Montreal

Quebec reacts to violence during Catalan independence vote

Quebec politicians and personalities are reacting to events unfolding in Catalonia, as hundreds were injured in police crackdowns that saw officers use batons and rubber bullets indiscriminately on voters trying to participate in the Spanish region's independence referendum.

Leaders monitoring situation but don't want to interfere in Spanish affairs

Spanish riot police swings a club against would-be voters near a school assigned to be a polling station by the Catalan government in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, Oct. 1. (Manu Fernandez/Associated Press)

Quebec politicians and personalities are reacting to events unfolding in Catalonia, as hundreds were injured in police crackdowns that saw officers use batons and rubber bullets indiscriminately on voters trying to participate in the Spanish region's independence referendum. 

For years, Catalans and Quebecers have expressed solidarity for their respective separatist movements. Last week, a group of about 300 gathered in downtown Montreal to decry the Spanish government's rough tactics in trying to prevent the referendum from happening. 

Catalan regional government spokesman Jordi Turull told reporters that 90 per cent of the 2.26 million Catalans who voted chose the Yes side in favour of independence.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard was initially criticized for holding back from outright condemning Spain. He took to Twitter Sunday to react to the events, but his message remained restrained. 

"We're following the situation closely. Quebec condemns all forms of violence. The answer: dialogue between sides," Couillard tweeted. 

Federal Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly echoed his words and repeated Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's position that the Canadian government doesn't want to interfere because "we wouldn't want a government to get involved in our internal affairs," Joly told CBC News. 

"At the same time, we want to make sure they follow the rule of law and respect fundamental human rights," she added. 

Parti Québécois leader Jean-François Lisée, who was at last week's demonstration in Montreal, drew parallels between its people's quest for independence and that of Quebec's sovereignists.

Lisée has been vocal in his support for Catalans and in criticizing the premier and prime minister's stances. Sunday, he saluted "the Catalan people who stand before the Spanish state's unworthy and shameful violence."

Spanish National Police officers in plain clothes try to snatch a ballot box from polling station officials in Barcelona, Spain, early Sunday, Oct. 1. (Manu Brabo/Associated Press)

Coalition Avenir Québec François Legault also commented, sending out a news release where he said he "deplores the use of force and repression by the Spanish stated.

And former PQ MNA Bernard Drainville sent a flurry of tweets as tensions escalated. 

Montreal mayoral candidate Valérie Plante of Projet Montréal also tweeted, saying, "I am overwhelmed by what is happening in Catalonia. Democracy can not win out of such an excess of state violence."

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre tweeted later in the day, stating his solidarity with Barcelona's mayor. "We must condemn all violence and protect democracy."

with files from CBC's Matt D'Amours and La Presse Canadienne

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