The leader of the Bloc Québécois is apologizing after four candidates belonging to the sovereignist party were thrust into the spotlight for alleged Islamophobic and racist social media posts.
Yves-François Blanchet told reporters on Thursday evening before the final debate between party leaders that he accepts the apologies the four candidates issued earlier in the day.
“Though disappointing, it is still the correct thing to do and they did it,” he said of the apologies. “And I do present my own personal apologies to the people of Quebec for the mistakes of some people who speak for us.”
The social media posts from 2013 to 2019 were reported in an investigation in Le Journal de Montréal, a French-language daily newspaper.
The Bloc candidates identified are Caroline Desbiens of the Beauport riding, Lizabel Nitoi who is running in Marc-Aurèle Fortin, Valérie Tremblay in Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, and Claude Forgues of the Sherbrooke riding.
For example, Le Journal points to an alleged Facebook post by Desbiens from 2013. She allegedly wrote Quebec had to bolster its laws on secularism to “prevent the worst…Either in a few years, your daughters, your granddaughters and great-granddaughters will be obligated to be veiled to go shopping at IGA or risk being thrown in prison.”
Another example shows how Forgues allegedly shared a video entitled “Islam is not sick, Islam is the disease” to his personal Facebook page this April.
All four candidates issued the same public apology following the report in response to what they described as “comments considered to be Islamophobic” by the French daily — but doesn’t specify if they agree.
“I wish to reiterate my total and complete support for the values and program of the Bloc Québécois, which in no way advocates measures that go against some communities, whether cultural or religious,” the statement reads.
“If my gesture was offensive, I sincerely apologize, that was not my intention.”
The candidates’ online comments, however, have sparked condemnation from both the federal and provincial political spheres.
Before the leaders’ debate on Thursday evening, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May described the Bloc candidates’ social media posts as “deeply disturbing” and “horrific.”
Jagmeet Singh, the leader of the New Democrats, said he found the comments to be “saddening and hurtful.”
“We need to denounce all forms of hate wherever they are,” he said.
Liberal Party candidate Mélanie Joly also called the comments “unacceptable” in her own post on Thursday morning and said Blanchet should demand apologies.
Françoise David, a former MNA for left-leaning Québec Solidaire, also took Blanchet to task for accepting his candidates’ apologies. She called it “poorly orchestrated damage control.”
“I would have liked Mr. Blanchet to be less afraid of words and to have empathy for Muslim women and men in Quebec,” she wrote.
“In short, I ask him to show courage. That’s how we are able to live in Quebec by being proud and brave. By refusing discrimination and racism.”