01/20/2014 10:01 EST | Updated 03/22/2014 05:59 EDT

Mosque comments at secular charter hearing raises questions

Questions are being raised about the role of commissioners in censoring speakers at the Quebec secular charter hearings, after some recent testimony sparked outrage. 

On Thursday, Quebecer Geneviève Caron spoke before a national assembly commission in Quebec City, describing her shock after visiting a mosque in Morocco.

“There were men on all fours on the ground ... ‘Come on!’ I said, "Praying on all fours on the ground on little carpets...what the heck is that all about?’"

An excerpt of that testimony was posted on YouTube, and so far has received close to 300,000 hits.

Luciano Del Negro, the Quebec vice-president of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said someone should have stepped in to stop Caron.

“It demeans the whole process,” he told CBC's Daybreak.

“Certainly one would think that a parliamentary commission begs for more decorum.”

No vetting process for speakers 

There is no vetting process for the groups and individuals who present at the public hearings. A spokesman for the national assembly said anyone who submitted a brief before the deadline will be given the opportunity to speak, (barring any scheduling difficulties) based on a first come, first serve basis.

CBC Daybreak requested an interview with Bernard Drainville, the minister responsible for the secular charter, to find out why Caron’s testimony was not interrupted.

Drainville’s office refused to comment.

Daybreak also made calls to the offices of all four parties who sit on the commission, but they refused an interview.

Samer Majzoub, president of the Canadian Muslim Forum, said Caron’s testimony may have been shocking, but it didn’t come as a surprise.

“Honestly the whole process of the charter is offensive,” Majzoub said.

He told Daybreak that the hearings should be an opportunity for legislators to get feedback from stakeholders.

“It should not really in any way turn into a platform of antisemitism, Islamaphobia, or racism.” he said.

Racist comment prompts interruption

Officials did step in earlier last week, when another presenter, Martin Laperrière, called a Montreal columnist a "racist."

The president of the commission interrupted the proceedings, and said the comment was unacceptable. 

Drainville asked Laperrière to withdraw his comment.

The commission resumes Tuesday.