by Eric Duhaime
Our Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is currently in Paris for his first official tour of France. It’s expected he’ll be discussing (again!) the “Quebec question” with his French counterpart, head of diplomacy Laurent Fabius.
While that meeting takes place, Stephen Harper will be encountering for the first time the newly elected Premier Pauline Marois at the Francophonie summit in Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the only thing democratic about the country is its name, it being the home of one of the worst dictatorships on earth.
Now that France has a new president in the socialist Francois Hollande, the Quebec separatists feel they have a better ally. Since the government of former French president Valery Giscard d’Estraing in the ’70s, France has adopted a “non-intervention, non-indifference” doctrine so our ancestral country remains neutral, while on this side of the Atlantic we debate Quebec’s willingness to separate or not.
Nicolas Sarkozy, who lost his presidency earlier this year, rejected that approach and came out as a supporter of Canadian unity, reminding Quebecers it was time to work together, not split or become too insular.
Hollande prefers to get back to the “non-non” doctrine and it wouldn’t be surprising that he does it publicly when Marois visits him next week on her way back from the Congo.
The separatists hope that the Sarkozy approach was an intermission and that France will get back to the old line.
It is weird to see the Parti Quebecois so focused on trying to convince potential allies at the other end of the world of the necessity of Quebec’s independence while their option currently drags in the polls at 28% at home. It’s not in Paris or Kinshasa that the battle of the next referendum, if ever there is one, will be won or lost, and it is not a French politician or an African dictator whose weight will make a difference.
It is as disconnected from the real world as the head of states strutting their stuff right now in the capital of one of the planet’s worst countries in terms of human rights.
I always thought that what we called our “Foreign Affairs” got its name because we were referring to the foreigners we interact with not because they discuss things that are totally foreign to reality.
There’s champagne and canapes for all the political guests in the prettiest offices of the Assemblee nationale in Paris and in the five-star hotel newly built to welcome our political elites to Kinshasa while taxpayers get close to nothing for their generosity in return.
We deserve better. Canada needs to strengthen its relationship with France. Our traditional ally has felt neglected lately while our federal government overexposes the royal family and shares its embassy with the United Kingdom.
Canada could also have made the world in general, and the Francophonie in particular, a better place if it
had boycotted the current summit because Canadians refuse to legitimize an undemocratic regime.
Categories: Contributor Columns