(Sherbrooke) Demonstrators from two groups with opposing visions delivered a verbal high-intensity joust in front of Sherbrooke City Hall on Saturday afternoon.
As in many cities in Canada, members of the extreme right-wing Canadian Coalition of Concerned Citizens held a demonstration in Sherbrooke to challenge Motion M-103 against Islamophobia presented by The federal government, which they consider threatening for freedom of expression. Members of the La Meute group, who oppose radical Islam, also took part in the gathering.
Left-wing activists, mainly students from the Cégep de Sherbrooke and members of Action Antifasciste Sherbrooke, replied to this presence by a counter-demonstration to fight “hatred and the extreme Islamophobic right.”
“We consider that there was a great deal of misunderstanding about Motion M-103,” explained Francois, the organizer of the counter-demonstration. “They advocate freedom from expression, but in reality the motion does not bully anyone. All it does is eliminate the systemic racism of our society. So we are here to advocate a refusal of Islamophobia in Sherbrooke and a non-tolerance against racist and extreme right-wing remarks. ”
Motion M-103, tabled in the House of Commons in December by MP Iqra Khalid, calls for “condemning Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination”.
“The M-103 is too specific to a single religion, Islam, and we find it should apply to all religions, because all of our public places should be secular,” said Olivier Lambert, A UNFCCC militant.
About twenty members of each of the two camps first confronted each other with a look down the stairs leading to the town hall, finally approaching each other and opening the dialogue, under police surveillance. If the arguments were initially rather chaotic and in a tense atmosphere, small groups eventually formed in order to pursue a more harmonious discussion.
Addressing controversial issues such as the wearing of the veil, the presence of crucifixes in hospitals and, of course, Motion M-103, demonstrators and counter-demonstrators have raised the tone a few times but have never had recourse To violence.
“Why do not you keep your religion at home?” Why do you impose your customs on us? You take out your little prayer rugs everywhere! I have nothing against the Muslims, as long as you do not try to change everything in Quebec, “Carole Lambert told a Muslim couple in front of her.
“I am a student at the Cégep de Sherbrooke and have never seen a prayer mat. Yet I know very well that there is a fairly large Muslim community at the Cégep de Sherbrooke. Nobody imposes anything on anyone, “retorted François, the organizer of the counter-demonstration.
“People are closing in on themselves, and we do not want it to happen here. I do not want every community to isolate itself in its corner. We want everyone to be inclusive. (…) We are all winners if we have an understanding of the other, “said Abdelaziz Laaroussi, a Sherbrook Muslim born in Algeria of Moroccan parents.
As the icy cold began to cope with protests and the gathering was drawing to a close, activist Carole Lambert exclaimed: “In any case, we have one point in common: we have all the toes Frozen! An assertion that no one has contested.