Recently, Premier Francois Legault felt that the province needed someone to lead the fight against racism and he apparently had the perfect candidate in mind. The Premier chose environment minister Benoit Charette—who in addition to being white—does not believe that Quebec has a systemic racism problem.
Systemic racism is essentially when racism is upheld in government systems and therefore, in society as a whole. It’s almost ironic for anyone in Legault’s government to say that systemic racism is basically non-existent in Quebec considering that they passed Bill 21 which is a law that primarily attacks Muslim people as well as other religions. Additionally, in September, an Indigenous woman named Joyce Echaquan was killed by nurses in a Quebec hospital who insulted her until the end. Not to mention the cases of racial profiling within the police system with incidents such as Mamadi III Fara Camara who spent six nights detained for something he didn’t do. In this specific case, of course, Montreal Police say that this was not a case of racial profiling; however, the police chief still refused to allow a private investigation to be conducted. These are just a few incidents of systemic racism within the province, so already Charette is starting off on the wrong foot.
In addition to his inability to acknowledge systemic racism, Benoit Charette is also white. Obviously the Premier and Charette feel as though this shouldn’t be a disqualification towards the position with Charette saying that he has lived in several countries and understands the struggles that minorities face. He also stated that this is a personal struggle for him given that his wife is Haitian. That statement is almost equivalent to white people who say that they cannot be racist because they have black friends. The fact that he is a white man married to a woman of colour does not take away his white privilege. It does not take away the fact that while he claims to understand the struggles of racism; he’s never experienced it.
People who are born white are automatically born with advantages in life that people of colour do not have. A big reason why white people don’t like the term white privilege is because that term alludes to the fact that white people don’t struggle in life which isn’t true. White people can struggle; however, your race does not make your life harder. Already Benoit Charette’s inability to acknowledge systemic racism means that the institutions that harshly affect communities of colour will remain unchanged. But add the fact that Charette is white, which means that he cannot and will not ever understand the struggle of racism and while he can sympathize all he wants, makes it even clearer that he is the wrong person for the job.
By Isabella Del Grosso