The upcoming Quebec provincial election taking place on October 3 will mark a decisive moment for the province’s future policy-making. While the CAQ has dominated advanced polls for months, the party’s governance since Premier François Legault was elected in 2018 has remained highly controversial. With polls opening next Monday, it is crucial to remember the ways in which the CAQ has repeatedly ignored and outright failed Quebec’s communities in these particularly difficult years.
Under the CAQ, Quebecers have endured countless new and disastrous policies that have further marginalized and divided people across the province. Throughout the entirety of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CAQ displayed complacency and negligence through its inability to remedy the rampant understaffing and shortage of hospital beds within Quebec’s health care system. Instead, the methods that the CAQ employed to lower the spread of the virus relied on coercion. This led to the enactment of policies like curfews that disproportionately affected marginalized peoples by directing further funding to overpolicing. In a misdirected response to increased gun violence in Montreal, furthermore, the CAQ pledged to increase police spending by $250 million over the next five years – which will, in effect, further criminalize racialized minorities.
Over the past four years, the CAQ has formalized its exclusionary policies into laws that have harmed marginalized communities. Bill 32, implemented this past June with the supposed objective of “protecting university academic freedom,” has been decried by students and professors alike since it allows the free use of slurs as long as they are used in an “academic environment.” The language-reforming Bill 96, meanwhile, has created barriers to accessing social and legal services for Quebec’s English-speaking minority and allophones, particularly Indigenous peoples and new immigrants. Bill 21, implemented to promote “secularism” in the province, instead discriminates against religious minorities – Muslim hijabi in particular – and Indigenous peoples. The hypocrisy of the Bill is clear given Legault’s announcement to invest an estimated $40 million into the preservation of Quebec’s religious heritage.
It is resoundingly clear that Legault is unwilling to listen to the concerns of Quebecers criticizing his government’s repeated inaction and complacency. Recently, Legault has come under fire again for continuing to deny the existence of systemic anti-Indigenous racism in the Quebec medical system. This month, two years following the murder of 37-year-old Joyce Echaquan in a Joliette hospital, Legault claimed that members of Atikamekw nation and Carol Dubé, Echaquan’s husband, “want to have a debate about words rather than ensuring that we fix the problems on the ground.” Additionally, he dismissed the problems in hospitals as “fixed”. In an open letter replying to Legault’s comments, Dubé stressed that “the systemic problems that led to Ms. Echaquan’s death are not of a nature that can be ‘fixed’ by essentially cosmetic changes.”
Legault’s deplorable statements come mere weeks after another highly contested campaign in which he tied increased immigration to “violence” and “extremism” and stated that non-francophone immigrants are a threat to Quebec’s “national cohesion”. The continued stronghold that the CAQ has over the province only bolsters Legault more, as the pressing issues that desperately need addressing, such as an improved health system and Indigenous rights, are neglected in favour of protecting reactionary “Québécois values.”
Although the CAQ is projected to win this election, it remains as important as ever to cast your vote on October 3. Youth voter turnout rates in Canada have been notoriously low in past decades, with turnout rates for voters aged 18 to 24 being some 28 per cent lower than those for the 65 to 74 age range. In the 2018 Quebec election, the turnout for those aged 35 and younger was 16 per cent lower than the one for those aged over 35, CTV Montreal reported.
In the face of a government which has consistently resisted change in favour of reactionary social policies, we must take the initiative to offer mutual aid and bring support to organizations and movements fighting to enact positive change. Support initiatives that make health care more accessible to Indigenous peoples, such as the Indigenous Health Centre of Tiohtià:ke. Pressure your local policymakers to adopt Joyce’s Principle, which “demands that all Indigenous people have an equal right to the highest standard of physical and mental health, with a right to traditional medicines and the conservation of their vital medicinal plants, animals and minerals.” Go vote on October 3, as regardless of which party wins this year’s provincial election, it is crucial that we continue to pressure our elected officials to fight against the repressive policies put forth by the CAQ.