(Djerba, Tunisia) François Legault will take advantage of his presence at the Francophonie Summit to set the record straight about his controversial law on the protection of French (law 96) and his immigration policies. The Prime Minister believes that “media outside of Quebec” “may have misinterpreted” his aims. He will also pass the message on to Justin Trudeau.
François Legault landed Friday afternoon on the Tunisian island of Djerba where opens this Saturday the 18e Summit of La Francophonie, his first mission abroad since his re-election. It is an expected return of this international event after four years of absence.
The Prime Minister quickly set the table during an interview with Quebec journalists: he wants to “explain the context” of his policies for the protection of French in Quebec and return “to what has been said internationally” with its counterparts in the Francophonie.
Mr. Legault even sees the need to remind his partners that Quebec is “welcoming”.
We talked [à l’étranger, dans les médias] of Bill 96, we talked about the number of places we wanted to limit in CEGEPs in English, about integration, about the choice of immigrants.
“I think it’s important to explain the context, to say first that Quebec has been, is and will always be a welcoming people,” he added during a press scrum.
Mr. Legault’s recent remarks on immigration caused a stir during the election campaign. The Prime Minister notably asserted that it would be “a bit suicidal” for the French to welcome more immigrants to Quebec. He also said that non-French-speaking immigration, if left unchecked, is a threat to “national cohesion.”
“We have seen certain media outside Quebec perhaps misinterpret our law 96 or the objectives that we set for ourselves in terms of the number of immigrants,” argued Mr. Legault.
He also mentioned “comments” internationally about Law 96, his reform of Law 101, “which would not respect the rights of English speakers”.
The Prime Minister thus wants to “take the opportunity” to broach the subject with the Heads of State and Government “because if there are some who are well placed to understand the challenge that we have in Quebec to protect French is indeed the French-speaking States”.
He also wants to discuss the subject with Justin Trudeau. The first meeting between the two men since the re-election of Mr. Legault will take place in the morning this Saturday, on the sidelines of the Summit.
“We will surely talk about properly applying Law 101 to federally chartered companies,” said Mr. Legault.
I want Mr. Trudeau to understand that with 48% of Francophones on the Island of Montreal, the situation is worrying. We’re going to have to work together.
The Prime Minister was referring to the latest findings from the Office québécois de la langue française which indicate that 48.3% of Montrealers spoke French at home in 2021, a decline.
Justin Trudeau has expressed several reservations about the passage of Bill 96, which includes a notwithstanding provision, and has still not indicated whether his government intends to get involved in a legal challenge. The Legault government’s law has also provoked the ire of certain English-speaking communities who see it as a limitation of their rights.
Interview with the Tunisian President
François Legault said that Tunisian President Kaïs Saïed has requested an interview with him as the host country of the Summit. Contrary to what its Minister of International Relations and La Francophonie said on Thursday, Quebec will address the question of democracy. The two men will meet this Saturday evening.
“We are on the same message,” retorted Mr. Legault, referring to the words of Martine Biron.
What we say is that it challenges us. We won’t get involved, but we’ll still mention that it’s important for us, democracy and human rights.
The Canadian government campaigned last summer with its French ally to demand a further postponement of the Summit, due to the contested policies of Mr. Saïed, democratically elected in 2019. The latter seized all powers in 2021 on the grounds that the country had become ungovernable.
“We must give the runner a chance,” said Mr. Legault, recalling that “democratic elections” will be held on December 17 in Tunisia.
François Legault ended his day on Friday by meeting with the Secretary General of La Francophonie, Louise Mushikiwabo. The only candidate for her succession, she should also be reappointed during the Summit.