A parade float meant to celebrate Quebec's history drew ire from commenters online when a video circulated Saturday of the float being pushed by young black men, while surrounded by white parade-goers dressed in white.
Footage posted on social media prompted some people to link the images to slavery and to speak of a lack of diversity in the parade.
"I'm not sure that the parade organizers understood the concept of diversity," poster Felix Brouillet said.
But Maxime Laporte, head of the Societe Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montreal, which organized the event, rejected the charges as "unfair" and "exaggerated."
He said it was pure chance that black men were pulling the float, and told Radio-Canada the parade is eco-friendly, and that's why the floats were pushed by people.
The students who were moving the float in question, which had singer Annie Villeneuve atop it, were recruited from the Louis-Joseph Papineau school's retention association. Steve Lubin, head coach of the school's football team, said he never saw the controversy coming and suggested the students were happy to take part.
However, the Montreal Gazette shared images of other floats that appeared to also be pushed by black men as posted on Facebook, as did others:
"The people pushing the floats are almost all black (there's one float that's being pushed by Asians and Arabic people [Editor's note: not confirmed]). All the people on the floats are white. What was the message the city wanted to send to Montrealers in organizing this parade? What are we saying to the black child who is happy to celebrate Fete Nationale?" wrote a Muslim association on Facebook.
Brouillet's video has been shared thousands of times since it was posted Saturday afternoon. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family were also in attendance at the parade.
—With files from the Canadian Press