A Quebec government ad campaign geared toward fighting racism continues to conjure controversy.
Born and raised Quebecer Brian Smith has been entrenched in Montreal’s Black community for decades. He was hopeful when he heard the government was putting out a series of ads to fight racism.
When he saw them, he was disappointed.
“It was not done well,” he told Global News. “I call it a fail.”
One of the ads shows the words: “In Quebec, a group of young Black people gathered in a park at night are called,” and then reveals a group of young Black people sitting on a park bench and shows the word: “friends.”
Smith feels calls the message “elementary” and feels it will have no real impact.
“I don’t know what type of audience they’re trying to really connect with. It’s something for kids in an elementary school,” he said.
Other ads call a group of Arabic people in an apartment “a family,” and a South American man covered in tattoos “a neighbour.”
The Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) called the ads “awkward.”
“We also found the ad itself was just continuing stereotypes,” said QCGN board member Eva Ludvig. “We’re uncomfortable when we see the way the ad comes through.”
Like many Anglo Quebecers, Smith noticed how the English and French versions of the ads were different.
In English, for example, the young Black people gathered in the park are “friends,” but in French they’re “des amis Québecois.”
The word Quebecer is excluded from all of the English versions of the ads.
“You know, we’re supposed to be all Quebecers in the province of Quebec, regardless of language,” said Smith.
The QCGN thinks the difference says something about how the Legault government sees anglophones.
“This kind of just continues the sort of messaging that has been going on that we’re not really real Quebecers as English speakers and that concerns us,” said Ludvig.
The minister responsible for the fight against racism says the government will make changes to the English versions of the ads, after criticism from anglophone rights groups.
On Twitter, Benoit Charette explained the government didn’t include the word Quebecers in the English ads because it seemed less inclusive.
He admits it was not the right decision, says the ads will be changed and that all Quebec citizens are Quebecers no matter their language.
Liberal MNA Jennifer Maccarone is furious with the government.
“I think is very hurtful and very, very short-sighted, especially since they have somebody who is supposed to be giving them advice, who is supposed to be making recommendations,” she said.
“There’s a difference between making an error and making a choice, and this government consistently makes choices to divide the population rather than unite us,” said Maccarone.
Smith, who works in finance, said he thinks “heads would roll” if such a mistake took place at a private enterprise.