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Legault Says Jean Boulet's Discredited Remarks 'Disqualify' Him As Immigration Minister

If re-elected, the premier said he'd refill the role.

MTL Blog, Associate Editor
​François Legault grimaces in reaction to a question about his immigration minister. Right: Jean Boulet.

François Legault grimaces in reaction to a question about his immigration minister. Right: Jean Boulet.

François Legault is doing damage control after a fresh round of controversial comments by his immigration minister, Jean Boulet. Quebec's premier went on record to disagree with Boulet's claim that "80% of immigrants go to Montreal, do not work, do not speak French or do not adhere to the values of Quebec society." Legault said, if re-elected, he'll find someone else to fill the role.

"I think he just disqualified himself [from the position]," the premier told TVA on Wednesday, visibly cringing as Boulet's comments were repeated on-air.

When asked why his labour and immigration minister was propagating invalid statistics about the province's immigrant workforce, Legault said, "I think Jean was speaking in the heat of the moment and said things that were inaccurate."

"80% of immigrants don't work, or don't adhere to Quebec's values? That's simply untrue," he said.

Legault reiterated his plan to dump Boulet, later telling Radio-Canada "it's a question of perception, of image, of trust."

The premier also doubled down on the CAQ's immigration policy, which has slashed the number of people accepted into provincial skilled worker programs despite a labour shortage and instead shifted emphasis to a temporary migrant workforce.

Under Legault, Quebec plans to triple the number of migrant workers by next year, despite concerns that government oversights are inadequate and temporary workers face high rates of exploitation and abuse.

A 2011 report by the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse found that the province's temporary migration system reinforces "systemic discrimination," a concept that Legault has yet to acknowledge.

The premier said on Wednesday that it would be "suicide" for the French language to increase immigration numbers.

"There's already a decline with 50,000 immigrants accepted in-province annually," he said.

Critics lambasted Legault earlier this month over his response to a question about increasing immigration levels in the province.

"Quebecers are peaceful. They don't like extremists [or] violence," he said, implying a link between immigration, fundamentalism and violent crime. The premier later apologized for his comments.

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