Tonight I attended the annual banquet of the Canadian Muslim Forum with our candidate Aziza Dini! 😎
Here is the text of my speech:
It is a great honour to be able to address you this evening on behalf of the entire team at the Green Party of Quebec.
The Green Party of Quebec is an eco-socialist, feminist and multicultural political party. We support everyone’s rights and freedoms, living together and the inclusion of all minorities in Quebec society. Our fundamental values are ecological wisdom, social justice, participatory democracy, respect for diversity, environmental protection and non-violence. These are values that are still too absent from Quebec politics.
You know, the topics of discussion in Quebec politics are sometimes paradoxical. The political establishment ignoring the major issues of our generations. Climate change, the impoverishment of our public education system and the deterioration of our health care system are too often overlooked, while issues of religious accommodation, what people wear on their heads regularly monopolize politicians’ interventions, debates in the national assembly and in the media.
Yet the priorities of the political class should be elsewhere. It is not by constantly criticizing minorities that Quebec will succeed in making progress on the major issues of our time. The politics of fear and division will get us nowhere.
It’s time for Quebec to move past the politics of fear and division. We need strong leadership that will bring people together. Leadership that will build bridges rather than walls. Leadership that will unite the people of this province around values of inclusion, living together and social solidarity.
The vast majority of the population has no interest in adopting discriminatory laws against minority groups.
Not only is the prohibition of religious symbols discriminatory, it is also illegal. The Canadian Constitution guarantees us freedom of religion, freedom of association and freedom of peaceful assembly, among others. Despite this, in the days following the general election, the new premier of Quebec opened the door to suspending the constitution in order to roll back our individual freedoms. Imagine the kind of precedent that will be set if politicians allow themselves to suspend our fundamental rights at any time. Any use of the notwithstanding clause is an affront to our collective rights and freedoms and we all have a duty to oppose it together.
Just over a month ago, I participated in the march against racism in Montreal. The demonstration of unity in the face of discrimination was deeply inspiring. We saw thousands of people from all walks of life take to the streets to celebrate our diversity, unity and mutual solidarity, while denouncing racism, Islamophobia and divisive policies. This march showcased what we all love about Québec society; respect for diversity, social solidarity and inclusivity.
Despite the divisive politics we face through political parties and extreme right-wing groups that take advantage of an oversized media platform, the people of Quebec remain united against hatred, violence and Islamophobia. Even though we have gone through difficult times, the people of Quebec are deeply progressive and I remain very optimistic about the future.
I would like to take a moment to express the Green Party of Québec’s support for the initiative to mark January 29th National Day of Remembrance and Action on Islamophobia and other forms of religious discrimination.
What happened on January 29, 2017 was a national tragedy. A heinous act of terrorism that left victims, significant injuries and families and communities shattered by violence, extremism and a climate of intolerance fuelled by right-wing media and a provincial political system increasingly out of touch with the priorities of the population.
Going forward, we need to collectively understand and mourn what took place on january 29th 2017. We need to address the root causes of far right extremism and work towards healing the wounds while moving forward together. Every single politician, journalist and commentator has a role to play in this healing process. We cannot foster a climate of hate and intolerance on the one hand and point to this tragedy as an isolated incident on the other. As a survivor of the Dawson college shooting in 2006, I have a great deal of empathy for everyone affected by this tragedy and we need to ensure that sociéty learns from what happened and moves forward together to prevent such a terrible event from ever occurring again.
Politicians should focus on healing wounds and promoting living together rather than reopening the debate on religious signs. This debate is useless, irresponsible and fuels social tensions. I very much hope that the new government will reconsider its position and that they will assume the responsibility that is due to them: the responsibility to represent all citizens, not to discriminate, not to fuel social tensions.
In closing, and on a more positive note, I would like to say that the Green Party of Quebec will always be a front-line ally in the fight against Islamophobia and discrimination. During the last election campaign, our candidates defended living together and the fight against discrimination in all regions of Quebec. I am very proud of the work we accomplished, and voters responded positively, tripling their support for our political party on October 1.
Quebec is an inclusive society. Far more inclusive than many of our politicians say it is. Despite the challenges, I remain optimistic for the future. A people united can never be defeated. Let’s work together to build a more inclusive society. The Green Party of Québec will always be a front line ally in this very important work.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak, thank you to the Canadian Muslim forum and to all the activists here for your important work. Let’s keep up the fight against islamophobia and for a more inclusive Québec.