SHARE
COPY LINK

CANADA

Quebec separatists cheer as French line softens

President François Hollande said Monday that France would return to its policy of "non-interference, non-indifference" on the question of the independence of the Canadian province of Quebec.

Quebec separatists cheer as French line softens

Meeting with Quebec's new separatist premier Pauline Marois, Hollande said France was going back to its longstanding position, after his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy dramatically broke with the tradition.

"This formula has been in place for 30 years. It has been carried out by all the successive (French) governments. So this formula prevails today," Hollande said. "I am for continuity."

First laid out in 1977, the "ni, ni" policy – as it is known in French – makes France officially neutral on the question of Quebec independence but indicates support to Quebeckers should they choose to separate from the rest of Canada.

The formula has allowed France to continue what many see as its subtle support for Quebec independence – embodied in ex-president Charles de Gaulle's 1967 "Vive le Québec Libre!" ('Long Live Free Quebec') speech in Montreal – without sparking a diplomatic row with Ottawa.

Sarkozy, defeated by the Socialist Hollande for the presidency in May, angered Quebec separatists with repeated attacks on the independence movement, sneering at what he called "sectarianism" and "self-confinement".

Following the talks with Marois, Hollande also praised "the close links" between France and Quebec and the feelings of "partnership, fraternity and solidarity" between the country and the province.

Marois hailed the French president's remarks.

"President Hollande chose his words this morning by telling us he was still standing at our sides and that our relationship based on solidarity would continue," she said.

She said her three-day visit to France was taking place in a "very cordial" atmosphere and that French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, who she is to meet on Tuesday, would travel to Quebec next spring.

As well as Ayrault, Marois will on Tuesday meet with Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici and on Wednesday with French business leaders.

Marois's Parti Quebecois, the standard-bearer of the mostly French-speaking Canadian province's independence movement, won control of Quebec's National Assembly last month, trouncing the federalist Liberals who had ruled since 2003.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

CANADA

Searchers find body of French snowmobiler who crashed through ice

Canadian searchers on Friday found the body of one of five French snowmobilers whose machines fell through the ice of a frozen lake, police said.

Searchers find body of French snowmobiler who crashed through ice
Canadian police searching for the bodies on snowmobiles. Photo: HO / Sûreté du Québec / AFP
A spokesman acknowledged that the chances of finding the group alive had dimmed, but police were “keeping up hope” of recovering their bodies.
   
The search for the snowmobilers includes divers, sonar operators and police backed by helicopters in the area about 225 kilometers (140 miles) north of Quebec City, and is expected to resume again at daybreak.
   
Quebec provincial police spokesman Hugues Beaulieu said the body discovered Friday “was found more than two kilometers from the initial search area in Grande Decharge River” at the mouth of Lake Saint-Jean where the accident happened.
   
“At the moment, we can't identify the body,” French Consul General in Quebec Laurent Barbot said during a press briefing. “The process is underway and the families have of course been informed,” he added.
   
The group included eight French tourists, who were snowmobiling Tuesday evening in an area that is off limits to snowmobiles because the ice is thinner there.
   
Three snowmobilers survived with minor injuries. They returned to France on Thursday evening, according to the consulate.
   
Their 42-year-old Canadian guide died on Wednesday in a hospital after trying to rescue members of the group.
   
Police have recovered six snowmobiles at the bottom of the lake near where the accident occurred, and provincial authorities have pledged to tighten safety measures on the use of the machines.
   
Investigators do not know why the group left the approved paths to venture “off-piste” at nightfall, but some experts believe they may have been trying to take a shortcut to their destination.
SHOW COMMENTS