Immigration minister says systemic racism hearings will proceed
Published Wednesday, September 20, 2017 12:44PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, September 21, 2017 10:36AM EDT
Opposition parties say they aren't happy with the government's approach to the hearings on systemic racism.
The Parti Quebecois and Coalition Avenir Quebec want the hearings cancelled, with the PQ introducing a motion to that effect on Wednesday.
The hearings are being overseen by the Quebec Human Rights Commission which is having its own problems as former employees complain about its president, Tamara Thermitus.
The Commission will be holding its hearings behind closed doors so that those testifying will be able to maintain some privacy as they share their personal stories.
Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil has defended that decision and on Wednesday said, once again, that the hearings will continue no matter what.
"It's an absolutely necessary exercise. You can talk to your neighbours, friends, colleagues. There's always somebody who's lived it, so everybody knows it's a reality," said Weil.
CAQ leader Francois Legault said that while there are racists in Quebec, he does not think there are systems or policies that routinely discriminate against non-white or non-francophone Quebecers.
"I think right now, in Quebec, some people are racist, alright? And we have to propose ways to eliminate, at least, reduce this number of people. But the approach of Mr. Couillard to say that there is a system of racism in Quebec, I don't accept that," said Legault.
The PQ introduced a motion Wednesday morning calling on the government to cancel the hearings which it says have produced widespread discontentment.
In its place, the PQ says the government should simply implement measures to stop discrimination.
The PQ said there is a problem, pointing to Hydro-Quebec as an example, where more than 20,000 people work, but only about 300 are minorities.
Still, PQ leader Jean-Francois Lisée said the majority of Quebecers feel unfairly targeted by the hearings.
“They're not reacting well to what they feel is a judgment, a trial against them collectively,” he said.
Meanwhile Quebec Solidaire has called on the government to host emergency meetings between political parties because the issue has become so polarizing.
QS MNA Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois said his party wants the hearings to go ahead, although perhaps not at this time, adding that it's time to regroup and discuss the matter peacefully.
“Just like Ontario did, we can have a very peaceful and civilized discussion, and constructive discussion, on how we can deal with those issues,” he said.
The PQ has proposed what it says are concrete measures aimed at fighting racism, including anonymous CVs, so people don't face discrimination based on their names when applying for jobs.
Lisée is accusing the Liberals of dragging their feet and wasting time with consultations.
“If you want to solve the issue, solve the issue!” he said.
The PQ’s motion forced a two-hour debate over whether the consultations should be cancelled, but with the Liberal majority, the opposition didn't stand a chance: 36 MNAs voted for it, 59 against.