Quebec MPs Refuse To Accept The Queen's Jubilee Medals
MONTREAL - Not everyone is thrilled that the federal government is spending millions, at a time of deep budget cuts, to celebrate the Queen's diamond jubilee.
As might be predicted, such anti-monarchist sentiment is loudest in Quebec where at least six MPs have returned their Jubilee medals.
One nationalist group even says it's planning counter-celebrations. That's because, according to Mario Beaulieu, the head of Montreal's Societe Saint-Jean-Baptiste, it doesn't care about the Queen's anniversary.
"We're not jubilant, we don't give a royal damn," he said on Monday. "And that reflects the opinion of a great majority of Quebecers... This crazy spending on identity propaganda shows that Quebecers don't have the same priorities as Canadians and don't belong to the same nation."
The nationalist group's anti-monarchy campaign will include conferences by historians as well as an art contest and photo and multimedia displays.
Outside Quebec, the anti-monarchy group Citizens for a Canadian Republic, was equally scathing. It derided what it called a massive, royal PR campaign and a state-funded spectacle. The group likened it to the kind of hero worship associated with discredited regimes.
"This is something you'd expect from the personality cult dynasties of North Korea or Syria, not Canada," said Tom Freda, the group's director, in a statement.
"For our government to spend one penny on the jubilee — or even the queen's birthday and huge portraits — is absurd."
Six Quebec MPs — all four Bloc Quebecois members, and at least two New Democrats — are simply refusing to hand out the Diamond Jubilee medals created for the occasion.
At a time when the government is talking about reorganizing the pension system and slashing department budgets up to 10 per cent, one Bloc MP called the $7.5 million being spent overall on Jubilee celebrations a waste of money.
"I find that to be exaggerated spending and it's unacceptable," Bloc MP Louis Plamondon said in an interview Monday.
Plamondon pointed out that Australia, a fellow Commonwealth member, was not handing out any medals to mark the event.
"And here we are spending $3.5 million on (medals)," Plamondon added. He called it more proof of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's total lack of understanding of Quebec.
At least two Quebec New Democrats, Pierre Nantel and Alain Giguere, are refusing the medals.
Nantel said the Queen is not such a big deal for him. He said he's not against the monarchy but he's fed up with the brand of patriotism the Harper government pushes.
Nantel said the Jubilee medals were discussed in caucus and New Democrat MPs are free to make their own choice about what to do with them. The party's interim leader, Nycole Turmel, also a Quebec MP, said there are different views about how to hand them out.
"I am currently thinking about how best to distribute them in my riding, and most MPs are doing the same," she said in an email to The Canadian Press.
By Peter Rakobowchuk, The Canadian Press