Skip to main content

Far-right French leader Marine Le Pen is spending a few days in Canada as part of a European Parliament economic mission. She tried hard to have personal encounters with politicians in Quebec and Ottawa in an effort to gain some international credibility. But she was shunned by the whole political class.

The only people willing to meet her, apart from journalists, were a few young members of the Parti Québécois, and demonstrators who disrupted a press conference with cries of "fascism" and taunts that sounded more typically French than Québécois. "Marine, on t'emmerde," they yelled, which means, literally, "We shit on you." To which Ms. Le Pen, a tough debater who is used to being insulted, replied sarcastically, "Go take a shower. Time for bed, kids."

The National Front leader remains a toxic figure even though she has managed to bring her party into France's mainstream political scene and unequivocally distanced herself from the sinister figure of the party's founder, her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, whom she banned from the party last August after he made yet another of his anti-Semitic outbursts.

In the 2014 elections for the European Parliament in France, the National Front came first, with 25 per cent of the vote. In last year's regional elections in France, it drew more than six million votes. And opinion polls predict that Ms. Le Pen will qualify for the second round of next year's French presidential election.

Nevertheless, all Quebec politicians would have jumped off a bridge rather than be seen shaking hands with Ms. Le Pen. But then the lady got her sweet revenge.

She proceeded to give the PQ a big, resounding kiss of death that politicians dread. In an interview with La Presse, she pointed to the "several affinities" her party has with the PQ. Both parties, she said, are nationalists and share "sovereigntist values" (the National Front wants France to leave the European Union).

She praised PQ Leader Pierre Karl Péladeau for the "good job" he's doing, and reiterated her support for the former PQ government's proposed "secular charter," which would have banned all religious signs in the public sector. (Although the rules would have applied to Jews and Christians as well, it clearly targeted veiled Muslim women.)

For several years, Ms. Le Pen has been promoting the principle of laïcité, a traditionally left-wing idea in France, to cover up the fierce Islamophobia that inspired her party's anti-immigration platform.

No wonder that PQ parliamentary leader Bernard Drainville was nervous when she landed in Quebec. As the minister responsible for democratic institutions in the last PQ government, Mr. Drainville was the main proponent of the controversial charter, which Ms. Le Pen enthusiastically supported at the time. He told Radio-Canada that she should get back on the plane and "just go home." He knew the kiss of death was coming.

Ms. Le Pen had other things on her mind. She criticized Quebec for its timidity in protecting its language and identity, and then turned her guns against multiculturalism and the Trudeau government's "folly" of bringing 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada.

But if, on her way home, Ms. Le Pen were to read Le Journal de Montréal, a populist tabloid, she might be pleased that a news report about her visit attracted almost 500 readers' comments, most of which strongly supported her views.