Ex-Chomedey MNA Tom Mulcair denounces François Legault’s ‘mean spiritedness’

‘Unlike anything I’ve seen in Canada since Duplessis,’ he says of Premier’s treatment of minorities

“Values – fundamental values – cannot be withstanded away.”

With those words – echoing perhaps another politician’s assertion in the Quebec National Assembly 36 years earlier that “rights are rights are rights” – former NDP leader and Chomedey MNA Tom Mulcair denounced current Quebec Premier François Legault’s endorsement these past few years of various pieces of nationalistic and protectionist legislation.

Hard times for Anglos

Although the year is still young, already it’s shaping up to be a tough one for supporters of English-language Quebecers’ rights, Mulcair, currently a political advisor, academic and media commentator, told an audience of lawyers and law students at Concordia University on Jan. 24.

“Values – fundamental values – cannot be withstanded away,” said Mulcair. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

Elected three times to the Quebec National Assembly as the MNA for the Laval-area riding of Chomedey, Mulcair also served four times in the House of Commons in Ottawa, during which he became leader of the NDP and head of the official opposition.

‘People who discriminate’

During his talk to followers of Concordia’s Jurist-in-Residence Conference series, on Tolerating the Intolerable: Racisms and Discriminations Remain a Societal Challenge Beyond the Charter, Mulcair described Legault as a cynical politician caving in to political pressures from Francophone nationalists, while suppressing other people’s rights.

“What exactly does that mean? You have people who discriminate, who are intolerant, who want to restrict somebody else’s rights. It means you have to finally listen to them,” Mulcair said. “Just like that? Just a little bit? But not a lot? That’s where we are.”

Neither ethical nor moral

Former Chomedey MNA Tom Mulcair (who also was leader of the NDP party) spoke at Concordia University last month. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

According to Mulcair, Legault’s overall stance as the sponsor of laws like Bill 21 (preventing the government from hiring workers who wear religious symbols like head scarves), Bill 96 (adding to linguistic restrictions in Quebec’s French Language Charter) – as well as the English universities tuition hikes – reflects “a total lack of ethical and moral” foundation.

“It’s not resting on anything other than a political need to move ahead and to come up with an answer,” he said.

Just as former West Island Liberal MNA Clifford Lincoln stated his position in 1988 while announcing his resignation from the Bourassa cabinet after the Liberals added to Bill 101 with Bill 178, Mulcair also maintained the current CAQ government cannot justify the suppression of fundamental rights by invoking a notwithstanding clause.

Trudeau’s complicity

He said the attacks by Legault on the English-speaking community of Quebec have also included attempts to remove Canadian constitutionally-guaranteed English school boards, as well as efforts to do away with the equality of French and English before the courts.

“Oh, did I mention that Trudeau’s not done anything about that?” he quipped, taking a shot at the current Prime Minister (against whom Mulcair ran and lost in the 2015 federal election). Back to Legault, he said the Quebec Premier’s moves show “a mean spiritedness by Legault that is unlike anything I’ve seen in Canada since Duplessis.”

Attacking les Anglais

According to Mulcair, Legault’s overall stance reflects “a total lack of ethical and moral” foundation. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

Noting that in recent years Legault had flip-flopped on key issues in the Quebec City area, such as the proposed Québec/Lévis bridge tunnel project, “but never at a complete loss Mr. Legault, it came to him in a flash, the golden rule of Quebec politics: when you are in desperate trouble, when there is nothing left for you, you attack les Anglais.”

He suggested that the CAQ government’s legislated move to limit registration of Francophone students at Anglophone CEGEPs by establishing quotas, hearkens back to another era when McGill had quotas for the number of Jews it would admit as students.

“And that’s not that long ago – that was right into the 1960s – a sad and dark era indeed,” he continued. “Here Legault is telling young adults, as I say, that he’s going to decide for them what language they use in their post-secondary education … It’s an anathema in a free and democratic society to have that sort of distinction being made.”