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PQ leader’s allusion to deportations, executions a threat to social cohesion: MP

Click to play video: 'PQ leader’s comments on future referendum making waves'
PQ leader’s comments on future referendum making waves
WATCH: Some of the Parti Québécois' latest comments are creating a stir. The PQ held its general council in Drummondville over the weekend, with the party's leader saying a referendum before 2030 is crucial to prevent the province’s language and culture from being erased. Global's Franca Mignacca explains – Apr 16, 2024

A senior Quebec Liberal MP says he deplores the tone taken by the leader of the Parti Québécois, who referenced “deportations and executions” of francophones to justify the party’s push for independence.

Pablo Rodriguez, who is transport minister and the prime minister’s Quebec lieutenant, said Wednesday the comments were disappointing and worrying, adding that they hurt social cohesion.

“Execution? Deportation? We’re reaching a whole other level of language where we’re introducing violent terms.”

Rodriguez was reacting to a news conference a day earlier during which PQ Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon described the “sad history of francophones and Indigenous Peoples in this colonial regime,” referring to deportations of Acadians beginning in 1755 and the executions in 1839 of patriots who rebelled against the British.

“The history of Canada is a history of assimilation,” St-Pierre Plamondon said. “In all Canadian provinces, French speakers have been assimilated.”

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Click to play video: 'What would an independent Quebec look like according to the PQ?'
What would an independent Quebec look like according to the PQ?

The PQ leader — who says he will launch a referendum on Quebec independence if his party wins the 2026 election, said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is continuing the work of his father, ex-prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who he said wanted to intentionally assimilate francophones into English Canada.

“I am always surprised by news commentators who say there is no intention behind it. It’s really forgetting recent history … forgetting what francophones experienced in deportations, executions …. This regime has been consistent throughout its history,” he added.

Rodriguez said it is historically accurate that the British deported the French-speaking Acadians from what is now Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and that they also executed francophones who rebelled against the Crown.

But those events don’t reflect present day Quebec or Canada, he said, adding the PQ leader’s comments are potentially harmful to the sovereignty movement.

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Days earlier, St-Pierre Plamondon referenced Canada’s encroachment on Quebec jurisdiction as another argument for Quebec sovereignty, and he pledged to hold a referendum on independence before 2030 should the party take power in the next election.

At the PQ’s national council in Drummondville, Que., St-Pierre Plamondon told some 500 party members that Quebecers have one “ultimate” chance to secure their language and culture amid what he called an “existential threat” from Ottawa and the province’s declining demographic weight within the federation.

The PQ leader also said Ottawa wants to “crush Quebec,” a claim that led Rodriguez to ask reporters if anyone thought the Quebec MPs elected to the House of Commons under the Liberal banner were looking for ways to attack the province.

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet said St-Pierre Plamondon’s comments were historically accurate. As well, Ottawa’s failure to respect provincial jurisdiction in such matters as health care is an attempt to “weaken” Quebec, Blanchet said.

“St-Pierre Plamondon refers to a real story of what the past of the relationship between the British conqueror and the French who became French Canadians, who became Québécois,” Blanchet said. “It defines our identity, and our identity defines why we must be recognized as a nation and give us all the attributes of a nation.”

Rodriguez said his view of Quebec is more positive. “Quebec has had great moments of brilliance, light, clarity, economic success, cultural success, influence on the world,” Rodriguez said. “This is the Quebec that we live in today.”

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In response to the criticism, St-Pierre Plamondon said on Tuesday: “I’m not fearmongering, I am fact-checking, what I say is actually verifiable.”

Quebec independence, he said, is for “everyone that recognizes that Quebec is capable of making its own decisions … and people who recognize that the French language and the specific culture in Quebec should have a future.”

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