6 National self-determination
Does one community seceding grant a similar right to others?
Consider the position of community C. If B secedes, it takes C with it into the new state. But does C then have the same right to secede from B? Consider the case of Quebec. In the most recent independence referendum, Quebecois separatists came very close to achieving the bare majority they need to achieve their goal. But if they have the right to secede from Canada, would other groups who do not see themselves as a part of a francophone entity likewise have the right to a further independence vote for themselves? What about non-francophone immigrant communities, or indigenous ‘nations’, within Quebec? If one secession, democratically sanctioned, is acceptable, then why not other, subsequent or consequent ones? Some theorists who broadly accept a democratic model of secession still worry about a ‘domino effect’, where one secession will provoke others, and we will end up with a patchwork quilt of ever-smaller political units (or countries). I return in a moment to the question of whether there are good reasons for us to be so concerned about the size of nation-states.