Quebec's controversial consultations into systemic racism get new mandate, name

The Couillard government has announced an overhaul to the province's controversial consultations on systemic racism, including a change in focus and a new leadership mandate.

Province's human rights commission will no longer be in charge of consultations

David Heurtel, Quebec's new immigration and diversity minister, made the announcement on Wednesday. (Radio-Canada)

The Couillard government has announced an overhaul to the province's controversial consultations on systemic racism, including a change in focus and a new leadership mandate.

David Heurtel, Quebec's newly appointed immigration and diversity minister, said the province will take over the mandate from the human rights commission.

The move comes a day after Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée announced an investigation into the human rights commission, which has been dogged by infighting and a leadership crisis.

The consultations process was also renamed. It's now called "the commission on valuing diversity and fighting against discrimination."

"I think first and foremost, the number one change is the focus," said Heurtel. "We really need to focus on concrete issues and concrete solutions on how diversity, how immigration can contribute even more to this challenge that we have in Quebec."

Under the new plan, Heurtel said the focus will be on creating economic opportunities for immigrants and visible minorities.

In November, Heurtel and Minister of Employment and Social Solidarity François Blais will hold a tour across Quebec to discuss the shortage of jobs.

The consultations are no longer in the hands of Quebec's human rights commission. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

There will also be a forum in December focusing on four themes: employment, training, learning French and the fight against discrimination.

Heurtel said the goal of the forum is to "propose concrete solutions" to common challenges immigrants face in Quebec.

"Everybody's talking me about how it's more about finding solutions to this gap that we're finding between immigration and people of diversity and a shortage of workforce," he said. "How do we bridge that gap? We need to find real solutions, right now."

Widespread criticism

The decision follows widespread criticism of the consultations. Some opposition parties called on the government to scrap the process altogether, claiming it puts Quebec society on trial.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard recently said political backlash against the consultations contributed to his party's dismal results in the Louis-Hébert byelection and that he was reconsidering the mandate as a result.

"Unfortunately, what was said by some political leaders played a role," he said at the time.

The change also comes after Kathleen Weil, who was immigration minister for more than three years, lost her portfolio last week to Heurtel. When she was asked if the criticism contributed to her being removed, she defended her work.

The cost of the consultations has nearly doubled, from $500,000 to $900,000

With files from CBC's Angelica Montgomery and Radio-Canada