Sarkozy? Or Marois, Duceppe and Charest?

Pit Bill a la gâchette rapide, il confond Sarko et LA FRANCE... Tout est clair, le moment venu, LA FRANCE reconnaîtra l'indépendance du Québec... quoiqu'en dise aujourd'hui le petit Sarko.

Now, at last, there's no ambiguity. On Feb. 2, French President Nicolas Sarkozy removed the last illusion that sustained Quebec's separatism since 1967: that France would ensure international recognition for an independent Quebec. His speech, after conferring the Legion of Honour on Quebec Premier Jean Charest, spurned separatism as "sectarianism," "division," and "the need to define one's identity through fierce opposition to the other."
Quebec's secessionists took it as a declaration of war and they retaliated. Last Thursday, Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois and Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe summoned the media to deliver their riposte. "The statements of President Sarkozy about the sovereigntist movement are unacceptable."
Ms. Marois used a term loaded with diplomatic significance, "unacceptable." When Charles de Gaulle shouted his "Vive le Québec libre!" prime minister Lester Pearson declared that as "unacceptable," and the General cut short his visit.
The duo made public a four-page letter to Mr. Sarkozy that recalled the actions of previous presidents. Indeed, in 1995, Quebec premier Jacques Parizeau had wrung from French president Jacques Chirac a secret promise to recognize Quebec's sovereignty the morning after the referendum, if it carried by a single vote. So Mr. Parizeau later claimed, and the two leaders invoked the precedent.
"The Canadian prime minister [Jean Chrétien] maintained that, even after a majority vote for sovereignty, Quebec would have been unable to leave Canada. We know, however, that, at the same time, your predecessor, president Jacques Chirac, would have recognized the political decision of the Québécois, thus placing himself on the side of democracy and accompanying Quebec in its choice. Several francophone countries would have done the same, and we know that democracy would have prevailed."
They assumed that Mr. Sarkozy would be shocked to learn that Canada's prime minister could refuse to accept unconditionally a unilateral declaration of independence on the strength of a referendum held in Quebec alone. They did not recognize that no country on Earth accepts secession on those terms, and certainly not France.
"La France est une République indivisible," states Article 1 of France's constitution. So partitioning France is prohibited from the start. Article 3 states: "National sovereignty belongs to the people who exercise it through their representatives and by way of referendum. No section of the people and no individual can assume its exercise." Not even Corsica could secede by holding a referendum. Article 89 further bolts the door: "No procedure to revise [the constitution] can be initiated or pursued that threatens the integrity of the territory."
Previously, France's politicians and diplomats colluded freely with Quebec secessionists. But that was when opportunistic prime ministers like Brian Mulroney and Jean Chrétien failed to draw a line in the sand. Since 1995, we have the clear statement of the Supreme Court of Canada that future prime ministers will have to enforce.
The court stated that Quebec can become independent legally only through an amendment to the Constitution of Canada. That requires the consent of the federal government and the provinces. A pre-condition must be a negotiated agreement settling a host of issues, such as the borders of the ex-province of Quebec. All secessionist leaders after René Lévesque have rejected this condition, which would almost certainly entail Quebec's losing the territories of the aboriginals.
But the court recognized a second route to independence: revolution. It means overthrowing the Constitution, eliminating all federal governance over the territory of Quebec, and gaining international recognition. This is the path that separatist leaders claimed would be guaranteed by France. That claim has just lost its credibility, hence their fury.
And Jean Charest in this? He bolstered the separatists' claim by assuring everyone that, if another referendum were held, France would return to its previous implicit guarantee under the "ni ingérence, ni indifférence" formula that Mr. Sarkozy had just repudiated.
And the Premier again repudiated the Supreme Court's doctrine on secession, by saying: "What I know is that the Québécois, regardless of the circumstances, will themselves decide their future. It will always be like that."
Mr. Charest, the supposed federalist, has never accepted the court's decision that the rule of law and the federal principle prevent Quebec from separating legally without the consent of the federation. He repeats what he stated in 1995, both before and after the court's decision: "Quebeckers alone will decide their future." Gaullism has just been buried, but Premier Charest remains closer to president de Gaulle than President Sarkozy.
Author and a former president of Alliance Quebec

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