During the conference that announced her appointment as minister for the status of women, Isabelle Charest was asked her opinion on the headscarf worn by some Muslim women.
She responded that the garb did not correspond to her values and it was not a way for a woman to prosper in society. She added that it signified a form of oppression toward women.
“The hijab is not something that women should wear,” she said. “It symbolizes a form of oppression toward women, the fact they have to cover themselves up. It is not in my values and I think women should be free to wear what they want.”
This comes only a short time after Premier of Quebec François Legault ruled out the idea of having a national day against Islamophobia in his governed province.
Two days after his Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault said the government would discuss the possibility, Legault slammed the door shut on Thursday.
“Geneviève was cautious and said we’d look at this,” Legault said at a news conference wrapping up a two-day caucus of Coalition Avenir Québec MNAs in Gatineau.
“We looked at this. There won’t be one.”
Asked why, Legault answered: “I don’t think there is Islamophobia in Quebec, so I don’t see why there would be a day devoted to Islamophobia.”
It’s the second time in two years that politicians have considered the idea and ruled it out. The discussion both times coincided with memorials marking the 2017 shooting in a Quebec City mosque.
When the CAQ was the opposition last year it also opposed making Jan. 29 a day to speak out against Islamophobia. As a result, in February 2018 ,the idea was ruled too controversial and did not go ahead.
Whether there is Islamophobia in Quebec is a back and forth issue, and Quebec politicians have recently garnered some flack regarding comments that have been made discussing the attitude towards Muslims in Quebec.
Recently, Gatineau city councillor Nathalie Lemieux apologized for comments she made last week about Muslims and said she was stepping down as the city’s deputy mayor.
Lemieux took to Facebook to issue an apology for offending or hurting anyone with her words, explaining that doing so was not her intention.
In an interview with Le Droit, Lemieux applauded Quebec Premier François Legault’s opposition to designating an anti-Islamophobia day in Quebec, and said fear of Islam is a problem invented by Justin Trudeau’s federal Liberals.
The comments came days after the second anniversary of the deadly attack on a mosque in Quebec City.
“This word doesn’t even exist for me,” Lemieux said of the term Islamophobia. “Quebecers aren’t as racist as people would have you believe. When a group of people wants to integrate, they do. And this group doesn’t.”
“These people do a lot of bad things, with their trucks and things. It’s normal to be scared of them,” Lemieux told Le Droit.
Her comments were met with a demand from Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin that Lemieux retract and apologize for her comments.
In her Facebook post, Lemieux said she found it unfair that she was being judged on a few words published in a newspaper that did not accurately represent her beliefs.
What she does believe is that Quebec is not an Islamophobic society, and that freedom of expression is essential, she wrote.
She also said she was leaving her position as deputy mayor, and would be making no further comment on the situation.
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