The shadow of Emilise Lessard-Therrien casts a heavy shadow over the General Assembly of Solidaire in Quebec


Despite her absence, the shadow of Émilise Lessard-Therrien looms over the opening of the General Assembly of Québec Solidaire (QS).

The reasons for her resignation came to light again on Saturday, forcing the party's parliamentary group leader, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, to make an act of contrition.

“I regret that I did not succeed in preventing his departure. I bear my share of responsibility,” he admitted in his speech on Saturday morning to several hundred supporters who had gathered in Jonquière.

Next to him, Christine Labrie, who stepped in at short notice for Émilise Lessard-Therrien, said: “Everyone would have preferred Émilise to be at the microphone now. I am well aware of that.”

On Saturday, Radio-Canada reported on a document in which the party's former co-chair describes the allegations against her party that prompted her resignation.

She says she was devalued, did not have the resources to do her job and was turned down after an interview with the public broadcaster. Lessard-Therrien also claims there was no chemistry between her and her male counterpart Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois.

“It is time to modernize Quebec in solidarity”

The resignation sent shockwaves through the party. After a few difficult weeks marked by numerous exchanges of letters, the general assembly is a decisive moment for Nadeau-Dubois, who wants to convey the Saguenay Declaration to his members. He also wants to streamline the party program to make it more “pragmatic.”

“It's time to modernize Québec Solidaire, as we have done several times in the past,” he told his supporters. But Québec Solidaire's parliamentary leader received a boost this week when CAQ Housing Minister France-Élaine Duranceau introduced a bill to better protect older renters, a long-standing demand of QS.

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois immediately pointed out this final gain in his opening speech.

“We all make sacrifices in our political engagement for a reason. Well, here's my reason,” he said.

The party is clearly looking forward to heated debates this weekend. Saturday began with a speech by Martin Roy, a member of the QS Ethics Committee, aimed at making the discussions at the congress more harmonious.

“I urge us to move away from blame, because it is harmful to climate activism,” he told members. This intervention “is a new practice developed as part of our reflection on improving our healthy debate practices,” the party's statement said.

This week, QS MP Alexandre Leduc wrote a letter ahead of the weekend's debates urging activists to remain loyal to the party despite possible disappointments. On Saturday, he acknowledged the risk that members might tear up their voting cards.

“I hope there will be as few as possible… It always breaks my heart when something like this happens,” he said.

Referendum against immigration

During his speech, Nadeau-Dubois took the opportunity to sharply criticize the Parti Québécois.

“We cannot allow Paul St-Pierre Plamondon to turn the great and beautiful project of Quebec's independence into a referendum against immigration,” he said to applause from his supporters.

The QS parliamentary leader drew a parallel between the PQ leader and Premier François Legault. “Most of the time they agree. Housing, schools, French, public services; whatever the problem, for these two, immigration is always to blame,” he argued.

He also attacked the “good old” Liberal Party for “dreaming of a return to austerity”.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 24, 2024.