On Monday, one of the leading French presidential contenders, Segolene Royal, told Parti Quebecois leader Andre Boisclair (for those who are unaware of Canadian politics, he is leader of the separatist party in Quebec) that she endorses "the sovereignty of Quebec." Although this may be sweet news to the ears of many Quebecois separatists, it does raise a few issues. First, Ms Royal, has made comments with little or no comprehension of Canadian history, and second, her insensitivity to Canadian internal affairs has now opened the door for Canadians to comment on the internal affairs of France.
Now on many Canadian minds are the regions of France with very distinct cultures, languages and ethnic groups, groups that are fighting to keep their distinct culture intact, protect their traditional languages, and in some cases also have separatist movements. The two that come to my mind are Normandy and Brittany.
Normandy has a long history as a distinct political entity going all the way back to the Viking era. In fact, the fiefdom of Normandy was created for the Viking leader Rollo. Rollo had besieged Paris, but in 911 entered into a vassalage to the King of the West Franks and in this manner legally gained the territory he had formally conquered. The Vikings intermarried the locals and adapted the Gallo Romantic language and became known as the Normans a mixture of Scandinavians, Hiberno-Norse, Orcadians, Anglo-Danish and indigenous Gauls. Since then, this region has been tossed back and forth between England and France, yet they have fervently held onto their language, unique culture and cuisine.
Brittany is another region of France that was a former independent kingdom. It is considered one of the six Celtic nations. Despite its history of being pummled about in wars and loosing its independence, Breton has remained the language of the entire population. This is also despite active efforts by France (through laws and economic pressures) to stamp out this language. In fact, at the beginning of the 20th century, it was forbidden to "spit on the ground, and to speak Breton."
Please note that I am in no way endorsing separitist movements in these areas, I am simply making a point that perhaps Ms Royal should take a closer look at similar political terrain back home before putting her nose into affairs that are frankly none of her business.
For further info on this political gaffe, check out the following articles:
Harper rebukes Segolene Royal for comments on Quebec sovereignty
Vive la Normandie libre!
Maybe Segolene Royal is not ready for the world stage just yet