Those who follow the developments around the subject of racism in Quebec note the confusion of decision-maker in how to deal with this phenomenon that worries many parts of the diverse Quebec society.
Quebec’s stakeholder’s general problem of how to deal with racism is evident. It ranges from complete denial, to a timid admission of its presence, always with a “but …”, to an exaggeration of the situation.
The overstatement of racism as a subject in the province may be related to the lack of political will to address this dilemma and disregard its negative implications. Furthermore, some may believe that political class and even some social elements inflame the notion of prejudice in the province. As clear example is illustrated by Bill 21, which many consider as giving “legitimacy” to discrimination against Quebec women because of their backgrounds and to “give the green light” to blatant racism against other parts of society because of their cultural diversity, customs, and traditions.
In addition, many human rights reports and studies highlight the notion of “systemic racism” in many official sectors in Quebec and their existing policies that lead to ethnic-based discrimination. Moreover, most of those who complain about this situation are part of the province’s citizens of African descent in particular.
The main media outlets more frequently report about the more-than-average arrests of Black citizens by the police, and the misconduct labelled as based on racial and ethnic grounds. Many reports’ “conclusions” have been issued by human rights organizations that confirm these “assumptions”.
Faced with the impetus of calls for action against racism, some developments in this regard have taken place, rendered through some decisions and appointments, as well as through the approval of policy changes in some official sectors, including in particular the police force that is the subject of most complaints. At the start, there was the appointment of Mrs. Bochra Mannaei by the Municipal Council of the City of Montreal to be the head of a specialized committee to deal with what is known as “systemic racism”. The appointment of Mrs. Mannaei , who is a Muslim of Arab origins, led to severely stormy reactions from some influential political and media voices that were described as Islamophobic and racist.
The irony is that Mrs. Mannaei did not escape criticism even from those who were expected to be on her side, due to the color of her skin, even though she is from North Africa.
In addition, the establishment of a specialized ministry for combating racism in the provincial government came as a remarkable step, since Prime Minister Francois Legault is one of the politicians who rejected the idea of systemic racism’s existence in the province.
The Minister of Environment, Mr. Benoit Charette, has been appointed to lead the new ministry. Mr. Charette, too, has not escaped a wave of criticism for being white.
It is worth noting that Mr. Sharett was one of the closest associates of the Muslim Quebec community, and we had close ties with him when CAQ was in opposition and before the party’s distinctiveness turned into adopting policies that observers considered to be leaning more towards the “identity-based” political current.
Furthermore, the City Council of Montreal adopted a set of recommendations issued by the Security Committee, which was formed a year ago to study how to reduce “racial profiling”, which is a method the police consistently use to handle citizens on the basis of racial stereotypes.
All these facts indicate, without a doubt, that burying one’s head in the sand and treating racism in Quebec as an empty phenomenon, is no longer possible.
It was necessary to make decisions that reflect at least a sense of interest, at least outwardly, in the need to seriously combat this disease. The positivity of these decisions cannot be denied, which may reflect an admission, albeit implicitly, that there are some sectors in Quebec suffering, like other Western societies, from the spread of societal tension on odious racist grounds.
The real challenge remaining is to transform the encouraging current trends that have been witnessed recently and detailed in this article into serious change in dealing with racism, and not to ignore the noticeable increase in incidents linked to racial identities and ethnic stereotypes. Expectations are that the populist tide will not concede easily to the process of confronting racism. However, the majority of Quebec is distinguished by its openness and adaptation to the diverse backgrounds of it’s population, and they will have the final word on this issue. Ultimately, we can trust that Quebec will not accept this speck of staining on it’s proud identity.