Public security minister apologizes for refusing to speak English
Published Wednesday, April 26, 2017 9:36AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, April 27, 2017 3:26PM EDT
Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux has apologized for not talking English in the National Assembly.
On Tuesday during Question Period, Quebec Solidaire MNA Amir Khadir asked a question in English about political financing in the Liberal party.
Khadir prefaced his question by saying he was asking it in English because it was a topic he said Quebec anglophones don't hear enough about.
That has annoyed the Quebec Community Groups Network, which points out quite correctly that all legislation passed by the National Assembly must be both in French and English.
The president of the QCGN, James Shea, said Coiteux's action was "an affront" to all anglophones, especially those in the West Island riding that Coiteux represents.
Khadir said he asks questions in English at the National Assembly because he wants Quebec's anglophone community "to hear about Liberal corruption firsthand."
The Coalition Avenir Quebec's Eric Caire said that Coiteux demonstrated a lack of respect with his response.
"Our tradition is all our debates were in French in the National Assembly. But, when a question addressed to a minister is in English, I think it's just a question of respect to give the answer or part of the answer in English to our anglophone fellowship,” said Caire.
Jean-Francois Lisée, leader of the Parti Quebecois, said it was up to the people involved to speak whatever language they wished.
"French is the official and common language, but other languages are not forbidden. So, I think it was the choice of Mr. Khadir to choose the language that he used and it was the choice of the minister to answer as he wished. And then I let people decide who was right and wrong,” said Lisée.
However anglophones for Québec Independence did come to Coiteux's defence.
The group issued a statement saying that "French should be the only language of debate at the National Assembly, even though the Constitution of 1867 allows for the use of English within its walls."
"The group anglophones for Québec Independence denounces any statement whose eventual aim is to enforce Trudeau-style bilingualism in Québec."
On Wednesday morning Coiteux apologized, saying he did not mean to offend by answering an English question in French.
"I'm really sorry about what this produced. Perhaps my words were not well-chosen. I didn't want to offend anybody, and if I did offend somebody I'm really, really sorry," said Coiteux.
He said that if asked a question in English in the National Assembly in the future, he would likely answer it in English.
It's the second time this year that a notable politician has made this type of language gaffe in Quebec.
Earlier this year Prime Minister Justin Trudeau only spoke French while at a town hall meeting in Sherbrooke, and refused to speak English "because he was in Quebec," even when people asked him questions in English about the lack of mental health care treatment available in English.
That led to an investigation by the office of the federal Commissioner of Official Languages.
Trudeau later sent a letter of apology to the QCGN for his mistake, and said that he "should have answered questions in the language they were asked."
A group that defends the rights of Anglo-Quebecers pointed out that 44,980 of Coiteux's constituents in his riding of Nelligan and more than one million Quebecers speak English.
With files from the Canadian Press.