'Systemic racism exists,' says new CAQ adviser on Indigenous affairs
“Yes, I believe it exists, and I have spoken with (Indigenous Affairs Minister Ian Lafrenière) about it,” Panasuk said in an interview on the Radio-Canada morning show Tout un matin.
“But what’s more important than semantic debates is action, and I believe this new law gives us the possibility to have the tools to act. And we will see in one year or two years if we can go further.”
Former journalist Panasuk was named special adviser by Lafrenière. She will be responsible for supporting families of Indigenous children who were in provincial health centres and who went missing.
She will also advise Lafrenière on how to apply new legislation that allows the sharing of private medical files with the families of Indigenous children who went missing.
Her stance is in contrast to that of Premier François Legault, who has denied the existence of systemic racism in Quebec, saying the numbers of Quebecers who practise discrimination are “a very, very small minority.”
Opposition leaders were quick to applaud Panasuk’s declaration.
Video: U.N. committee to consider racism complaint of N.S. Mi’kmaq fishers against Ottawa (Global News)
U.N. committee to consider racism complaint of N.S. Mi’kmaq fishers against Ottawa
“I would like to salute the arrival of the adviser Anne Panasuk … who has a great clear-sightedness, because she recognized, this morning, the existence of systemic racism,” said Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade at the National Assembly.
“I salute her courage, to say within this government, that systemic racism exists. And I hope that she will positively influence not only the minister, but the entire government on this path.”
Anglade added: “To be able to fix a problem, you have to be able to name the problem, you have to be able to name things. Sometimes naming things is difficult. It disturbs people, because it’s disagreeable, because we think there are people who will feel guilty. We must get out of that way of thinking and say: There is no one who is right or wrong in this. We must just recognize that there is a phenomenon that exists, and then we can work on it together.”
The consequences of not recognizing systemic racism are demonstrated by the fact Quebec does not have clear health care files on Indigenous communities, Anglade said.
“Because we don’t recognize that it’s a systemic problem, as a consequence, we can’t even pull together data to document the problem. … You can’t fix a problem you don’t recognize.”
Manon Massé, co-spokesperson for Québec solidaire, applauded the appointment of Panasuk, saying she had created strong ties to indigenous communities through her work and reporting on missing children “which shows we can be allies, and allies that, recognizing that systemic racism exists, and so for those people, it’s very important because it’s their existence.”
Lafrenière had not commented on the issue Wednesday morning.