Duceppe's 'resistance' comments draw fire

Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe is standing by his remarks likening sovereigntists to Second World War resistance movements.

BQ leader says comments were inspired by late Quebec union activist

Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe is standing by his remarks likening sovereigntists to Second World War resistance movements.

Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe says the late union activist Pierre Vadeboncoeur inspired his comments comparing sovereigntists to wartime resisters. ((Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press))

The comments were mocked by federal Conservatives after Duceppe made the comparison at a weekend Bloc event.

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon says the Bloc leader's analogy ranks among the most absurd and ridiculous ever made by a sovereigntist.

Speaking to a large crowd of Bloc supporters Saturday, Duceppe described Quebec sovereignty as a "resistance" movement — a term associated with those who fought to free Europe from Nazi domination.

"For the moment, we are resisters. But yesterday's resisters will be tomorrow's winners. Long live a sovereign Quebec!" he told supporters, who were gathered for a weekend meeting marking the party's 20 years of existence.

Cannon said he hopes Duceppe isn't trying to equate the federal government to Nazi German rule.

"There is no economic repression in Canada and there is no political repression in Canada — nothing of the sort," Cannon said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

Inspired by union leader

Duceppe denied his comments were a direct comparison to France's wartime resistance movement, explaining that his comments were inspired by the writings of Pierre Vadeboncoeur, the late Quebec union activist and sovereigntist.

But he stood by his remark a day after making it, saying resistance movements are necessary to establish Quebec sovereignty.

"Quebec sovereignty is not possible, just as the liberation was not possible, without the work of resisters," the Bloc leader said.

He accused journalists of overreacting and his opponents of launching personal attacks rather than responding to his questions regarding Quebec.

"I always said that Canada is a great democracy, it is a great country — I don’t believe it is mine. I want Quebec to be a sovereign country," Duceppe said.

"If we prevent people from using certain words, for example, we’ll never speak about the Quiet Revolution. When I hear certain journalists speaking about their work comrades, will I accuse them of being communists?"

Comment 'a bad idea'

Liberal MP Marlene Jennings said she isn't taking Duceppe's comments too seriously. "He's too intelligent a man" to have meant the comment with a Second World War context, Jennings said Monday.

The Montreal MP said she had a good laugh when she heard about it.

Following question period on Monday, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff accused Duceppe of "engaging in … weird historical comparisons," because he had nothing to say.

"I've met French resistance fighters. This would be an insult if we took … [Duceppe] seriously," Ignatieff said.

Quebec political columnist Michel David of the newspaper Le Devoir agreed Duceppe had made an error in judgment with the comment.

It is unlikely the comment was made as part of any sort of political strategy, said David.

"I don't think Mr. Duceppe meant at any time that either Mr. Harper or anyone else in Canada was a Nazi ," he said. "I think it was a bad idea."

With files from The Canadian Press