Premier Philippe Couillard expressed doubts Wednesday about how the province’s consultations on systemic racism are being handled, telling reporters he believes it’s time to rethink the process.
“I think the important thing is to reconnect the process with the results that we want to obtain,” he said.
Systemic racism is the practice wherein people discriminate--sometimes unwittingly--against those who do not share their own ethnic and cultural background in a myriad of ways, such as deciding who to hire.
Couillard and two other Liberal MNAs, Michel Matte and Patrick Huot, identified the systemic racism consultations as a factor in the devastating loss for the Liberals in the Louis-Hebert by-election on Monday night.
Some Quebecers have expressed discomfort, saying they are unhappy with the process. The PQ and CAQ have referred to it as putting Quebecers on trial; that it suggests Quebec society as a whole is racist.
"I think he realizes that a number of Quebecers feel that the commission is completely uncalled for," said PQ leader Jean-Francois Lisée.
Francois Legault echoed that sentiment.
"He should cancel this commission today and end all unfair accusations against Quebecers," said the CAQ leader.
Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil said the opposition leaders don't understand the intent of the hearings.
"Nobody's on trial. Nobody's saying that Quebecers are racist. We're just saying there are best practices to move forward to make sure that everybody is included," said Weil.
Couillard said systemic racism is a real issue for visible minorities and something the province is seeking to address.
“Many people in Quebec do not have the feeling that they fully participate in our society, both for work-related issues and housing, etc.,” he said.
He is now, however, rethinking ways to approach the process.
“We need to think about this, we need to discuss it with my colleagues here at the caucus and eventually we'll come back to you,” he said, heading into a caucus meeting.
Weil later confirmed that the consultations will take place.
Minority groups push for consultations
Minority group leaders say the opposition leaders don't understand why the consultations into society's problems are necessary..
"This is not about one government or another or one party or another. This is about hundreds of thousands of Quebecers who are being marginalized for nothing else than their skin color or their religion," said Emilie Nicolas of Quebec Inclusif.
An umbrella group including Quebec Inclusif, the South Asian Women Centre, and others gathered Wednesday to show their support for the hearings.
Mei Chiu of Chinois Progressistes du Quebec, said instead of fighting the process the opposition parties should reach out to ethnic groups.
"It makes me feel like I'm being silenced. It feels like I'm being treated like a child, you know? Everyone else, all the 'grown ups' are talking about me and no one is asking me 'hey what do you think?" said Chiu.
"Ip until now the public discourse has been monopolized by the politicians, by majority white francophone faces. This is why we are before you today."
Minority groups said they will work together to ensure the hearings take place, and that the majority of Quebecers realize how the systems in place affect them.
Fo Niemi, executive director of CRARR, said cancelling the hearings would be a bad move for the Liberals.
"If it was cancelled it would send a very bad message that the premier backs down on a very important social ethical and moral issue of the day which is the fact that there is discrimination. There is racism here."