Action must be taken now against racism, says PQ president

Comparisons between racism experienced by visible minorities and the impact of colonialism on the Quebec people following the British conquest should not be used to justify inaction in the fight against racism, according to the president of the Parti Quebecois , Dieudonné Ella Oyono.

This immigrant from Gabon became in November the first black man to hold this volunteer position. In a letter to Duty published Tuesday, he and 20 signatories urged citizens to speak out against racism in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, the African American suffocated by the knee of a policeman in Minneapolis.

The dramatic images of this arrest went around the world and revived the debate on systemic racism in Quebec, leading some people to compare the pitfalls of French Canadians at one time to racism experienced by ethnic minorities. At the other end of the spectrum, others compare the situation of blacks in Quebec to that of African Americans in the United States.

He recalls that the PQ had proposed 20 measures to combat racism in 2018. “What I do not want is that in a year and a half, two years we are still thinking, still working to consult because there are still solutions that exist that we know and that can be implemented quickly, ”he said.

According to him, it would be necessary, among other things, to find places of exchange so that people of all origins can mix with each other to realize “that we are not that different”.

“If there are no intercultural encounters, if there are no places where people exchange, ultimately, people make decisions based on what they have read, what a neighbor , a friend told them, but I don’t call it systemic racism, he said. It’s that people have no information. There is a bias: a group, I associate it with such and such an event and I think the whole group behaves like that, when in fact, this is not the case. “

It is thus in line with the position of the PQ, which considers that Quebec society, “one of the most open in the world”, is not racist, even if it recognizes that racist incidents occur, as the said its parliamentary leader, Pascal Bérubé, Tuesday.

By his own admission, Dieudonné Ella Oyono has not experienced much racism since arriving in Quebec 20 years ago. He remembers a rather funny story where, passing through the small town of Disraeli, he went to mass. “When I opened the door of the church, the priest stopped preaching for a few seconds,” he said. Everyone turned around, everyone looked at me, and I intentionally walked along the church and went to sit in front. At the end of the mass, curious parishioners went to see him to speak to him. “We exchanged, then after that we went to eat together,” he continued. They had no bad intentions. They were just surprised. “

However, he acknowledges that others have faced more difficulties, whether finding accommodation, employment or even having their diploma recognized. “When you are in the second, third generation and you still have the same difficulties, for example, in finding a job or accommodation because you are black, I think there is something we can look at collectively to find solutions. “

And to those who would assimilate the separatist cause and racism, he answers this: “The project that we carry does not make sense if it is exclusive. It will never be exclusive. Those who imagined it before us saw it for all Quebecers. “

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