Quebec should recognize that aboriginal peoples have as much right to self-determination as the Quebec people, say a group of prominent Quebec academics.

“For a nation to be sovereign, it must be able to recognize other nations. Quebec cannot become fully sovereign if it is not willing to recognize other nations on its territory,” said McGill political scientist Alain Gagnon.

Gagon, an influential Quebec nationalist, is one of eight academics who issued a five-page statement to the French press calling for a “partnership between equals” with First Nations and a “spirit of openness and reconciliation.”

Gagnon told The Nation that the right to self-determination means the First Nations have the right to secede from a sovereign Quebec.

“That’s not my preference. But if that’s their decision, I am willing to support it,” he said.

The academics’ statement says both Quebecers and the First Nations have the “respective right to dispose of themselves, to freely choose their political status and to freely assure their economic, social and cultural development.”

Quebec should also make “unconditional cessions of territories claimed by aboriginal peoples,” and First Nations should be allowed to pursue their own development “in whatever way they choose,” say the academics, from a variety of universities including Laval, UQAM, the University of Montreal, Carleton, McGill and Concordia.

“A proof of openness would be allowing the creation of aboriginal socioeconomic spaces that are independent from all points of view, entirely autonomous, free of all administrative or jurisdictional control and disposing adequate resources necessary for the growth of the First Nations as sovereign national entities,” say the academics.