Are Quebec Officials Really Serious About Fighting All Forms of Animosity, Hate & Discrimination?

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Hussein Hoballah, Montreal

Hate, animosity and discrimination against citizens of different colours or races or religion have non-stop in Quebec. Most recently, a black male and female have been assailed by the police in Quebec City, and a citizen has threatened to kill Jews in a Facebook post. Hence, it is urgent to conduct more practical and stricter measures against haters.

A social-media video shows a man in a police uniform with a group of colleagues kicking snow into a young boy’s face. Another officer can be seen repeatedly kicking the boy, who was handcuffed and held to the ground. Simultaneously, a young female was heard screaming a few meters away; police officers were pulling her hair and dragging her in the snow. 

The Friday, Nov 26th incident has certainly been condemned by many politicians and activists, especially Premier François Legault, as well as Quebec City Mayor Bruno Marchand, who has promised to investigate the incident. Quebec City’s Police Chief Denis Turcotte has confirmed that a police investigation is being held into the conduct the police officers involved in the violent arrest of the black teenagers. Turcotte said he would “not tolerate any act of discrimination,” adding that he “fully trusts in Quebec City’s police… It’s worrisome, so we will try to examine what’s happened and get precise answers as quickly as possible.”

The investigations might not be concluded soon, but we hope they’ll lead to serious and essential measures that uncover the truth first and result in the strictest sentences possible as soon as the defendants are proved guilty, especially when attacks by police forces and others repeatedly target black citizens in different cities.

It’s true offenders and law violators should be strictly dealt with, no matter what their colour or faith is. But the prevalent problem is the racist stereotypes that many people, especially police officers, have adopted.

Denunciations do not suffice; other measures are needed, including adding more black officers to police units and upgrading police officers’ skills and educating them on following the required laws while dealing with offenders, especially offenders that have been more exposed than others to injustice and humiliation. Strikingly, police forces usually deal with blacks more violently than with whites. If this matter is left unconsidered, things will remain unchanged and a tragedy after another will strike.

On another hand, a man from Trois-Rivières (approximately 140 km away from Montreal) has been convicted with inciting hate for calling for the death of Jews in a Facebook post. In January 2021, Patrick Lavoie compared Jews to “a group of racist abusers,” suggesting “bombing a Montreal synagogue and placing the survivors on a plane to get rid of them.”

The court ruled that Lavoie had posted declarations in a public space to incite hate against a particular group. He has received a non-custodial sentence and been placed under a two-year probation, including mandatory community service.

Propagating hate and murder via social media and others is completely unacceptable. Substantial solutions are required and must not be limited to strictly penalising the offenders. Instead, the government’s policy in dealing with civilians in general must be re-examined to eliminate all forms of discrimination against citizens of religious attire, who’ve been pictured as unwanted. Eventually, uneducated citizens cannot be blamed when the government itself enacts discriminatory laws.

So far we’ve seen that things are not going on well; crimes and criminal motives haven’t been properly countered. When Bill 21 got passed, women in hijab, specifically, were insulted and even beaten in the streets sometimes. Jews and Sikhs have as well been attacked. 

Street attacks and social-media provocative posts against Jews and citizens of other faiths and races aren’t any different from the setbacks of Bill 21. Besides, anti-Semitism is completely reprehensible, just like Islamophobia is. Any response that doesn’t tackle both issues is an incomplete one, and it will only reduce the pain rather than heal the wounds once and for all.

We stand by whomever is being discriminated against, attacked or threatened, no matter what his/ her race or faith is. We ask of officials to re-examine the root causes behind all this, including racist convictions and legal provisions. Multiculturalism, freedoms and social security mustn’t be hit hard in the name of secularism.