Liberals, Muslims take aim at Legault over Islamophobia comments
Quebec Premier Francois Legault faced criticism from political opponents and Quebec’s Muslim community on Friday over comments he made the day before suggesting Islamophobia was not an issue in the province.
Interim Liberal leader Pierre Arcand emerged from a caucus meeting to address the issue with media. He said Legault’s comments showed that he was out of touch with what’s happening on Quebec and demanded the premier apologize.
Arcand said that while Islamophobia isn’t widespread, there’s no doubt it is something that exists in Quebec.
“This is something that I think is something that doesn’t exist in large proportions in the province of Quebec, but it exists like it exists everywhere else,” said Arcand. “I don’t know exactly why he doesn’t want to see what the reality is, but I think, very frankly, he’s out of touch.”
Quebec Solidaire co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois tweeted his own criticism, saying that while Legault argues Islamophobia doesn't exist in Quebec "if he read the comments on his own Facebook page, he'd probably change his mind."
Donc @francoislegault soutient que l’islamophobie n’existe pas. S’il lisait les commentaires laissés sur sa propre page Facebook, il changerait probablement d’idée. Bonne lecture Monsieur le premier ministre. #polqc #AssNat https://t.co/CRwDUBUCdb— Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois (@GNadeauDubois) February 1, 2019
On Thursday, Legault shot down suggestions that Quebec recognize a formal day against Islamophobia, going against comments from Public Security Minister Genevieve Guilbault, who had said the government was “open to being a part of those discussions.”
Legault refused to back down on Friday.
“Unfortunately, there are still too many racist acts that occur in our society and we have to do all that is possible to denounce and fight hatred and intolerance,” he said in a statement. “However, there is no trend or culture of Islamophobia in Quebec. Quebecers are open and tolerant and they shall continue to exhibit these qualities.”
The National Council of Canadian Muslims also criticized Legault’s remarks, calling them “highly offensive and inaccurate.”
“These comments, coming less than 48 hours after Premier Legault stood on a stage and publically commemorated the murders of six Quebec Muslims in the January 29th Quebec City mosque attack, are an absolute insult to the families of the victims and to Muslim communities in Quebec and across Canada who continue to grieve this tragedy,” says NCCM Executive Director Ihsaan Gardee.