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Quebec refuses opposition's call to denounce Spanish government over Catalonia

Last Updated Sep 21, 2017 at 8:40 am EDT

QUEBEC – The Quebec government rejected calls Wednesday from the opposition to publicly denounce the intensifying crackdown in Spain against the Catalan independence movement.

Christine St-Pierre, Quebec’s international relations minister, would only say the actions of the Spanish government are “probably not the best thing to do.”

Parti Quebecois leader Jean-Francois Lisee, a Quebec separatist, said the provincial government must ask the Spanish people to respect democracy and allow the Catalan people to vote.

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 Oct. 1 referendum on Catalan independence from Spain.

Lisee said the Spanish government is responsible for “state violence” and a “denial of democracy.”

“Preventing a vote by an elected government by police force is unacceptable and must be denounced,” Lisee told reporters.

He said he wasn’t asking for Quebec to state whether it was for or against Catalan independence, but to take a position in favour of democracy.

St-Pierre said Quebec wouldn’t get involved.

“We are following the situation closely,” she told reporters. “We hope that things are done in a peaceful way and, obviously, we won’t get involved in the domestic politics of Spain.”

Lisee said Quebec been “historically close” to the Catalan people.

Quebec and the Catalan government signed a co-operation agreement in 1996 that extends into many areas including culture and education.

The province also has a foreign bureau in Barcelona, which is the capital and largest city in Catalonia.

— With files from The Associated Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. Previous version misquoted International relations minister in second graph.