Paul St-Pierre Plamondon defended his comments on immigration, Roxham Road and the "rise of extremes" Wednesday, calling them "sober."

The leader of the Parti Québécois (PQ) didn't appreciate accusations by former Liberal minister and radio host Nathalie Normandeau, who said his comments had "xenophobic connotations."

"I find it distressing that it is so difficult to have a healthy conversation on this issue without trying to amplify my comments which, I think, were sober," St. Pierre Plamondon said Thursday.

On Wednesday, the PQ leader called for lower immigration thresholds in Quebec and for the closure of Roxham Road to avoid "the rise of extremes," as in Hungary, for example.

"If we make the mistake of not finding sustainable models, it has consequences on the part of the electorate that will decide to take things in another way," he said.

"Dissatisfactions" will be "exacerbated" if we no longer manage to provide services to the population, the sovereignist leader said in a press conference, stating he wanted to preserve "social peace."

Invited to elaborate on his thoughts Thursday, St-Pierre Plamondon recalled that community organizations had sounded the alarm about the lack of housing.

"I simply say that other countries have poorly planned these issues and that the observation today is more tension, less social peace," he said at the close of his party's pre-sessional caucus.

Paul St-Pierre Plamondon claims the right to address immigration issues "democratically" and "with respect."

"It's perfectly legitimate to ask the question: 'What is the capacity of Quebec to receive and what are our options under the circumstances?'" he said.

He declined to comment on former PQ leader Jean-François Lisée's recent statement that non-French-speaking asylum seekers should be bussed to Ottawa.

Lisée made the remarks last Tuesday on the program "Mordus de politique" on ICI RDI.

"I will not comment on every comment or hypothesis that is written in terms of public policy, it is not my role," St-Pierre Plamondon said.

St-Pierre Plamondon suggested the Legault government make a bold move and close Roxham Road, something he says could be achieved with the help of the Sûreté du Québec.

"We need to provoke a bit of a change in Ottawa, because the general message, after six years, in Ottawa, is: 'We're not interested in your situation.'"

Roxham Road is an unofficial border crossing that allows asylum seekers to enter Quebec without the possibility of being turned back to the U.S. Last year, 39,171 asylum seekers were intercepted there.

Late Thursday, the parliamentary leader of Québec solidaire, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, added his two cents and asked the CAQ and PQ to stop seeing immigration as a problem.

"They talk to us about pressure on services, but never about the contribution of immigration to the same services," he Tweeted.  

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Jan. 26, 2022.