A group of community leaders and human-rights activists has thrown its support behind mayoral candidate Louise Harel, saying her separatist beliefs have nothing to do with municipal politics.

The group Friends of Louise Harel, which includes anglo and ethnic Montrealers, launched a website on Friday.

Her supporters include Dan Philip, president of the Black Coalition of Quebec, as well as constitutional lawyer Julius Grey.

They say that Harel has the strongest record among the candidates when it comes to social justice and human rights, despite being criticized for her "ethnic cities" comments earlier this year.

Philip points out that Harel supported his proposal for a moratorium on the use of stun guns following the death of a young man in the north end a couple of years ago.

Peter Francis, also of the Black Coalition, tells CTV News that he created the group because Harel is the best candidate, in his view.

"I do not necessarily share the same ideology of separation," he said.

"But this election is not about separation. This election is about bringing opportunities to Montreal."

Grey, a noted jurist who has argued English-rights cases in the past, said Friday that sovereignty is a federal and provincial debate, not a municipal one.

"You want someone who is going to be an excellent mayor, and I think what you have here, is someone who cares about the underprivileged and who wants to unite people," said Grey.

Emotional response

Harel and her Vision Montreal colleague, Benoit Labonte, attended the news conference. Harel said she became very emotional when she found out that people were rallying to her campaign.

"In some papers I was depicted as a witch, and this morning, I feel like you are [painting me as a good fairy]," said Harel.

She has taken criticism for everything from her past as a Parti Quebecois cabinet minister to her comments about Montreal's "ethnic cities" to the quality of her English.

But Harel says she will be a uniting figure if elected on Nov. 1.

"Be sure that at city hall the anglophone community will be welcome when I am mayor," said Harel.

According to the latest Leger poll, very few anglophones are convinced.

A large number of voters are still undecided, and the reality is that most won't vote.