France reinstates Quebec independence ‘non-interference, non-indifference’ policy

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

It's official: the 'ni-ni' policy is back.

Several media outlets are reporting that France's president François Hollande has re-instituted the policy of 'non-interference, non-indifference' when it comes to Quebec independence. The doctrine, first introduced in 1977, essentially decrees that France will remain a neutral party during any future Quebec referendum and accept any outcome.

The announcement came at press conference in Paris, after a short meeting between Hollande and Quebec Premier Pauline Marois.

"This formula has been in place for more than 30 years," Hollande said at the conference according to the Globe and Mail.

"It has been carried out by all the successive [French] governments, so this formula still prevails today. I am for continuity."

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The Quebec/French relationship has been a sensitive issue on both sides of the Atlantic for decades.

In 1967, Ottawa was left reeling after French president Charles de Gaulle used the phrase "Vive le Québec libre" (in English: "Long live free Quebec") in a speech to a Montreal audience. The quote was interpreted, by many in Canada, as support for Quebec independence.

In 2009, former president Nicolas Sarkozy angered separatists when he said that he opposed "sectarianism" and "self-confinement."

"Non-interference, non-indifference, honestly, is not my thing," Sarkozy said according to the Montreal Gazette.

Hollande's proclamation, on Monday, swings the pendulum back in favour of the separatists.

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In a July 2012 column for Macleans, Paul Wells notes that Hollande's stance is very important to Marois' Parti Quebecois:

"The last time the Yes side almost won, France was at the heart of the game.

In his 1997 book Pour un Québec souverain, Jacques Parizeau writes that foreign recognition of a seceding Quebec would be "an essential condition" for separation to succeed. The United States' reaction would be key; "the only way" to force American recognition of a secession would be to get quick French recognition."

With the reinstatement of the 'ni-ni' policy, it looks as if premier Marois has accomplished step one in her goal towards Quebec independence.