetries of the Canadian Federation


Quebec has its own income tax, corporate tax, pension fund, immigration policy, and civil law. The other provinces have the same options but choose not to. Quebec also insists on having its own stock market and deposit insurance corporation. In Bill 101, Quebec overruled the Charter on freedom of expression to protect its language. Quebec is also holding out on the signing of the constitution, demanding a distinct society status. Recently, Quebec is allowed external interfaces in UNESCO and OECD.


Beyond Quebec, the federal government has different programs for the Atlantic, Prairie and Pacific Regions.



8. The Rule of Secession and the Clarity Act of 2000


In Aug 1998, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that a province has no right to secede unilaterally under the Canadian Constitution, nor under the international law for self determination. The key word here is "unilaterally". However, a province has the right to hold referendums on the question of secession. If the majority of the population of that province agrees, the rest of Canada has the political obligation to enter into negotiation.


In June 2000, the Clarity Act was passed by the Parliament of Canada to put into effect the Supreme Court's ruling on secession. The Act gives the Parliament the right to determine if the language of a referendum for secession is unambiguous (a referendum to authorize negotiation, or for some form of economic or sovereign association are not considered clear intent of secession). The parliament also has to determine if a clear majority of the population has voted in favor of secession. Simple majority is not acceptable. Only when both conditions are satisfied, will the negotiation begin.


The Clarity Act further spell out the negotiation will involve the federal government and all the provinces. The negotiation will have to settle aboriginal rights and land claims, minority rights and the settling of assets, debts, liabilities and the new border of the seceding province.



9. Internet, Globalization and Their Impacts on Federalism


Migration of some sovereign power to supra-national bodies such as FTA, WTO and various UN bodies has already begun in the internet and globalization age.


In the internet world, regions and individuals have direct access to the wider world. In some aspects they can be the more effective agent of change than the central government. Regions need to be consulted more often now for trade policies and development programs.


Canada has recognizes this trend and is moving in the direction of further distribution of central power to the regions. This will allow each region to develop its own competitive advantages, and become more effective in the new knowledge based economy.


In the new age, the Canadian government's role in managing a multi race society is more in the setting of national standards and social policies. These include health care, welfare, social security, immigration, multiculturalism, anti-discrimination and anti hate laws, and the balance of development and equalization payments.



10. What have we learn from the Canadian for the future Chinese Federation?


If the Canadian federal experience has any lesson for us, I believe they are the following. First we must affirm that human freedom and development are the goals and foundation of a modern and vibrant society, not power monopoly and suppression. In addition we must affirm the dignity and the right of self government for regions and minorities. We must also be careful to balance individual rights vs. local collective rights.


Further, the design of federal vs. provincial/regional power can use the Canadian model of exclusivity of jurisdiction, roughly equal division of power, and provincial consent as the true base for federalism.


Flexibility and adaptability are keys to success in the coming age of internet and globalization.


Rule of law and the Supreme Court as the final authority on constitutional matters are crucial for the success of a federal system.


The Canadian Supreme Court ruling on secession is also valuable for our consideration. Joining the federation via consent and leaving must be via negotiation. Minority and individual rights must be protected during the secession process.



About the Author


Michael To is a human rights activist, living in Ottawa, Canada. Most of his human rights activities are focused on lobbying the Canadian Government on behalf of Chinese dissidents. Michael also writes political commentaries on China in both English and Chinese.





* The Canadian law site: http://www.canadianlawsite.com/


* Reconciling the Solitudes, Essays on Canadian Federalism and nationalism

Charles Taylor


* Celebrating Flexibility: An interpretive Essay on the Evolution of Canadian Federalism

Thomas J. Courchene


* Liberty and Community, Canadian Federalism and the Future of the Constitution

Robert C. Vipond



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Wei Jingsheng Foundation News and Article Release Issue: A150-M10



Release Date: September 11, 2005



Topic: The Canadian Federal Experience: What can we learn from it for China's future federal system? -- Michael To

标题:加拿大的联邦经验对未来中国的意义 -- 杜智富


Original Language Version: Chinese (Chinese version at the end)




http://www.weijingsheng.org/report/report2005/report2005-09/DuZF050911comparisonA150-M10.htm which contains identical information.









1. 中国需要走联邦制的道路


过去一百年来, 中国在发愤图强的道路上, 走的颠扑狼狈, 到了今天, 前路仍然危机四伏, 四分五裂的因素仍然存在。两个不可回避的障碍拦在前面, 即一贯主导中国的政治思维, 与中国国情的巨大异质性与复杂性。


一贯主导中国的政治思维, 无疑是权力的绝对集中, 政权的维持依靠镇压手段。古代如此, 今天在共产制度下更是如此。


绝对权力加镇压的必然结果, 是周期性的不稳定。两千多年的朝代更迭, 证明了这一规律。为了稳定, 中国的朝代历史, 是一部牺牲发展的历史, 中国过去的轻商, 不重视科技的发展, 都可以归结到稳定至上这一考量上来。今天中国拒不进行政治改革, 为的还是稳定压倒一切。中国到了必须更换政治脑筋的时候了。


中国自强之路的艰辛, 与它的巨大异质性有一定的关系, 中国国境之内有不同的民族, 语言, 信仰, 习俗, 与地域等差别。今天, 除了沿海与内陆发展上的差别, 城乡的差别, 还有来自台湾, 西藏, 新疆, 香港等地的对独立与民主的追求。权力的垄断与压制, 不是解决复杂问题的良方, 它更不是长治久安之道, 相反, 它只能阻碍一个有活力, 现代化中国的形成。不同质性需要得到保护, 得到珍惜, 更重要的是得到发展的自由。


未来的现代化中国, 它的立国的精神, 必须是以人为本的, 它必须付与各地区, 各省份一定的自由, 尊严, 与自治的权力。同时中央政府, 必须保证个人与少数民族的权益。能把这一切的异质性, 有效地结合在一起, 中国需要的是一套有效的联邦制度。


为了中国未来联邦政体的考量, 本文检视了加拿大的联邦经验, 限于编幅, 本文只论述加拿大的经验, 选择加拿大, 是因为加拿大在多元文化和魁北克省独立运动上的特殊经验, 另外加拿大在因应英特网与全球一体化, 所作的联邦调整, 也有我们可以借鉴之处。


2. 加拿大联邦的历史回顾


在加拿大联邦成立之前, 加拿大各地方, 已经有当地的政府了。主要由两个语系组成, 即说英语的各地殖民政府和说法语的魁北克政府。1867年组建的联邦政府, 就是建立在已经存在的地方政府之上的。


联邦政府成立之后的头三十年, 即1867 到1900年, 主要的联邦辩论, 是集中在界定省与联邦的权力。最后, 奠定了加拿大联邦的基本形态, 即省的权力是基本的, 是不容挑战的。


1960代 与1970年代, 加拿大出现了不容忽视的魁北克独立运动, 同时其他省份也有另外的要求, 联邦政府因此在1982年通过了宪法法案。此法案确定了宪法的增修必需得到三分之二省份的支持。更重要的是, 此法同时加进了人权 与自由约法。 联邦政府约法, 保障全国每一个人的人权与自由, 任何独立的要求, 必需满足联邦政府在人权上的责任。


1982年引进的人权与自由约法, 启动了新一轮的争议与互动, 即省权力与个人权力的关系需要界定, 魁北克省认为个人的权力与发展, 要能全面伸张, 则必须建立在他身处的社区是否发达, 因此魁北克坚持在特殊情况下, 有否决个人权力的权力。魁北克的101法令, 就是为了保护法语社区的集体权益, 而剥夺了个人在商业招牌上的言论自由。


今天魁北克仍未脱离加拿大, 这主要是因为, 法裔在魁北克省内是当家作主的, 同时它又享受到作为加拿大一员的好处。这比它作为一个只有六百万人口的小国, 单独面对整个北美大陆英语文化的巨大同化力要好得多。


3. 加拿大联邦制度的特征


加拿大的联邦制, 是一种宪法联邦制, 这意思是, 主权的归属与使用的分割是在宪法里明文规定了的, 主权属于人民, 主权的使用可以分割, 并规定, 主权的使用是如何分割给省与中央政府的。最高法院对宪法有最后的解释权, 同时最高法院, 也是两级政府间争执的最后裁判。


加拿大的联邦制又是一种分散性与不对称性的联邦, 分散性是指主权的使用是分散在各级政府之间的, 省政府的权力在性质上不同于联邦政府的权力, 但是加起来, 权力大小相当, 不对称性, 指的是各地区之间允许区别对待, 这是为了包容各地区之间的巨大差异。


加拿大联邦制度的有效运行, 主要是依靠协商精神, 两级政府常常用授权, 联合计划,分税, 拨款等方法达致妥协。加拿大的经验是, 能妥协要比动不动就提出修改宪法要有效的多。


两级政府尊重与接受最高法院的判决, 也是联邦制能够有效运作的主要因素之一。


今天加拿大的联邦特征可以总结为: 人权至上, 执政权力均分, 照顾地区的特殊性, 允许区别对待, 追求多元文化。 多元文化政策, 认为族群间应该平等, 每个族群都有令人骄傲的历史与祖先, 使到人人自信与感到安全, 因而有开放的心态, 更能接受别人的文化, 最终达至全民和谐。


4. 加拿大的联邦精神


加拿大联邦从一开始, 就进入了争取省权的运动。其主导精神, 是来自自由主义对自治的追求。1982年, 宪法新增加了人权与自由约法, 虽是针对个人的, 但它的主导精神, 还是自由主义的。自由主义的涵意, 在此是指对法治, 自治与自由的追求, 个人自由与群体自由之间虽有矛盾, 往下加拿大的联邦工程将著力于寻找两者之间的平衡, 同时要维持一个安全, 有序的良好政府。


加拿大联邦的主导思维, 是自由主义的, 这与中国以权力垄断与压制为主导的思维, 形成了强烈的对比。


5. 加拿大联邦原则


加拿大联邦制度的第一个原则: 联邦的成立是建立在省的同意之上的, 而不是先有一个中央政府, 来要求或强求各省的入盟, 也就是说没有省的同意就没有联邦。第二个原则, 是省与中央在主权使用的分配上, 清楚分隔, 有独占性, 互不侵犯。 第三个原则, 是权力相当, 省的权力性质虽然与联邦的权力不同, 但是加起来应该大致相当, 以防中央政府据有压倒性的优势。多年来, 有许多权力上移或下移, 都是经过双方同意的移动。


6. 加拿大联邦与省的权力分配


省政府权力的界定, 是财产权与民权, 包括省税, 省的土地与矿产权, 医院, 慈善, 本地建设, 结婚仪式, 财产权与司法权。


联邦政府权力的界定, 是商业, 贸易与外交, 包括国债, 联邦土地, 联邦不动产, 商业, 贸易, 规章(regulation), 货币, 联邦税, 邮政, 军队, 导航, 船务, 银行, 印第安事务, 移民,归化, 刑事法, 反歧视法, 反仇恨法, 外交, 老年保障, 加拿大退休金, 贫省资助, 递增税政策等。


7. 加拿大联邦的不对称性


魁北克省有自己独特的个人收入税制, 公司税, 退休金蓄备, 移民政策与民法。其他省份, 也有同样的权力, 不过都愿意让联邦政府代劳, 魁北克还坚持有自己的股票市场, 自己的存款保证蓄备, 魁北克为了保护法语, 立101法, 来限制商业广告上的言论自由, 魁北克到今天还没有在联邦宪法上签字, 它的要求是, 宪法里明列魁北克为特殊社区。此外, 联邦政府允许, 魁北克有某些对外的参与权, 包括在UNESCO 和OECD的席位。


除了魁北克的特殊对待, 联邦政府在大西洋省份, 草原省份与太平洋省份都有不同的特殊项目。


8. 分离原则与2000年的清晰法


1998年八月, 加拿大最高法院判决: 一个省, 无权单方面决定脱离加拿大联邦, 不论是加拿大联邦宪法, 或国际法内的人民自决, 都不允许单方面决定脱离。但是一个省有权为独立而进行全省公投, 要是全省的大多数赞成独立, 那么加拿大联邦政府与其他省份, 有政治上的义务与该省进入谈判。


2000年六月, 加拿大国会通过清晰法, 来有效执行1998年最高法院, 对分离原则的判决。此法规定, 加拿大国会有权决定, 一个省的独立公投, 在文字上是否清晰地表明了独立的意图, 以防省政府用模糊的文字, 来降低人民对独立后果的认识, 比如公投授权省政府与中央谈判独立, 就不能被认为是直接公投独立的清晰文字, 公投与加拿大建立, 经济联盟或主权联盟, 都不算是要独立的清晰文字。另外加拿大国会还有权, 决定投赞成票的是否占省人口的绝大多数, 简单多数不能接受。只有在公投独立文的字清晰, 又达到省人口的绝大多数, 谈判才会开始。


清晰法还规定, 谈判的参与者包括联邦政府与所有的其他省份, 谈判内容, 包括土著权益, 土著土地的归还, 少数族群的权益 (包括少数族群要求继续留在加拿大的权力), 债务, 资产的归还, 与新国界的确定。


9. 英特网与全球化对加拿大联邦制的冲击


在新出现的英特网和全球化的环境中, 一些原来属于国家的主权, 开始被削弱或转移到超国家的机构中去, 例如FTA, WTO, 欧盟等。


英特网的成功, 使得国家之内的个人或地区, 都能与广大的世界直接沟通, 个人与地区的应变速度, 会比中央政府的反应快的多, 因而今天, 中央政府在制定发展计划和贸易政策时, 更需要采纳地区的意见。


加拿大中央政府对此已有清楚的认识, 并开始给予各地区更多的权力, 让各地区发挥各自的竞争优势, 加强各自在知识产业的人力资源。


在新的英特网与全球化的环境中, 加拿大联邦政府的职能, 已朝一个新的方向转进, 即如何为一个多元文化社会, 制定全国性的社会福利政策与标准的新方向, 内容包括医疗保险, 救济金, 养老金, 移民政策, 多元文化政策, 各省平均发展与向穷省增加拨款等。


10. 加拿大联邦经验可以为未来中国借镜之处


笔者认为, 加拿大的联邦经验, 可以为我们借镜之处如下:


第一, 人的自由与发展是首要的, 它是立国的真正的目标, 也是国家现代化与发达的基础, 权力的垄断与压制, 只能造成死气沉沉与危机四伏的社会。


同时, 我们要尊重地区和少数民族对自治的要求, 也要注意到, 个人与群体权益的平衡发展。


在设计中央与地方权力分配时, 我们要避免权力重叠, 权力分配要大致相当, 避免中央占有压倒性的优势, 尤其重要的是省与地方的同意, 是联邦存在的基础, 没有省与地方的同意就没有联邦。


在联邦的设计中, 要注入灵活, 能适应的机制, 不如此, 就很难跟得上英特网与全球化的新时代。


真正实行法治, 建立独立的宪法法院, 尊重宪法法院的裁决是联邦成功的保障。


加拿大最高法院对独立条款的裁决, 对我们有巨大的参照价值, 即参与联邦是一个自愿的过程, 分离则必须经过谈判。在分离的过程中, 个人与少数民族的权益一定要受到保障。





作者杜智富, 是加拿大的中国人权活动家, 对中国事务多所评论, 在过去十多年, 作者的人权工作, 集中在对加拿大国会和外交部的影响上。作者同时也是中国民主运动的一员, 曾经俩次当选为民主中国阵线主席。联系电话: 613-727-0941, EMAIL: michaelto@hotmail.com




* The Canadian law site: http://www.canadianlawsite.com/

* Reconciling the Solitudes, Essays on Canadian Federalism and nationalism

Charles Taylor

* Celebrating Flexibility: An interpretive Essay on the Evolution of Canadian Federalism

Thomas J. Courchene

* Liberty and Community, Canadian Federalism and the Future of the Constitution

Robert C. Vipond











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