A brief from a far-right anti-immigrant group was removed from the Quebec legislature’s website on Thursday after an outcry from people who monitor extremist movements.
MarieChantal Chassé, chairwoman of the legislature’s committee on citizen relations, had filed the document from the Fédération des Québécois de Souche – the Federation of old-stock Quebeckers – on Tuesday as part of consultations on a government immigration bill.
Ms. Chassé, a member of the Coalition Avenir Quebec government, said she had no choice under legislature rules, a position backed up by Premier François Legault and an opposition member.
Speaking to reporters in the morning before the brief had been taken down, Mr. Legault said everyone has the right to comment on legislation, though their views don’t necessarily need to be publicized.
“Everybody has the liberty to table a document,” he said, adding: “We have to be careful. I think that all parties, including our party, have to make sure we don’t put oil on the fire.”
The federation, which Mr. Legault labelled “extreme,” was founded by Maxime Fiset, a former neo-Nazi who abandoned the movement and now works for a Montreal centre fighting radicalization.
Its brief commented on the government’s Bill 9, which would grant the government the authority to be more selective over who receives permanent residency in Quebec and how many people are admitted.
The group began by congratulating the Legault government for tackling immigration reform. It called for a system favouring immigrants “showing the strongest affinities with Quebeckers, in particular people from the francophone regions of Europe or the French-Canadian diaspora.”
It said the “identity of the Quebec nation” depends on old-stock Quebeckers remaining “very much in the majority on the territory of Quebec.”
The Québec solidaire opposition party said several passages of the brief ran counter to legislature rules against violent or hurtful language.
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois of Quebéc solidaire said the committee had no choice but to remove the eight-page document, especially in the context of the heated debate over Quebec’s controversial secularism bill.
“Freedom of expression, and especially the ability to contribute to a legislature committee, is not an unlimited right,” he said. “There are limits, and today we placed a limit in saying that a brief that calls for ethnic purity is not acceptable.”
He said the most offensive passage was the one speaking of the right of the Quebec nation to preserve its ethnic identity. “It is a straight appeal for racial purity,” Mr. Nadeau-Dubois said. “That’s beyond the bounds of a respectful debate.”
He added that he hopes members of the legislature will undertake a reflection to ensure their committees are never again allowed to serve as platforms for such groups.
A statement from the national assembly explained that briefs received from those not invited to testify during public hearings are typically made public, either at the end of hearings or during detailed study of a bill.
“This submission does not mean that the chair or members of the committee endorse the contents of these briefs,” the statement read. Briefs that do not respect legislature rules can be rejected. “These are exceptional situations that are dealt with on a case-by-case basis by the chair of the committee and its members,” the statement said.