*Sarkozy is an idiot.*
OTTAWA — Nicolas Sarkozy’s ardent condemnation of Quebec separatism has touched off a trans-Atlantic tizzy that has led sovereigntists to dismiss the French president as ignorant.
In an improvised monologue this week Sarkozy stressed the need for unity in the face of hateful, narrow-minded, sectarianism.
He never mentioned Quebec by name — but he made the remarks during a Paris ceremony where he presented Premier Jean Charest with the French legion of honour.
Sovereigntists, who have assiduously courted the French government in a decades-long diplomatic effort, are expressing increasing frustration with president’s periodic musings in favour of Canadian unity.
Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe said Sarkozy proved he knows nothing about Quebec.
“If they’re talking about us, about sovereigntists, he’s making an eloquent demonstration of his crass ignorance of Quebec’s political situation,” Duceppe said.
“We can be a sovereign country and that doesn’t mean we hate Canada. On the contrary — it’s a great country. I like the Canadian nation. And Canadians have friendships with Americans. They don’t hate them because they’re a sovereign country.
“The French are sovereign. Do they hate their neighbours? It’s twisted logic, and it doesn’t hold up.”
Duceppe was asked why Sarkozy couldn’t express support for Canadian unity, when past French presidents like Charles de Gaulle and Jacques Chirac have been applauded for endorsing Quebec independence.
He denied suggesting Sarkozy had no right to express an opinion, but added that Quebec’s status would be decided by Quebecers.
Sovereigntists generally bristle at any suggestion that their movement feeds off bitterness — a charge considered so offensive in the province that even pro-Canadian politicians stopped making it long ago.
Most federalist politicians have avoided referencing Sarkozy’s remarks — with one notable exception.
The Conservatives, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, delighted in rubbing the Bloc’s noses in it.
When Duceppe argued in the House of Commons that the budget did little for Quebec, the prime minister, without any prompting, opened his response with a reference to the Sarkozy comments.
“That’s the sectarianism Mr. Sarkozy is talking about,” Harper replied, before rattling off a list of budget items he said would help all Canadians, including Quebecers.