Amira Elgawaby, the federal government’s new anti-Islamophobic representative, apologized Wednesday for past remarks about the prevalence of anti-Muslim sentiment in Quebec.
Elgawaby, who was appointed special representative on the fight against Islamophobia last week, made the remarks before meeting with Bloc Quebec leader Yves-François Blanchet, who called for a meeting to object to the 2019 remarks.
“I am very sorry that my words have hurt the people of Quebec. This is what I express to Mr Blanchet,” she said.
“I understand that my words and the way I said them hurt people in Quebec. I have been listening very carefully. I know. I’m sorry.”
The controversy relates to Elgwaby’s opinion column, which he co-authored with Bernie Farber, former chief executive of the Canadian Jewish Congress. 2019 Ottawa Citizen.
Watch: Elgwaby apologizes
This column comments on the controversial Quebec Bill 21, which bans local officials from wearing religious symbols such as the hijab.
“Unfortunately, the majority of Quebecers seem to be swayed not by the rule of law, but by anti-Muslim sentiments,” Elgawaby and Farber write.
In a column, Elgawaby and Farber found that 88% of Quebec citizens who hold a negative view of Islam overwhelmingly support a ban on religious symbols for civil servants in a Leger Marketing poll. He said he reached that conclusion after he found out.
“I don’t think she knows Quebec. She doesn’t know our history. As a citizen, as a party leader, as an anthropologist, I am happy to discuss Quebec’s history with her,” Blanche said. said Wednesday morning.
Call for Elgwaby’s resignation
Jean-François Roberge, Quebec’s French minister, said earlier this week that Elgwaby “seems to be overwhelmed by anti-Quebec sentiment”.
“All she did was try to justify her hateful comments,” he said. “It won’t work. She has to resign. If she doesn’t resign, the government will have to remove her immediately.”
After hearing her apology, Roberge said Elghaby was trying to explain her remarks a few days ago.
“I’m glad she apologized, but she still has to resign.
Speaking to the caucuses early Wednesday, Conservative Party leader Pierre Polivre urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to remove Elgawaby from her new position.
Polivre, speaking in French, said he supported efforts to combat Islamophobia, but accused Trudeau of choosing someone who insulted Quebecers.
Trudeau again chose to divide Canadians by appointing a person who had made anti-Quebec, anti-Semitic and anti-police statements.
He must appoint someone who can unite us all in the fight against racism and Islamophobia. pic.twitter.com/ZnL2RNmPsK
Before Elgawaby’s apology on Wednesday, Trudeau said Quebec citizens’ opinions about religious symbols were informed not by racism, but by their history of living under the state’s “oppressive churches.”
“Quebecers are not racist,” Trudeau said. “The Quebecois, like many other Canadians, is one of the strongest advocates for individual rights and liberties.”
Mr Trudeau said Mr Elgawaby was qualified to reach out to both secular and religious Quebec citizens.
After the meeting, Elgawaby called the conversation with Blanchet a “constructive” discussion and an “opportunity to hear each other.”
Elgawaby said that as a Muslim he understands what it means to be judged and treated with prejudice. She apologized again to Blanchett in private.
“I want to bring people together. I want people to listen. Mr. Blanchet has demonstrated that too. [we] I look forward to more opportunities for dialogue.”