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Canada

François Legault accuses Justin Trudeau of attacking Quebec’s democracy and people

MONTREAL — Quebec Premier François Legault is criticizing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for “attacking Quebec’s democracy and people” by proposing to limit the use of the notwithstanding clause. 

In a Tweet posted this morning, Legault said that this expressed desire by Trudeau is a “frontal attack” on the Quebec nation’s ability to protect its collective rights. 

Legault was reacting to an interview the prime minister gave to La Presse in which he noted his intention to better regulate the use of the notwithstanding clause, which permits provincial and territorial governments to override certain provisions of the Constitution.  He told La Presse he’s also considering referring the matter to the Supreme Court.

Legault says no Quebec government has ever adhered to the 1982 Constitution Act, which he says “does not recognize the Quebec nation.” 

He says governments led by the Parti Québécois, the Liberal Party and the Coalition Avenir Québec have all used the notwithstanding clause, notably to protect the French language.

He says it is up to Quebec’s national assembly to decide on the laws that will govern the province and Quebec would never accept such a weakening of its rights. 

Since first coming to power in 2018, Legault’s government has invoked the notwithstanding clause twice to protect a recently introduced secularism law and language law reforms from potential legal challenges. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2023.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

The Canadian Press