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California Gov. Gavin Newsom meets with Quebec Premier Francois Legault, at the Stanford Mansion, in Sacramento, Calif., on Dec. 11, 2019.

Renée C. Byer/The Associated Press

Quebec Premier Francois Legault is defending comments made Wednesday to the governor of California in which he declared all French-Canadians are Catholic.

Legault was making small talk with Gov. Gavin Newsom during an official visit to Sacramento, Calif., when he brought up religion.

“We have something else in common. You’re a Catholic, no?” Legault said as photographers snapped pictures. Newsom replied that he was.

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“Yeah, me too,” Legault continued. “Of course, all French-Canadians are. But you’re Irish.”

Newsom talked about “the good and bad that comes with” being an Irish Catholic. Legault suggested they could “talk about religious signs,” prompting the governor to reply, “That’s a whole issue for you guys. I don’t want to get into that.”

It was an apparent reference to Quebec’s adoption this year of legislation banning religious symbols for some public-sector workers, including teachers and police officers.

In a tweet Thursday responding to news coverage of his remarks, Legault says he was “of course” referring to “our shared origins, the Catholic Irish and the Catholic French.”

Writing on Twitter Wednesday, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois of the opposition Quebec solidaire questioned what the episode says about the government’s commitment to secularism, calling it “embarrassing.”

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