Calls for Quebec premier to apologize after Liberal Greg Kelley gets scolding for comments about Joyce Echaquan's death
MONTREAL -- There are calls for Quebec Premier François Legault to apologize after he verbally attacked Liberal MNA Greg Kelley for comments he made comparing several of the province's controversial laws with the death of Joyce Echaquan.
Kelley was reprimanded Wednesday by party leader Dominique Anglade for the comments, which were part of an on-camera speech he made last June.
In it, the MNA for Jacques-Cartier says he judges the Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) government on its actions following Echaquan's death, while also denouncing the CAQ's secularism and language bills.
"I ask you to judge (the CAQ) on its actions," he said. "The first thing they did was to pass a law that reduced immigration and the number of refugees."
"The second is Bill 21 (on secularism)," he continued. "And now let's talk about Joyce Echaquan... Thousands of people marched in the streets to demand that the government recognize systemic racism. And let me add Bill 96 (on French as an official language), again with the notwithstanding clause, used to restrict and remove rights."
When asked if she plans to disassociate herself from Kelley's statements, Anglade responded: "I said that we should stay away from the amalgams that are being made."
On Tuesday, in the House, the premier said he was shocked that Kelley would dare make a comparison between Echaquan and Bill 96, which plans to revamp the province's French language law.
"Where I have a problem is when we see a video from the Jacques-Cartier MNA who makes an amalgam with Joyce Echaquan," he said, pointing a finger at Kelley.
The comment forced the Speaker of the National Assembly François Paradis to request for calm.
This came as the politicians were debating Joyce's Principle, which hopes to establish ways to overcome systemic racism for Indigenous people. The CAQ has yet to acknowledge that systemic racism exists in Quebec.
Anglade then asked the premier to apologize because she felt the attacks had no place on a day that was supposed to be a tribute to Echaquan, on the one-year anniversary of her death.
Nevertheless, on Wednesday, Legault insisted he did not regret his previous day's comments.
"It's odious," he said. "He made the connection between Joyce Echaquan's death, Bill 21 (on religious symbols) and Bill 96, which strengthens the French language. As premier of Quebec, I couldn't let that go."
The Atikamekw mother died at Joliette Hospital after suffering racist taunts from hospital staff.
She livestreamed her experience on Facebook, while she cried in pain due to stomach pains.
The video went viral after her death, leading to calls from across the country to improve conditions and services for Indigenous people in the health-care network.
With files from The Canadian Press.