QUEBEC - Quebec's premier says Parti Quebecois heayweight Pierre Karl Peladeau should get a grip on reality after he compared the repatriation of the Constitution to the imposition of communist rule in East Germany.
Philippe Couillard said he found Peladeau's attempt to suggest parallels bizarre and pointed out that Canadians live in a democratic country.
Peladeau made the comments on his Facebook page Sunday — a day after German President Joachim Gauck came out in favour of a united Canada during an official visit to Quebec City.
Peladeau, who a recent opinion poll suggested is the front-runner to become PQ leader, took umbrage at Gauck's comments and criticized him for meddling in an internal Quebec matter.
Quebecor Inc.'s controlling shareholder also drew parallels between the repatriation of Canada's Constitution in 1982 without Quebec's consent and the repressive communist regime imposed on East Germany after the defeat of Adolf Hitler's Nazis.
Peladeau pointed out on Facebook that Gauck had fought against the communist regime imposed by the accords concluded by the allies at the Yalta conference at the end of the Second World War.
He then asked how Gauck could give legitimacy to the 1982 Constitution which was "inflicted" on Quebec yet rejected by the province's legislature.
Peladeau warned Gauck that it is "dangerous to interfere in the history of a country without taking the time to understand all the ins and outs of the dynamics and resilience of a nation and its citizens."
He also noted that Quebec "is not a province like the others because we want a country as rich as your nation."
He suggested Gauck should have been more respectful toward "millions of Quebecers who share other views."
Couillard could not resist a hint of a smile when asked about Peladeau's comments at a news conference on another matter on Monday.
He said he found it "bizarre" and "strange" to compare the constitutional situation in Quebec with the carving up of the defeated Germany by the victorious allied powers.
What Quebecers are living under has nothing in common with that of East Germany under communism, said Couillard, who suggested Peladeau "stay in touch with reality."
"We live in a democratic society, a society of law, all our fundamental rights are guaranteed, we are a people that is far from oppressed," Couillard said. "I think we should show some restraint in making such comparisons."
He also noted that Gauck's position was nothing new and that acknowledging Quebec's distintiveness did not prevent U.S. presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton or Nicolas Sarkozy, when he was president of France, from supporting a united Canada.
The premier said Peladeau showed "a lot of condescension" toward Quebecers who are capable of making up their own minds about Gauck's remarks.
He stopped short of pointing out how many Quebec sovereigntists became involved in Scotland's recent independence referendum.