Canada: Minding His Tongue

Minding His Tongue

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Canadians, especially those outside French-speaking Quebec, were understandably irate back in 1967 when French President Charles de Gaulle stood on a balcony at Montreal's city hall and encouraged the province's then violent separatist movement with his cry of "Vive le Quebec libre ((Long live free Quebec))." Until President Francois Mitterrand arrived last week, no French chief of state had set foot on Canadian soil since then.

During his five days in Canada, Mitterrand went out of his way to be a good guest. He made it a point to arrive in Ottawa, the English-speaking federal capital, rather than Quebec, as De Gaulle had done. After meeting with Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, he gave a speech to a joint session of Parliament, concluding the address with some reverse symbolism. "Vive le Canada," he intoned. Talks on trade and a fishing dispute produced no new agreements. But both Mulroney and Mitterrand had reason to be pleased as the French President boarded his Concorde SST for the flight home. The visit's very lack of excitement meant that a shadow hanging over relations between the two countries was, after nearly two decades, effectively dispelled.