R.I.P., “Vive le Québec libre” (1967-2008)


[INSTA-UPDATE: Paul Wells, who’s knowledge of French politics positively dwarfs mine, weighs in here.]

After Sarkozy’s abrupt dismissal of Quebec independence, you had to know this was coming. Jean-François Lisée, a former advisor to premiers Parizeau and Bouchard and a close collaborator of Pauline Marois’s, responds in today’s Le Monde by essentially telling the French president to piss off:

Quebec has now gotten a taste of the Sarkozy approach to foreign affairs. A mix of impulsiveness and opinions fed to him by his friends in the business sector. A tendency to sacrifice long-term strategic balances for immediate tactical gain. The replacement of de Gaulle’s “Vive le Québec libre!” by Nicholas Sarkozy’s “no to the division of Canada” took place while Sarkozy was trying to convince his host, Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, to join him in his project of a global summit on the refounding of capitalism. That was his immediate task. Quebec’s state of mind didn’t come into play.


The end goal, for the president, wasn’t for Quebec to be “free” or, even more simply, “free to choose.” The end goal was for Nicholas Sarkozy to be unburdened and free to give his opinion, whatever its consequences for the people of Quebec.

Le Devoir‘s Christian Rioux, who’s as good as it gets in Quebec journalism when it comes to France, is barely more measured:

France is not of a single mind and Nicholas Sarkozy even less so. This interference, imbued with a paternalism widely thought to have disappeared, is obviously influenced by the decline of the sovereignist movement. But it mostly announces that France’s politics will, from now on, oscillate according to polls, pressures, and opportunities. Will Paris now promote the virtues of autonomism tomorrow if Mario Dumont’s popularity grows or if it’s got its eyes on a lucrative contract in Rivière-du-Loup?

I’m not entirely sure what to make of the chill between Quebec and France over Sarkozy’s remarks. In my previous life as a grumpy and sloppy waiter, I spent a few months in Paris doing just that–waiting tables, grumpily and sloppily. (If any of you ever make it out to Café Justine on Oberkampf, tell them le québécois says hello.) And if my experience is any indication, France is hardly as concerned about Quebec’s place in the world as Quebecers–especially sovereignists–would like to believe it is. “Non ingérence et non indifférence” may have been the official line inside the Élysée regarding Quebec’s independence movement, but “non conscience” seemed to be a more accurate description of the mood outside of it. Neither Sarko’s stance nor Lisée’s riposte seems likely to change that.


R.I.P., “Vive le Québec libre” (1967-2008)

  1. Now, I think it’s great that Macleans writers take the time to post blog items for the rest of us to peruse and occasionally snark about ….

    but don’t you guys ever talk to each other?

  2. but “non conscience” seemed to be a more accurate description of the mood outside of it.

    Extending more often than not to the fact that very few French people even know of De Gaulle’s history-defining moment in Montreal.

  3. “Ni ingérence, ni indifférence”

  4. Sisyphus: After work hours, on a weekend, when we live in different cities? Does it seem odd to you that we wouldn’t be coordinating like clockwork?

  5. No, PW, not odd. Not clockwork.

    Just some awareness of what’s going on with the site.

    But,it really is none of my business, is it ?

  6. Well, Sisyphus, of all the things to comment on and snark at, independent people doing stuff independently can’t be too high on any list.

    But, oh dear, what if another commenter is about to say the same thing since I started typing, and posts before I do. Someone may curse me for failing to stay up with the comment thread. Oh well, be brave, MYL, post anyway…

  7. Did you know the US still has 14 banks operating on the gold standard? The Bank of Canada is a joke it’s so broke and Sarkozy’s remarks had to do with the fact that divisiveness would be quite stupid while the banks are so weak. Yet of course the leaders can’t speak out loud about what is wrong so they put on a little show of unity. Well, the Quebec media commentators just didn’t pick up on what his remarks were really about. Still, I don’t think any of it means the end of Quebec Seperatism.

  8. Why does anyone expect France to really care about Quebec’s right to be “free to choose” particularly whn they have one very minor (Basque) and one fairly large (Corsica) seperatist movements of their own.

    Like every country, they have interests, not friends – as can be demonstrated by the fact that they would so easily trade symbolic support for Quebec for diplomatic help from Harper.

  9. “Nicholas Sarkozy’s “no to the division of Canada”

    Seems to me Sarkozy is just saying what all of Quebecers have said themselves, twice.

    Not sure why Lisée expects French President to be a champion of a cause that is slowly dying and has been rejected in two different referendums.

    Quebec separatists are really up themselves, aren’t they?

  10. To know Sarkozy’s origins is to know what to expect.
    Wishful thinking jwl!

  11. C’est une honte ! Je suis un français de France. Il n’est pas un Roi comme je l’ai lu dans certains blog québécois, mais je dirais plutôt un tyran tirant tout ce qu’il est possible vers lui. J’ai honte de ses propos. Mais même s’il est le représentant politique de la France ne croyez pas que les Français partagent ses opinions. Ça côte de popularité baisse. Il le W. Bush à la française. Bref un drame. Je connais votre province, votre pays, et je soutiens votre désir d’indépendance. Certains français dis de vous que vous êtes “nos cousins”d’Amérique. Mais ils ont la mémoire courte, du moins, cela fait parti de ce qui ne nous est pas enseigné à l’école. Je sais que c’est la France qui vous a abandonnée aux anglais. Et j’ai la triste impression que l’histoire ce répète. Je vous en prie ne généralisez pas sur notre peuple. N’oubliez pas qu’il n’est là que pour un quinquennat (enfin j’espère). Cet imbécile à oublié que la phrase du Québec est “Je me souviens”… Pour ma part. Vive le Québec libre !

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