Ignatieff responds to furor over Quebec separatism comments

Nothing shakes up the country’s pundits and politicians like a few comments on national unity from a prominent Canadian. In February, an uproar followed remarks made by Liberal MP—and son of a legendary prime minister—Justin Trudeau regarding his willingness to support Quebec separatism if the country continues down the path the Conservatives are taking in Ottawa.

On Tuesday, it was Michael Ignatieff’s turn. The former Liberal leader prompted a flurry of reactions after he told the BBC, in an interview about the prospect of a Scottish referendum on independence, that “over time the two societies will move ever, ever further apart. That is I think what the Canadian example will tell you. . . It’s kind of a way station. You stop there for a while. But I think the logic eventually is independence, full independence.”

Today, Ignatieff responded by circulating a statement to media institutions like the CBC and theGlobe and Mail:

“The interview on the issue of the referendum on Scottish independence made clear that Canada offers an internationally recognized model for the conciliation of political differences. I also shared my concerns about the future of this country: we must not drift apart and we must not allow illusions about each other to divide us. Canada is bigger than our differences. We need to affirm our faith in a country that has always proved strong enough to embrace the national identities, language and culture of us all.”

“I oppose the separation of Canada and Quebec, as I oppose the separation of Scotland and the United Kingdom, and we need to face any threats to our unity with determination and resolve. The argument we need to make to our fellow citizens who choose the separatist option ought to appeal to hope rather than fear. We are stronger together than apart, stronger in the embrace of our differences and stronger in the prosperous life we have built together over the centuries.”

While commentators heaped scorn (or praise, as in the case of Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois) on Ignatieff, many missed the CROP poll on the Quebec sovereignty movement published by La Presse on Tuesday. It found that 36 per cent of Quebeckers support independence, a lacklustre figure when compared with figures from the 1990s.