Justin Trudeau took questions about pipelines, refugees, and support for entrepreneurs during a town hall meeting in Sherbrooke Tuesday evening -- but he refused to speak English when citizens asked him question in that language.

About 500 people packed an armoury in Sherbrooke for the first Quebec stop in a cross-country tour by the prime minister.

He said that since he was in Quebec he would speak French, even when asked about the lack of health services in English in the Eastern Townships.

“Of particular concern in this area are services to minority populations. Most of the services are available in French only. It is only in the last 10 years that we have had a group dedicated to trying to help the English population in this area. I would really appreciate your comments on this subject,” Judy Ross asked the prime minister in English.

Trudeau responded to her only in French, saying it’s an important issue to him because we are a bilingual country and that it’s important that people feel at home throughout the country.

Ross said she "felt disrespected."

"I was so disappointed that by the time he got through that bit of fantasy land (explaining why he was speaking in French), I really didn't take in the rest," Ross said in an interview with The Canadian Press. "I was too miffed.

"It (mental health) is a topic that's very difficult to explain and express in your own language, let alone a second language. Even people who are bilingual prefer to have their services in their mother tongue. And I thought, with his life experience, he would be sensitive to that."

When asked about the incident Wednesday at Bishop’s University, Trudeau said he’d answered a French question in English at another town hall meeting in Peterborough, Ont. recently.

He also added that upon further reflection, maybe he should have answered the question partly in English and partly in French.

"I understood that the meeting would be in French. From now on, I will make sure to have more bilingualism, regardless of where I am in the country," he said.

Gerald Cutting of the Townshipper's Association, which represents anglophones in the Eastern Townships, said it was like a punch in the gut.

“For the prime minister to declare that in Quebec we speak French, and then to answer each and every question that’s posed in English in French, left the members of the community wondering what exactly was happening. Is this a change in policy for the federal government?” he said.


Lac-Megantic questions

Multiple people questioned Trudeau about the need to build a rail line through nearby Lac-Megantic, the nearby site of Canada's worst rail disaster.

Trudeau said he was doing what he could to speed up that process of building a bypass line, while mindful that people were still scarred by the deaths of 47 people.

On Wednesday Trudeau is meeting with Jean-Guy Cloutier, the mayor of Lac-Megantic.

He said he "will see what we can do to help this community that was crushed emotionally."

Before the session, Trudeau met with Ensaf Haidar, wife of Raif Badawi, a blogger who has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for the past four years for criticizing Islam.

Outside the hall roughly two dozen protesters demonstrated against pipelines, and the sale of war vehicles to Saudi Arabia.

With files from The Canadian Press