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Joint Declaration for an Inclusive and Antiracist Community in the Saguenay

category north america / mexico | migration / racism | press release author Thursday September 19, 2013 12:01author by Collectif Emma Goldman - Union Communiste Libertaire Report this post to the editors

Words like shock and horror do not do enough to express our disgust before the hate crime perpetrated Saturday afternoon against the Chicoutimi Mosque. We who are active every day tearing down these borders built of prejudices, violence, oppression, privilege and ignorance, are saddened by this new manifestation of a system of oppression – racism – that is widespread where we live. [Français]
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Joint Declaration for an Inclusive and Antiracist Community in the Saguenay


Words like shock and horror do not do enough to express our disgust before the hate crime perpetrated Saturday afternoon against the Chicoutimi Mosque. We who are active every day tearing down these borders built of prejudices, violence, oppression, privilege and ignorance, are saddened by this new manifestation of a system of oppression – racism – that is widespread where we live.

While we suspect this act to be the result of a hate propaganda campaign carried out by a local racist group, we are also taking a stand against much more widespread and everyday forms of racism in our region. Confronted with the stupid marketing clichés about a “welcoming city” (which does not do anything) and the pointless forays into police journalism by the mainstream media, we are putting out this declaration: from courage springs hope, the hope to defeat and knock down all forms of oppression. This is a call for action.

An Isolated Act?

Primarily concerned with protecting the image of the city, or even of Quebec, we have already heard a lot said about how the hate crime that took place last weekend was an isolated act. In these circumstances, some commentators, like Richard Martineau, are only interested in defending Quebec against any accusations that it is a racist province, relying on dubious statistics about hate crimes. We see racism as an international system of oppression and exploitation. This system works by assigning groups their place in society, on the basis of essentializing criteria, in such a way that subgroups within society are created ( “racial” groups) in a hierarchical relationship to one another. (1) In Quebec, we can see a social construction based on a white francophone “dominant” majority in relationship to ethnocultural “minorities” (especially people from Third World countries) and Indigenous people who are “dominated”.

Saguenay-Lac St-Jean is often presented as a welcoming region. It is impossible to not notice that prejudices against the First Nations remain firmly entrenched in the population and continue to be transmitted in the media. Hardly any better, in his crusade to impose a prayer to god at city hall, last year Mayor Jean Tremblay stated that, “What shocks me is seeing that we, the soft French Canadians, are going to be told how to behave [...] by a person who has come here from Algeria and whose name we are not even able to pronounce.” These prejudices give rise to feelings of difference and hostility and normalize everyday racism. They also contribute to the negative images of other people, such as the idea that Arabs are violent, that Indigenous people are lazy, and that people from other ethnocultural groups cannot be trusted. The debate going on right now about the Charter of “Quebec Values” is a typical example of the resistance to make any changes in our policies of inclusion. This is also reminiscent of how the famous reasonable accommodations crisis, which gave us the Bouchard-Taylor Commission in 2007, became a burning issue giving rise to fears about the survival of Quebecois identity.

Present throughout society, racism is a form of violence that is not confined to any one age group and that can take different forms (verbal, psychological, physical, economic, etc.). In the fall of 2010, a couple in their fifties fired a hunting gun at two women leaving the NRJ bar in Chicoutimi. The couple had been ejected from the bar previously for their racism: on September 25, the couple had shown up at an African evening to which they had not been invited, and started making racist insults to the people who were there, and picking fights. They had been kicked out, and the husband had promised that he would settle the score.

Who has not heard individuals, family members, neighbours or work mates, defending the idea (whether they’re joking or not, the effect is the same) that people who are not Quebecois should be barred from public life, deprived of their civil rights, or even expelled from the national territory? Who has not heard racist talk implying that members of visible minorities who do not “integrate” do not belong in Quebec?

A Racist Hate Group

Beyond these forms of racism that are present everywhere in our society and which get overlooked all too often, it is very troubling to see that there are people, such as a cell of the organization Fédération des québécois de souche (Federation of Pure Quebecois), who are spreading hateful ideas similar to nazism and fascism in some sectors in the area. The main idea these people are putting forward is that their nation or “race” is naturally superior to others, so they propose a racial “purification” which brings them to the point of proposing the expulsion and elimination of people from other ethnocultural groups. They accuse people who are not a part of the white francophone majority of being responsible for the “degradation” of Quebecois culture. Of course, the idea that there is one “Quebecois culture” is part of the construction of a myth that requires ignoring the many contributions of people who these individuals are trying to categorize as different from themselves.

In the area, an identifiable group distributed hate propaganda in thousands of mail boxes and its members have been responsible for numerous acts of intimidation and death threats in Chicoutimi since 2011. The Fédération des québécois de souche brags about these actions. Under cover of protecting the national identity, members of this group are building ties with the radical edge of the Quebecois far right which is not shy about adopting neo-nazi symbols and the Hitler salute. We condemn the complacency and lack of professionalism with which the local media have offered a platform to this group over the past years. In December 2012, this group enjoyed exceptional coverage: three color pages, including the front page, in the newspapers Le Point du Lac St-Jean and Le Réveil – free publicity (without there even being an event) which only put forth the unchallenged point of view of a member (anonymous) of the group, the whole thing illustrated by his “work.” In fact, this group was also involved in hanging a xenophobic banner from the roof of the Hotel Chicoutimi during the Festival des Rythmes du Monde in 2012 and probably knows something about the hacking of the website of the organization Portes ouvertes sur le lac with hateful messages. It would be a serious mistake to trivialize or minimize such actions. We must realize that they constitute just one more factor contributing to insecurity, and potentially social exclusion, for Indigenous people, immigrants, and all other racialized people. We must denounce the existence of this group and put a stop to its activities.

Conclusion

It is undeniable that racism is present in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean and Mayor Jean Tremblay is wrong to imply that this was just an isolated act « which is probably not the work of a group, but of a person with mental problems. » (2) We disagree, and would respond that it is stupid and pointless to medically pathologize racists. This system of oppression takes different forms and sometimes expresses itself in a diffuse way, but it always does harm to the people who are its victims. Forms of oppression and privilege are embedded in the norms, the culture, the laws and the institutions of our society. This allows privileged social groups to use their “power over” (relationship of domination) in order to reinforce their position of dominance, and as a consequence to reinforce the hierarchy of differences. To be active in the struggle against racism means first of all recognizing its existence and taking concrete actions to denounce the racist actions and words that we encounter every day. Of course, this can become pointless if we refuse to attack the groups which put out racist hate propaganda. We know so little about the Muslim and Indigenous communities in our area, it would be good to create occasions to allow us to open up dialog in order to understand one another and to get rid of all of the prejudices.

From courage springs hope, the hope to defeat and knock down all forms of oppression.

Collectif Emma Goldman

More than 100 individuals and groups have transmitted us their support for this Joint Declaration.


[1] Christine Delphy, 2008. « Classer, dominer qui sont les "autres"? », p. 197.
[2] Le Quotidien, 3 septembre 2013, p. 3.

Thanks a lot to Kersplebedeb for this translation to English.

Related Link: http://ucl-saguenay.blogspot.ca
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