MONTREAL — More than 150 people gathered in front of Montreal’s Spanish consulate Saturday to express their solidarity with the Catalan independence movement.
Organizers also denounced what they describe as the Canadian government’s timid response to the intensifying Spanish crackdown ahead of a planned Oct. 1 referendum.
The Spanish government has increased its suppression of the independence vote with the arrests of a dozen regional officials Wednesday and the seizure of 10 million ballot papers.
Regional government officials, including Catalonia’s president, so far have vowed to ignore a constitutional court order to suspend the referendum on Catalan independence from Spain.
The rally in Montreal was organized by a Quebec sovereigntist group and was attended by several separatist politicians, including the leaders of the Bloc Quebecois and the Parti Quebecois.
Others in the crowd said they weren’t Quebec separatists, but were present because they believe the Catalan government has the right to consult its population.
Parti Quebecois Leader Jean-Francois Lisee said he couldn’t explain why the Quebec and Canadian governments have refused to denounce the Spanish government’s actions.
“When democratic rights are suppressed, whether it’s in South Africa, Ukraine, Russia, China, we’re there,” he said at the rally.
“We don’t understand why (Quebec Premier) Philippe Couillard and (Prime Minister) Justin Trudeau are there for South Africa, for China, for Ukraine, but they aren’t there for the Catalans.”
Couillard said earlier this week that he’s “very preoccupied” by the situation, but did not go further in condemning Madrid.
Trudeau, when questioned, has stressed the importance of the right to self-determination and the rule of law, but has said he doesn’t want to intervene in what he described as an internal debate.
Two Catalan-Quebecers who attended the rally said they hope the Canadian government will change its position and speak up.
“We need other government to say something because internally, we can’t do anything,” Ferran Llacer said.
He and his girlfriend Laia Blanco plan to travel to Spain next week to try to vote in the referendum.
“We want to know how many of us want to be a different country,” Blanco said. “Just count us.”