content warning: xenophobia, Islamophobia, racism
On October 7, thousands of people attended the Great Demonstration Against Racism, which was co-organized by multiple organizations, including the public group “Contre la Haine et le Racisme.” The event, initiated last year, was planned before the results of the Quebec elections came out. Following the electoral victory of the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) on October 1, the march evolved into a protest against the party’s xenophobic rhetoric.
Across the province, and at McGill, people have been debating whether or not the CAQ is racist. We believe that it is justified to call the CAQ racist, as the party propagates policies that are Islamophobic and xenophobic. The CAQ has proposed reducing immigration from 50,000 to 40,000 people per year and banning religious dress for public servants.
Supporters, and even some opponents, of the CAQ argue that it is not racist to want to limit immigration, framing anti-immigration measures as “self-protection.” This construes “outsiders” as a threat to a nationalist, white, Quebecois identity. More importantly, this logic scapegoats immigrants for systemic economic problems and perpetuates discrimination against largely racialized and low-income immigrant communities. The xenophobic rhetoric that the CAQ espouses has negative effects on the daily lives of immigrants in this province. For these reasons, it is justified to call the CAQ racist.
Similarly, it is often argued that banning religious symbols is not racially motivated. Since the Quiet Revolution, which sparked a transition towards secularism in the province, Quebec has actively engaged in separating the Church and state. However, unlike in the sixties, “secularism” today almost exclusively targets marginalized groups. People who wear overt religious symbols are mostly of Muslim, Jewish, or Sikh faiths. The policy proposed by the CAQ forces people to choose between expressing their faith or facing economic and social consequences. Given that people of these faiths are predominantly racialized, the consequences of this policy disproportionally affect people of colour. As such, labelling the CAQ as racist is justified.
Far-right organizations and parties have shown support for the CAQ in multiple instances. A member of self-described “ultranationalist” and far-right group Storm Alliance defended the CAQ on former SSMU VP External Marina Cupido’s Facebook post, which condemned the party’s racist policies. Additionally, Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right party Rassemblement National in France, and La Meute, an explicitly anti-immigrant and Islamophobic Quebec-based organization, issued statements in support of the CAQ. Although the CAQ has tried to distance themselves from both organizations, it does not negate the fact that far-right groups endorse each other because of their similarly racist policies. To quote a spokesperson for La Meute addressing CAQ leader Francois Legault, “if La Meute is on the cusp of racism, then you are as well, Mr. Legault.”
Defendants of the CAQ see “racist” as an insult. Calling a political party racist, however, is not an attack on their identity. It is a political statement that condemns the perpetuation of systemic injustice and oppression.
To see a photo essay from the Demonstration, go to the News section.