March 15, 2018 1:59 pm
Updated: March 15, 2018 5:03 pm

Quebec Liberals won’t apologize for accusing CAQ of ‘ethnic-based nationalism’

WATCH: Quebec’s National Assembly exploded after Finance Minister Carlos Leitao refused to apologize for accusing the Coalition Avenir Québec party of promoting ethnic nationalism. Global's Raquel Fletcher reports.


Does a political party have the right to call another party racist?

This is the debate that exploded at the National Assembly Thursday morning after Finance Minister Carlos Leitao refused to apologize for accusing the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) party of promoting ethnic nationalism.

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Leitao’s comments were quoted Wednesday in the Montreal Gazette:

“‘The kind of nationalism the CAQ proposes is, in my opinion, an ethnic-based nationalism. I’m not afraid of the words. This is what it is. They view the French majority as being under attack from all those foreigners out there,” Leitao was quoted saying.



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The CAQ is demanding an apology. CAQ house leader, François Bonnardel, presented a motion Thursday “that the National Assembly recognize that no political party represented at the Quebec National Assembly extols ethnic nationalism.”

The Parti Quebecois supported the motion, but the Liberals are sticking to their guns.

The Liberals say the CAQ’s proposal to lower the number of immigrants to Quebec and to make sure they pass a values test before entry is exactly “ethnic nationalism.”

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“You’re talking about a man, François Legault, who has in his platform a test to throw out immigrants from Quebec,” said Immigration Minister David Heurtel. “Who decides who’s a real Quebecer and who’s not a real Quebecer, based on what?”

It’s not the first time the Liberals – and Leitao – have criticized the CAQ in this way. In an interview with Global News in 2016, Leitao, an immigrant himself, explained the issue isn’t just political – it’s personal.

“Sometimes I feel like I’m going to explode and say something that I will regret. Some of the questions that are asked, particularly by the CAQ … there’s a sub-tone that I find very distressing,” Leitao said during that interview.

WATCH BELOW: Quebec finance minister Carlos Leitao on life as an immigrant

Thursday, the finance minister refused to comment further, but it is hard to see that he regrets any of his comments.

“Just like the Charter of Values – this debate that we had, a lot of my colleagues, including myself, came into politics to fight this, these attempts at division, exclusion, trying to pit Quebecers one against the other,” Heurtel said.

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The immigration minister was put up to front questions from the media during Question Period. Bonnardel accused Leitao of “double speech” for not repeating the comments he made in English in French.

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However, the CAQ defended its policies.

“We are in favour of immigration. The fact that we ask to drop the number of immigrants from 50,000 to 40,000 every year is only to come up with a better way to integrate them and offer them better services,” said CAQ MNA Geneviève Guilbault.

Guilbault said the comments were intended to scare away support for the CAQ in anglophone and allophone communities.

“It is very sad and dirty way of doing politics,” she said.

Guilbault said that suggesting immigrants are any kind of threat to Quebec society is “false and disrespectful,” and won’t be tolerated within the party.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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