Protesters want Legault to scrap plans for secular charter
Anti-racism demonstrators held a rally on Sunday afternoon in downtown Montreal, urging the CAQ to change its stances on immigration and religious expression.
Over a thousand people attended the march, which began at Place Emilie-Gamelin, went down Rene Levesque Blvd and ended on Ste. Catherine St.
Chants of “Hey hey, ho ho, Francois Legault has got to go” and “Make racists afraid again” were sung as they marched through downtown.
They want new premier Francois Legault to reverse his vow to create a secular charter that would ban people in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols.
“We consider them to be racist policies,” said Marlihan Lopez of the Federation of Quebec Women. “Even though they consider themselves not to be racist, their policies are racist.”
Members of Sunday's crowd, which included a large number of women in hijabs, made it clear that they weren't among the new premier's supporters.
"Not only will I keep my veil, Mr. Legault, I'll put on my cowboy hat to fight for my rights," read one poster.
"Stop telling us to take off our clothes," read another that was accompanied by a hand-drawn picture of a woman with her head covered.
Jennifer Jerome, a Mi'kmaq woman, said she was there to act as an example for all of Quebec's children, including her own four kids.
"We are first peoples here, and we shouldn't have any politician discriminate against others that are coming here and creating our diversity, in Montreal especially," she said.
"Quebec wouldn't be anything without immigration."
While Legault's party won 74 of Quebec's 125 seats in last week's election, only two of those were on the island of Montreal, which has 27 ridings.
Yazid Mahlah, 18, was one of about a dozen people at the front of the crowd helping to hold up a large black banner denouncing racism and hate.
He explained that he was there for his mother, who wears a Muslim head covering.
"If you take away my mother's veil, basically you take my mother from me," he said. "You take her identity from her."
Legault’s proposition brings back memories of just five years ago.
A similar decree, the Quebec Charter of Values, was proposed in 2013 by Pauline Marois and the Parti Quebecois.
Like Legault, Marois threatened to invoke the notwithstanding clause to pass the legislation.
Ultimately, the bill died before the 2014 election.
This time, however, the CAQ has a majority in the National Assembly.
“It’s shocking because they say, ‘Well the Taliban are telling women to cover themselves,’” one protestor said. “Now you’re telling me to take it off, so how are you any different?”
The CAQ released a statement, saying that it rejects all accusations of racism and that Quebecers are generous and welcoming.
Still, the very idea that a values charter is once again being proposed is angering some Montrealers.
“We’re going to come out every day if it’s necessary,” said Lopez. “We’re not going to let a government use its populist agenda to [target] populations.”
With files from The Canadian Press