Gatineau councillor apologizes for comments about Muslims

A Gatineau city councillor is apologizing for remarks she made last week about Islamaphobia in Quebec, but maintains she's been unfairly judged.

Coun. Nathalie Lemieux says she'll step down from deputy mayor's post

Gatineau Coun. Nathalie Lemieux, seen here in 2017, has apologized for saying she doesn't believe Islamophobia exists in Quebec. (Radio-Canada)

A Gatineau city councillor is apologizing for remarks she made last week about Islamophobia in Quebec, but maintains she's been unfairly judged.

In a French-language newspaper interview last week, Coun. Nathalie Lemieux said she didn't believe Islamophobia exists in the province, and insisted Quebecers aren't as racist as some suggest.

Lemieux said Muslim immigrants choose not to integrate the way immigrants from other cultures do, and "do bad things with their trucks.... It's normal to be afraid of them."

She was responding to comments from Quebec Premier François Legault, who said there was no need for an anti-Islamophobia day in the province because the problem didn't exist in Quebec. He later clarified that statement by saying there was no prevailing "undercurrent" of racism in Quebec.  

Legault made the comments two days after the second anniversary of the deadly Quebec City mosque attack.

Unfairly judged

In Facebook post Monday, Lemieux wrote in French that she never intended to hurt or offend anyone, and apologized for her words.

But she added it was unfair to judge her based on a statement that she said didn't fully reflect her views.

She repeated her belief that Quebecers are tolerant and open, and that Quebec is far from being an Islamophobic society.   

After Lemieux's original statement, Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin called for her removal from the deputy mayor's post.

Lemieux said she will step down from that position as well as her post on the city's executive committee, however she said there should be more room in Gatineau for free expression and public debate.

Apology lacking, mayor says

Pedneaud-Jobin said Monday he believes he has council support to formally remove Lemieux from her post, and said he found her apology lacking. 

"Her excuses do not go as far as they should have gone. Her words have hurt people a lot and I think she underestimates how much they were hurt," he said. "The next steps are hers."

Pedneaud-Jobin said he agrees Lemieux has the right to express herself, but said he has the right to have a deputy mayor who will represent council's stand on important subjects.

"As councillor she will be judged by her citizens, but as deputy mayor I am also the judge, and there are things I will not tolerate."

Lemieux said she would make no further comments on the subject.