Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Sunday he has confidence in the ability of the Spanish government and its people to resolve the Catalan secession crisis in a way that respects freedom of expression.
Trudeau made the comment in Montreal on Sunday, where he hosted a series of meetings with his Spanish counterpart, Pedro Sanchez.
Speaking at joint news conference, Trudeau was asked whether he supports the right of the northeastern Spanish province to vote in a referendum on independence, as the people of Quebec have done twice, in 1980 and 1995.
“Obviously I recognize this is a delicate internal matter and I have confidence in the Spanish people and all different governments to move forward with a way that is respectful with freedom of expression, of values, human rights, the rule of law and the Spanish constitution,” Trudeau said.
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Trudeau added in French that he believed “all levels of government” were working towards a solution, and that the discussion wasn’t one that came up in his discussions with Sanchez.
Thousands of Catalan pro-independence activists protested in Barcelona last week to mark the anniversary of demonstrations that fired up the region’s secessionist drive.
More protests are planned to mark the anniversary of the Oct. 1 Catalan referendum and a subsequent failed declaration of independence after the referendum was declared illegal by the Spanish government.
In the wake of last October’s failed referendum, Quebec’s political parties unanimously adopted a motion condemning what they called the “authoritarianism” of the Spanish government’s actions in Catalonia.
And while Trudeau told reporters that “Canada recognizes one united Spain,” some prominent nationalists called on Canada to recognize an independent Catalonia.
During their meetings, the two leaders approved the Canada-Spain Co-operation Agenda, an agreement to collaborate more closely to create economic growth, combat climate change, advance gender equality and build “a safer, more peaceful world.”
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Earlier on Sunday, Trudeau and Sanchez attended a military welcome and held a bilateral meeting that touched on gender equality, security, migration and the trading relationship between the two countries, Trudeau said.
Sanchez added that the meeting was important in the context of this week’s United Nations General Assembly in New York in order to “give a common message … in order to strengthen multilateral organizations such as the United Nations.”
Their day was set to conclude with a moderated armchair discussion as part of the Canada 2020 Global Progress Summit.
It was the second formal meeting for Trudeau and Sanchez, who first met at the NATO summit in Belgium in July, shortly after Sanchez was sworn in as prime minister.