Thousands Protest Francois Legault’s Policies as “Racist”

Immigrants Still Remain Scapegoats Activists Say

Thousands gathered on Sunday, calling out newly elected Premier of Quebec, France Legault’s policies as “racist”. Photo Miriam Lafontaine

Approximately 2000 people gathered to condemn Quebec’s newly elected premier Francois Legault’s and the Coalition Avenir Québec’s “racist policies” on Sunday at a demonstration against racism.

“This proposed law is misogynistic and racist,” said Safa Chebbi from Alternatives on Legault’s plan to ban people from wearing religious symbols.

Earlier this week, Legault said he plans to use the notwithstanding clause—a clause that allows provincial legislators to overturn parts of the Charter of Rights—to ban public servants such as teachers, judges and prosecutors in Quebec from wearing Muslim hijab, Jewish kippa or Sikh turban in the workplace.

“[It’s] strengthening hate and divisions in our society,” Chebbi said.

“We’re in the process of taking away Quebecers rights,” she said. “We’re now dehumanizing these women and we’re forgetting that we’re talking about regular people: families, mothers. It’s irresponsible to debate this question.”

Vice president of the Federation of Women of Quebec, Marlihan Lopez said that the CAQ’s proposal on religious symbols divides people.

For Lopez, the objective of the law is to stigmatize Muslim women—an already vulnerable group.

Chants of “refugees in, racists out. Immigrants in fascists out,” resonated as protestors passed the John A. MacDonald statue on Rene-Levesque, which was once again defaced with red paint over the weekend. Many also booed as they passed the statue.

Legault’s proposed policies for newcomers, such as submitting immigrants to French and Quebec value tests and cutting immigration levels by 20 per cent, were contentious in Montreal throughout the election campaign.

“Immigrants became a scapegoat,” said Lopez. “Even though [the CAQ] consider themselves not to be racist, their policies are racist and they’re going to have a huge impact on small communities, and we’re here to resist that.”

“We’re going to come out everyday if it’s necessary,” she continued. “We’re going to fight it til the end so [Legault] better prepare for the work.”

On Thursday’s 13th annual vigil for missing and murdered Indigenous women, Mohawk activist and artist Ellen Gabriel from Kanehsatà:ke community voiced her own frustrations over the latest provincial elections, saying Indigenous rights and sovereignty was hardly up for discussion.

“It was a complete shame this campaign, it was really hard,” said Maya Cousineau Mollen, who is from the Innu Montagnais First Nation and member of Wolf Pack Street Patrol—an initiative that aims to help Indigenous homeless in Montreal.

“We also want to remind the Premier Legault […] it’s very important he respects us and show in concrete way this respect.”

Lopez said Indigenous people are often ignored and and “completely erased from political debates.”

“For me its funny to see a government say there isn’t systemic racism when the biggest example is the violence they have committed to our Indigenous communities here,” said Lopez. “Our message is to claim, to assume once and for all, ‘Yes we have systemic racism here in Quebec and here in Canada’ and we need to start working towards ways to overcome it.”