Quebec Liberal Party MNA Dominique Anglade during question period, Wednesday, April 3, 2019 at the legislature in Quebec City. Within days of entering the Quebec Liberal leadership race, Dominique Anglade was hit with a whisper campaign suggesting the colour of her skin and her connection to Montreal hurt her chances of becoming premier. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

Quebec Liberal Party MNA Dominique Anglade during question period, Wednesday, April 3, 2019 at the legislature in Quebec City. Within days of entering the Quebec Liberal leadership race, Dominique Anglade was hit with a whisper campaign suggesting the colour of her skin and her connection to Montreal hurt her chances of becoming premier. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

Whisper campaign questions black Liberal candidate’s appeal outside Montreal

Dominique Anglade is in the race to become the leader of the Quebec Liberals

Within days of entering the Quebec Liberal leadership race, Dominique Anglade was hit with a whisper campaign suggesting the colour of her skin and her connection to Montreal hurt her chances of becoming premier.

The comments didn’t come from the dregs of social media but from people in her own party speaking to two of the province’s most seasoned political reporters. The message was that party members didn’t think Quebecers in regions outside the big cities were ready to vote for a black woman from the province’s multi-ethnic metropolis.

In a recent interview, Anglade said the anonymous Liberal insiders “underestimate Quebecers.”

“Honestly,” she said, ”I would rather respond to what I know as a fact and what people say publicly.”

Denis Lessard of La Presse reported last week the existence of an “anybody but Anglade” campaign among Liberals worried a Montrealer from a “cultural community” couldn’t win over the regions. Michel David in Le Devoir, noted a woman with Haitian ancestry as Liberal leader would represent a big change. “Clearly, not everyone in the party is convinced that Quebec is ready for such a change,” he wrote.

The reporting never identified the people making these claims, but it spoke to very real issues facing Anglade and her party. The Liberals are going to need to figure out how to appeal to the largely white, francophone regions suspicious of Montreal if they want to win power again.

Anglade, 45, is an engineer who was born in Montreal to Haitian parents. She used to be president of the party that now governs, Coalition Avenir Quebec, but quit and joined the Liberals in 2015.

Her only opponent so far in the leadership race, Drummondville Mayor Alexandre Cusson recently said he was ”stunned” by the whisper campaign.

“In 2019, are we still reducing the competencies and the qualities of a person to the colour of their skin?” he wrote in an open letter published on Facebook Nov. 27.

Cusson, who declared his candidacy Nov. 23, recognized that the anonymous comments directed at Anglade were also very much about him — the white man from outside the big city who some see as the Liberals’ winning ticket.

“It’s as if my only qualities are that I am a white man from a region of Quebec that isn’t Montreal …. These comments and insinuations need to stop,” he wrote.

Anglade says she wants to shift the leadership debate away from race. Not only are Quebecers ready to vote for a black woman, she says, but the Liberals are the only party that can offer a fully inclusive, federalist vision of the Quebec nation.

Anglade is positioning herself as a uniter, someone who will defend Quebec’s language and identity but respect the province’s diversity. She is also highly attuned to the need to steer clear of positions that put her at odds with the majority she is trying to court.

For example, she won’t say whether she thinks systemic racism exists in Quebec. The Liberals tried to launch public consultations on systemic racism in 2017 but cancelled them after strong criticism from political opponents, including the man who would go on to be elected premier in 2018, Francois Legault.

“I think we need to recognize that there are still challenges,” Anglade said, when asked if systemic racism exists in the province. “We still have issues with regards to integration.”

And Anglade, who voted against the government’s secularism legislation last June, now says if elected premier she wouldn’t get rid of it. Bill 21, which is facing multiple lawsuits, prohibits certain public sector workers, including teachers and police officers, from wearing religious symbols at work.

The law invokes the Canadian Constitution’s notwithstanding clause to shield it from court challenges, but the clause must be renewed every five years. Anglade said if she were premier, she would let the clause expire in 2024.

“Every law should be tested in court to ensure it is valid,” she said.

But in keeping with her position not to antagonize the majority in favour of the legislation, Anglade wouldn’t say what she would do if the courts eventually ruled it unconstitutional.

“So you will call me at that moment, and we’ll talk about it,” she said.

Benoit Pelletier, a senior Liberal cabinet minister under former premier Jean Charest, says Anglade is a quality candidate who understands that the party needs to reconnect with the regions if it wants to regain power.

Pelletier, who is now a law professor at University of Ottawa, said in an interview if the Liberals want to reconnect with people outside Montreal they need to leave Bill 21 alone. The party cannot play a role in getting the law tangled up in the courts, he said.

“I don’t know what the winning recipe is,” he said. ”But I can tell you the losing recipe is to mess around with judicial challenges. That seems pretty clear to me.”

ALSO READ: Tory deputy leader apologizes for comparing Pride, St. Patrick’s Day parades

Giuseppe Valiante, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

This conceptual rendering shows 60 units of student housing at the Salmon Arm campus of Okanagan College expected to be constructed in 2022. (Okanagan College image)
Student housing to be built on Okanagan College Salmon Arm campus

Province announces 60 beds to help ease housing shortage in community

The District of Sicamous is being asked to pull a resolution from the Eagle Valley Snowmobile Club to keep loggers off managed sledding trails in the winter. (Jim Elliot-Eagle Valley News)
Sicamous snowmobile club pulls request to keep loggers off sled trails in winter

Resolution doesn’t get backing of BC Snowmobile Federation

The SASCU Recreation Centre will serve as a COVID-19 mass immunization clinic starting on March 15, 2021. (File photo)
Salmon Arm rec centre to serve as COVID-19 vaccination hub

Appointments being booked for seniors ages 90 and over, Indigenous persons 65 and over

Carson Meikle prepares a hot beverage while his mother, Jenna Meikle, is busy in the background at The Night Cafe, located at 146 Lakeshore Drive. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)
Artistic Salmon Arm entrepreneurs branch into culinary arts with The Night Café

Adam and Jenna Meikle grateful for ongoing community support

The current B.C. Men’s curling champions, Rick Sawatsky (Vernon and now living and working in Kelowna, from left), Andrew Nerpin (Kelowna), Jim Cotter (Vernon) and Steve Laycock (Saskatoon), have yet to find the win column at the 2021 Tim Hortons Brier in Calgary. (Black Press - file photo)
B.C. looking for Brier victory

Team B.C. falls to 0-2 Sunday, March 7, with 10-7 loss to Wild Card 1 entry from Manitoba

Five Kelowna writers are featured in an anthology that launched in time for International Women's Day. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
International Women’s Day: Book exploring fears features Kelowna writers

The book has launched in time for International Women’s Day

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix provide a regular update on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, March 2, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 cases: 545 Saturday, 532 Sunday, 385 Monday

Focus on Prince Rupert, Lower Mainland large workplaces

(File photo)
RCMP seek witnesses after 2 different reports of man chasing children in Kelowna

Both incidents occured around Dougall Road in Rutland

Rising accident rates and payout costs have contributed to billion-dollar deficits at ICBC. (Comox Valley Record)
B.C. appealing decision keeping ICBC injury cases in court

David Eby vows to ‘clip wings’ of personal injury lawyers

Noah Vaten(left) having a cigarette out front of the Kelowna Law Courts on a brief break during his manslaughter trial on March 8, 2021. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Accused Kelowna killer ‘blacked out’ on cocaine, kicked cop shop window looking for help

Video of Noah Vaten’s interrogation shown during manslaughter trial details night of Canada Day killing in the accused’s own words

(Black Press Media files)
Hosts charged, attendees facing COVID fines after Vancouver police bust party at condo

Police had previously received 10 complains about that condo

It's tick season in South Okanagan.
Tick season has started in South Okanagan

A Penticton adventure company collected 200 ticks last year to be studied for Lyme Disease

Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen takes part in an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. A joint federal and B.C. government housing program announced today aims to help people living in up to 25,000 vulnerable households pay their rent. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Federal, B.C. governments announce $517-million rent aid program to help vulnerable

Benefits for those not eligible for B.C.’s Rental Assistance Program or Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters

Most Read