NCCM: Quebec Premier’s comments denying Islamophobia in province are offensive and inexcusable

-For Immediate Release-

Urges Premier Legault to retract and apologize

(Montreal – January 31, 2019) The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) says that Premier François Legault’s comments today denying the existence of Islamophobia in Quebec are “highly offensive and inaccurate” and is urging him to publicly retract his statement.

According to news reports, when asked whether he thinks there should be a National Day to commemorate the tragedy in Quebec City, François Legault stated: “I do not think there is Islamophobia in Quebec and I cannot think of why there would be a day (to acknowledge it).”

“These comments, coming less than 48 hours after Premier Legault stood on a stage and publically commemorated the murders of six Quebec Muslims in the January 29th Quebec City mosque attack, are an absolute insult to the families of the victims and to Muslim communities in Quebec and across Canada who continue to grieve this tragedy,” says NCCM Executive Director Ihsaan Gardee.

“Premier Legault is clearly out of touch with the realities of Islamophobia on the ground in Quebec. The Premier should immediately retract and apologize for his highly offensive and inaccurate comments and acknowledge that Islamophobia, just like other forms of hatred and racism, exists in Quebec and must be addressed,” adds Gardee.

“These comments are either willfully blind or ignorant, neither of which is excusable for an elected member of Quebec’s National Assembly let alone the Premier.  Statements like this only serve to pander to reactionary and populist sentiments on the backs of already-vulnerable Quebec Muslims who continue to face discrimination simply because of their religious identity,” says NCCM Communications Coordinator Leila Nasr.

“This is particularly irresponsible at a time when right-wing extremism is documented as being on the rise. There is a real fear that his comments may be interpreted by some as licence to act on their hateful views,” explains Nasr.

Statistics Canada recently revealed police-reported anti-Muslim hate crimes increased by 151% from 2016 to 2017. Hate crimes targeting Muslims in peaked in February 2017 and accounted for 26% of Quebec’s annual reported incidents targeting Muslims. Furthermore, in 2018 two-thirds of all hate crimes in Quebec City targeted Muslims, according Quebec City police.

The NCCM is an independent, non-partisan and non-profit advocacy organization that is aleading voice for Muslim civic engagement and the promotion of human rights.