February 21, 2019 7:38 pm

Premier François Legault calls racist comments about dead Halifax Syrian children ‘unacceptable’

Thu, Feb 21: A Quebec news channel has taken down a Facebook post in which users made hateful comments about the deaths of seven Syrian children in a Halifax house fire on Tuesday. As Global's Dan Spector explains, Quebec Premier François Legault spoke out about the incident on Thursday.

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The comments have been called heinous and horrifying. After a Halifax house fire killed seven Syrian refugee children, some Facebook commenters celebrated their deaths on a Quebec TV station’s Facebook page.

The Facebook comments posted under a TVA story about the tragedy took aim at the family for being refugees. Some saying “good riddance,” and, “we’re tired of paying for them.”

Hearing about the comments for the first time at the National Assembly on Thursday, Premier François Legault said, “It’s unacceptable.”

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He added: “It’s terrible what happened in Nova Scotia and we must support the family.”

TVA removed the post and issued an apology on Facebook, saying their comment screening process had failed due to “human error.”

Muslim Montreal activist Haroun Bouazzi was disgusted but not surprised by the comments.

READ MORE: Quebec news channel deletes Facebook post about fatal Halifax fire that drew hateful comments

“We have been seeing de-humanizing comments for years now,” he told Global News.

The seven children ranged in age from four months to 14 years old. Their parents both survived, but the father remains in critical condition. The family arrived in Canada in 2017, after fleeing the Islamic State in their native Syria.

“When I saw those comments on social media, I was horrified,” said Paul Clarke, who runs Action Refugiés Montreal, a non-profit that helps refugees.

Bouazzi mentioned how Legault had recently claimed there is no Islamophobia in Quebec.

READ MORE: ‘She called the father, she woke him up’: Details emerge about Halifax fire that killed 7

“The [premier] of Quebec is saying there’s no Islamophobia. It’s actually saying to the society that it’s OK to be Islamophobic, because he doesn’t even see the problem with it,” said Bouazzi.

Clarke said he tries not to listen to ever-present hate for refugees across the country, instead pointing to a GoFundMe page that’s raised hundreds of thousands for the grieving family.

“Some people say horrible things, but there’s a whole other side of the issue where people are reaching out,” he told Global News.

On TVA’s apology statement, there were nearly 2,000 comments. They were mostly from people denouncing the messages of hate.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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