Gilles Duceppe offered timid support to embattled Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois as he emerged from weeks of self-imposed silence to signal his continued involvement in the sovereigntist battle.
In his first television interview since he resigned as Bloc Québécois leader on May 2, Mr. Duceppe was feisty, warning French-speaking Quebeckers they face assimilation if they remain in the Canadian federation. He frequently returned to what amounts to a new argument for him, saying assimilation rates are dangerous in the rest of Canada and that Quebeckers will be “eating gumbo” in 50 years if things don’t change.
Mr. Duceppe’s decision to speak on the CBC’s French-language all-news network raised eyebrows in sovereigntist circles, given he twice considered running for the PQ leadership when he was still heading the Bloc in Ottawa. There is a clear sense among many PQ members that he is trying to build momentum for a third try, although it is unlikely he will challenge Ms. Marois as long as she remains in her position.
While Mr. Duceppe expressed his trust in the abilities of the current PQ Leader, he didn’t go out of his way to praise Ms. Marois, who lost five members of her caucus in recent weeks as part of a deep internal crisis in her party.
“I support Ms. Marois. She was elected, we have to work with her,” Mr. Duceppe said.
He added he needs more time to recover from the Bloc’s stunning defeat in Quebec in the last federal election, in which he lost his own seat and the Bloc was reduced to four seats.
He said he will continue resting this summer, after which, he added, “we will see.”
As the sovereignty movement threatens to disperse itself in a number of factions and political parties, Mr. Duceppe urged all sovereigntists to rally behind the PQ on the provincial stage and the Bloc on the federal one.
“We have to focus on what unites us instead of fighting over matters that divide us,” Mr. Duceppe said. “While we’re fighting, the federalist forces don’t have to offer anything to Quebeckers.”
Mr. Duceppe repeatedly said he fears that Quebeckers will assimilate into the North American majority in coming decades if they don’t secede from Canada.
“If Quebeckers don’t move, it’s unavoidable that they will be on the same slippery slope as francophones outside Quebec and Acadians,” he said. “It’s a falsehood to state that francophone communities are thriving.”
He was also highly critical of the NDP’s decision to run candidates in Quebec who had limited skills in French, criticizing voters who nonetheless elected them to the House of Commons.
“We didn’t showcase a lot of pride,” Mr. Duceppe said.