Premier François Legault reignited the debate about his party's conception of secularism in Quebec on Easter Monday with a tweet celebrating the perceived Catholic origins of the province's "culture of solidarity."
"Catholicism has also given us a culture of solidarity that distinguishes us on a continental scale," the tweet from the premier reads. That line actually comes from an April 7 Journal de Montréal opinion piece by sociologist and columnist Mathieu Bock-Côté, which Legault shared in his Twitter post.
Bock-Côté also argues that Catholicism "served as a basis for [Quebec] collective identity" following the British conquest and that this "sense of the collective leads us today to resist the fragmentation of society under the pressure of multiculturalism."
Legault's tweet amassed hundreds of comments by Monday afternoon, some from Twitter users praising the statement, but many more from critics who accused the premier of hypocrisy given his insistence on the secularism of the Quebec state.
Legault's government notably passed the controversial Bill 21, which bans many public servants from wearing religious symbols while performing their duties. Many have said the measure unfairly targets religious minorities, especially Muslim women.
The premier later returned to Twitter to defend the tweet, writing in response that "we must distinguish between secularism and our heritage."
\u201cIl faut distinguer la la\u00efcit\u00e9 et notre patrimoine.\u201d— Fran\u00e7ois Legault (@Fran\u00e7ois Legault) 1681122464
He has long claimed that certain long-standing Christian symbols on public edifices don't contradict his idea of secularism. Christian crosses, for example, still adorn many school buildings. His government did, however, vote to remove a crucifix that hung in the National Assembly chamber in Quebec City.
This is not the first time Legault has received criticism for a statement about Catholicism. He came under fire during a visit to California in 2019 after claiming offhand that "all French Canadians" are Catholic.