Members of Montreal’s Chinese community gathered Sunday at a rally organized by the group Progressive Chinese of Quebec, demanding an apology from Québec Solidaire MNA Émilise Lessard-Therrien.
In an interview on LVA TV, Lessard-Therrien, Québec Solidaire’s agricultural critic, expressed concern over possible land grabs in the province by Chinese nationals.
During the interview, she said that, with climate change, Quebec would be one of the few places left with good, arable land and fresh water in a few years’ time and that the Temiscamingue region had lots of unexploited land that was being scouted by Chinese nationals.
She admitted, however, that they had yet to make any purchases because of mechanisms in place at the federal level.
It’s what Lessard-Therrien went on to say in the interview — likening potential Chinese buyers to predators — that raised the ire of the Chinese community.
“Between us, we call them predators,” she said. “They are predators of agricultural land. And we see them, we feel them. And what I’m saying is that fallow land still has potential to be farmed again, but land that belongs to China may never feed Quebecers, and it’s important that we be concerned now.”
Amy Chiu, a member of Progressive Chinese of Quebec, said she’s hoping for a public apology from Lessard-Therrien.
“There’s been words that were said that were extremely hurtful to our community,” she said. “The community feels very strongly that they have to stand up and protect their rights, and this is a great way to mobilize.”
“She referred to Chinese nationals as predators, and the description that she used — the visual imagery that she used in saying that we see them, we feel them, stalking around among us — all this underlines the fact that because we are a visual minority, this is what she has focused on.”
Lessard-Therrien took to Facebook earlier this week to defend herself.
In the post, she admitted that she may have expressed herself clumsily and said she was open to meeting with the Progressive Chinese of Quebec group to discuss the issues of land grabs and racism.
For Chiu, that wasn’t good enough.
“Where’s the words like ‘I’m sorry?'” Chiu said. “What we have to do is focus on the effects of the words that are said, the harm that is felt by the community, and address that.”
Chiu is also calling upon party leadership to take more responsibility.
“We would like the party to institute a political mechanism in order to prevent this from happening again, either to the Chinese community or any other minorities in Quebec,” she added.