Saturday, October 18, 2008

Old Separatists Never Die, They Just Get Pissed Off At France

Jacques Parizeau hurt by Nicolas Sarkozy's pro-unity comments

If anything over the past few years has lulled the Quebec separatist movement into a false sense of security, it certainly hasn't been French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

Some comments Sarkozy made while in Canada on Friday have enraged Quebec separatists once again, when he questioned the role of Quebec separatism given the current state of the world.

“It's something constant in my political life. If someone tries to tell me that the world today needs an additional division, then they don't have the same read of the world as me,” Sarkozy said. “I don't know why a fraternal love of Quebec would have to be nourished through defiance toward Canada.”

Jacques Parizeau, for his own part, was outraged at the comments.

“What this implies is that it is a judgment that is very anti-Quebec sovereignty that says: ‘We do not agree with Quebec sovereignty, we do not want additional divisions," Parizeau sniffed. "We accept divisions everywhere in the world but not that one.'”

Parizeau also noted that he doesn't feel Sarkozy's comments should damage a sovereign Quebec's relations with France. “It isn't because a head of state says an outrageous remark that it should change our relations with the French people,” he added.

Perhaps it's natural that Parizeau would be upset. For years, Quebec's sovereingtist movement depended upon France's support following a vote to separate from Canada. French President Jacques Chirac had pledged his willingness to help a newly sovereign Quebec chart its way through the international community.

But one of Jean Chretien's many valuable accomplishments as Prime Minister of Canada was turning Chirac from a pro-Pequiste adversary into a pro-Canadian unity ally.

Ever since, Quebec separatists have had less and less reason to feel confident about French support for their cause.

Former Quebec Premier Bernard Landry also took it upon him to add his two cents.

“I hope the President of the republic poorly expressed himself and that it is not the way he actually thinks,” Landry mused. “If the President of the French republic came and interfered in our affairs and took a position against the independence of Quebec, well then it is extremely serious.”

Of course, many Canadians -- French Canadians and otherwise, within Quebec and otherwise -- would likewise view pro-sovereignty comments by Sarkozy as interference in the matter of Canadian unity. Many certainly did when former French President Charles DeGaulle did so.

"What I think is Mr. Sarkozy has maybe misunderstood our project," said current Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois. "Maybe he doesn't understand the sovereignty project of the Quebec people which, on the contrary, is a very inclusive project, open on the world, and modern. People for decades around the world have given themselves countries, and I think Mr. Sarkozy rejoiced."

Of course, very few of these ethnic groups felt the need to deceive their own people in order to accomplish this task, but one digresses.

"Some people have a - how would you say - blunter interpretation [of the remarks]," Marois said of Parizeau's comments. "It's clear, if Mr. Sarkozy's references about a divisive project refer to the sovereignty project, it is simply not the case."

So apparently, to Pauline Marois, Quebec sovereigntism isn't divisive despite the fact that so many Quebeckers don't want it, and in 1995 the PQ and Bloc Quebecois had to pose a perplexing question to Quebeckers in order to artificially inflate support for "sovereignty association".

For her own part, former PQ Minister of International Relations Louise Beaudoin doesn't regard this as a threat to a sovereign Quebec's potential recognition. "The day Quebecers decide to be sovereign, notwithstanding the Clarity Act, by 50 per cent plus one, I'm telling you, France will recognize Quebec. It seems so obvious to me. They recognized Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina, Moldova and I don't know who else," she insisted. "Sarkozy is a very pragmatic man. He changes his mind."

If Sarkozy were ever put in a position where he had to change his mind regarding Quebec separatism, it's entirely possible that he might. But with even Quebec separatists continually putting off another referendum until the conditions are right -- a time that hasn't arrived in 13 years, and isn't likely to arrive soon -- Sarkozy is unlikely to ever have to face such a prospect.

In the meantime, Jacques Parizeau can get as angry about Nicolas Sarkozy as he wants. It isn't getting him any closer to a sovereign Quebec.

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