Nationalist group wants next week's English debate cancelled

The nationalist Mouvement Québec Français is urging the four main party leaders to back out of next Monday's English-language debate, saying their participation diminishes the notion that French is Quebec's common language.

"The party leaders have the duty to show themselves to be coherent and to set an example on the status of French as the only common language of Quebec," a statement issued Wednesday morning from the group's leader, Maxime Laporte, reads. "In accepting to take part in a national debate in the language of Shakespeare on TV, what message are they sending to out fellow allophone citizens, who are largely anglicized? Oh, well! That learning French is neither necessary nor important, in the end...that even our aspiring premiers, all raised as francophones, are ready to serve in English, like our public institutions, which are becoming increasingly bilingual."

Laporte adds creating such a precedent is "irresponsible", and that it's not too late for the party leaders to drop out.

"To hell with the spirit of Bill 101!" his statement reads.

This past spring, all four party leaders quickly and enthusiastically endorsed the notion of having an English-language pre-election leaders' debate — the first one since a 1985 debate on CJAD 800 between the Liberals' Robert Bourassa and then-incumbent PQ premier Pierre-Marc Johnson.

The English-language leaders' debate will be broadcast live on CJAD 800 starting at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 17.