A Montreal foundation that raises money for programs for at-risk children and youth is refusing to work with the Quebec far-right group La Meute to collect Christmas gifts for children in protection.
La Meute — or the Wolf Pack — is known for its hardline stance against immigration and multiculturalism, arguing those policies have a negative impact on Quebec society. Its members frequently post Islamophobic comments, and the group has organized protests against what it calls "illegal immigration."
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On Wednesday, on its Facebook page, La Meute announced a new partnership with the Fondation du Centre Jeunesse de Montréal, which raises money to support youth and family services in Montreal's French-language sector.
"I have the pleasure of announcing that an agreement has been reached between La Meute and the Fondation du Centre Jeunesse de Montréal to organize a Christmas gift collection for adolescents going through difficult times," the post states.
"La Meute hopes that every young Quebecer receives the support and tools necessary to become an involved and responsible citizen."
But a flurry of criticism and outcry on social media prompted the foundation to back down on its agreement to work with the controversial group.
The foundation abruptly closed the door on that possibility Thursday morning, with a post on its own Facebook page.
"In response to information circulating on social media, the Fondation de Centre Jeunesse de Montréal stipulates that it will not be going ahead with an agreement with La Meute," the post reads.
La Meute's chief spokesperson, Sylvain Brouillette, was surprised to hear that news when contacted by CBC News this morning.
Brouillete told CBC that his group had a written contract with the foundation to collect the donations.
Foundation didn't anticipate repercussions
Later in the day, CBC was able to reach a spokesperson for the foundation, who explained its decision.
Executive director Isabelle Levesque said the foundation was aware of La Meute and its beliefs in a general sense, but thought they could put their differences aside.
"We said to ourselves, OK, members of La Meute are also people with children, they are also people who want to do something good," Levesque said.
"For me, the factor that guided the choice [to work with them] was that they are people who want to give presents to children who otherwise wouldn't have gifts for Christmas."
She acknowledged that they should've probably taken more time to vet the group and think about the possible consequences.
"On the spot, I didn't see all the repercussions that it could have on a political level."
Once she saw the public outcry on social media, Levesque said a decision was made to terminate the contract.
She said she didn't want the public outcry to harm the youth that her foundation works to help.
Plus, she added, La Meute also breached some of the clauses of their agreement, which included a requirement to have the foundation approve any promotional material used to promote the Christmas drive.
Brouillette is disappointed, but said La Meute agreed to terminate the contract since it was clear the foundation was no longer interested.
"I find it sad for the children," he said.
"I think that we should've put the interests of the children before our political issues."
Brouillete said the group plans to continue with a Christmas drive and find a new partner willing to accept their donations.