12/13/2017 11:21 EST | Updated 12/16/2017 12:23 EST

Montreal mosque denies asking that female construction workers be barred from site

MONTREAL — Members of a Montreal mosque have vigorously denied a televised report they asked for female construction workers to be excluded from a site opposite their building.

Mosque officials dismissed the TVA report, while an electrical services commission that awarded the contract to another company told The Canadian Press the only proviso in the document was that there be access to the mosque's parking lot for Friday prayers.

The company, called G-TEK, did not reply to requests for an interview.

The TVA report also said women on the site were intimidated but Serge Boileau, president of the electrical commission, said the contract was drawn up, in collaboration with the mosque, by a group of almost exclusively women engineers.

Boileau also said surveillance of the site was entrusted to a woman who has been on the premises from the outset and who has "never felt troubled in any way, shape or form."

Officials with the Ahl-ill Bait Mosque said in a statement Wednesday they have had good relations with the contractor since the beginning of the project.

"It is with surprise and astonishment that we react today," said Moayed Altalibi. "We had actually asked for parking at lunchtime on Fridays, but never asked for anyone to be excluded. This request, if it exists, does not come from our organization."

He added that such reports contribute to the social breakdown between Quebecers of Muslim and non-Muslim faiths.

"The statements contained in the report about the exclusion of women on the construction site are not only false, but fuel cynicism and harm the entire communities.

Speaking before the mosque statement was issued, Premier Philippe Couillard said any request for women to be barred from construction sites would be unacceptable but he made it clear it was not even sure whether it had even been made.

"If this is the case, it's totally unacceptable," Couillard said. "It remains to be seen who said what to whom. It's not entirely clear this morning. But this is the type of thing we don't want to see in Quebec.

"And actually, in the bill that was adopted, Bill 62, the section on accommodation indicates very clearly that no accommodation can go against the principle of equality between men and women. And we will not change that view."

Quebec's construction commission is investigating the matter.