Quebec needs anti-racism minister, report commissioned by Legault suggests

The group tasked by the Quebec government to come up with a plan to combat racism says the province should nominate a minister dedicated to the issue. It also recommended training for police and government employees and dedicated resources to fight racism against Indigenous peoples specifically.

In its report released Monday, the group also calls for training of police officers and civil servants

While announcing Quebec's taskforce against racism's recommendations, Quebec Junior Health Minister Lionel Carmant said he has been a victim of police racial profiling. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

The province should have a minister dedicated to solving the problem of racism, according to a group assigned by the Quebec government to come up with a plan on the issue.

In a report submitted Monday, it also called for an end to random police checks in the province. 

Among the other recommendations are: a province-wide campaign to raise awareness against racism, as well as training for police and government employees.

It also said the government should dedicate resources to fighting racism against Indigenous peoples, including easier access to legal services and an update to Quebec school history curricula to better reflect "the complexity of colonial history," said Ian Lafreniere, Quebec's Indigenous affairs minister

In an interview on the French-language television news channel TVA, Quebec Premier François Legault said he would appoint a minister to the role of combatting racism. He hasn't said which of the group's other recommendations he would follow. 

The group is co-chaired by Immigration Minister Nadine Girault and junior Health Minister Lionel Carmant, who are Black.

Carmant said the issue of racial profiling by police hit particularly close to home "having personally been a victim" of it.

He said there should be clear guidelines outlining the reasons police officers can stop people and that they should not include someone's race, skin colour, ethnicity or nationality, religion or social condition. 

Carmant said social workers should accompany patrol squads to help with de-escalation during police interventions.

He said that was one of the recommendations of the coroner's report into the death of Alain Magloire, a Black man who was shot by police in 2014.

"He was a Quebecer with Haitian roots, like me. He was a researcher, like me, and he was a man dedicated to the cause of people with disabilities, like me," Carmant said.

Girault issued a series of other recommendations, including ensuring more minority representation in Quebec's civil service and state-run corporations.

Quebec Immigration Minister Nadine Girault co-chairs the province's 'action group' to combat racism, which released its first recommendations Monday. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Indigenous Affairs Minister Ian Lafrenière, Ungava MNA Denis Lamothe and Laval MNA Christopher Skeete, who is also the government's point-person on working with Quebec's English-speaking community, are also part of the group. 

Legault announced the group's creation on June 15, in the wake of widespread protests against anti-Black racism following the police shooting death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. 

Since then, calls for the government to recognize and address systemic racism within the province were revived by the death of Joyce Echaquan, an Atimatekw woman who filmed as nurses at a hospital in Joliette hurled racist slurs at her before she died.

Legault has received fierce criticism for refusing to acknowledge the existence of systemic racism in the province.

Last month, Girault skipped a meeting organized by the federal government addressing human rights issues in the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, one of the meeting's organizers, accused her of bowing out because the issue of systemic racism was on the agenda.

Alexandra Pierre, the president of the Ligue des droits et libertés, says she's wary of how seriously the government will take the group's recommendations, namely since the report does not mention systemic racism.

Pierre said it felt incomplete and that more needs to be done to get at the root of issues of racism in Quebec.

"Words have meaning and the fact that systemic racism is not anywhere in this means that we don't have the proper solutions," Pierre said.

With files from The Canadian Press and Sudha Krishnan