Charette’s appointment to lead fight against racism in Quebec surprises critics
MONTREAL -- Quebec Premier Francois Legault announced that Benoit Charette has been selected to fill a new role as minister responsible for combating racism, but not everyone is thrilled with the CAQ leader’s choice.
At a press conference Wednesday, Legault revealed details of a mini cabinet shuffle that will have Charette splitting his duties between the new anti-racism file in addition to leading the Ministry of the Environment and the Fight against Climate Change.
The premier also announced that MNA Lucie Lecours would take on the economic portfolio, raising the number of ministers working in the Ministry of the Economy and Innovation to three.
Critics say the CAQ government is neglecting the environment at a time when the fight against climate change is a priority.
“This is very worrisome. The government is left with an economic trio, but on the other hand, we have half a minister of the environment,” Greenpeace spokesperson Patrick Bonin told The Canadian Press Wednesday.
The announcement comes on the heels of recommendations of a task force, co-chaired by Immigration Minister Nadine Girault and Social Services junior minister Lionel Carmant, that called for a cabinet-level minister to lead the fight against racism.
Questions are also being raised by Legault’s choice to select Charette, who is white, to lead the new fight against racism file instead of the task force co-chairs. When asked about the appointment, Legault said he believes Charette is the best person for the job.
Charette, 44, was a volunteer aid worker in Haiti in 1995. The father of three is married to a woman of Haitian origin. In the early 2000s, he and his wife won a human rights case after the couple was refused rental accommodation.
Charette said part of his new job isn't just fighting systemic racism, but making sure everyone knows their rights. He said the issue is something many have acknowledged as a big problem in Quebec, including in Montreal and within a number of police forces.
“The same system as the Human Rights Commission is there when there is an injustice about the work, when there is an injustice about the rent for tenants,” he said. “We have that system already in place but unfortunately for many people, they just don’t know that they have many possibilities for that.”
The task force also recommended a national public awareness campaign against all forms of racism.
The government has been saying for months that it wants to act quickly, through concrete actions to be implemented in the short term, while refusing — despite pressure from all sides — to describe the problem of racism in Quebec as “systemic.”
Liberal leader Dominique Anglade said Wednesday she doesn't understand how a government will fix the problems if it doesn't acknowledge systemic racism exists.
With files from The Canadian Press.