Montreal

Bloc leader apologizes for candidates' Islamophobic and racist social media posts

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet apologized Thursday after media outlets uncovered a number of Islamophobic and racist social media posts by candidates running for the sovereigntist party.
Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-François Blanchet, shown making an announcement in Montreal in September, apologized on behalf of five candidates Thursday. (Paul Chiasson / Canadian Press)

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet apologized Thursday after media outlets uncovered a number of Islamophobic and racist social media posts by candidates running for the sovereigntist party.

"They all regret having shared in the past videos or messages containing inappropriate comments," Blanchet said in an emailed statement.

"They apologized. As leader of the Bloc Québécois, I add my apologies on their behalf to the entire population of Quebec."

Blanchet's statement does not name any of the candidates, though it indicates he has spoken to five individuals — four women and one man.

The apology is almost certainly in response to articles published Wednesday in the Globe and Mail and Thursday in the Journal de Montréal that documented numerous posts, tweets and shared links on Facebook and Twitter by: Caroline Desbiens, a candidate in the Beauport riding; Lizabel Nitoi, running in Marc-Aurèle-Fortin; Valérie Tremblay in Chicoutimi–Le Fjord; and Claude Forgues in Sherbrooke.

The four candidates named in the Globe and Mail and Journal de Montreal articles. (Radio-Canada)

The fifth candidate is likely Nicole Morin, a Bloc candidate in Saint-Maurice–Champlain who was found to have shared a video by the far-right group La Meute.

The four Bloc candidates cited in the Journal article issued identical statements of apology on social media Thursday. The apologies note that Le Journal "considers" the messages Islamophobic, but the authors don't state whether they agree with the assessment.

Desbiens' remarks were in a publication promoting a law on secularism in 2013. She said she worried that women would soon be forced to either wear a veil to go grocery shopping or be thrown in jail. She also praised France's far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

Nitoi shared a groundless article about the intelligence of Muslims. Tremblay has shared several anti-Islam messages and conspiracy theories on Twitter since 2016, the Journal de Montreal reported.

Forgues shared a video on Facebook that states "Islam is a disease" and contained other intolerant remarks about Muslims, according to the Journal.

A screen capture of the apology issued by Bloc Québécois candidate Lizabel Nitoi, who is running in the Marc-Aurèle-Fortin riding. (Facebook)

The boilerplate apologies, written in the first person, all say that the candidates did not mean to offend.

The four candidates go on to affirm in their statements their "total and complete support for the values and program of the Bloc Québécois … which in no way advocates measures that go against some communities, whether cultural or religious."

The controversy lands ahead of the second French-language debate, set for Thursday.

The Bloc Québécois has been building momentum ever since the first French-language debate last week. Polls suggest Blanchet was the big winner of that contest and that the Bloc's support levels have increased as a result.

With files from Radio-Canada

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