'Systemic racism exists,' new CAQ adviser on Indigenous affairs says


QUEBEC — The day after being appointed a special adviser to Quebec on the issue of missing Indigenous children, Anne Panasuk said Wednesday she believes systemic racism exists in the province — in direct contrast to the ruling Coalition Avenir Québec’s insistence it does not.

“Yes, I believe it exists, and I have spoken with (Indigenous Affairs Minister Ian Lafrenière) about it,” Panasuk said in an interview on the Radio-Canada morning show Tout un matin.

“But what’s more important than semantic debates is action, and I believe this new law gives us the possibility to have the tools to act. And we will see in one year or two years if we can go further.”

Former journalist Panasuk was named special adviser by Lafrenière. She will be responsible for supporting families of Indigenous children who were in provincial health centres and who went missing.

She will also advise Lafrenière on how to apply new legislation that allows the sharing of private medical files with the families of Indigenous children who went missing.

Her stance is in contrast to that of Premier François Legault, who has denied the existence of systemic racism in Quebec, saying the numbers of Quebecers who practise discrimination are “a very, very small minority.”

Opposition leaders were quick to applaud Panasuk’s declaration.

“I would like to salute the arrival of the adviser Anne Panasuk … who has a great clear-sightedness, because she recognized, this morning, the existence of systemic racism,” said Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade at the National Assembly.

“I salute her courage, to say within this government, that systemic racism exists. And I hope that she will positively influence not only the minister, but the entire government on this path.”

Anglade added: “To be able to fix a problem, you have to be able to name the problem, you have to be able to name things. Sometimes naming things is difficult. It disturbs people, because it’s disagreeable, because we think there are people who will feel guilty. We must get out of that way of thinking and say: There is no one who is right or wrong in this. We must just recognize that there is a phenomenon that exists, and then we can work on it together.”