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Quebec Liberals attack PQ’s Lisée on diversity

WATCH: Quebec Liberals take aim at Lisée’s stance on diversity. Raquel Fletcher reports.

Parti Québécois (PQ) Leader Jean-Francois Lisée says if elected he would require 100 per cent of immigrants to speak French before they even arrived in Quebec. Lisée presented his vision for immigration and language this weekend at a PQ party convention.

His views have outraged Quebec’s Liberal party.

“I want to be as diverse as possible,” Lisée said Sunday at the PQ’s Conseil National in Quebec City.

Lisée explained that he wants the party to be more inclusive under his leadership. Since he’s put aside the question of a referendum until at least 2022, he is also reaching out to anglophones and allophones. However, he said that he’s worried the French language is on decline, particularly on the island of Montreal.

READ MORE: CAQ wants to cut immigration to Quebec by 20 per cent

“More non-francophones in Quebec speaking French is a marvelous thing, but there is a difference between people who speak French as a second language and people who live in French,” he said.

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Lisée’s comments outraged Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil who said French isn’t declining, but rather more Montrealers speak different or multiple languages at home.

“So for someone who says he’s reaching out to diversity I’m telling you these are just empty words,” Weil said.

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However, the PQ on Sunday attacked the Liberals’ track record on helping immigrants integrate, particularly in the region of Montreal.

READ MORE: Quebec immigration minister, NGOs brainstorm integration ideas for Syrian refugees

“Why is there a level of 25 per cent of unemployment of immigrants? It’s because they are unable to speak French and what we want is the success of the immigrants,” said PQ immigration critic Carole Poirier.

Poirier said the PQ’s plan is to make French classes more accessible and to encourage more immigrants to accept work in the regions instead of Montreal: “the success of immigrants in the regions is better.”

READ MORE: Quebec to welcome 51K immigrants in 2017 with heavy focus on French workers

Lisée’s immigration and language proposals still need to be voted on in the riding associations, but one member says she’s already seen a difference in how the party is becoming more open to the youth wing’s ideas.

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“We see that there is an effort and this is actually the first step to having more diversity here in the PQ,” said Ariane Cayer, the president of the PQ’s youth wing.