Members of the Coalition Avenir Québec have denounced an alleged act of violence that took place outside a Quebec City mosque over the weekend.
On Saturday, a 47-year-old man was arrested outside the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec after he allegedly punched someone.
It is the same mosque that was the scene of a deadly rampage two years ago that left six dead and several injured after a gunman stormed the building during evening prayers.
The community says the suspect involved in Saturday’s incident had expressed hostility towards Muslims and immigrants prior to the altercation.
The National Council of Canadian Muslims denounced Saturday’s incident as a hate crime, and said in a statement that the suspect had “yelled Islamophobic and anti-immigrant messages while physically assaulting one of the congregants.'”
CAQ MNAs also strongly denounced the latest events.
“The fact is it is violence, and we must condemn every kind of violence,” said CAQ MNA Eric Caire.
Immigration Minister and Government House Leader Simon Jolin-Barrette echoed the sentiment.
“One thing is really important — that no act of violence is tolerated in our society, and I’m very clear about that,” said Jolin-Barrette.
While the government was quick to condemn the violence, it denies that incidents of Islamophobia can be blamed on the public debate surrounding Bill 21, its proposed legislation that would prohibit public-sector employees in positions of authority — such as teachers, judges, police officers and prison guards — from wearing religious symbols at work.
“I’m surprised to hear you saying that, I’m really surprised,” Premier François Legault said in response to a reporter’s question. “I don’t think there’s any link between the Bill 21 and what happened in Quebec City.”
He continued: “You will always have, unfortunately, some racist people but you don’t have to generalize. And you have to be careful before matching that with our bill.”
Jolin-Barrette, the minister responsible for the bill, goes one step further, denying that Bill 21 is controversial.
“No, there is no tension and there is no division; I’m very clear about that,” Jolin-Barrette said.
However, earlier this week, experts with the United Nations sent a letter to the Canadian government raising concerns about Quebec’s religious symbols bill. They say they want more information on why it is necessary and that they are also concerned it could be discriminatory.
WATCH: Debates around Quebec’s proposed secularism bill
On the final day of the CAQ’s general council in Montreal, Legault spread the praise around for his party.
In his closing speech on Sunday, he thanked his ministers for all they’ve accomplished since being elected on Oct. 1 of last year.
There was a standing ovation from 1,300 CAQ party members for Jolin-Barrette.
Thanks to him, the premier said: “We will keep our promise to ban religious signs for people in authority positions.”
The government still plans to pass Bill 21 before the end of the session in three weeks.
— With files from The Canadian Press