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Not just an ‘anecdote’: Quebecers take offence to premier’s comments

Click to play video: 'Quebec immigrants more than just ‘anecdotes’' Quebec immigrants more than just ‘anecdotes’
WATCH: Some first- and second-generation Quebec immigrants are taking offence to a comment made by Premier François Legault last week. The premier referred to MNA Saul Polo as an "anecdote", because he speaks his mother tongue at home and speaks French at work. That is something the premier feels is not reflective of all immigrant families living in Quebec. Global's Felicia Parrillo reports. – Jun 9, 2022

Filmmaker Anita Aloisio and former Superior Court Justice Pepita G. Capriolo barely know each other.

They both have different roots, histories and backgrounds, but what has brought them together is one major thing they have in common.

Capriolo first came to Quebec when she was 12 and Aloisio is a second-generation immigrant, born and raised in the province.

They speak English, French and Italian, so when they heard Premier François Legault call Liberal MNA Saul Polo an anecdote for successfully integrating into French Quebec, they took it personally.

“I’ve been living only in Quebec since 1983, and I’ve always worked in French,” said Capriolo. “It seemed obvious to me that I would work in French. My children were [Bill] 101 children, they went to French school. All of that is normal. So to be considered an anecdote was terribly hurtful.”
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At his party’s recent policy convention, Legault told supporters that if re-elected, he’ll demand more immigration powers from Ottawa.

If not, he added, Quebec risks turning into Louisiana.

Read more: Quebec is no Louisiana, experts say as premier accused of stoking immigration fears

He later defended his statement by saying statistics suggest fewer people are speaking French at home and at work in the province.

When he was pressed by Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade on whether he thought immigrants like Polo were threats to Quebec, he called Polo’s story an anecdote, which not only offended the MNA for Laval-des-Rapides but many others across the province.

“If we underplay our immigrant populations and their variety and their contributions to society, then they become, in the eyes of our government, unimportant, which is absolutely not the case,” said Aloisio.

“They are essential to Quebec culture.”

READ MORE: Use of French at home is only one indicator of language health: Quebec demographers

Freelance writer Alexander Hackett says he doesn’t understand why the premier is creating this divisive debate.

He says Legault is bringing back a narrative that is old-fashioned and in Quebec’s past.

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“The future is immigration,” said Hackett. “The future is everybody is going to be speaking more than two languages in Quebec and we should be proud that we are probably the most trilingual place in North America.”

Hackett says this kind of rhetoric creates an unnecessary dialogue about what and who a real Quebecer is or isn’t.

And that’s the very thing that Capriolo and Aloisio call dangerous.

They, like many other immigrants say they’ve spent their lives making a meaningful contribution to the province, and so whether or not anyone else believes it, they say they are not anecdotes, but rather full- fledged Quebecers.

Click to play video: 'War of words at the National Assembly' War of words at the National Assembly
War of words at the National Assembly – Jun 2, 2022

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