Montreal

Philippe Couillard hints that racism, pit bulls could be among fall priorities for Liberals

Quebec's Liberal government is indicating it will tackle the thorny issue of systemic racism and propose a pit bull ban when the legislature resumes sitting next month.

Reading tea leaves at the annual meeting of the Liberal party's youth wing

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, seen here at a recent meeting of premiers, hinted over the weekend at what his government has in store for the fall legislative session. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Quebec's Liberal government is indicating it will tackle the thorny issue of systemic racism and propose a pit bull ban when the legislature resumes sitting next month. 

A weekend meeting of the party's youth wing near Quebec City provided hints about what the government's priorities will be as it heads into the third year of its mandate. The next provincial election is scheduled for 2018. 

The youth wing passed a motion on Saturday calling on the government to create a public commission into racism, an idea that has been floated by activist groups.

Premier Philippe Couillard had rejected the idea in the past, but on Sunday promised his government will do something to address the issue. He provided few details, though, about what the government has planned.   

"The only thing I'll say is I want it to be serious. It can't descend into a blame game or a collection of anecdotes," Couillard said in a news conference on Sunday.  

"We have to do work that is at once serious, lucid and leads to concrete action." 

Among the issues he said need to be examined are why visible minorities in Quebec have higher rates of unemployment. 

Is a province-wide pit bull ban likely? 

The Liberals are also expected to propose new legislation that will regulate dangerous dogs in the province.

Quebec municipalities have spent the better part of the summer reviewing and proposing their own regulations, following the death of a Montreal woman by a dog that was ostensibly a pit bull. 

Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette says he thinks pit bulls are dangerous dogs and should be banned. (Radio-Canada)

Many feel the debate is between banning certain breeds outright and implementing regulations that encourage more responsible dog ownership.

The latter approach seems to be favoured by a panel appointed by the government to look into the issue  — a draft report was leaked to The Canadian Press earlier this month. 

​But over the weekend Health Minister Gaétan Barrette said he supported an outright ban. Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux also said the prospect of a breed-specific ban hadn't been ruled out. 

On Sunday, Couillard reminded reporters that the task of the panel was only to provide advice to the government.

"It's not committees that decide. That's up to us," Couillard.

The National Assembly resumes sitting on Sept. 20.

with files from Radio-Canada and La Presse Canadienne

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