Current Problems

Government Commitments to Truth and Reconciliation

After ‘disgraceful’ remarks, First Nations leaders call on Quebec MNA to resign

May 22, 2023

NationTalk: The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL) is calling on a Quebec politician to step down after his “contemptuous and disgraceful” remarks during a city council meeting.

The demand comes after Coalition Avenir Québec MNA Pierre Dufour, who represents the Abitibi-Est riding, spoke when the issue of homelessness came up during city council last week in Val-d’Or, about 530 kilometres northwest of Montreal.

Dufour claimed Val-d’Or’s administration inherited a “pile of s–t,” in part due to bombshell allegations in 2015 that police officers with the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) allegedly sexually and physically assaulted Indigenous women in the community. Dufour went on to claim the Radio-Canada investigation by flagship program Enquête — which first shed light on the alleged abuse at the hands of provincial police in the community — was “full of lies.”

The investigation helped prompt a Quebec inquiry that examined relations between Indigenous communities and the provincial government. A final scathing final report by the Viens Commission called on the province to apologize to First Nations and Inuit peoples for systemic discrimination as part of 142 recommendations.

During the council meeting, Dufour also criticized the conclusions of that public inquiry.

Ghislain Picard, chief of the AFNQL, said Monday that Dufour’s comments before the council were “totally unacceptable” and have caused damage.

“It really puts a lot of doubt into the apology by his boss, by the premier, back in October of 2019 after the tabling of the Viens Commission report,” Picard said in an interview with Global News. “Whereby the premier (François Legault) has extended his hand to Indigenous peoples in this province, saying that the state has failed them.”

Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Ghislain Picard speaking at the Grand Economic Circle of Indigenous People and Quebec in Montreal, Quebec, Friday, November 26, 2021.
Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Ghislain Picard speaking at the Grand Economic Circle of Indigenous People and Quebec in Montreal, Quebec, Friday, November 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Mario Beauregard

Dufour doesn’t deserve the kind of privilege or responsibility that comes with representing his riding in Quebec’s national assembly, according to Picard. “The most honourable thing for him to do at this point is to resign,” Picard said.

In the days that followed, Dufour did issue a brief statement to his Facebook page to walk back his comments. The file, he said, is “sensitive and complex.” “I expressed myself under emotion and certain words went beyond my thoughts,” Dufour wrote, adding that the situation in Val-d’Or is “worrying.”

Global News reached out to Dufour on Monday, but he has not responded to an interview request. Picard said Dufour’s initial remarks are still “inexcusable” and have eroded trust in the Legault government.

Nakuset, executive director of the Native Women’s Shelter in Montreal, also said she was unhappy with Dufour’s comments during the city council meeting. Dufour should be “walking into that community and making an apology to them,” she added.

“I think it’s really troubling that if you’re a person in political power to make these kind of blatant  and they are racist  remarks,” Nakuset said. “It’s not helpful at all.”

Quebec Solidaire co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois called on the premier to respond to address the situation and Dufour’s comments. “Those kinds of remarks are putting us backwards in our relationships with First Nations communities and those kinds of remarks are completely unacceptable in 2023,” he said.

— with files from Global News’ Tim Sargeant and The Canadian Press