Editorial: The CAQ’s Policies Don’t Just Attract Hate Groups—They Normalize Them

Alt-Right Counter-Protesters at Friday’s Demonstration Are Just the Tip of the Iceberg

Graphic Carl Bindman

On Friday, On fait la fête à Jolin-Barrette! attracted about 50 people to protest a speech that Simon Jolin-Barrette, the minister of immigration, francization, and integration, was giving to the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal.

The speech, which was about “how the recent reforms implemented will promote successful immigration to Quebec,” attracted the ire of the protesters, who felt it was disrespectful and flat out wrong to call the Coalition Avenir Québec’s policies successful.

But they weren’t the only ones at Square Victoria on Friday morning. A few counter-protesters, identified by The Link alumnus Jon Milton as far-right activists, showed up to defend the CAQ and Jolin-Barrette, shouting, among other things, “Vive la CAQ!” and “Vive la laïcité!” at the protesters.

It’s pretty damning to your government for members of alt-right hate groups to show up to a protest to defend your policies.

Counter-protesters booed during speeches, including when a hijabi was speaking about her difficulties as an education student, and got into altercations with the crowd, needing to be separated by police. Not exactly what you’d call being civil.

But of course, their presence and behaviour shouldn’t be surprising. The CAQ government has been attracting xenophobes and Islamophobes since before the election.

We’ve made our opinions about the dangers of the CAQ’s policies pretty public. Having actual hate groups defend you at a counter-protest just reinforces the point that these controls on immigration and language appeal to the extreme racists of Quebec society.

It isn’t just hate groups who are on Legault’s side, though; otherwise, he wouldn’t still be so popular.

While many might tell themselves the CAQ aren’t actually being racist, this isn’t the truth. Plenty of people who don’t think they’re racist can be prejudiced and contribute to systematic racism. In fact, that’s exactly what seems to be happening. Many people are watching with a shrug of indifference as minority groups, particularly women, are stripped of their rights.

These far-right activists openly counter-protesting is all part of the normalization process of these actions and beliefs.

Plenty of people are happy to see Jolin-Barrette, a guy that looks like the ordinary suburban Quebecer, enact policies that punish minorities, minorities they feel are replacing them. These ideas are fundamentally racist: the concept of replacement and the idea that one group needs to be disadvantaged to give the majority what it sees as its birthright. Plenty of historical examples with disastrous results reflect these.

The question is why we would want to emulate these basic, primitive reactions instead of making better and more inclusive decisions that would foster unity and a community that can last well into the future.

If the current government attracts the far-right, the racist, and the very worst people Quebec has to offer, that speaks volumes about their nature. Their attempts to distance themselves from racism and xenophobia are absurd when they make decisions that please these same racists and xenophobes.

It shouldn’t be normal for hate groups to show up in broad daylight and defend the government by yelling at students and People of Colour. And yet, that’s exactly what happened on Friday. It’s high time for that normalization to end.