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Canada's Green Party Leader Told Us About Her Convo With Legault On Systemic Racism

Annamie Paul says the existence of systemic racism in Canada is "simply a fact."
Canada's Green Party Leader Told Us About Her Convo With Legault On Systemic Racism

Canada's Green Party leader, Annamie Paul, says political leaders across the country should speak with one voice in terms of acknowledging systemic racism — and she told Quebec Premier François Legault as much in a December 2020 meeting.

MTL Blog asked Paul about her discussion with Legault, as well as her views on Bill 21, otherwise known as Quebec's secularism law.

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Who is Annamie Paul?

The Toronto-born human rights lawyer and daughter of Caribbean immigrants replaced Elizabeth May as the leader of the Green Party of Canada in October 2020 after a year-long race.

The historic, barrier-breaking win made her the first Black Canadian, as well as the first Jewish woman, to lead a federal political party in Canada.

"[I'm] working to grow the most progressive party in Canadian politics, the natural home for anyone who is looking to forge a truly just society," she said.

How'd her convo with Legault about systemic racism go down?

Legault faced criticism last June after claiming that systemic racism in Quebec "does not exist" and comparing Quebec to the United States, saying racism is not as bad here. 

Last month, news outlets began reporting that Paul tried to convince Legault of the existence of systemic racism in Quebec institutions.

He reportedly responded by telling her about Quebec's anti-racism initiatives, such as the 25 actions recommended by the Groupe d'action contre le racisme

Paul confirmed to MTL Blog that she took the opportunity to speak to Legault during a January parliamentary meeting on health transfer payments. 

"I had just participated a few days before in the [Quebec] Islamic cultural centre's digital commemoration of the fourth anniversary of the [Quebec City] mosque attack," she said.

"The leaders who [spoke] raised their continued concerns around safety [and] systemic discrimination within Quebec, and I felt I needed to pass those messages along to him."

According to Paul, the existence of systemic racism in Canada is "simply a fact."

"Whether it's the case of Mr. [Mamadi] Camara, [or] police use-of-force statistics we have available to us [...] one does not need to compare or reference any other country in order to understand and acknowledge the reality of systemic racism in this country," she said. 

What about Bill 21?

Paul described two schoolteachers assigned to her now-teenaged son's kindergarten class in Ontario — a Muslim woman who wore a hijab and a woman from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

"They were two of the best teachers that he ever had [...] they were wonderful. I couldn't have asked for a better beginning to his education," she said.

"It occurred to me that he would not have those two teachers, had he been a student asserting his education in Quebec public schools. And that's a terrible thing to think about."

Paul said Quebec's secularism law hinders students from learning about diverse religions instead of encouraging their tolerance and understanding. 

"I do not support that law, and this is a question of fundamental human rights. It's a question of freedom of expression and freedom of religion," Paul told MTL Blog.

"Those are not questions of provincial or even federal jurisdiction. These are universal human rights that deserve to be protected as universal human rights."

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