Saturday, August 17, 2019
Quebec: Green Party candidate forced to resign for criticizing mosque leader
OTTAWA—A federal Green Party candidate was forced to drop out of the upcoming election campaign as he continues to call on the leader of the Quebec City mosque that was site of a 2017 massacre to denounce a man who allegedly lit his ex-wife on fire.
Luc Saint-Hilaire, the Green candidate for the Quebec riding of Lévis-Lotbinière, told the Star that the party gave him 24 hours to resign after he shared a post on Facebook following reports that a man accused of trying to kill his ex-wife by setting her on fire is Muslim.
Earlier this month, 39-year-old Frej Haj Messaoud was charged with attempted murder and aggravated assault for allegedly setting his ex-wife on fire in Quebec City, The Canadian Press has reported.
Saint-Hilaire’s post was first reported by blogging philosophy professor, Xavier Camus. Dated August 13, it shows an image of Boufeldja Benabdallah, co-founder of the Centre culturel islamique de Québec and reads in French: "It would be a good moment for the president of ‘the Islamic Association’ to condemn the repugnant actions of this ‘Mohamed’ who made his wife a human torch in front of her kids… but no! It’s silence"
Rosie Emery, a spokesperson for the Green Party, confirmed Saint-Hilaire was asked to withdraw his candidacy this week. "We have no further comment at this time," she said by email.
In an interview with the Star, the marketing strategist said he admits it was "maladroit" to share the post without outlining his precise views. He insisted he's not racist or prejudiced against Muslim people, but that he truly believes leaders of the Muslim community in Quebec—including of the mosque that was attacked in 2017—should speak out about the recent attack in the provincial capital. In a subsequent email, Saint-Hilaire added that he feels that silence gives members of the "extreme right" the chance to link the attack to Muslims in general.
"It was in all the newspapers when there was the story of the mosque," he said. "He needs to speak."
Saint-Hilaire added that he shouldn’t be maligned for opposing things like calendar days marked to raise awareness about Islamophobia. The blogger who revealed his post this week also highlighted comments Saint-Hilaire made on Facebook questioning the media focus on the mosque attack in Quebec City.
"I'm absolutely not racist. I'm also not an Islamophobe. I even have friends that are practising Muslims who've come to my defence, because they know me," Saint-Hilaire said in French, adding that he believes the Green Party rushed to judgement out of outsized concerns over political correctness.
"I find that to be a shame," he said.
In January 2017, Alexandre Bissonnette stormed the mosque in Quebec City, where he shot and killed Ibrahima Barry, Mamadou Tanou Barry, Khaled Belkacemi, Abdelkrim Hassane, Azzeddine Soufiane and Aboubaker Thabti.
Bissonnette pleaded guilty to 6 counts of 1st degree murder and was sentenced to 40 years in prison without parole for crimes a judge ruled were inspired by "racism and hatred."
In a statement on Facebook, the leader of the Green Party of Quebec, Alex Tyrrell, condemned Saint-Hilaire’s comments as "totally unacceptable within the Green movement.
"On behalf of the Green Party of Quebec, I'd like to offer my sincere apologies to all those who were hurt by the remarks of the candidate in question. Let's continue the fight for inclusion and against Islamophobia in all spheres of our society," Tyrrell wrote.
at 2:31 PM