Thousands March Against Racism in Montreal

Groups Respond to Bill 62, Changes to Commission in Systemic Racism

Over 160 social rights, political, student and community groups participated in a march against hate, racism and the far-right on Nov. 12, 2017. The leading banners of the protest were those representing Indigenous causes. Photo Brian Lapuz

Over 1,000 people marched against hate, racism, and the rise of the far-right in downtown Montreal this Sunday afternoon.

“It’s a growing movement, and we need to act in our community,” said organizer Stacey Gomez, who also works with the community group Solidarity Across Borders.

A climate of intolerance and racism has started to grow momentum since the mosque shooting in Quebec City last January, various organizers of the Nov. 12 protest said. They believe this intolerance has become normalized, and that its led to the rise of more fringe far-right groups like La Meute. They also said a climate of racism has spread to mainstream politics.

Those at the march were denouncing the recent approval of Bill 62. Co-Vice President of the Fédération des femmes du Québec Marlihan Lopez called the new law a “perfect example of Islamophobia,” because of its effect on Muslim women who wear niqabs and burqas.

“It excludes the right to be in public to a specific group of women, and makes life more precarious for them,” she said.

Photo Elisa Barbier
Many at the march also took offense to the Quebec government’s decision to change the mandate of the commission into systemic racism. It will now focus solely on diversity in the workforce and on how to improve job opportunities for minorities and immigrants.

“The government has chosen to turn its back on all the people who experience racism on a daily-basis,” said Safa Chebbi, community organizer and board member of Alternatives, an organization for justice and equality in Quebec.

“This is not only a betrayal to those who experience racism each day, but now the government is also changing its mandate to follow a neoliberal vision of immigration instead—one that only looks to how we can profit off immigrants,” Chebbi continued.

Over 160 social rights, political, student and community groups participated. The Association for the Voice of Education in Quebec, Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante, Concordia Student Union, and Students’ Society of McGill University all led contingents.

“We gathered here today to show that Quebec society does not only embody hate and racism, but to show that Quebecers also support the inclusion of many different communities, and share a strong sense of solidarity with each other,” said Jaouad Laaroussi, who helped organize the demonstration.

The march began at Parc Émilie-Gamelin, and ended at Place du Canada by a statue of John A. Macdonald that had been defaced Saturday night with red paint.

Photo Shannon Carranco
Organizers aren’t claiming responsibility, and an anonymous statement released this morning detailing the vandalism wrote that “individuals responsible for this action are not affiliated with today’s anti-racist demonstration.”

When asked about the vandalism, Gomez said this act was outside of their control.

“I think that colonial symbols are one thing that we definitely need to be aware of, that they’re in our community,” responded Gomez. “People will choose to react to them in different ways.”

Spokesperson with the SPVM, Andrée-Anne Picard said that an investigation is currently in process to determine what group was responsible. There were no arrests made at the demonstration, said Picard, and police removed provocateurs from the crowd when necessary.

For the most part, the march went on without incident. Though at one point, a car near the corner of Union and Ste. Catherine St. drove into a crowd of demonstrators from Concordia and McGill. No was hurt however.