Francois Legault booster rollout Quebec

François Legault digs himself deeper into the hole on systemic racism

The Premier is leaning hard on the Petit Robert definition of “systémique” to get himself off the hook.

Quebec Premier François Legault held a press conference this afternoon to respond to the findings of the coroner’s inquest into the death of Joyce Echaquan, and the recommendations of coroner Géhane Kamel, which include the acknowledgement of systemic racism by the provincial government.

Legault referred repeatedly to the Petit Robert dictionary definition of “systémique” and the notion that systemic racism has to be administered from the top down of the organization in question, such as the health care system. Legault stated definitively that the province’s health care system is not racist as a whole, and that the “terrible,” “unacceptable” and clearly “racist” treatment of Joyce Echaquan prior to her death was carried out by a few bad apples employed at the Joliette hospital. Since last year, Legault said, 12,000 health care workers in the region have had racial and cultural sensitivity training sessions.

Legault explained that he believes that the dispute about the existence of systemic racism is due to there being different definitions of “systemic.”

“There are two types of people in Quebec: those who believe there is systemic racism in the province and those who don’t.”

Legault did acknowledge that systemic racism existed in the days of residential schools. It was pointed out repeatedly by reporters that some of the “Indian” laws that were on the books then are still in place now, and that health care and education outcomes and results for Indigenous children are markedly lower than for non-Indigenous people in Quebec. Legault said that the key difference now is that kids are no longer being forcibly removed from their parents for the purpose of assimilation. (Even this point is debatable considering dubious practices in social services.)

“We are a progressive society in Quebec, and our situation is not perfect, but it’s better than some parts of the United States for example.”

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