Posted on October 4, 2017

Quebec Will Rethink Systemic Racism Hearings

Philip Authier, Montreal Gazette, October 4, 2017

Stung by Monday’s electoral defeat, Premier Philippe Couillard says the government is rethinking the idea of holding hearings this fall into systemic racism.

Conceding the controversial idea of the hearings was a factor in the Liberal’s electoral defeat Monday in the riding of Louis-Hébert, Couillard said he and the caucus will be discussing the process already set out.

Couillard said the goal of fighting systemic racism remains. It’s how to get there that the government is rethinking.

“We are going to reflect on the way to attain the most concrete results for people who feel they are not as well accepted by our society,” Couillard told reporters on arriving for a morning caucus meeting.

“Often in situations like this we have to ask ourselves, what was the result we wanted? Why were doing this? Again, it is not to put anyone on trial. It is (to find out) how is it that some people in society feel excluded from the workplace, excluded from housing.

“We never wanted to accuse anyone, or make anyone feel guilty,” Couillard said. “Certainly not. I don’t think Quebec is more to blame than other societies in this domain.

“What we want to do is reconnect the process with the results we want to achieve.”

Asked if his comments open the door to outright scrapping of hearings, Couillard said: “I won’t go there now because I want to talk to the caucus. We’ll get back to you.”

He suggested part of the reason the hearing got such a bad rap is because opposition politicians twisted the concept into the idea the government wants to put Quebecers on trial.

Couillard insisted it would be wrong to conclude the hearings — which have been roundly criticized outside the Montreal region including by two Quebec City Liberal MNAs Tuesday — are the only factor in the election defeat.

He said it was among many factors, such as significant instability in the choice of candidates. Both the Liberals and Coalition Avenir Québec lost their initial candidates because of allegations of workplace harassment in their previous careers.

But Couillard said he’s ready to take his lumps, and got the message Monday.

“The voters sent us a very important message,” Couillard said. “We have to listen to it. In life what matters is not the slap which was inflicted, it’s how we pull ourselves back up and what we do with the message.

“I am not minimalizing the result in Louis-Hébert. I am not happy at all. I want us to win the riding next time.”

Turning the hearing process around won’t be easy. Being handled by Quebec’ human rights commission, hearings are set to begin in all regions of Quebec this month, culminating in a big provincial forum in November.

Quebec has allocated $900,000 to the process.