Montreal

Systemic racism exists in Quebec, says Jean-François Lisée

Jean-François Lisée said he believes there is systemic racism everywhere, including in Quebec, and that the government should go straight to action.

Parti Québécois leadership vote to take place next week

Jean-François Lisée says his platform includes measures to combat what he says is systemic racism in Quebec. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Parti Québécois leadership candidate Jean-François Lisée says he believes there is systemic racism in Quebec.

Earlier this week, Premier Philippe Couillard's government said it will soon announce a plan to look into the issue as voices calling for a legislative committee grow louder.

Lisée said he believes there is systemic racism everywhere, including in Quebec, and that instead of holding public consultations, the government should go straight to action.

"We have to have a very robust policy of trying to stem racism in hiring practices, in lodging. I'm completely dissatisfied with the number of visible minorities in the public service," he said in an interview with CBC Montreal's Daybreak.

"Some gains have been made but not nearly enough and we have to be more serious about that."

Standing by burka, immigration comments

Lisée also doubled down on an earlier assertion that burkas, veils used by some Muslim women to cover their entire faces, are a security threat.

While he said it's not a man's place to tell a woman how to dress, he maintained that the reason women wear burkas is because "radical imams" tell them God wants them to hide their skin.

"I may be two years too soon with that discussion, but AK-47s in Africa in burkas is the reason why many African countries have banned burkas in the public sphere," he said.

Lisée said the reason women wear burqas is because 'radical imams' tell them God wants them to hide their skin. (Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters)

Lisée also made comments this week about immigration, saying Quebec should welcome fewer immigrants and target people from around the world who speak French and have better qualifications so that they can integrate more easily. 

When asked who he was trying to target with his remarks, he said he was simply being honest.

"I am ashamed of the way that we brought immigration levels to 50,000 and then broke the dreams and lives of tens of thousands of people who thought they would come here and have a successful life," he said.

Lisée added that a neutral body, such as the auditor general should set the threshold, not elected officials.

Could he win?

A recent poll showed Lisée gaining considerable ground on leadership front-runner Alexandre Cloutier.

He said it's hard to tell whether he can pull off the win, pointing to fellow candidate Martine Ouellet, who seems to be on a surge recently.

"There's a strong possibility that I win, but that's not for me to decide," he said.

The PQ leadership vote starts Oct. 5 over two days of electronic voting.

Clarifications

  • A previous version of this story stated that Jean-François Lisée said Quebec should welcome fewer immigrants and that they should come from countries such as France and Belgium. In fact, France and Belgium were only two of several countries Lisée mentioned around the world.
    Sep 30, 2016 2:12 PM ET

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