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Aide says Pierre Trudeau would have supported Ignatieff's position on Quebec
Wed Nov 22, 8:50 PM


By Joan Bryden

OTTAWA (CP) - Michael Ignatieff received a blast Wednesday from one of Pierre Trudeau's sons, after a top aide suggested the late Liberal icon would have endorsed the leadership front-runner's position on recognizing Quebec as a nation.

Alexandre Trudeau issued a written statement saying that anyone who believes his father would have supported Ignateiff's views "couldn't be more wrong." He said it's "more objectionable still" to suggest that his father "would, like Ignatieff, deal in vacuous terms meant to appease emotions."

Ignatieff, meanwhile, distanced himself from the comments of Alf Apps, one of his senior advisers who circulated an e-mail late Tuesday among Liberals.

In the message, Apps argued that if Trudeau was alive today, he'd back Ignatieff's views over those of his eldest son, Justin, who has dismissed Quebec nationhood as "an old idea."

Apps said he recently ran into Justin Trudeau and spent 15 to 20 minutes discussing his views on recognizing Quebec as a nation within Canada.

He was struck by "the shallowness" of Trudeau's arguments and by "how tenaciously he held onto them."

"After completing my reflection, I have come to the conclusion that Pierre Trudeau, were he alive today, would endorse Michael Ignatieff's view and dismiss that of his own son," Apps wrote.

Ignatieff called that assertion "the weirdest, retrospective hypothetical ever heard in Canadian politics."

"To ask what a dead prime minister would have thought about propositions enunciated after his death, I mean, who knows?" Ignatieff told The Canadian Press.

The squabbling among Liberals over the Quebec question in advance of their leadership convention next weekend was pre-empted Wednesday when Prime Minister Stephen Harper tabled a motion in the Commons that would declare that Quebec is a nation within Canada.

Advance indications are that the Liberal caucus, along with the NDP, will support it.

App's e-mail was accompanied by a 29-page essay in which he contended that Trudeau's vision of one united, bilingual, pluralistic Canada is being distorted and betrayed by opponents of the Quebec nation resolution.

He argued that Trudeau was opposed to ethnic nationalism, not to the modern civic nationalism that is prevalent in Quebec today and which Ignatieff wants to recognize.

And Apps chided Liberals, including Justin Trudeau, for blindly clinging to Trudeau's vision of the country without fully understanding the former prime minister's philosophy or recognizing that times have changed.

Ignatieff echoed some of Apps' arguments, if not his assertion that Trudeau would have endorsed him.

"He was much more flexible and much more pragmatic in his dealings with Quebec than the later mythology of Trudeau would have you believe," Ignatieff said.

But Alexandre Trudeau was having none of it. He said his father would never have supported Ignatieff's "paternalistic and empty" recognition of Quebec as a nation.
Moreover, he said the term nation cannot be strictly symbolic; it either "signifies a sovereign country, as in the United Nations" or it signifies a "cultural collective."
If it's a cultural collective, Alexandre Trudeau questioned how only Quebec can be recognized as a nation, and not other collectives such as "Mohawks, Jews, Arabs, Sri Lankans, Guatemalans, Crees, Irish, English, German and French descendents."
"One might be able to argue for a French Canadian nation. One might be able to argue for a state of Quebec. But arguing for the Quebec nation to the exclusion of the myriad of other nations of Canada is absurd for someone who aims to lead Canada," he said.
"It takes no son of Trudeau to know how foreign to him is the idea of allowing Canadian nation building to proceed along the path of ill-defined collective recognitions and entitlements as opposed to the clear rights of free individuals, each capable of being many nations or of none."





Copyright 2006 Canadian Press