The city of Gatineau has sacked Deputy Mayor Nathalie Lemieux for saying “Islamophobia doesn’t exist.”
In a letter to media, she affirms keeping her city councillor position, invokes her right to free speech, and does not deny her words in Le Droit.
Le Droit had quoted Lemieux as claiming (translated) that “when people want to integrate, they do, but that Muslim immigrants have chosen not to do so.” Other statements were:
- “Islamophobia is a made-up word”
- “Fear of Islam is a made-up problem invented by the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau”
- “they [Muslims] also do bad things with their trucks and it’s normal to be afraid of them.”
In the days prior to these statements, various Muslim groups were asking Québec Premier François Legault to declare January 29th – the anniversary of the Québec city mosque shooting – a national day against Islamophobia.
He refused, claiming, “I don’t think there is Islamophobia in Quebec, so I don’t see why there would be a day devoted to Islamophobia”. The media and political backlash to Legault’s statement was fierce, and his office had to clarify his words immediately: Legault does not see a trend or culture of Islamophobia in Québec.
The very same week, a man was arrested on hate charges after publishing a video praising the Québec city mosque shooter.
Nathalie Lemieux won't back down
The sacked deputy mayor sent a letter to the media this morning to provide context and explanation to her words.
Although she's sorry that some of her statements may have shocked or hurt some people, she refuses to back down.
In this letter (French), Lemieux maintains that:
- Québec is not an Islamophobic society, that on the contrary she believes Québécois are open, generous, and tolerant;
- We must remain critical of all religious practices which contravene human rights, equality between men and women, and children's rights;
- She is not insensitive to the plight of many communities all over the world, and such difficulties should bring us to speak sincerely of the hurdles of integration, acceptance, and our preoccupations;
- Québécois people value freedom of expression. Words that shock or create debate are essential. She was sacked because she refused to submit to the will of the mayor;
- Lemieux asked for a delay to explain herself, which was denied;
- Given this context, she leaves the position of deputy mayor and member of the executive committee with peace of mind;
- She will continue to fulfill her responsibilities as city councilor;
- Questions of secularism and religion are not exclusive to Québec, they are happening all over the world. Other people will continue this debate;
- She thanks everyone who has written to her in support;
- Lemieux will no longer comment on this affair.
The mayor of Gatineau has formally asked her to issue a retraction and an apology. But Lemieux's letter seems to suggest that there will be no full retraction forthcoming.
What do you think about this? Should Lemieux retract when the Premier is making similar statements, which appear in line with the opinions of many Québécois?
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