Comments linking immigration to violence affecting Legault’s campaign efforts
Earlier this year, he said that Quebec risks losing its language and culture if the province doesn't have more control over immigration.
Coalition Avenir Quebec Leader Francois Legault found himself on the defensive on Sep. 8, trying to clarify comments made a day earlier that linked immigration to the province with extremism and violence.
On Day 12 of the election campaign, Legault was peppered by questions from journalists about whether he was friends with any immigrants or whether he feared newcomers.
“Not at all,” Legault said when asked whether immigrants scare him, “We have many candidates who are immigrants.”
A day earlier, Legault discussed what he described as the “challenges of integration” and repeated his policy that he wouldn’t increase immigration to Quebec beyond 50,000 people a year. “Quebecers are peaceful,” he said, “they don’t like bickering, they don’t like extremists, they don’t like violence. We have to ensure that we keep it the way it is right now.”
Late on Sep. 8, Legault said immigration was a source of wealth to Quebec and that he never meant to tie immigrants to violence.
But his clarification wasn’t good enough for Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade, who told reporters in Laval, Que., that the premier revealed what’s in the bottom of his heart regarding immigrants. Anglade, a former member of the CAQ, said she left the party years ago because of its stance on immigration, adding that Legault hasn’t evolved on the issue.
“The first thing a premier must do is elevate the debate — that’s clearly not what Francois Legault did yesterday,” Anglade told reporters. “I deplore it and I find that it’s dangerous. Our responsibility is to bring Quebecers together.”
Legault has often been accused by his opponents of suggesting immigrants are a threat. Earlier this year, he said that Quebec risks losing its language and culture if the province doesn’t have more control over immigration. These comments come at a time when the province faces a labour shortage across many industries, including manufacturing.
Meanwhile, Quebec solidaire spokesman Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois said Legault underestimates the impact of tying immigration to violence.
“Immigration isn’t just a debate about statistics, it’s people, and when we debate or we talk about them all wrong, it has an impact on their daily lives, and I don’t think Francois Legault is conscious of that,” Nadeau-Dubois said in Sherbrooke, Que.
Asked if immigration could become a ballot question, Legault said it’s an important issue for the long-term preservation of French in the province, noting that the Liberals and Quebec solidaire have both proposed increasing immigration levels.