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Cardinal (Jean-Claude) Turcotte on Quebec independence.

Montreal - Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte, 61, is the other active cardinal in Canada. (There are also three retired ones, Louis-Albert Vachon, 86, in Quebec; Eduoard Gagnon, 80, in Rome; and Gerald Emmett Carter, 86, in Toronto).

On December 29, 1997, Cardinal Turcotte, interviewed by the Montreal daily Le Devoir, affirmed the Quebec bishops' view that Quebeckers are a sovereign people. With reference to the Supreme Court's examination of whether Quebec can separate on its own, the Cardinal said:

"The Supreme Court can say what it wants. Even if it says that (Quebeckers) don't have the right to do it, if the people decide to do it, it's the people who are sovereign. I am a democrat."

The Cardinal received hundreds of phone calls and letters. Some people objected to clergymen uttering political opinions. This the Cardinal rejected in a January 7 news conference on the grounds that bishops, too, should facilitate the "climate of exchange." He did apologize, however, for leaving the impression that he was taking sides. This is not so, he said.

Much more importantly, as pointed out on January 9 by William Johnson, long-time student of Quebec affairs and now a columnist for the Sun chain of newspapers - Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Calgary - the Cardinal, in fact, rejected the rule of law in Canada. Why?

Despite the apologies, in his January 7 televised press conference Cardinal Turcotte reiterated his stance that Quebeckers alone (now only 23% of the Canadian people) have the right to decide what their constitutional future will be.

The idea that Quebeckers are "a distinct people" has been accepted by Quebec bishops for over 30 years. On two occasions, in 1967 and in 1995, the French-speaking bishops also succeeded in getting the national bishops' conference (CCCB), consisting of all the Canadian bishops both French and English, to accept a statement affirming Quebec to be a people with the right of self-determination. But in neither case did English-Canadian Catholics pay much attention. The bishops, too, never looked closely at what is meant by "people," nor at the "how" of self-determination.
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Publication:Catholic Insight
Date:Mar 1, 1998
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