MONTREAL — The Bloc Quebecois’ hint at Nazi-era terminology to define its relationship with Canada ranks among the most absurd statements ever made by sovereigntists, a senior federal cabinet minister said Sunday.
Senior members of the federal government excoriated Gilles Duceppe for describing Quebec sovereignty as a “resistance” movement – a term generally associated with the struggle to free Europe of Nazism.
“It happens to be the most ludicrous and ridiculous statement I’ve heard a sovereigntist make in 20 years,” Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon told The Canadian Press Sunday.
Ottawa wants the leader of the Bloc Quebecois to explain the remark that drew parallels between the Quebec sovereignty movement and French resistance against the Nazi regime.
“I would hope he would indeed take the first opportunity to clarify his positions,” said Cannon.
The speech drawing so much fire was made during the Bloc’s weekend general council meeting, where delegates were marking the party’s upcoming 20th anniversary.
“For now, we’re members of a resistance movement,” Duceppe told the crowd. “But members of today’s resistance movement are tomorrow’s victors. Long live a sovereign Quebec!”
Cannon slammed the comments as both “outrageous” and “desperate.”
“I hope Mr. Duceppe is not stating that the Canadian government in any way, shape or form, has any tendencies towards being a Nazi government,” he said.
“There’s no economic repression in Canada and there’s no political repression in Canada.”
Later grilled by journalists, Duceppe denied his comments were a direct comparison to France’s resistance movement, claiming his speech was inspired by prominent Quebec author and unionist Pierre Vadeboncoeur, who died last February.
He also reportedly quipped the French resistance didn’t grant news conferences.
But he added that resistance movements – like the one in France during the Second World War – were necessary to establishing sovereignty.
“Neither Quebec sovereignty nor the Liberation is possible, or would have been possible, without the work of ’resistants,”’ Duceppe said.
Bloc spokeswoman Karine Sauve said Sunday that Duceppe was standing by his statements.
The sovereigntist party will be observing a at two key moments in its history this year: the failure of the Meech Lake Accord and its subsequent founding as a political party, and the 15th anniversary of the 1995 Quebec referendum.