Federalist politicians are lashing out at the Bloc Québécois for comparing today's Quebec sovereigntists with the French resistance fighters of the 1940s.
In a weekend speech, Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe talked about being involved in the "resistance" as he approaches the 20th anniversary of his first election to the House.
He insisted in a news conference there is no comparing occupied France and Quebec, but he fuelled the analogy as he explained the Bloc's current role in Canadian politics.
"The sovereignty of Quebec, no more than the liberation [of France] is not possible, would not have been possible, without the work of the resistance fighters. Our work is essential to achieving sovereignty," he told reporters.
Federalists were outraged at the comments, arguing that any analogy involving the Second World War is absurd.
"[Mr. Duceppe]is making ridiculous and unacceptable comments in comparing Bloc MPs to French reistance fighters during the Nazi occupation. In so doing, he is comparing the government of Canada to the Nazi regime," said Dimitri Soudas, a spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
The Conservatives used the comment to further their long-standing strategy of portraying the Bloc as increasingly out of touch with Quebeckers and their current economic preoccupations.
"Quebeckers want us to help protect their jobs and balance our books without dipping in their pockets. That's what we're focusing on," said Mr. Soudas.
Liberal MP Marc Garneau wondered jokingly whether Bloc MPs will be wearing berets in the House of Commons today, adding that allied forces, including Canadian soldiers, were the ones who freed France.
He added that the Bloc's attacks against the Canadian government are getting tired after two decades of existence.
"These complaints have been repeated ad nauseam for 20 years," said Mr. Garneau.
The Bloc is fully aware that its longevity is a constant reminder of its failure to achieve its number-one objective, which is a successful referendum on Quebec sovereignty. In that context, the Bloc is striving to justify its relevance and explain its role in Canadian politics, which currently entails fighting for Quebec's interests and constantly attacking federalist governments.
In his speech, Mr. Duceppe said the Bloc is currently in a defensive mode, given that the separatists are in opposition in Quebec City and that the federalists have no constitutional reform to offer to Quebeckers.
"For now, we are resisters, but yesterday's resisters are tomorrow's winners," he said, referring to the writings of recently deceased union leader Pierre Vadeboncoeur.
Overall, the Bloc is trying to put the spotlight on the weaknesses in federalist ranks, instead of the separatist movement's failures, ahead of the 20th anniversary in August of Mr. Duceppe's first electoral victory.
"Twenty years - what a nice age. Especially when compared to the Liberal and Conservative parties, which are 143 years old," Mr. Duceppe said in his speech in Quebec City.
"When you're 20, you have the energy to fight against the system, which in our case is the federal system. That's what we do, my friends. We resist against Canada's attempts to transform Quebec into a province like all of the others."