Sarkozy wants to help Canadian unity
In another move certain to infuriate Gilles Duceppe, today French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced he wants to "bring together" Quebec and Canada.
But what a difference 41 years can make.
On July 24, 1967, then-French president Charles De Gaulle addressed a crowd assembled outside Montreal City Hall. In years since, it would be identified as a hallmark moment for the Quebec sovereigntist movement. "Vive le Quebec libre!" he announced.
"I'll confide in you a secret that you will not repeat," he said. "Tonight and all along my route, I found myself in an atmosphere of the same kind as the liberation" [of France from Nazi Germany].
"One day or another, Quebec will be independent," DeGaulle was quoted as having said only four years earlier.
De Gaulle was visiting Quebec partially to commemorate Expo 1967, which was being held in Montreal. Historican (then-television reporter) Joe King, who reported extensively on De Gaulle's visit would later note that the visit "seemed staged to breathe nationalist life into Quebecers".
"He was pretending that he was liberating these villages," he added. "The whole thing was an act, from one end to another. The whole thing was a pretence to stir up trouble."
De Gaulle's characteristic arrogance is well documented in the pages of history. Certainly, De Gaulle was an individual who believed himself entitled to interfere in the affairs of numerous countries -- including Canada.
More than four decades later, there's been quite an attitude change in the French Presidency.
"The future of Canada and of France will be the future of two countries, not simply allies, but friends," Sarkozy said today. "Our friendships and our loyalties do not oppose one another. We bring them together so each can understand what we have in common. We will turn toward the future so the future of Canada and France will be the future of two countries that are not only allies, but two friends."
Sarkozy made the remarks while visiting a Canadian military cemetery in Beny-Reviers while commemorating the 63rd anniversary of VE Day, marking the end of the second World War in Europe. The sacrifices made by thousands of Canadian troops -- mostly English Canadians while most French Canadians stayed home -- in liberating France is something that De Gaulle certainly overlooked. Its comforting that succeeding French Presidents haven't done the same.
Of course, Gilles Duceppe will almost certainly have something to say about Sarkozy's efforts at helping to unite Canada.
Remarkably, although Duceppe will certainly protest until Canadians have tired of hearing from him, Sarkozy's intentions toward Canadian Unity will have far less an effect than he -- or Canadians -- would like to hope. France simply hasn't been viewed as important to Quebec nationalists for many years now.
All the same, relations between Canada and France -- especially vis a vis France are moving in the right direction. Nicolas Sarkozy is a credit to the country he serves.