The prime minister said Simon still had work to do learning to speak French, as their meeting left the Parti Québécois in turmoil.

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QUEBEC CITY — Premier Francois Legault says he met with Governor General Mary Simon on Wednesday out of “courtesy,” but that doesn’t mean he has given up on his party’s view that the job, along with that of lieutenant governor of Quebec, should be abolished.

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And Legault said Simon still had work to do to learn to speak French.

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When she was appointed to this position in July 2021, criticism was leveled due to her inability to speak French. Simon speaks English and Inuktitut. She is the first Indigenous person to hold high office in Canada.

“Ideally, we would like to see no more Queen’s Representatives,” Legault told reporters who arrived for Question Period at the Legislative Assembly on Thursday. But he added that cutting the posts would be a complex matter as it would require a constitutional amendment.

“That’s not the current priority in Quebec,” Legault said.

Simon arrived in Quebec City on Wednesday for her first official visit, staying at her secondary official residence at the Citadelle. She met with Quebec Lieutenant Governor J. Michel Doyon, National Assembly President François Paradis and Official Opposition Leader Dominique Anglade.

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The meeting with Legault was his last step, the Prime Minister welcoming him from the top of the patio steps leading to his office in the Honoré-Mercier building. Simon entered through the ornate main doors usually reserved for heads of state or international figures.

Legault and Simon exchanged pleasantries in French in front of the cameras. Simon did not address the media.

Legault said part of their half-hour conversation was in French and part in English.

“Ms. Simon is taking French lessons,” Legault said. “She still has work to do. It’s really not ideal that she doesn’t speak French. On the other hand, she tells me that she takes personal lessons, and that she was able, at the beginning, to pronounce a few sentences in French.

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Legault noted Simon’s vast knowledge of Indigenous issues, adding that all governments try to improve relations with First Nations.

“I think it’s my responsibility when the Governor General asks you to meet,” Legault said. “I do the same with Mr. Doyon. When the Governor General asks me to meet her for half an hour, it is my responsibility to meet her.

But the images of Legault with Simon left the Parti Québécois in turmoil.

PQ leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, who chose not to meet with Simon, said the CAQ government is no better than the previous Liberal government at bowing to the federal system.

“It is a fundamental principle that we should not consent to a regime that has been colonial and oppressive for Quebecers for centuries now,” St-Pierre Plamondon told reporters. “We have a right to self-determination, and one day this will materialize when we become the country of Quebec.

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“It’s a shame. It’s a strong signal that this federalist government (the CAQ) gives credibility to this institution that has no place in Quebec.

“It’s not the person,” added Quebec MP for Matane-Matapédia Pascal Bérubé. “That’s the function. It depicts the Queen of England, the head of the Anglican Church, who reminds us of each time we have been defeated in conquest. And we say, ‘Welcome to the National Assembly.’

“And oh, by the way, the Plains of Abraham are right next door. We could go for a walk. Go on.”

“I am not surprised by what Pascal Bérubé and the PQ say, replied Legault. “They fight for things that aren’t urgent or priorities.”

Meanwhile, Québec solidaire co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois told reporters he had more important things to do with his time than meet with Simon.

“Colonialism and cucumber sandwiches aren’t really my thing,” he added in a tweet.

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Simon also met with Ghislain Picard, President of the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador, and Mandy Gull-Masty, Grand Chief of the Grand Council of the Crees.

She also inspected the honor guard of the Royal 22nd Regiment at the Citadel.

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  2. Mary Simon is sworn in as Canada's first Indigenous Governor General during a ceremony in the Senate Chamber in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, July 26, 2021.

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