Conservative Party of Quebec Leader Éric Duhaime is distancing himself from a member of the party’s executive branch after he published an opinion piece claiming there was no genocide against Indigenous people in Canada.
The party’s policy commission president André Valiquette published the article in Québec Nouvelles last year, arguing Indigenous people largely benefited from the European colonization of their land.
“It is not racist to say that one civilization brings more than another,” Valiquette wrote in the article.
“It was also Western civilization, that curiosity about others, that helped Indigenous people learn about their own history.”
When asked on Saturday if he agreed with what Valiquette wrote, Duhaime said he didn’t.
“I don’t share [those views]they don’t represent the policies of the party,” the leader said. “But he has a right to say it as a columnist.”
Valiquette serves as the president of the party’s political commission, according to its website. Press secretary Cédric Lapointe said Valiquette helps the party “on policies” as a volunteer, but would not reveal the extent of his involvement in the official party line.
CBC News attempted to reach Valiquette multiple times, but he never responded. At a campaign event on Saturday in Montreal’s West Island he also again refused to comment.
“He backed up his personal analysis on this issue, which should be encouraged in a free and democratic society,” added Véronique Gagnon, the president of the party’s communications commission, in an email.
Duhaime told reporters on Friday he was “too busy” to attend any commemorations for the second annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliationnot wanting to hold off a meeting with the mayor of Quebec City with the election just days away.
It was declared a federal statutory holiday last year just days after the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation confirmed the discovery of roughly 200 potential burial sites, likely of children, on the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, BC
The Coalition Avenir Québec was the only party that attended a Truth and Reconciliation commemoration on Friday, when Leader François Legault visited the site of a former residential school in Saint-Marc-de-Figuery, Que., in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region.
Liberal party Leader Dominique Anglade said she would have gone to the march in Montreal, but was told organizers preferred not to have any candidates attending. Meanwhile Québec Solidaire co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois said he wanted Indigenous voices to be front and center that day, while Parti Québécois Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon said scheduling got in the way.
Duhaime has also said his party does not agree the day should be a statutory holiday in Quebec, making it the only major party in the election on board with the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ).
“We need to work, we can’t take days off too often, we already have a lot of days off,” Duhaime told reporters on Thursday.