Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet went viral on Thursday night for all the wrong reasons during the English leaders debate for the 2021 Canada Federal Election.
His comments on Bill 21, while comparing Quebec’s situation to that of Indigenous peoples, angered viewers across Canada. His comment on not wanting to lead Canada also had some questioning why in fact he was running to become the next prime minister.
Before the two-hour debate was even over, some had a clear idea of who lost the debate between the five candidates:
Blanchet denies Quebec's laws are discriminatory
The first question moderator Shachi Kurl directed to Blanchet surrounded Bill 96 and then also Bill 21, which bans some Quebec civil servants from wearing religious symbols at work. Kurl asked why the Bloc supports the "discriminatory laws" while still denying that Quebec does not have a racism problem.
Blanchet answered that "those laws are not about discrimination, they are about the values of Quebec," before he and Kurl exchanged words throughout the rest of his 45-second response period.
The reaction on social media wasn't pretty:
Moments later, as part of the "leadership" theme in the debate, Kurl asked the federal leaders about Canada's transition to a green economy, and how it's dependent on pipelines. Kurl asked Blanchet how he plans to lead on the associated complex issues, such as the problems Ontario and Quebec face in relation to the Line 5 pipeline.
It made way for this viral answer from the Bloc leader, who's representing a party clearly focused on Quebec nationalism and sovereignty:
I'm not very much interested in leading Canada. However, I am very much interested in making sure that Quebec is entitled to its own vision for the future.Yves-François Blanchet, leader of Bloc Québécois
Blanchet went on to say that Quebec does not have major energy issues, because it's lucky to be able to produce a "large amount" of green energy. At the same time, he notes the "whole planet cannot afford" the idea of producing and exporting more oil, believing that the money will help us reduce gas emissions — it's an idea he labelled very Canadian, Conservative and Liberal.
In the meantime, Canadians and viewers were quick to take to Twitter, some questioning why in fact he was even running to become the country's next prime minister.
Blanchet's answer on racism shocks Paul
The worst part of the evening was spread across the debate as Blanchet answered questions related to systemic racism and the oppression of Indigenous peoples. During the "reconciliation" theme, Blanchet was asked what he would do to address systemic racism in Quebec and elsewhere, especially after what happened to Joyce Echaquan in September 2020.
The Bloc leader responded that he recognized systemic racism in June 2020, but that it became a "tool" for others to label Quebec as "racist and xenophobic." He concluded by saying he'd rather discuss the topic on a "quiet stage" that wasn't "aggressive" like the current debate.
Among others, the answer particularly shocked Green Party Leader Annamie Paul, who delivered one of the best responses of the night:
Reconciliation question wrongly aligned with Quebec
Moments later, when a question on what changes there needs to be to the Indian Act system, Blanchet signalled that he wanted a turn to speak. It gave way for this answer:
"First Nations and Quebec have something in common. They are bound by a document they never signed."
He would also go back to double down on his comments on Bill 21, like it wasn't enough for Twitter to voice their disapproval: