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MP Francis Drouin apologizes to witnesses he described as “full of crap”

Photo: Sean Kilpatrick La Presse canadienne Le député Francis Drouin (sur la photo) s’est vulgairement opposé lundi aux propos du chercheur Frédéric Lacroix et du professeur de cégep Nicolas Bourdon.

Liberal MP Francis Drouin finally apologized Thursday for having called witnesses who campaign for the protection of French in Quebec “extremists” and “full of shit”. But the opposition demanded his resignation from the presidency of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Francophonie (APF), under the eyes of the Minister of Official Languages, Randy Boissonnault, who almost “[brought out] the popcorn”.

“Any witness who comes before this committee should feel free to have a conversation in a respectful environment. I did not do that on Monday, so I apologize once again to Mr. Bourdon and Mr. Lacroix,” declared Mr. Drouin at the opening of a meeting of the Standing Committee on Official Languages.

The Franco-Ontarian was quickly interrupted by the Bloc Québécois and the Conservatives, judging that this was not the appropriate time for an apology, since Minister Boissonnault was to testify as part of 'a study by the committee on the financing of post-secondary institutions in minority situations.

Also read

  • Liberal MP Francis Drouin will not apologize for calling witnesses “full of shit”
  • The Bloc wants Drouin to leave the presidency of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Francophonie
  • The expert described as “full of crap” made simplistic remarks, justifies Francis Drouin

Conservative Joël Godin then tabled a motion, amended by his colleague Bernard Généreux, then sub-amended by Bloc member Mario Beaulieu. In addition to a written apology, it calls for the “immediate resignation” of Francis Drouin from the presidency of the APF, his “immediate expulsion” from the committee and the transmission of a report of this “intolerable situation” to the House of the Commons.

The chairman of the committee, René Arseneault, explained to them that the motion, the amendment and the sub-amendment are inadmissible given that they exceed the authority of the committee. However, his decision was successfully challenged. Only Liberal MPs – with the exception of Mr. Drouin who abstained – spoke in favor.

“It’s a shame that we find ourselves at this point, but I don't think we can minimize what we saw on Monday,” said New Democrat Niki Ashton, believing that her Liberal colleague's apology was long overdue. According to her, MP Drouin's “blatant lack of respect” tarnishes the “reputation of the committee and of French-speaking Canada internationally”.

On Monday, the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell vigorously opposed the comments of two witnesses, who explained, based on Statistics Canada data, that when a Francophone or an allophone attends an English-speaking university or CEGEP , this significantly increases the probability that he will then lead his life in English.

Two motions in Quebec

These two experts were treated “in a completely disrespectful manner,” denounced Thursday morning the leader of the Parti Québécois, Paul St-Pierre Plamondon. He tabled a motion, jointly with the Minister of the French Language Jean-François Roberge, asking that the National Assembly “denounce the disgraceful remarks […] and that it recognize that higher studies in English can be a factor of anglicization”.

The Liberal Party of Quebec rejected the motion, but Minister Roberge immediately presented a second one, adopted unanimously, which demands “that the National Assembly reiterate that the decline of French in Quebec is a reality demonstrated by numerous linguistic indicators and that it condemns all insults and accusations against the defenders of the only official language of Quebec, French.”

Des “science-based” data

The Bloc Québécois also calls for recognition “that the data presented by the witnesses […] are based on science.” On Wednesday, MP Drouin refused to apologize, describing as “simplistic” the link that witnesses established between post-secondary education in English and the decline of French in Quebec. “I don't think that when we have French speakers studying in Alberta, like me, at the Saint-Jean campus [en français], that can Frenchify the province of Alberta,” Minister Boissonnault also declared, speaking in defense of his colleague.

“We cannot rely on personal anecdotes like that,” decreed Bloc member Mario Beaulieu. This did not prevent the Federal Minister of Innovation, François-Philippe Champagne, from drawing parallels with his experience in the afternoon. “To have had in the school career […] a few years for example in English, listen, that does not make that person a less French-speaking person,” he told journalists.

Mr. Beaulieu also criticizes Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for trying to “put Francophones outside Quebec in opposition to Francophones in Quebec.” The day before, Mr. Trudeau had accused the Bloc Québécois of attacking a Franco-Ontarian.

Parliamentary “Obstruction”

For their part, the Liberals in turn accused the opposition of being “irresponsible” by wasting precious time, while Minister Boissonnault was there to testify. Completely self-effacing, the elected official only answered one question, about his colleague's apologies.

“We're playing politics here. It's a shame, because we had the minister,” declared MP Darrell Samson, before monopolizing the floor himself for nearly 45 minutes, while three witnesses, including the assistant deputy minister of official languages, were still there to answer questions.

Mario Beaulieu accused the Liberals of “obstructing systematic obstruction,” proof that they “don’t take it seriously at all.” “They are filibustering so that we don't vote on my colleague's amendment,” added Mr. . Godin, before requesting the suspension of the session.

With The Canadian Press

This report is supported by the Local Journalism Initiative, funded by the Government of Canada.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116