No evidence any Montreal mosque asked women be barred from work site, construction board finds

An investigation by Quebec's construction board has confirmed that no Montreal mosque sought to exclude women from a nearby work site during Friday prayers.

Premier blasts 'baseless' media report that he says sowed social tensions

The controversy surrounding the Ahl-ill Bait mosque in Montreal erupted on Tuesday night. (Lauren McCallum/CBC)

An investigation by Quebec's construction board has confirmed confirmed that no Montreal mosque sought to exclude women from a nearby work site during Friday prayers.

Quebec's labour minister, Dominique Vien, asked the Commission de la construction du Québec (CCQ) earlier this week to probe a media report that claimed female construction workers had been asked to stay off the site Fridays at the mosque's request.

​The original report, broadcast Tuesday on the French-language network TVA, said the provision was contained in a contract the mosque had signed with a construction company.

There are two mosques located close to the construction site on de Courtrai Avenue in Côte-des-Neiges. On Thursday, Vien said the CCQ's investigation concluded that neither of them made the request reported by TVA.

​"According to the findings [of the construction board], there was no demand made by the two mosques," Vien told reporters in Quebec City, referring to the contract.

She was accompanied at the news conference by Diane Lemieux, the head of the construction board.

"It's very clear the mosque never made this kind of request. They haven't made a request like, 'We don't want to see a woman,'" Lemieux said.

TVA forced to apologize

CCQ officials met with employees at the work site, electrical contractor G-Tek, representatives from the mosque, and other groups to gather information on what happened. 

The only clause in the contract that has to do with the mosque was a commitment to limit noise on Fridays, the CCQ investigation found.

As TVA's version of what happened evolved over the course of the week, it reported that a contractor shuttled women workers away from the mosque to accommodate a demand made by someone, but it was unsure who.

No Montreal mosques asked to exclude women from a nearby work site during Friday prayers, according to Diane Lemieux, the head of Quebec's construction commission. 0:51

The union representing workers on the site later suggested the request may have come from a neighbour, but the union representative didn't know why the contractor would have agreed to it. 

That account, too, was cast in doubt by the CCQ's conclusions. 

"It seems that the measures that were denounced emerged from a mix of problems in terms of site management and communication within the sub-contracting chain," the CCQ said in a news release.

Lemieux said that while questions remain about how the work site was run, none of those questions concern the relationship between the workers and either of the mosques. 

"It seems that women may have been sent somewhere else," she said, but added that this was likely done as part of an effort to adapt to changing work-site needs.

Couillard blasts 'baseless' report

After the results of the CCQ investigation were made public, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard had harsh words for the original TVA report.  

"It's a baseless report, essentially. It's too bad, because it creates tension in our society," Couillard said.

Members of some far-right groups were planning to protest in front of the mosque on Friday, the Muslim holy day. Those plans were cancelled.

On Friday, TVA issued an apology, saying their sources had changed their version of events after the initial interview. 

The network also indicated that it was conducting an internal investigation into its journalistic process.