Hundreds of protesters marched against racism and xenophobia
For the third time since November 2017, protesters gathered downtown this Sunday to denounce racism and xenophobia, in Montreal and elsewhere. People at the demonstration criticized the current political context and the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government’s policies, calling them racist and discriminatory.
Safa Chebbi, an antiracist, decolonial activist and spokesperson for the demonstration, said this event sends a clear message against the CAQ’s policies.
“Let’s stay vigilant and united in the face of the provocations of this government, which present a real social danger for our society and let’s walk together today against the racist and xenophobic policies of this government,” said Chebbi, at the beginning of the protest.
Many people at the demonstration expressed their opposition to the CAQ’s immigration plan, Bill 9, also known as the Tinder of immigration, and to the legislation banning religious symbols for government employees.
“We want to demonstrate that we disagree with the CAQ government’s decisions on secularism and we also come in solidarity with the victims in New Zealand,” said Carolane Foata, a protester holding a sign with Quebec Premier François Legault’s picture and the caption “No hope.”
“Yes, there is racism and islamophobia in Quebec and it’s important to unite so that everyone who is racialized feels welcome here,” said Foata.
Midway through the demonstration, the protesters stopped at the intersection of Sherbrooke St. and McGill College Ave., near Legault’s offices, to make speeches aimed at his government.
The urge to recognize the existence of islamophobia in Quebec and to fight it arched back to feminist discourse during the demonstration. Demonstrators expressed their disagreement with the government’s intention to ban religious symbols for all government employees.
“Although this law affects men and women of many religious communities, especially racialized ones, this law will mainly target muslim women because they are vulnerable to islamophobia and gendered [discrimination],” said Marlihan Lopez, vice-president of Fédération des femmes du Québec (FFQ). “It is them who will suffer to a greater extent the impact of these measures for job accessibility.”
When asked what kind of actions they hoped to see from the government, Chebbi emphasized the necessity to take action and to show popular mobilization.
“I think it is time to stop this denial of islamophobia and racism,” said Chebbi. “We categorically refuse the laws that they are proposing. We cannot make populist laws of that kind pass and affect minorities.”
Some people at the demonstration had directly experienced acts of racism and discrimination.
“I am here as an individual, as a Canadian, as Lebanese-Canadian,” said Hend Mady, a Champlain College student wearing the hijab, while holding a Palestinian flag and chanting with other protesters. “I’ve faced racism in the workforce and I have faced racism in school as well by peers and teachers […]. It’s important to participate in the march so that people can understand that racism is real and it affects everyone.”
Participants chanted slogans that claimed the government implemented racist policies, and many chanted against the police, who surrounded the group. Some police officers biked at the front of the protestors, while others walked on either side of the participants.
The demonstration galvanized people from many different backgrounds and organizations. Some protesters felt that the fight against racism is intertwined with other causes they fight for.
“As climate change is getting worse, […] the number of climate refugees is just going to go up and up and up, which is also going to lead to harsher immigration laws and more racism,” said Alison Gu, a demonstrator.
Members of different social movements took part in the event to show their solidarity with victims of racism and discrimination. Chants to free Palestine were heard throughout the march, with some protesters carrying Palestinian flags and maps. Socialist Fightback, the Canadian section of the International Marxist Tendency, said racism is deeply connected with the cause they are fighting for.
“Racism as we know it today, at least, would not exist without capitalism, it arose very much as a form of class exploitation and continues to be so to this day,” said Finnegan Arthur, a member of Socialist Fightback. “If we want to end racism for good, as we understand it as a form of systemic oppression, then capitalism needs to go as well.”
Photos by Mackenzie Lad.