TVA Nouvelles Complicit in Islamophobia and Rise of Far-Right, Protesters Say

Demonstrators Call for Sanctions Against Journalist and Network

Montreal police cordoned off the TVA offices from demonstrators, who made speeches in font of the building after marching down Ste. Catherine St. Photo Miriam Lafontaine

After misinformation was spread by TVA Nouvelles, a group of 200 took to Ste. Catherine St. in anger Wednesday night.

Last week, the channel caused an uproar when it broadcasted an inaccurate report claiming a Côte-des-Neiges mosque had banned women construction workers from its site to make way for Friday prayers.

“It’s not about women’s rights, it’s about trying to plant divisions in our communities,” said Essra Daoui, a Muslim woman. “The narrative they’re really pushing is that Muslim women need to be saved from our culture.”

“We have to stay vigilant,” she continued.

Protesters want the channel and journalist involved to be sanctioned for the role the report played in intensifying Quebec’s already Islamophobic climate. They also say the problem has been persistent for years.

“Let’s not forget that in 2017, in light of the massacre at a Quebec City mosque, TVA reporter Pierre Bruneau called the act an instance of ‘reverse terrorism,’” said anti-racist activist Jaouad Laarousi. “As if only Muslim people or Arabs can commit acts of terrorism!”

They argue the channel, and its parent company Quebecor Media more broadly, have played an active role in the rise of the far-right.

“We have to denounce the complicity of the mass media in racism and xenophobia here in Quebec,” said activist Jaggi Singh, who works with the Quebec Public Interest Research Group at Concordia.

The public Facebook page of far-right group La Meute was abuzz the days after TVA’s broadcast.

In the days that followed, the anti-Islam group announced they would protest at the falsely accused Côte-des-Neiges mosque in the name of “women’s rights” on Dec. 15, but later cancelled as it became clear the claims were unfounded.

In an investigation, the Quebec Construction Commission spoke with witnesses from the construction company involved, the two mosques on the street mentioned in TVA’s report, and with the women allegedly targeted. It found no evidence any of the claims made the report.

A small number of protesters in support of La Meute’s initial call out still showed up to the mosque despite the protest being officially cancelled.

The protest against TVA, organized by the same group who led the Nov.12 demonstration against hate and racism, ended at TVA’s offices. Eggs were thrown at the office, and police cordoned off the building from demonstrators.

Some journalists looked down at the crowd from above.

TVA has since retracted the article, and published an apology, saying “TVA Nouvelles regrets the situation we created and wants to apologize to the parties involved and the viewers who have been affected by this news.”

The channel also said at the time they’ll be doing an internal investigation so they can review the journalistic process that was used to put the story together.

The channel has yet to publicly address or acknowledge the demonstration.