Chances are Quebec’s incumbent Premier François Legault, of the Coalition Avenir Québec, will enjoy an easy win in the provincial (= U.S. state) election on Monday, October 3. He got VDARE.com’s attention back in 2018 when he won an unexpected victory with the help of a Trump-style dramatic immigration patriot feint. But, also like Trump, his performance in office has been disappointing. It has become clear that Legault is basically a civic (albeit French-speaking Quebec) nationalist who keeps the Identity card, the defense of the French language, and our collective survival, up his sleeve to play when necessary. As a French-speaking Québécois, I think this isn’t good enough and I will vote for the explicitly separatist Parti Québécois, which has recently abandoned its flirtation with leftist Wokeism and is now—too late!—better on immigration than the CAQ [Parti Québécois would reduce immigration to Quebec if elected, by Frédéric Lacroix-Couture, Montreal Gazette, September 5, 2022]. But still, as English Canada’s flagship Toronto Globe and Mail just put it, “Quebec is the one [Canadian] province where immigration is a ballot-box issue in provincial elections”[Parties promise to limit immigration in Quebec election, by Konrad Yakabuski, September 30, 2022]. So much the worse for English Canada!
Since spring, Legault has been surfing on a popularity wave ranging from 40 to 50 percent, the remainder of the vote being split between four parties [A debate and week later, polls show little change in CAQ appeal, by Daniel J. Rowe, CTV News, September 21, 2022]. Except for some Anglo or multiethnic ridings (= U.S. House Districts), nowhere in Quebec is unwinnable for Legault and his CAQ.
In effect, both personally and politically, Legault seems to have reincarnated the hegemonic National (Quebec) Conservative, implicitly crypto-separatist, Union National party of Maurice Duplessis, premier of Quebec 1944-1959. This may be a sweet spot: the French-speaking Québécois are, in fact, cautious non-Leftists. In this election campaign, all Legault had to do was sit, wait, and avoid any faux pas. That’s what he did.
But again, that won’t help identitarians and nationalists who see their homeland slipping away.
In May, nationalists were enthused by the CAQ’s apparent shift toward an openly nationalist agenda and its emphasis on “pride” (not the kind associated with rainbow flags). “The CAQ wants to promote the idea that they are proud people; proud of themselves, proud to be Quebecers,” CTVNews reported of the party’s convention:
It is the main message the party is choosing to deliver to the population four months before the election.
Francois Legault’s Coalition … chose to evacuate all the themes not related to the pride of being Quebecers for its last big gathering before the next general campaign.
All day Saturday, the word pride was on everyone’s lips, repeated at every turn, hammered into the stage, in the corridors and in the news briefings and speeches of Legault government ministers.
[Quebec pride dominates all other issues at CAQ general assembly, May 29, 2022]
Legault, his MPPs [Members of the Provincial Parliament] and 2,000 party members spent the weekend discussing the future (aka Avenir in French) .The pandemic, the labor shortage, and runaway inflation were tossed aside, and in a powerful nationalist speech, Legault called for the preservation of the French language and Quebec’s unique culture. He boasted of having adopted 2019’s Bill 21, which banned public officials from wearing religious symbols, and Bill 96, which strengthened the position of French in Quebec by compelling newcomers to learn French within six months of arriving [Refugees in Quebec will have to learn French within 6 months, CBC, February 18, 2022].
(Aaron Schlossberg, who was lynched for wanting New York City restaurant workers to speak English, might be interested to hear about that.)
Legault also vowed to obtain complete control over immigration to Quebec. The Canadian federal government in Ottawa controls overall immigration, but provinces have some say in who come to them. (Of course, they can’t control where the immigrants subsequently go.) Right now, Quebec controls “economic” immigration, but Ottawa controls “family reunification” immigration. Legault wants the power to choose who enters among them, too, to ensure they speak French:
Legault said he wants Quebec to be able to choose much of that remaining half, except for refugees, so that it can prioritize French-speaking foreigners. He said that family reunification cases represent about 11,000 of the 50,000 people who immigrate to the province every year.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has so far rejected Legault’s calls for Quebec to have complete control over immigration into the province but has pointed to Bill C-13 tabled by the federal Liberals, which in part aims to increase immigration from French-speaking countries.
Legault said it was a question of the survival of the French language in the province, pointing to the state of Louisiana as an example of a place that used to be predominantly French-speaking but no longer is, surrounded by a nearly monolingual English-speaking country.
“It’s important for Quebecers to understand that it’s a question of survival,” for a French-speaking Quebec, he said.
[Legault pledges to demand more control from Ottawa over immigration to Quebec, by Verity Stevenson, CBC, May 29, 2022]
In my view, this was just a tactical move to mark CAQ’s difference from the Liberal Party and Québec Solidaire parties, which oppose recognizing the uniqueness of Quebec’s national identity. By raising the threat of the “Louisianization” of Quebec—the disappearance of the Old Stock Quebecers because of mass immigration—Legault secured his leading position among the French-speakers, while casting the two opposing parties as globalist Justin Trudeau’s cronies.
But like so many who toss red meat to the masses, Legault in office has deemphasized issues linked to identity and immigration and instead focused on economic issues such as tax cuts and inflation [Inflation sends Quebec government revenue soaring as CAQ promises income tax cuts, by Jocelyne Richer and Morgan Lowrie, Canadian Press / CTV News, August 15, 2022]. Legault and his CAQ have been squabbling with their opponents over whose tax-cut plan is best. That’s not uncommon, but it allows him to avoid Identity and immigration, topics he fears discussing because the media are quick to demonize him [Inflation emerges as main issue in Quebec campaign. Whose plan will help you more?, by Jonathan Montpetit, CBC, September 1, 2022].
Just recently, Legault vaguely linked immigration and the hike in violent crime, a relationship obvious to most:
“There is a way of life ([in Quebec] and we want to keep it,” he said. “There is a challenge of integration, and that’s true not just in Quebec, it’s true everywhere.”
Asked by a reporter what kind of respect could be threatened by immigration, Legault replied: “Quebecers are peaceful, they don’t like bickering, they don’t like extremists, they don’t like violence.
“We have to make sure we keep things as they are at the moment. Canada, France, Germany, all the countries have a challenge integrating new arrivals.”
[Legault apologizes after apparently linking immigration to ‘extremists,’ ‘violence’, by Caroline Plante, La Press Canadienne / Montréal Gazette, September 8, 2022]
The leftist, largely English-speaking, Canadian Main Stream Media forced him to retract. He wasted two days of campaigning to backtrack.
“Immigration is an asset for Quebec,” he tweeted in French:
Integration will always be a challenge for a francophone nation in North America. I did not want to associate immigration with violence. I am sorry if my comments caused confusion. My desire is to unite.
L’immigration est une richesse pour le Québec. L’intégration sera toujours un défi pour une nation francophone en Amérique du Nord. Je n’ai pas voulu— François Legault (@francoislegault) September 7, 2022
associer l’immigration à la violence. Je suis désolé si mes propos ont porté à confusion. Ma volonté c'est de rassembler.
Currently, Legault apparently intends to maintain immigration into Quebec at its current level of 50,000, a position that will not slow down the Great Replacement [Quebec’s party leaders offer competing views on immigration amid labour shortage, Canadian Press / The Globe and Mail, September 5, 2022].
Nonetheless, indicative of the untapped power of the immigration issue, the fear that Legault’s CAQ might secretly be immigration patriots continues to obsess the Opposition and their media mouthpieces [Quebec election, Sept. 29: Legault dismisses ’negative’ Liberal attack ad focused on CAQ’s ’divisive’ immigration stance, by Andy Riga, Montreal Gazette, September 29, 2022].
But in fact, Legault’s conception of identity has nothing to do with ethnicity. For instance, the new nationalist superstar, Bernard Drainville, a former Parti Québécois bigwig who joined Legault with great fanfare in the spring, is exactly what he claims to be: a civic nationalist. Nothing less, and more importantly for me, nothing more.
A few years ago, he and I clashed during a radio interview. (Alas, I can’t find a link.) He refused to link nation and ethnicity and even refused to speculate about why some ethnic minorities voted against sovereignty in 1995 [Quebec Vote Bares Latent Ethnic Anger, by Clyde H. Farnsworth, New York Times, November 5, 1995]. This separatist advocate refused to acknowledge that those communities do not wish to be assimilated, integrated or even called Québécois. Despite the facts, he stuck to Political Correctness.
Drainville and Legault share a common conception of colorblind identity. Someone freshly landed from Haiti or Maghreb instantly becomes a Québécois because they speak French, which seems to be the only requirement. Their definition of a perfect Quebecer: a French speaker living in Quebec. Nothing else matters.
And even though I agree that Quebec should have total control over immigration, Legault is not serious. We know that because when he had the power to decrease immigration, he proposed dropping immigration from 50,000 to 40,000, just 20 percent, for just one year in 2019, but then reversed course and said it would increase to 52,000 by 2022 [CAQ shifts gears, anticipates increasing number of immigrants by 2022, by Philip Authier, Montréal Gazette, June 7, 2019].
But to preserve our identity, immigration must decrease. Researcher Charles Gaudreault has calculated that with the ongoing immigration rates, Old Stock Quebecers will be a minority by 2042. They will fall to 45 percent of the population by 2050, down from 79 percent in 1971 [The impact of immigration on local ethnic groups’ demographic representativeness: The case study of ethnic French Canadians in Quebec, Nations and Nationalism, October 22, 2019].
Legault, being a civic nationalist conservative, just wants a slow and smooth population Replacement—a Replacement performed in French, preferably. In no way does he seek or even want to reverse the trend.
My fear: On October 3, when François Legault wins reelection, nothing is likely to change. The nationalist rhetoric will continue to divert the public’s eye from an eventual economic scandal, or simply to boost the premier’s popularity during a crisis.
But the future of Quebec remains in jeopardy—just like America’s.
Rémi Tremblay [Email him] is the Canadian correspondent of Présent.. He is the author of Le Canada français, de Jacques Cartier au génocide tranquille and other books discussing Canadian history. He can be reached on Facebook, Gab, Gettr, Telegram, Twitter and VK.