Language policy erupts during fiery debates in the National Assembly

The Liberals accuse Premier François Legault of implying that non-caquistes are Quebecers of lesser importance.

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QUEBEC CITY — Quebec Liberals have accused Premier François Legault of calling people who don’t vote for his Coalition Avenir Quebec party less Quebeckers.

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Liberal leader Dominque Anglade and her House leader, André Fortin, on Thursday called on Legault to apologize for the “dividing” remarks he made, off the microphone, during a stormy question period at the ‘National Assembly.

The friction was sparked when Anglade, in a slip, referred to house president Francois Paradis as “M. Québécois instead of “Mr. Speaker.”

It was then that Legault was heard by the opposition muttering under his breath: “Of course, he’s a caquist.

Although he was elected as a CAQ deputy in 2018, Paradis nevertheless maintains strict neutrality in his work as president, defending the rights of all deputies regardless of their political allegiance.

Jumping to his feet, a furious Fortin went on the attack, interpreting the remark to mean that Legault is dividing Quebecers over party loyalty.

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“When the Leader of the Opposition (Anglade) made a mistake and called the speaker, Mr. Québécois, the Premier responded by saying, ‘Of course, he’s a caquiste,'” Fortin said. “What he’s really saying is that anyone who isn’t a caquiste isn’t a Quebecer.

“It is completely unacceptable.”

Again, off the microphone but heard by journalists present in the room, Legault replied: “Just the Liberal Party.

The incident came during an intense debate between Anglade and Legault over the government’s about-face this week regarding funding for an expansion project at Dawson College.

Anglade began his remarks by saying that the CAQ’s decision to cancel the $180 million project is another example of its practicing divisive politics for political purposes.

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Inspired by a line from the government’s recent anti-racism television ad campaign, Anglade asked Legault, “What do you call a francophone who studies in Dawson?

She then asked about the appointment of judges. Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette suffered a defeat on Wednesday when a Superior Court judge ruled that Jolin-Barrette had no authority to block a bilingualism requirement for judicial nominees.

Legault responded by suggesting that Anglade is soft on language because of his party’s support base in the English-speaking community. While speaking French, he specifically uttered the word “liberal” in English.

“The Liberal Party stands up for bilingual judges,” he said. “We defend the French language.

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But Anglade held on.

“The Liberal Party of Quebec is here to unite all Quebecers, francophones and, yes, anglophones,” Anglade told the House.

“Premier Francois Legault reached a whole new level today,” Anglade later told reporters at a news conference.

“For the premier of the province of Quebec to say that one Quebecer is inferior to another because he does not have his political affiliation goes beyond the limits of what is acceptable,” Fortin added.

“Have you ever imagined René Lévesque, Lucien Bouchard or any other Premier of Quebec saying that you are not a Quebecer because you do not support their political party? I can’t think of a single prime minister who would have that ideology and say it out loud. »

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Later in the day, at a press conference in Sherbrooke, Legault showed no signs of backing down, repeating that he doesn’t want Quebec lawyers forced to master a second language to become judges.

“I will not apologize for defending the French,” Legault said.

“Ms. Anglade is in a difficult position to defend French. I think that predecessors like Jean Lesage or Robert Bourassa were nationalists. I think we can do both. We can defend the French language and be open to all the communities.

Ironically, the posturing comes the same week the CAQ government accepted a Liberal-proposed amendment to Bill 96 revamping the Charter of the French Language.

The Liberals say the amendment, passed by the committee studying the bill on Tuesday, strengthens existing guarantees the community already has for health and social services in their language.

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While Jolin-Barrette, also the minister responsible for the Charter, said that such guarantees are implicit in Bill 96, the English-speaking community insisted that they be clarified and put in writing during his appearance before the committee in last September.

“Through our amendment, the right to receive health and social services in English has additional, stronger protection,” said David Birnbaum, Liberal Contact for the English Community.

“This is an addition made in good faith to reassure everyone,” an official from the Jolin-Barrette office told the Montreal Gazette.

Clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 96 continues next week.

pauthier@postmedia.com

twitter.com/philipauthier

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