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Racism allegation: Blanchet wants Singh to apologize or face 'severe' consequence
TORONTO -- Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet hopes Jagmeet Singh will apologize after the NDP leader accused a Bloc MP of being a racist in the House of Commons.
Singh was expelled from the House of Commons on Wednesday, for calling Bloc MP Alain Therrien a “racist” after the the Bloc Quebecois House Leader blocked an NDP motion calling out systemic racism in the RCMP.
“I hope that the leader of the NDP will apologize sincerely and if not, I hope the president of the House of Commons will be quite severe because if the only penalty is not being allowed into the room for one day and not being to speak for one day, everybody will feel entitled to do the same and trade insults and accusations on the floor,” Blanchet said during a press conference in Ottawa Thursday morning.
Earlier on Thursday, Singh defended his comments and said he was prepared to face any penalty as a result.
“I believe in what I said,” he told CTV News Channel.
The NDP leader also said he hadn’t spoken privately with Therrien after he made the accusation, but he’s not opposed to the idea. However, he said he’s more concerned with seeing systemic change.
“I want to see some systemic change,” he said. “I don’t really care to appease one person's feelings. I want to bring in changes to the police so that I don't see another Indigenous person be brutally beaten. I want to bring in changes to the federal policing so that people who are, need a wellness check, aren't then killed afterwards. I want to see that.”
Singh sought the unanimous consent of the House of Commons to pass a motion that would recognize the existence of systemic racism within the RCMP and to call on the government to review the police force’s budget and the federal law that governs them, examine their use of force, and increase spending on mental health and addiction support outside of the police.
While it appeared that all of the parties supported the motion at first, there was an audible “no” from the area in the Commons where the Bloc Quebecois caucus sit.
Later on Wednesday, Singh told reporters that he was angry, not only that Therrien denied the motion, but that he also appeared to make a dismissive hand gesture during the exchange.
“It was this brazen act of one MP to not just say no, but to say no loudly and to kind of gesture like this,” Singh said as he imitated someone brushing something away with their hand.
“Almost like this is meaningless and in that gesture, I saw exactly what has happened for so long. People see racism as not a big deal, see systemic racism and the killing of Indigenous people as not a big deal, see Black people being the subject of violence and being killed as not a big deal, and in the moment I saw the face of racism.”
Blanchet, however, said gestures are open to interpretation and that “nobody seems to remember” the one that offended Singh.
“If somebody doesn’t see anything explicit, who is entitled to say, ‘Oh, he moved his hand in such a way and this means this or that?’” he asked.
The Bloc Quebecois leader said the only thing the party did was say “no” to the motion because they want a committee to analyze the issue of systemic racism in the RCMP and come to its own conclusions.
“Therrien is anything but a racist person,” Blanchet said. “Me, or our team, or MPs, are anything but racist people. We simply said that, because committee was to be called to analyze this very issue, the Parliament was not supposed to dictate the conclusions of this committee. This is the only reason why we said we don’t want to approve this motion. That’s it.”
When asked about Singh’s remark on Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he found it “disappointing” that the Bloc Quebecois refuse to accept that systemic discrimination and racism exists in every part of the country and its institutions.
“The first step is recognizing that there is a problem so that we can address it and it is unfortunate that they continue to resist recognizing the lived reality of millions of Canadians who are Indigenous or racialized,” the PM said during his remarks from Rideau Cottage.
Trudeau wouldn’t comment directly on whether he thought the Bloc Quebecois’ refusal to approve the motion was racist, but he said they will have to explain why they refuse to recognize systemic racism.
The prime minister added that Singh should be allowed to raise such issues, even if it makes people uncomfortable.
“I think it’s important that we recognize when the only racialized leader in the House of Commons makes a statement like that, that it comes from a place that, yes, will make people uncomfortable, but needs to be dealt with as we move forward as a country,” he said.
Former NDP leader and CTV News political analyst Tom Mulcair, on the other hand, said he thinks that Singh should apologize for calling Therrien a racist based on the exchange that happened in the Commons on Wednesday.
“If you’re using racism because you don’t like somebody’s hand gestures, you have no other information about that person’s core beliefs, they’ve never said or done anything that anybody would identify as being racist, it’s not that you’re making them uncomfortable, you’re using a very serious term and you better have something to back it up,” he said.