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Legault apologizes for comments linking immigration with 'violence' and 'extremists'


Incumbent Quebec premier François Legault apologized Wednesday for comments he made during a press conference in which he made a link between immigrants and "violence" and "extremists."

His words also drew strong reactions from his opponents who accused the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) leader of casting newcomers to the province as a "threat."

"Immigration is an asset for Quebec. Integration will always be a challenge for a French-speaking nation in North America," Legault said in a tweet.

"I did not want to associate immigration with violence. I'm sorry if my words have been confusing. My desire is to unite."

Hours earlier, during a press conference in Montreal that originally focused on themes of agriculture and education, reporters turned the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) leader's attention to the issue of immigration levels, which has been a hot topic in the Quebec election campaign as the province struggles with a labour shortage across many sectors.

A reporter asked Legault if he believed that increasing immigration targets in Quebec would pose a threat to Quebecers' way of life.

Legault, who is leading in the polls ahead of the Oct. 3 provincial election, started to answer the question by saying there is indeed "an integration challenge" when it comes to immigration in Quebec.

"Quebecers are peaceful. They don't like bickering, they don't like extremists, they don't like violence. So, you have to make sure you keep it as it is," he said.

During a campaign stop earlier this week, he said the CAQ is proposing to reduce the province's annual threshold of 50,000 immigrants per year. The party leader said in Gatineau, Que. that Canada's desire to welcome more immigrants "is really going to the extreme" and invites "integration challenges" throughout the country.

His opponents expressed their shock at his comments on Wednesday, including Ruba Ghazal, the incumbent Québec Solidaire (QS) MNA for Montreal's Mercier riding.

"I'm very shocked about what he said. It's very disrespectful," she said.

Dominique Anglade, leader of the Quebec Liberals, also condemned the CAQ leader's comments, telling reporters that it was a "dangerous link" to make between immigration and violence. 

"The last that we need in Quebec are people who divide us. François Legault never ceases to divide Quebcers," she said, whether it comes to immigrants and non-immigrants, rich versus poor and anglophones and francophones. 

"With all the challenges we have today, are we not capable of working together?"

In a social media post, Anglade said his comments on immigration "have no place in Quebec." Top Stories

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