Premier François Legault recently claimed that "there's some discrimination in Quebec, but there's no systemic discrimination." In hopes of hearing what someone in the legal system has to say about this belief, MTL Blog reached out to local lawyer Marie-Livia Beaugé, who explains exactly what systemic racism in Quebec entails.
Marie-Livia is a criminal lawyer and project coordinator at Hoodstock, an organization whose mission is to "eliminate systemic inequalities."
Currently, she's working on a restorative justice program for black people.
The premier's reasoning for claiming there's no systemic discrimination in the province is that he believes "the vast majority of Quebecers are not racist."
Beaugé tells us about the dangers of someone in power making statements like this, provides a definition of systemic racism for those, like Legault she says, who may not fully understand it, and gives solutions for solving this systemic injustice in Quebec.
Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.
What's your opinion on Legault's belief that "there's no systemic racism in Quebec?"
He still said that there's discrimination and that there's work to do, so we're waiting on him to contact us. We still need to talk.
It really doesn't matter what he thinks because it is proven. We have a lot of reports that show it, we have witnesses that say that they have been victims of racial profiling. I myself have been one of them.
Systemic racism is something you live every day, and I think Legault just doesn't understand the term.
Can you explain systemic racism for someone who may not understand its definition?
Systemic racism is not about being racist. It's about a system that allows you to act in a racist way and to act with discrimination. So, people from the black community and other marginalized groups, they feel the consequences of that.
They have difficulties finding jobs, finding a place to live, having good access to health care.
I say Legault doesn't understand because he said he doesn't accept that people are racist. If you don't accept that people are racist, it's systemic racism.
Systemic racism points out that the system is failing.
Do you have ideas for solutions to abolish systemic racism?
We have to create a committee of anti-racism that will be directed by people of colour. People who understand issues like racial profiling and systemic racism.
This committee will have the power to take action whenever someone is discriminated against.
This is a necessity to move forward and change the system. We need to change the procedures that still allow the system to commit discrimination.
What effect do you think comments like this being made by a premier have on a population? Do you think it influences other people's beliefs?
For sure it does. Legault is supposed to not only represent white Quebecers but all Quebecers with origins.
When the premier says it doesn't exist, people think "well I won't go further than what he says." So, it's really dangerous when you say things like this while in a position of power.
You're just going to increase the tension between the people who just want freedom and equality and the people who aren't aware of the issues we have in Quebec.
This is why people are still surprised when injustices happen, even though they've been happening for years and years.