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Furor arises over commemoration of de Gaulle’s pro-Quebec speech

March 4, 1997

MONTREAL (AP) _ Thirty years after a divisive visit by Charles de Gaulle, separatists and federalists in Quebec are feuding over plans for a French postage stamp commemorating his endorsement of Quebec independence.

De Gaulle provoked a diplomatic furor in July 1967 when he shouted ``Vive le Quebec libre″ (Long live free Quebec) in a speech at Montreal City Hall to a delighted crowd of separatists.

The Canadian government denounced the remark as unacceptable meddling in internal affairs. But Quebec’s fledgling separatist movement was galvanized by the speech, and de Gaulle _ who died in 1970 _ has remained one of its heroes.

Sophie Husson, a spokeswoman for France’s postal ministry, said the stamp probably will appear in June, though details have not been decided.

Keith Henderson, president of Quebec’s anti-separatist Equality Party, says the stamp represents a new form of interference by France and ``cheapens what tens of thousands of our citizens died for in two world wars.″

The issue was raised Monday in the House of Commons when legislator Bob Mills of the right-wing Reform Party urged the government to summon the French ambassador and tell him to ``butt out.″

Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy replied that the government was awaiting France’s reply to a request for details about the stamp.

Quebec separatists narrowly lost a referendum on secession in 1995. The province’s separatist government plans another vote within a year or two.

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