Montreal

Ban blackface in Quebec, online petition by 'mosquitoes' pleads

A group of Quebec artists calling themselves "Les Moustiques" (the mosquitoes) launched an online petition calling for the end of blackface in Quebec and demanding the arts and culture industry address the under-representation of minorities in popular culture.

'Blackface is the caricature of a black person,' says head of advocacy group

The controversy over blackface erupted again in 2014 when a Quebec actor painted his face to portray P.K. Subban in a year-end satirical play called Revue et Corrigée. (Radio-Canada)

A group of Quebec artists calling themselves "Les Moustiques" (the mosquitoes) launched an online petition calling for the end of blackface in Quebec.

"Blackface is the caricature of a black person," said Emilie Nicolas, president of advocacy group Québec inclusif, and one of the petition's authors.

"It's rooted in slavery here in Quebec...Using a white person to mock and ridicule black people and portray them as stupid…is reminiscent of that practice which is very traumatizing for the black community."

The group is responding to comedian Louis Morissette, who recently defended the practice of blackface in an interview and compared critics to mosquitoes — a distracting nuisance.

Morissette produces the popular year-end Bye Bye comedy show for Radio-Canada. The broadcaster insisted Morissette hire a black actor to play the role of François Bugingo, a black journalist accused of fabricating foreign dispatches.

Morissette said he considered it as a form of creative stifling for the sake of political correctness.

But Nicolas and Les Moustiques say that there are plenty of black actors available for work.

"When there are actually roles and a place for black people in the public sphere, and even then you use a white person to speak to that, it's really discouraging and disheartening to the community," Nicolas said.

The petition, which was launched Tuesday and had more than 1,600 signatures by Thursday afternoon, is also calling on the government to address the under-representation of minorities in the media and popular culture.

"It's ... calling for the federal government, so mostly Heritage Canada and also the Minister of Culture here in Quebec, to look at how they could make diversity a central element of their cultural policy and the way they allot money to cultural productions."

now