Quebec's new Indigenous affairs minister promises action, but won't acknowledge systemic racism

Quebec's new Indigenous affairs Minister, Ian Lafrenière — a former Montreal police officer — says people should expect a series of announcements by Christmas.

Lafrenière to unveilplan by holidays, but did not say what it would address

Quebec's new Indigenous affairs minister, Ian Lafreniere, reiterated his belief that there is no systemic racism in Quebec. (Radio-Canada)

Quebec's new Indigenous affairs minister is asking for a chance to prove that he has a plan to improve relations between the province and Indigenous communities, and will announce "concrete measures" within two months.

Ian Lafrenière, a former Montreal police spokesperson who replaced Sylvie D'Amours in the role earlier this month, says he's already met with Indigenous leaders.

There's been growing pressure on the CAQ government to acknowledge systemic racism in the province following the death of 37-year-old Joyce Echaquan, an Atikamekw woman who recorded herself in her last moments as hospital staff in Joliette, Que., hurled racial slurs at her.

Echaquan's death renewed calls on the Quebec government to do more to fight racism in the public sector and led to a public apology from Quebec's premier. 

"There is racism. There are people who are racist. There is discrimination. There is profiling," Lafrenière said Sunday during an appearance on Radio-Canada's talk show Tout le monde en parle.

"The people who committed those acts in Joliette, that we saw and heard, those were people who made racist remarks, but I don't agree that it's the system's fault."

Lafrenière said he will unveil a plan for Indigenous communities by the holidays, but did not say what it would address.

Critics have pointed to the allegations of widespread misconduct by Quebec provincial police in Indigenous communities reported by the Viens Commission last year, saying Lafrenière's appointment as Indigenous Affairs Minister is inappropriate.

Lafrenière called his 28 years as a police officer an asset — not a detriment — in his new role.

"I know the system well enough from the inside to be able to critique it and to make changes," he told the hosts.

With files from Radio-Canada