McGill University professor refutes columnist’s claim that he advocates 'symbolic' circumcision of girls
MONTREAL -- A McGill University philosopher and law professor is strongly refuting a Montreal columnist’s claim that he supports “symbolic” circumcisions of girls.
Richard Martineau, a perennially controversial columnist for Le Journal de Montreal, the city’s most widely read newspaper, wrote in his Wednesday column that Daniel Weinstock advocated at a conference on secularism in 2012 that Quebec doctors perform a procedure known as the “Seattle compromise.”
The procedure - which involves a ‘nick’ of a girl’s genitalia rather than a complete circumcision – was so named after a 1996 case in which a group of Somali women convinced a medical centre in Seattle to perform the lesser procedure, threatening to take their daughters elsewhere to have a full genital circumcision performed.
“We do the circumcision of Jewish and Muslim boys,” Martineau quotes Weinstock as having said. “Could we offer this community to do something that would only impose a brand on girls? Could we offer this to the Muslim community to avoid the worst?"
Martineau’s column went on to excoriate the Quebec government for having invited Weinstock to be an expert at a forum Friday to discuss what the province should do to replace the recently cancelled ethics and religious culture class in Quebec schools. Martineau also lambasted Weinstock – calling him a “bozo” at one point - on his podcast Politiquement Incorrect.
Shortly after the column was published, a spokesperson for Quebec Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge said that in light of what was published in Martineau’s column, the department would be rescinding its invitation to Weinstock.
However, Weinstock does not appear to have ever endorsed the “Seattle compromise” and refuted Martineau’s claim, which Weinstock said had also been falsely made against him several years ago by Huffington Post columnist Francois Doyon. (Weinstock says Doyon subsequently apologized for the claims).
"I think that no compromise should be made with female genital cutting at all," Weinstock told CTV News, saying he was disturbed by Martineau's lack of journalistic ethics and the government's quick action to remove him from the forum based on the report. "But what is truly terrifying, and I'm measuring my words, is that without any attempt to reach out to me, or to other people, or to other experts before a declaration was made. But rather just acting in a very public way, making a political decision based on just one article coming out of the Quebecor empire send a shiver up my spine quite frankly," he said.
Opposition politicians in Quebec City weighed in. "Reacting so quickly to a single opinion piece in a single newspaper. We expect our minister to take policy decision based on evidence, based on facts, not based on a columnist opinion," Quebec Solidaire spokesperson, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, said.
"It shows you that the CAQ is obviously often fast decisions, this government has been doing it for a long period of time now," interim Liberal leader Pierre Arcand said.
Martineau did not respond to requests for comment.