As thousands of people lined St-Denis Street to take in the annual Fete nationale parade Saturday, organizers were facing allegations of racism after one of the floats appeared to be pushed only by people who are visible minorities.
A video posted to Facebook Saturday shows the opening scene of the procession featuring a human-powered float with singer Annie-Villeneuve dressed in blue, followed by a crowd of people clad head-to-toe in white, the colours, an ode to Quebec’s flag, the Fleur-de-Lis.
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The video zooms in on the individuals pushing the float down St-Denis Street — all of whom appear to be visible minorities.
The backlash on social media was quick and severe, with people accusing organizers for their lack of sensitivity and outright racism, saying the float appeared to be harkening back to the days of slavery.
By Sunday afternoon, the video had garnered more than a million views and over 12,000 shares.
Fête nationale parade organizers issued a statement Saturday evening apologizing for the distress it caused.
However, organizers explained that the parade is an eco-responsible event and therefore, all floats are human-powered rather than motorized.
This year, the group reached out to youth at the Association pour la persévérance scolaire and athletes from a local-area high school to take part in the event.
“Needless to say, the youth were proud to participate in the event, and were not chosen based on the colour of their skin,” the statement reads.
Some commenters weren’t buying the argument.
“How difficult would it have been to put students on the float as well?” A Facebook commenter, named Vicky, asked.
Another commenter said the float was just another example of systemic racism in the province and was left wondering how no one caught on to the imagery being portrayed, before the procession went ahead.
Despite the backlash, organizers maintained the event was inclusive.
“Those who saw the parade were able to see that the diversity of Québec was celebrated more than ever, and that people of all origins were honored.”