Thank you, Mr. Chair.
George Floyd is not a victim of racism; he is another victim of racism. At a time of crisis when outrage is overwhelming the caution and fear of disease among thousands of people who, despite everything, take to the streets to express that outrage, we here in politics will have to be careful, once again, about the words we use. Indeed we are particularly inclined to give other people's words a meaning other than the one they would have liked to give them.
Today, our duty—and I would say almost our only duty—is to express our solidarity, our sadness, our indignation and our anger, but above all—and in saying this, I'm thinking of all my friends and acquaintances in the wonderful black community in Quebec and the United States—our friendship. We must try to be heard by all humans. Every time we talk about this, a small part of me surfaces, that of the non-practising but unrepentant anthropologist who wants to remind us that races do not exist. It is the frequency of manifestations of certain genetic traits favoured by geography and history, which in turn shape cultures.
Racism expresses itself first and foremost through aggression against what is presumed to be the culture of others, difference. Each time difference instills fear, it is, of course, one time too many. We must learn to live equality in diversity, in itself an extraordinary thing. Governments in the U.S. have all been racist. Their racism has necessarily been expressed, at some point in their history, in their institutions. It has left its mark. It is the only thing that we have the right to call “systemic racism” or “systemic discrimination”.
I am concerned when anyone suggests that we are all and collectively inclined to engage in systemic discrimination or when anyone claims to be a bulwark of virtue between us and the victims. I believe that the Canadian government is not racist, that the Quebec government is not racist, and that the governments of our municipalities are not racist either.
I believe, however, that there may be traces of horrible things left in our institutions that colour our relationships with people of different origins or with people who were here long before us. So systemic racism probably exists. It should not denounce individuals, but it should encourage us to reread our rules to get rid of what might still be discriminatory in them. This day belongs to George Floyd. This day belongs to the black people of the United States. This day belongs to the black people of Quebec and Canada.
We don't play politics at the funeral doors: we gather our thoughts, and let indignation and sadness be expressed. We leave the streets to those who need to speak with one voice, in peace. All that is peaceful is legitimate. Nothing that is violent is legitimate.
The Prime Minister expressed the desire to implement concrete measures to fight racism. The first must be to show our solidarity and friendship. I'm proposing a very concrete measure, which is to give priority and expedited processing to the files of refugee claimants—especially Haitian, especially black, but also of other origins—who have expressed their desire to be part of the Quebec nation by putting themselves on the front line.
He has the power and the duty to do so, and if he needs Parliament, let's do it tomorrow or right now. That way, words will become actions, and the next step will be all the more credible. In the meantime, our duty is to stand up for those who are afraid and against those who frighten them.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.