Legault sets up anti-racism task force, remains adamant systemic racism does not exist in Quebec
MONTREAL -- Despite Premier Francois Legault's insistence that there is no systemic racism in Quebec, the CAQ government is rolling out a task force to combat racism.
The government announced on Monday it is putting together a group of seven CAQ MNAs "to develop a series of effective actions to combat racism."
The MNAs will study areas including public security, justice, education, housing, jobs and the workplace before submitting "concrete recommendations" by the fall.
Legault said there's a consensus on two things regarding racism in Quebec: that the vast majority of Quebecers are not racist, but that there are racist people in Quebec.
Still, Legault dug in his heels on the term 'systemic racism,' repeating on several occasions that he believes there is none in the province.
"My definition of systemic racism is that there's a system in Quebec of racism, and I don't think there's a system," he said. "Why do we have to fight for months about one word instead of fighting together against racism?"
Legault's action group will be led by cabinet ministers Lionel Carmant, Nadine Girault and Sylvie D'Amours. Both Carmant and Girault are Black Quebecers and said they had experienced racial profiling in their lives and careers.
Carmant said he wanted to tackle racial profiling as he had experienced it himself. When asked if she'd experienced systemic racism, Girault would not use the term.
"I have been a victim of racism during my career," she said. "Ask me what type of racism? For me, it doesn't matter. It's racism."
D'Amours is the minister responsible for Indigenous affairs.
The Quebec premier has come under fire for his controversial Bill 21, which forbids people in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols on the job. Many have criticized the law, saying it unfairly targets visible minorities.
Legault said he believes there's a difference between racism and secularism.
"For me, secularism is not racism. That's it, that's all," he said. "We cannot mix Bill 21 in fighting against racism. Bill 21 is about secularism. And it's good for everyone is the world, regardless of the colour of people."
The task force consists of two former police officers: Ian Lafreniere, who served as spokesperson for the Montreal police, and Denis Lamothe, a former Quebec provincial police officer who worked in the Indigenous communities of Kuujjuaq and Kuujjuaraapik, but it does not include any Indigenous representation.
When asked why, Legault stated that there are no Indigenous MNAs in the CAQ government.
The task force also does not include any members from Quebec's opposition parties.
Legault said that's because he didn't want the action group to be slowed by a parliamentary commission that was multi-partisan, saying it would have taken a year before any measures were implemented.
"The opposition parties are going to be called to make proposals," he said, adding "we want an action group that will work quickly."
The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador said in a statement on Monday evening that it wasn't too impressed by the idea of "yet another consultation," given how many have been done that are full of proposals.
The group invited Legault to outline "the concrete measures" he was going to take after reports like the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and then they could talk.
"Once the Legault government has finally done its homework, the AFNQL will be ready to sit down with its emissaries and examine what concrete measures could be taken quickly to counter the unacceptable plague of systemic discrimination against First Nations," said the statement.