More than a dozen leaders from Montreal's ethnic and multicultural communities have joined Union Montreal city councillor Marvin Rotrand in denouncing statements made last week by former PQ cabinet minister Louise Harel, which were "on the fringe of intelorance," according to the coalition's members.
Montreal city councillor Marvin Rotrand, right, joined a coalition of representatives from Montreal's multicultural community on Sunday in denouncing remarks made last week by Louise Harel of the PQ and Vision Montreal's failure to distance itself from them. On the far left is Montreal Muslim leader Salam Elmanyawi. (Martin C. Barry)
At the same time, they are deploring the fact that Union Montreal rival and opposition party, Vision Montreal, seems to be embracing Harel, who addressed an assembly of VM members over the weekend.
In a French-language statement issued by the coalition during a press conference held at Rosemary Brown Park in Snowdon on Sunday, they took exception to Harel's remarks.
Made during a televised Radio-Canada interview, Harel said the City of Montreal has too many boroughs, which have become so powerful they are like "quasi-municipalities," that have their own distinct ethnic populations in certain instances. "We will end up in the worst of situations because we'll have cities … an Italian city, a Haitian city, an anglophone city, an Arab city," she said. "We will no longer have this sense of one big city with boroughs that speak with one voice."
Rotrand said, "Mrs. Harel threw out some remarks that not only put into question the democratic structure of the city, but also the right of people to participate … For us it is not a question of federalists against sovereignists or of one borough against another. It is question of everyone having the same democratic rights. "It is said that in a society, a black person is the equal of a white person, a Muslim person has the same rights as a Christian person," he added. "And what has happened is that Mrs. Harel has made an attack not only against the boroughs, but on the right to participate, which is guaranteed by the Canadian Charter and the Quebec Charter of Rights and Liberties."
In its statement, the coalition said it believes that "persons of all origins integrate well into Montreal today, are tending more and more to use French as their first language, and are generally comfortable speaking French. In addition, the coalition would like to point out that persons of ethnic origin are not homogeneous, nor are they unanimous in their political views, and that they do not all vote in the same way. "The coalition is hurt by the comments of Mrs. Harel, which demonstrate, according to our members, the ignorance of this longtime politician of the reality of Montreal today and of the openness of Montrealers to welcome persons of all origins. Mrs. Harel's comments are situated on the fringe of intolerance and are, according to the members of the coalition, unacceptable in a democratic society."
Rotrand said he questioned why Vision Montreal isn't disassociating itself from "remarks that are clearly intolerant. At the very least, most fair-minded people would say those remarks are extremely questionable, and yet they've refused to disassociate themselves. It's almost as if they positioned themselves to appeal to a certain type of voter. I don't think that's acceptable."