PARIS – Gov. Gen Michaelle Jean took steps Wednesday to quell complaints Quebec has been overshadowed by Canada during her trip to France, mentioning the province several times during events.
Jean, who is in the second day of a five-day visit to France, kicked off 400th anniversary celebrations for Quebec City and praised the strength of the “French fact” in North America and “Canada in particular.”
In a speech in the garden of the Canadian ambassador’s residence, Jean also praised the “vast influence of Quebec, of which we are very proud.”
In Canada, Parti Quebecois and Bloc Quebecois politicians decried earlier remarks by Jean who said Quebec City’s anniversary is a celebration of the francophone presence across Canada and North America.
Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe said the founding of Quebec City in 1608 was about the Quebecois nation – not Canada – and he denounced the monarchy Jean represents.
Sovereigntists were also irate that she advised France to look beyond Quebec and recognize there are francophone communities all over Canada.
Jean also met with French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday and reviewed the Republican Guard.
During her half-hour meeting with Sarkozy, Jean discussed the draft of an economic partnership between Canada and the European Union and praised “the long, enduring and profound friendship between France and Canada, which stem from our common history and shared memories.”
At a reception later, she also awarded an Order of Canada to French journalist Bernard Pivot.
Jean began her trip Tuesday by meeting with French Prime Minister Francois Fillon.
On Thursday, she, Sarkozy and Fillon will attend ceremonies in Normandy marking the 63rd anniversary of VE-Day in the Second World War. The ceremony will take place at the cemetery in Beny-Reviers where Canadian soldiers are buried.
Jean will also go to La Rochelle for festivities related to the sailing of French settlers for Quebec in the 17th century.
She will be in Bordeaux on Friday and Saturday, meeting with Mayor Alain Juppe and participating in a roundtable with French and Canadian academics.
The Haitian-born Jean will also deliver a speech commemorating the anniversary of the abolition of slavery on French territory.
She is accompanied on the trip by her husband, French-born filmmaker Jean-Daniel Lafond.