Racist, anti-immigration messages appear in Quebec towns following Muslim cemetery vote

A sign bearing the words "Saguenay, White City," in French, appeared overnight in Saint-Honoré, Que., where a cemetery may offer burial for the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region's Muslim community.

A sign with the words 'Saguenay, White City' and stickers denouncing immigration were posted in Sherbrooke

The mayor of Saint-Honoré, in Quebec's Saguenay region, took down the sign himself, which he called 'unacceptable.' (Steeven Tremblay/Radio-Canada)

Two separate incidents in Quebec of xenophobic symbols being posted in public places have caught the eye of local authorities.

In Saint-Honoré, Que., a wooden sign bearing the words "Saguenay, White City," in French appeared overnight at the entrance to a cemetery that could offer burial grounds for the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region's Muslim community.

And in Sherbrooke, Que., anti-immigration stickers have appeared in the city's downtown area.

Saint-Honoré Mayor Bruno Tremblay told CBC News the sign near the cemetery was "unacceptable."

He said he was having breakfast at a local diner when other patrons informed him about the sign because they were concerned.

"I found it very xenophobic," he said. "We're having it taken down later, I've sent one of our guys from public works," he said. "In 2017, we need to be more open-minded than that."

He ended up taking down the sign himself.

The Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean Islamic Association had taken steps to have part of the cemetery designated according to Muslim burial traditions in 2015, but nothing came of it.

The association announced in February, following the attack on the Quebec mosque that left six members dead, that it was renewing its efforts to make a Muslim burial ground in Saguenay.

This week, the association's president, Mustapha Elayoubi, said he was disappointed that Saint-Apollinaire had voted against having a Muslim cemetery there. He spoke publicly about the association's plans to move ahead with its cemetery project. 

Anti-immigration stickers in Sherbrooke

Meanwhile, in Sherbrooke, stickers were distributed by the Federation des Quebecois de Souche reading, "They will not silence us" and "Minorities on our land: Never!"

The federation was founded in 2007, in the middle of Quebec's reasonable accommodation crisis. Now the group opposes "mass immigration," according to Rémi Tremblay, the group's president.

A student association responded to the stickers by distributing its own, denouncing racism and Islamophobia.
Anti-immigration stickers were posted along the Lac des Nations in Sherbrooke, Que. (Radio-Canada)

"Those stickers make them feel like they are not welcome, or make them feel fear," said Université de Sherbrooke student Aude-Sophie Bombardier.

Sherbrooke police confirm they are aware of  the anti-immigration stickers and will continue monitoring the situation.

While posting the stickers on public property is not permitted, the message itself isn't being considered hate speech.

"We studied the case and with the information we have, we cannot consider it from a criminal perspective," said Samuel Ducharme, spokesperson for the Sherbrooke police.

With files from Radio-Canada and CBC's Claude Rivest