Indigenous leaders from all over Canada and around the world have criticized Quebec Premier François Legault’s characterization of their “cultural citizenship” as “invading” and “unjustifiable.”
Legault has said it’s okay for Quebecers to live in the “basket of deplorables” with their “culture, language and traditions,” arguing that adopting a French-only identity and not wanting to acknowledge Indigenous people is a founding principle of Canada.
“François Legault is a man who has forgotten how many children, many people, were excluded in Canada and by him, now, he’s excluding those who speak neither English nor French and I find it very paternalistic,” Sandra Garnett, a grand chief from the Keewatin Yatthe Nation First Nation in Saskatchewan, said during a press conference in Washington.
Garnett said this “absolutism” from Quebec is not only unacceptable to Indigenous people, but to others in Canada who are progressive about social and economic justice. Garnett said Indigenous people were discriminated against and excluded for years and “it’s sad that we’re still not able to be recognized and taken seriously as a distinct society with the same rights.”
She continued, “It makes it impossible for the black, Indigenous, Asian and South Asian communities in Canada to buy houses and own businesses and to receive education and it’s sad that we’re still marginalized.”
Jacques Ouellet, an Indigenous leader from Quebec who advocates for First Nations, Mi’kmaq and Metis people, agreed.
“The killing fields of Europe were an invasion of different cultures,” Ouellet said. “If Mr. Legault didn’t hear that, that was very arrogant for him to actually make the comparison in his political discourse.”
Ouellet called on Legault and the French and Canadian governments to stop this rhetoric.
“We need to think about the cultural minority in Canada and what are the ways that we’re really trying to exclude these different cultures? We want it to stop in order to be Canada. I think that we are dividing ourselves in order to divide ourselves. I think we’re missing being Canada.”
Ouellet warned Legault and the rest of Quebec to stop this type of rhetoric about who they are and how they live because the consequences could be disastrous for the country and that’s why he went public with his concerns.
“I feel this is a very dangerous tool for creating divisions. We’re not asking for immigrants, we’re not asking for anyone who doesn’t speak French, we’re asking for certain freedoms.”