Trudeau has 'good intentions,' but he needs to do something: Legault

21 Dec 2022

Quebec premier met with the prime minister to discuss the issues of immigration, the state of the French language, inflation and infrastructure.

Author of the article:

La Presse Canadienne

La Presse Canadienne

Stéphane Blais

Published Dec 20, 2022  •  4 minute read

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier François Legault chat over coffee in Montreal, on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier François Legault chat over coffee in Montreal, on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022. Photo by Paul Chiasson /The Canadian Press

Quebec Premier François Legault said on Tuesday that he feels Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has “good intentions” when it comes to the issues of the decline of French in Montreal and irregular immigration via Roxham Rd., but added he is “waiting for action” from the federal government on both issues.

Legault spoke to the media in Montreal after a morning meeting with Trudeau, during which the leaders discussed francization, irregular immigration, health, inflation, infrastructure and the environment.

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The first issue discussed during a meeting in a café in Old Montreal was the state of the French language, particularly in Montreal, the premier said.

“I reminded him that, according to the last Statistics Canada census, we have fallen below 50 per cent of francophones, so we now have 48 per cent of people living in Montreal who use French as their main language at home,” explained Legault, adding that other indicators on the state of French were also worrying.

“I told him that it is important to have a clear signal that the language of work must be French in all federally chartered companies. It’s an important signal for everyone to say that to work in Quebec, you have to know French,” the premier said, referring to federal Bill C-13, which aims to modernize the Official Languages Act.

He added that they agreed for their immigration ministers to meet to “work together to increase the percentage of new arrivals who speak French” in Quebec.

“I felt good intentions, he told me he was concerned about the state of French and wanted us to work together. He told me he was also concerned about Roxham Rd.,” said Legault, adding that it was a “meeting where we agreed on the intentions, but I am waiting for action now.”

In a summary of their meeting published in the afternoon, Trudeau’s office said the two “reaffirmed both governments’ commitment to actively working together to increase temporary and permanent francophone immigration in Quebec and across Canada, as well as their joint commitment to protecting French in Quebec.”

It also said the federal government “will continue to support Quebec” on the management of irregular immigrants entering via Roxham Rd.

Legault told Trudeau “the massive entry of immigrants via this road must be stopped” and pointed out to his counterpart that “the pressure we have on the health network to add 36,000 people is not easy to live with, and we need his help.”

The premier added that “there is a challenge of francization, but there is also a challenge of offering services, whether in health, education or housing, to all these people. “I felt that there was an openness to transferring some of these newcomers to other provinces because there is a certain urgency to act,” he said.

According to Legault, “it is absolutely necessary to reduce the delays for the evaluation of the files” of the migrants, because a significant percentage of the people who use Roxham Rd. “are not really political refugees within the meaning of the law.”

Processing the files of these asylum seekers can take up to two years, said Legault, indicating that he would “prefer to aim for two months rather than two years.”

Canada’s premiers are negotiating a new funding agreement with the federal government as pediatric hospitals and emergency rooms across the country face worrisome occupancy rates.

Quebec’s premier said he left the meeting “more confident” than he was before the meeting that Trudeau will hold a meeting on health care with the premiers and increase federal health transfers to the provinces.

Legault said Trudeau has been reluctant to meet with the premiers on health care for fear the talks would end in failure.

The provinces and territories have demanded an increase in the Canada Health Transfer — the main source of federal funding for provincial health systems — but Trudeau has said that will only happen if the provinces agree to reform and improve their health systems.

Because of the high inflation environment, the leaders agreed to increase funding for the Montreal métro’s Blue Line extension, Quebec City’s tramway and the Lac-Mégantic rail bypass projects.

“We have agreed that the cost overruns will be assumed by both governments in the same proportion as was agreed,” Legault said.

Legault also highlighted the success of the COP15 biodiversity conference that ended with the signature of the Kunming-Montreal declaration with the objective of protecting 30 per cent of the planet by 2030. He said he hoped Quebec would have its own delegation to future United Nations conferences on the environment.

Bill 101 will be extended to federal businesses in Quebec, opposition says The leadership of the U.N.-backed COP15 biodiversity conference applaud after passing the The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework in Montreal, Quebec, Canada December 19, 2022.  Julian Haber/UN Biodiversity/Handout via REUTERS      THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT Here are the main points in the global biodiversity deal adopted at COP15 in Montreal
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