09/21/2015 19:14 EDT | Updated 09/21/2016 01:12 EDT

Saguenay Mayor Jean Tremblay: 4 controversial moments

Jean Tremblay, the longtime mayor of Saguenay, announced on Monday he will step down at the end of his current mandate in 2017.

He was elected mayor of Chicoutimi in 1997 and four years later became mayor of the merged community of Saguenay, about 250 kilometres north of Quebec City.

In a Facebook post, Tremblay said he made the decision after a long period of reflection. 

"I want to leave the impression of a mayor who succeeded at all levels, of a mayor who proved that he worked for his constituents," he said.

But the populist mayor's time in power has not been without controversy. Here are four memorable moments from his tenure. 

1. Prayer before council meetings

Jean Tremblay is perhaps best known for his fight to say a Catholic prayer prior to municipal council meetings.

Tremblay took the disagreement all the way to the Supreme Court and lost. After the decision from Canada's top court last April, Tremblay said he would respect the ruling — even though he didn't like it.

"We have to stand up for our customs, for our traditions," he said. 

2. 'Comme des nègres'

In a radio interview from March 2015, Tremblay came under criticism for using a pejorative term to describe workers in his city. 

"Y'a des gens qui travaillent fort, qui travaillent comme des nègres," Tremblay told a local French radio station, before quickly apologizing for using the term "nègres" to describe the hardworking people of his region. 

He then went on to explain he used the term because black people are hard workers who earn low wages.

3. Anti-Greenpeace rant

In a video shared widely on social media, Tremblay called on all city employees and unions to take action against Greenpeace and "the intellectuals of this world." 

"If things continue like this, there will be no more work for our workers. We are not able to develop projects anymore," Tremblay says in the video, posted in March 2015.

"Our forest — we have an extraordinary forest — but the people of Greenpeace with their certifications, are they more intelligent than our government that establishes laws and is elected democratically?"

The video prompted a petition calling for his resignation. The MNA for the region, Sylvain Gaudreault, deplored the mayor's rant on social media.

"It's more silliness in his succession of blunders," he said.


4. 'Someone whose name I can't even pronounce'

In 2012, Jean Tremblay, a devout Catholic, said he was "outraged" at the Parti Québecois' desires to make secularism mainstream.

He was especially angered over then-PQ candidate Djemila Benhabib's remarks that the the crucifix should be taken down at the National Assembly.

"It's not the [secular] charter in and out of itself [that annoys me]. It's having someone whose name I can't even pronounce come from Algeria, who doesn't understand our culture at all, but she's going to make the rules. And I know how soft Quebecers are — they'll all give in to her," Tremblay said.