Pineault-Caron's secular charter comments raise questions

Questions are being raised about the role of commissioners in censoring speakers at the secular charter hearings, after officials allowed testimony that some are calling offensive.

Quebec 'values' charter hearings should not be a platform for racism, says Canadian Muslim Forum

Geneviève Caron said she visited a mosque in Morocco and was shocked to find people praying on "all fours." (CBC)

Questions are being raised about the role of commissioners in censoring speakers at the Quebec secular charter hearings, after some recent testimony sparked outrage. 

On Thursday, Quebecer Geneviève Caron spoke before a national assembly commission in Quebec City, describing her shock after visiting a mosque in Morocco.

Honestly the whole process of the charter is offensive- Samer Majzoub, president of the Canadian Muslim Forum

“There were men on all fours on the ground ... ‘Come on!’ I said, "Praying on all fours on the ground on little carpets...what the heck is that all about?’"

An excerpt of that testimony was posted on YouTube, and so far has received close to 300,000 hits.

The couple's daughter, Manon Pineault said her parents are far from racist and believes they were misunderstood.

"There was nothing controversial (in their remarks)," Pineault, who also testified at the hearing, said in an interview from her home in the Quebec City area.

"At a certain point, I thought that maybe they misunderstood what we wanted to express, that maybe they saw it as racism — it's not racism… We simply gave our opinions, but there's no racism."

Pineault said her family is very open to other cultures and her children have friends from different backgrounds.

"My daughter is dating a black man and he's very well accepted at our house," she said.

No vetting process for speakers 

Luciano Del Negro, the Quebec vice-president of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said someone should have stepped in to stop Caron.

“It demeans the whole process,” he told CBC's Daybreak.

“Certainly one would think that a parliamentary commission begs for more decorum.”

There is no vetting process for the groups and individuals who present at the public hearings. A spokesman for the national assembly said anyone who submitted a brief before the deadline will be given the opportunity to speak, (barring any scheduling difficulties) based on a first come, first serve basis.

CBC Daybreak requested an interview with Bernard Drainville, the minister responsible for the secular charter, to find out why Caron’s testimony was not interrupted.

Drainville’s office refused to comment.

Daybreak also made calls to the offices of all four parties who sit on the commission, but they refused an interview.

Samer Majzoub, president of the Canadian Muslim Forum, said Caron’s testimony may have been shocking, but it didn’t come as a surprise.

“Honestly the whole process of the charter is offensive,” Majzoub said.

He told Daybreak that the hearings should be an opportunity for legislators to get feedback from stakeholders.

“It should not really in any way turn into a platform of antisemitism, Islamaphobia, or racism.” he said.

'Racist' mention prompts interruption

Officials did step in earlier last week, when another presenter, Martin Laperrière, called a Montreal columnist a "racist."

The president of the commission interrupted the proceedings, and said the comment was unacceptable. 

Drainville asked Laperrière to withdraw his comment.

The commission resumes Tuesday.

With files from The Canadian Press