Accused of lacking sensitivity, Legault doubles down on comments about immigrants

Quebec Premier François Legault said Tuesday he has no regrets about comments he made on immigration to a business crowd last week.

Legault had said that every time the government accepts an immigrant to the province making less than $56,000, it makes it harder to achieve his goal of increasing the average salary of Quebecers.

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He had made the comments Friday to the Conseil du patronat du Québec, an employers council. Radio-Canada obtained a copy and made it public on Monday, causing a stir.

The opposition attacked his comments Tuesday, suggesting the premier was being insensitive.

Québec solidaire's Ruba Ghazal asked Legault during question period whether his comments meant there were "good" and "bad" immigrants. Ghazal, who is an immigrant, said she was deeply hurt by Legault's remarks.

"I worked for a long time in factories, and what I heard from him reminded me of the way we talk about products on assembly lines," Ghazal said.

"Immigrants are not objects, let alone numbers, they are human beings."

Legault doubled down: "I don't regret what I said," he told the legislature. "In Quebec, we want more economic immigration and then we first want to create positions that are better paid."

Ghazal said her parents arrived without "good jobs at $56,000" but are proud their daughter is a member of the national assembly. She suggested her family would have posed a "problem" for the premier.

Legault said his government wants to increase economic immigration and fill 32,000 jobs in the province that pay above $56,000 by prioritizing newcomers with diplomas and training. The province is facing a shortage of workers and has another 110,000 unfilled jobs that pay lower than $56,000.

Legault said economic immigration accounts for 60 per cent of new arrivals to the province while 40 per cent arrive as refugees and through family reunifications.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 4, 2021.

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