Quebec premier’s comments on multiculturalism ‘painful’, says World Organization of Sikhs

When Quebec Premier François Legault said bluntly this week that he and his party “oppose multiculturalism,” he tried to add some qualifiers to that argument.

Quebec has a different model to the rest of Canada, Legault explained — “interculturalism” rather than multiculturalism, where different cultures not just co-exist, but merge into one dominant, francophone culture.

He added that he was against putting “all cultures on the same level”.

He prefers a “culture of inclusion” above all else, he also said.

But some of those who know the debate most intimately said there were few nuances in the Prime Minister’s comments and that his words were not surprising but were still deeply unwelcome.

“Each time is as painful as the first time,” said Harginder Kaur, Quebec spokesperson for the World Sikh Organization of Canada.

“You don’t expect such comments from the government [of the place] you live in.”

Kaur, 22, said immigrants to Quebec are more aware than anyone of the importance placed on “Francization,” or learning to live in French and blending into Quebec culture.

“I speak French fluently, I put into practice all the Quebec values, my family too, my friends too,” Kaur said.


As a Sikh, she can sympathize in some way with Quebec’s long efforts to protect French in North America, she said.

But for her, there’s no excuse for comments like Legault’s, she said, especially the idea that different cultures can be placed on different “levels,” as the former put it. minister.

“He’s basically just saying not all religions are created equal, is he?” she says. “But who is he to decide that?

“As a Sikh, I understand where they come from because Sikhs are also a minority…even in India,” she said.

“But we understand that equality is what builds a nation, and you can’t preserve your own culture at the expense of another.”

For Quebec leaders to suggest that different cultures have different values ​​shows ‘the fear they have,’ she said, but it’s also insulting to those who have gone to great lengths to resettle in Quebec. .

“If we are a problem, they need to understand that immigrants come here for a better life, because of the values ​​that Canada stands for,” she said.

“We all know French, we all know our language, we preserve their culture and our culture,” she added. “They also don’t understand what we are doing for Quebec.

Legault’s comments came after one of his top ministers, Simon Jolin-Barrette, gave a high-profile speech in Paris in which he also said the Quebec government considers multiculturalism one of its main problems.

He delivered the speech on the eve of Quebec’s national holiday, Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day.


Both Legault and Jolin-Barrette criticized what they called the Canadian model of multiculturalism, generally described as a mosaic of different cultures. They said that this is an example where individual rights take precedence over the collective good and that this harms Quebec.

On the other hand, Quebec, since about the 1980s, has developed its own model in terms of immigration, the “interculturalism” of which Legault spoke.

But one political opponent said they presented a twisted version of Quebec history, he said.

“We all know, for 40 years, that we have developed our own model [of immigration] in Quebec with our own identity,” said Saul Polo, Liberal MP for Laval-des-rapides.

The problem, he said, is that in many people’s view this has been a success and not a crisis needing redress or stoking new feelings of ‘division’ or ‘being attacked’. .

Quebec Liberals see Bill 101, the heritage language law, as fundamentally working well and perhaps in need of some tweaking, Polo said.

His party also challenges the idea that people who do not speak French at home pose a problem.

“Where we disagree [is the idea that] the languages ​​people speak at home are a major factor in whether French is under threat in Quebec,” he said.

“[Legault] considers the presence of all these cultures, especially if you speak other languages ​​at home, as a potential threat,” said Polo.

“At the end of the day, you can fully integrate into Quebec society, but also keep your own heritage and enhance it,” he said. The CAQ “tries to say that we must forget our heritage to feel fully Quebec”.

This argument also strikes a chord for Polo, who was born in Colombia and moved to Quebec at the age of six. He was educated entirely in French but speaks Spanish at home with his family and son.

He echoed Kaur in saying Legault’s words were insulting.

“No matter the sacrifices and efforts we make to fully integrate into this society, it is still not enough for it to fully accept us as Quebecers,” he said.

“It is not up to Legault to decide who is a Quebecer or who is not a Quebecer.”


The other main opposition party took a different approach, saying that if Legault is serious about denouncing the Canadian model, he should also take sovereignty seriously.

“The CAQ keeps us in a dead end by denouncing Canadian multiculturalism while insisting on staying in Canada at all costs,” Parti Québécois leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon said in a statement to CTV News.

“Canada imposes its vision of communitarianism on us and we waste time and energy trying to maintain our vision of a society based on integration and universal citizenship, regardless of our differences,” he said. he declares.

“The only way out of this impasse is to create our own country. If the head of the CAQ and Mr. Jolin-Barrette are serious, they must have the courage to name the only solution: independence.

Legault said his party had pledged not to hold a referendum, although it had recently recruited new candidates for the upcoming election who were former separatists.

Québec solidaire, the third main opposition party, did not respond to a request for comment from CTV.

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