This week, like every weeks these last four years, I lectured. I am a public speaker, I use my voice to inspire people to communicate better across cultures. In my lectures, I always emphasis Spain, I talk about the two years I spent studying in Madrid, about how nice it was to learn the Spanish language and the Spanish culture. This week, for the very first time since I started to speak from a stage, I did not mention Spain, not once.
The barbaric behaviours of Spanish police throwing Catalan women, children, elderly and men to the ground while on their way to peacefully cast their vote in a democratic process is so appalling that I felt ashamed of naming Spain.
If I were Catalan, and I had any doubt about independence, Sunday’s events would have convinced me that Catalonia has no place in a country who uses such brutality against its own people, a country with a King who appears to support these actions and a government who defends them.
I was born in 1982 in the city of Montréal in the French speaking part of Canada, two years after the first referendum on the sovereignty of Québec. In 1995, I witnessed the second referendum over that same sovereignty. The result was 49.5% against 50.5% under a turnout of 93.5%. By a margin of 1%, Québec remained part of Canada. French Canadians were allowed to cast their votes, again and again. The freedom to vote is at the basis of democracy. One may disagree, argue against or ignore the result of a vote, but preventing people from the very action of voting is a grave assault to the very values that stand at the core of our democracies, and at the core of Europe.
I am speechless hearing the silence of fellow European countries following Sunday’s events in Catalonia. There is a Western European country, where democracy is just a few years older than I am, who uses their police forces in ways that have much more to do with dictatorship than democracy against their own citizens peacefully attempting to fulfill the very action that lies at the basis of democracy.
In 1967, French Président Charles de Gaulle said in Montréal in great controversy “Vive le Québec libre”, Catalan people say “Per una Catalunya lliure”.