Trudeau faces controversy over separation remarks
Published Tuesday, February 14, 2012 10:41PM EST
Liberal MP Justin Trudeau is facing a barrage of criticism for suggestions that Quebec separation could be deemed acceptable given the politics of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Trudeau made the comments during a weekend radio interview in Quebec, and he's been trying to clarify the statement ever since.
The Quebec MP first went to Twitter to dispel criticisms over his remarks, but on Tuesday, he gave reporters a fiery speech about his love for a united Canada.
"I live this country in my bones, every breath I take and I'm not going to stand here and somehow defend that I actually do love Canada because we know I love Canada," he said outside of Parliament.
During the radio chat, Trudeau said he could support Quebec's separation if the majority of Canadians in English-speaking provinces shared Harper's ideals.
It's believed that Trudeau was referencing the fact that despite winning a majority government, the Conservatives only took approximately 40 per cent of the popular vote.
"There is a way of viewing social responsibility, openness to others, a cultural pride here in Quebec that is necessary to Canada," he said during a talk with host Franco Nuovo, who is a well-known nationalist writer in Quebec.
"And I always say that if I ever believed Canada was really the Canada of Stephen Harper and we were going against abortion and going against gay marriage, and we were going backward in 10,000 different ways, maybe I'd think of wanting to make Quebec a country."
During the talk show, when Nuovo expressed some surprise at Trudeau's remarks, the parliamentarian added: "Oh yes, absolutely. If I no longer recognized Canada, I know my own values."
When the comments spread from Quebec to a national audience over the next 48 hours, Trudeau attempted to tamp down the smouldering controversy on Twitter by stating he would never be okay with Quebec leaving confederation.
Trudeau tweeted: "Canada needs (Quebec) to balance out Harper's vision that I (and many) don't support."
But the Conservatives were quick to seize on Trudeau's remarks, as well as refer to his father, the late prime minister Pierre Trudeau.
"(Trudeau) grew up hearing about a strong, united Canada, but just last week he said he would favour Quebec independence," Tory MP Merv Tweed said in Parliament, adding that Trudeau should recant or further clarify his comments.
Meanwhile, Interim NDP Leader Nicole Turmel used the occasion to talk about her own federalism.
"I will let (Trudeau) choose his party, if he wants to go to Quebec, but for me and for the (New Democratic) party we are clear: we're a federalist party and we represent all Canadians," she said.
Turmel faced some controversy when it was revealed last year that she once held membership in the Bloc Quebecois.
For their part, the Bloc also pounced on Trudeau and attempted to welcome him into the fold.
"Good news!" said Bloc member Maria Mourani.
"Finally, he has understood," said another Bloc member, Andre Bellavance.
Still, Trudeau's boss, Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae, supported his MP, and said that he believes in a strong and united Canada.
He also questioned Harper's politics and tactics in the Prime Minister's Office.
"Mr. Harper is the interim prime minister," Rae said. "He's here today, he'll be gone tomorrow. You should never confuse one man with the whole country. The country is much bigger and much greater than any one person."
In an interview with CTV's National Affairs, former Quebec opposition and ADQ leader Mario Dumont said that Trudeau's comments could come back to haunt him, especially if he has plans on running for the Liberal leadership one day.
He also suspected that Trudeau wanted to appear sympathetic to Quebec while demonizing Harper, but ended up sounding like it's "more important for him to be on the left than to be Canadian."
With a report from The Canadian Press