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A thorny issue

So I’ve read today that Quebec’s premier Jean Charest has come out and strongly disputed a Leger Poll that claims 59% of Quebecers say they are racist to some extent. Premier Charest said he cant accept the findings:

“Quebecers aren’t racists. I see the opposite. I see a society that is proud of its diversity, proud of the fact we have different cultural currents present within a society where the majority is francophone,” Charest said at a press conference to unveil a government investment.

Charest says people are confusing the issues:

Charest warned against confusing some Quebecers’ discomfort over the ad hoc nature of “reasonable accommodations” of minorities with racist sentiment. “That people would have questions concerning the other, that they might have some concerns on questions of diversity, that’s one thing. But to say that we’re racist? No. That’s not Quebec’s case at all,” he said.

Unfortunately, Mario Dumont of the ADQ decided to come out on the same day and basically undercut the premier’s message by saying Quebec needs to guard its values:

The leader of l’Action démocratique du Québec says the province should quit bending over backwards to accommodate minorities….“We must make gestures which reinforce our national identity and protect those values which are so invaluable to us,” he wrote. Dumont said reports of recent compromises granted to ethnic or religious groups pose a greater threat to so-called “old stock” Quebecers.

I find Dumont’s statement appalling.. I dont think I need to go into detail why. I also though will say I agree with Premier Charest when he says he can’t accept that a majority of Quebec is racist. I’ve been to Montreal a few times and have interacted with many cultures and people there, and I’ve seen the interaction with people of other cultures there, and I can’t believe those numbers. All of society has its percentage of racists, but 59% in Quebec?? No way.

Back to Dumont for a second; I’ll leave those readers I have who live in Quebec to tell me if they think what he said will promote a backlash against him or not in that province.

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5 comments to A thorny issue

  • I recently answered a really similar survey (maybe same one, I dunno) and I had to label myself as “slightly racist”. When you have privilege and live in a racist society (and Canada is very much built on an official racism towards First Nations) you cannot be 100% “not racist”. The best you can be is aware of any institutional prejudices you may have internalized and work to correct them.

    Phil Fontaine explains the differences in this speech:

    “Racism is generally categorised into three types:

    1) Individual, direct, racism when individuals expressly espouse racist views as part of a personal credo;

    2) Subconscious, indirect, or unintentional racism when individuals hold negative attitudes towards racial minorities based on stereotypical assumptions, fear and ignorance; and

    3) Institutional or systemic racism when institutions such as government agencies, businesses and organizations that are responsible for maintaining public policy, health care, education, housing, social and commercial services and other frameworks of society, functioning such a way as to limit rights or opportunities on the basis of race. Institutional racism can be both direct and indirect.”

    Even the best intentioned person with skin privilege still has #3.

    So perhaps this poll result means that Quebecers are more aware of the racism within their society than other Canadians? With a question as poorly designed as this one, it’s difficult to make any hard and fast conclusions.

  • Lord Kitchener's Own

    I thought this poll made perfect sense. As has been pointed out, the 59% figure includes everyone who answered anything other than “not at all racist”. Really? “Not at all racist”???

    I think the high poll number just shows the humility and self realization of a high number of respondents. Everyone has prejudices. Even if they are not at all overt, and we consciously disavow them and act against them, keeping them from affecting our lives and actions, that doesn’t mean they aren’t there and we shouldn’t face them.

    I’m actually more concerned about the 41% of respondents who said they were “not at all racist”. How many of these 41% are actually 100% prejudice-free do you think? I think if people were honestly reflecting on the question, this number would be much lower. I’m less concerned about people who recognize that they have prejudices, even minor ones (and many of whom are therefore able to face those prejudices in the harsh light of day, and prevent them from affecting their actions) than I am about people who can’t recognize their own prejudices. And surely some of the 41% falls into the latter category.

  • Loraine Lamontagne

    I think Monsieur Léger is getting his money’s worth out of this, explaining his conclusions on TVA and elsewhere. I think the results demonstrate that most honest people recognize that they have prejudices towards others, often borne out of ignorance. I, for one, am always willing to learn, as I do, everyday.

  • sorry… too early in the morning. That should be “systemic” not “systematic”.

  • Yeah, but 43 per cent said they are “faintly” racist. If we are being honest, we all are “faintly” racist just by virtue of living in a society that has systematic racist structures. There are also still a lot of stereotypes that are built into the subconscious… this was expressed nicely here.

    It is funny that this poll required self-identification as a racist. Most people I know who I consider racist don’t think they are. They think they just see the world for what it is. The poll stinks.

    Also I would imagine since Quebecois has a sense of being a minority in Canada, there could be a besieged mentality, hence the focus on maintaining their identity. This is typical of nationalism the world over. Is it racism? Depends on who you ask I guess. For example, some people think black people are racist against white people (“reverse racism”), but I think they are just protecting their subjugated identity. Does this sort of “reverse racism” come into play in Quebec? I can tell you I know a lot of people who can’t stand French Canadians. Not exactly racism I guess, but certainly bigotry!

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