MONTREAL — Quebec's immigration minister urged police to aggressively target citizens who encourage hateful speech on Thursday, in reaction to a spate of racist and anti-immigrant incidents in the province over the past couple of weeks.
Kathleen Weil was in Montreal to talk about her government's plan to launch public consultations on systemic racism, but her announcement came the same day a sign appeared in a small Quebec town describing the village as for white people only.
Also on Thursday, a Quebec nationalist group distributed anti-immigration stickers around the city of Sherbrooke, 150 kilometres east of Montreal. The group, which describes itself as a federation of old-stock Quebecers, had been passing around the stickers for the past few days.
"All these heinous acts are unacceptable in a society," she said. "They are hurtful and affect me personally."
Last week, Quebec City's mosque received hateful messages in the mail that reminded people of the shooting that took place there in January that left six men dead.
The message the mosque received made reference to attempts by the city's Muslim community to open a cemetery.
Weil said police need to act with force and determination against those whom she said were spreading hate speech.
Remi Tremblay, spokesman for the anti-immigration group handing out the stickers in Quebec cities, said the concept of systemic racism is a myth.
He said the government should be spending its time installing a moratorium on all immigration to the province "until we figure out what we want and what we need.
"Immigration is not a right," he said. "There is no country in the world that can operate as a multi-ethnic society without tension and conflict."
Tremblay said Quebecers from outside Montreal "no longer feel at home" when they visit the metropolis.
"Despite all the media rhetoric, people realize something is happening," he said. "Our world is changing irrevocably and there is a reaction to this, which is normal."
Samuel Ducharme with Sherbrooke police, said the group's stickers "didn't include any criminal content" and police wouldn't be investigating.
"That said, we want to ensure the public that we are very alert with regards to any racist, homophobic or heinous acts," he said. "And if they occur, we will conduct investigations and make arrests."
Weil says the public consultations on systemic racism will be led by the province's human rights commission and will begin in September.