Francophonie Summit: First Trudeau-Legault meeting since the election

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Summit of La Francophonie: first Trudeau-Legault meeting since the elections

The Premier of Quebec, François Legault, spoke for about twenty minutes with his federal counterpart, Justin Trudeau, on the sidelines of the Francophonie Summit in Tunisia. It was the first meeting between the two men since Mr. Legault's re-election on October 3.

In Tunisia for the 18th Summit of La Francophonie, the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, and his Quebec counterpart, François Legault, spoke backstage for about 20 minutes on Saturday.

It was their first meeting since the re-election of Mr. Legault on October 3.

While assuring that he did not want to make a Quebec-Ottawa chicane abroad, Mr. Legault indicated in a press briefing that he discussed with his counterpart many subjects of contention between his government and the federal government.

I reminded him that according to the latest statistics from Statistics Canada on the language spoken at home, Montreal is at 48%, worried Mr. Legault, adding that we must take actions.

“I reminded Mr. Trudeau of the importance of Bill 96, among other things to ensure that federally chartered companies like Air Canada, like the Bank of Montreal, that Bill 101 applies to these large companies .

—François Legault, Premier of Quebec

The Premier of Quebec also expressed regret at the massive arrival of irregular migrants via Roxham Road. He said he wants the federal government to do the same thing as in the airports and [return] those who are not political refugees. He also demanded that Ottawa renegotiate the safe third country agreement with the United States.

Justin Trudeau and François Legault addressed, among other things, the thorny issue of health transfers.

Mr. Legault also insisted that the federal government must play its role in financing health care and that it must increase its transfers from 22% to 35%. We need recurring amounts, he repeated. The Trudeau government recently said it was ready to increase health transfers, but on certain conditions.

A new meeting between the two prime ministers must take place in December to go more thoroughly in these files, said Mr. Legault.

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This 18th Francophonie Summit, placed under the sign of connectivity and digital technology, will have enabled François Legault to discuss his priorities with other world leaders for the future of French.

During his press briefing, he stressed that he had insisted on the importance of developing content in French on television and in the digital world.

“So [I reiterated] the importance that together, including the slightly richer countries […], that we develop content that is attractive to young people. We have to convince young people not only to watch content in English but also to watch content in French.

—François Legault, Premier of Quebec

He took this message not only to French President Emmanuel Macron, but also to the leaders of Switzerland and Belgium, as well as to the Secretary General of the International Organization of La Francophonie (OIF).

The Premier of Quebec also suggested that French-speaking countries strengthen their economic ties. Since we are 300 million French speakers, [let's take advantage] of this common language to increase trade between French-speaking countries, he suggested.

Quebec Premier François Legault met with the president of the Tunisian company Coficab on the sidelines of the Francophonie Summit on Friday in Djerba, Tunisia.

François Legault is also due to meet with the host of the summit, Tunisian President Kaïs Saïed, on Sunday.

Mr. Saïed has been the subject of international criticism since the adoption of a new fundamental law which grants him vast powers and which breaks with the parliamentary system in place since 2014. Mr. Legault promised that he would express his concern to Mr. Saïed and that he would insist on the importance of democratic values.

However, the federal government has chosen another approach. While he also plans to stress the importance of protecting democracy and human rights, Justin Trudeau has not planned a one-on-one with Mr. Saïed.

According to a source close to the federal government, Canada is concerned about certain democratic issues in Tunisia and fears that such a meeting will legitimize the president's approach a few weeks before the legislative elections.

I raised my concerns related to democracy and related to women's rights, said Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly, who also spoke with Tunisian civil society organizations . We are following the elections which will take place in December very closely and we want to make sure that there is no authoritarian drift, she argued.

Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly in conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Francophonie Summit in Djerba

Concerned by the political situation, Prime Minister Trudeau had considered requesting the postponement of this summit, already canceled in 2020 for health reasons and again in 2021 after the suspension of Parliament by President Saïed.

Asked to justify the Canadian presence in Djerba despite this initial reluctance, Minister Joly explained that it was important for Canada to maintain bilateral relations with the Tunisian government in order to thwart the influence of countries like Russia and China on the African continent.

With information from Sébastien Bovet, Louis Blouin and La Canadian Press

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