Non-Francophone immigration a threat to ‘tightly woven’ Quebec cohesion: Legault

Not a dog-whistle, a megaphone, but unlikely to change the results:

Non-Francophone immigration is a threat to cohesion in Quebec, incumbent premier François Legault said Sunday.

The leader of the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) party had just delivered a speech to a few hundred supporters at the Le Dauphin hotel in Drummondville.

He addressed the importance of protecting the cohesion of the “tightly woven” Quebec nation, at the heart of which “there is our language, French.”

“Sometimes, this cohesion is shaken,” he said.

“The premier of Quebec, the only head of state in North America who represents a majority of Francophones, has a duty to stop the decline of French in Quebec,” he continued.

Asked in a press scrum who represented a threat to national cohesion, Legault pointed to the parties “who want to welcome 70,000, 80,000 newcomers a year.”

“It’s like math. If we want to stop the decline, for a certain period of time, we have to better integrate newcomers into French.”

François Legault’s CAQ has a goal of welcoming 50,000 immigrants annually, 80 per cent of whom would speak French upon arrival.

The Parti Québécois (PQ) would lower those thresholds to 35,000, while the Quebec Liberal Party would keep them at 70,000 and Quebec solidaire (QS) would raise them to 80,000.

Last Wednesday, Legault created a controversy when he spoke of Quebec values such as pacifism and respect, and equated immigration with violence and extremism.

He later said he was sorry if his remarks were confusing.

‘CLUMSY AND HURTFUL’

Quebec solidaire spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois called Legault’s words on immigration “clumsy” and “hurtful” on Sunday.

“I’m tired of François Legault always talking about immigration as a problem, as a threat, as something that weakens us as a nation,” he said.

His remarks were also criticized by Liberal leader Dominique Anglade.

“The Ukrainians who flee the bombs, the Italians, the Greeks, the Mexicans, the Portuguese, the Vietnamese, (…) is it a threat to our nation?” she questioned.

“It is your speech François Legault that threatens social cohesion,” she said.

PQ leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon also criticized Legault for making “divisive statements” that were “not very responsible.”

“When we talk about threats, fear, we will play in an emotional register to try to make people forget that the CAQ is complicit and largely responsible for the decline of French,” he accused.

“The record of François Legault is that he will have welcomed 120,000 immigrants who do not speak French in his mandate,” St-Pierre Plamondon added.

RELIGIOUS SYMBOLS

On Sunday, Legault disagreed with the incumbent MNA for Sherbrooke, Christine Labrie, who said that banning the veil was a form of oppression.

QS promises to end the ban on religious symbols for government employees in positions of authority, such as teachers.

“We should, if we talk about teachers, think about children,” replied François Legault. “I think that a six-year-old girl who has a teacher with a religious sign has the right to a certain neutrality.”

“If you look at it from the point of view of the person who gives the service, well, it is a constraint, but if you look at it from the point of view of the person who receives the service, I think that in Quebec, we are a secular society,” he continued.

“I find it unfortunate that QS wants to question this, like the Liberal party.”

Source: Non-Francophone immigration a threat to ‘tightly woven’ Quebec cohesion: Legault

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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