Quebec’s premier is being accused of stoking fears about newcomers after he gave a recent speech warning Quebec risks turning into Louisiana if the province doesn’t have more control over immigration.
François Legault told delegates at his party’s convention on the weekend that the survival of the Quebec nation depended on the federal government granting Quebec more power over who can immigrate to the province.
The premier even warned that Quebec risked becoming like the state of Louisiana — formerly under the control of France — where only a fraction of the population still speaks French.
His comments sparked strong reaction from opposition parties, who accused him of inventing a crisis and of suggesting immigrants are a threat.
Liberal leader Dominique Anglade said the premier “lacked heart” toward immigrants, while Québec solidaire spokesperson Manon Massé accused Legault of using immigrants to distract people from his government’s failures on issues such as housing and climate change.
Masse said more than 90 per cent of Quebecers speak French, compared to only “a handful” of people who still do in Louisiana, and she questioned why the premier would compare the two.
“Why would the premier do that, other than to put forward a threat that doesn’t exist?” she said Tuesday.
“There’s no crisis here in Quebec.”
Ruba Ghazal, Québec solidaire’s language critic, said the province is enriched by the tens of thousands of newcomers who arrive each year, noting that her own family was the product of immigration more than 30 years ago.
“I have news for François Legault: my family and I are not a threat to the survival of Quebec.”
Legault said in his speech that while Quebec has the right to select about half of the 50,000 immigrants who settle in the province each year, the rest are chosen by the federal government.
He said federally selected immigrants — refugees and people in the family reunification stream — are much less likely to speak French than those chosen by Quebec, who are mainly economic immigrants.
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He said Ottawa must transfer to Quebec the power to select immigrants in the family reunification stream so that the province can better protect the French language.
“I’m asking at the next election for a strong mandate to negotiate that with the federal government,” he told cheering supporters at his party’s annual convention, in Drummondville, Que.
“`It’s a question of survival for our nation.”
In Quebec City on Tuesday, Anglade accused Legault of lacking empathy toward immigrants who want to reunite with their parents.
“He’s telling us that if there’s a woman who has been working in Quebec for two years and wants to bring her partner and son, that’s an attack on the survival of Quebec,” she said.
Saul Polo, a Liberal legislature member who is also an immigrant, said Legault’s comments were a shameless exaggeration that insulted Quebecers.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday appeared unwilling to consider transferring further power to Quebec.
“It’s certain a country has to have its say on its immigration,” he said in Ottawa, adding that jurisdiction is shared with Quebec to allow the province to prioritize francophone immigration.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 1, 2022.
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