MONTREAL – A Quebec who was already on fire to deny the existence of Islamophobia, re-examines recent remarks about whether or not the soil is round.
Nathalie Lemieux from Gatineau, Que., Created controversy last week after telling a reporter that the word "Islamophobia" does not exist for her. She was cut off from her title as deputy mayor, but is still a councilor in Quebec's fourth largest city.
In an interview on Tuesday, Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin recognized Lemieux's comments on Islamophobia that could be harmful.
"Yes, it could affect the (city) reputation, but it's only one person," he said by phone, called Gatineau "a model of integration." He said the city's rapid efforts to separate itself from Lemieux's comments would limit the damage. "I don't think it will hurt much," he said.
Fred Chartrand / CP
The mayor declined comment on another eye-catching remark from Lemieux, reported this week by the Le Droit newspaper. In an online comment two weeks ago, Lemieux suggested that there be a conspiracy to remove evidence that the Earth is flat.
"Who decided that the earth is round and why should we believe it?" she asked.
"The first question to ask" she wrote "is now that people realize that it is possible that the Earth is flat, why do they hide the explanations that prove it." She also wondered how much money was diverted to NASA and said she didn't believe anything in the news and preferred to do her own research.
Who decided that the earth is round and why should we believe it?Nathalie Lemieux, council member
"The world is a stage, and more actors entertain themselves at the cost of being more intelligent than us," she wrote.
Lemieux assistant confirmed on Tuesday that councilor made the comments that appeared during a news article on YouTube clinging to videos that promote conspiracy theories. She said Lemieux was not available for an interview.
Mayor called Islamophobia commenting on "dangerous"
The Councilman first came to light last week when she told Le Droit that Islamophobia is a problem invented by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The newspaper also quoted her and said, "These people are doing a lot of things wrong with their trucks and all that is normal to be afraid of."
Pedneaud-Jobin said that Lemieux, who was first elected to the Council in 2017, is a good person who does not appreciate the impact of his comments on Muslims.
"For me, it is very serious – to connect Muslims to all terrorists – it is not sensible to mix things," he said. "It is dangerous because it anticipates and makes life difficult for the Muslim community."
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Lemieux applauded Quebec Premier Francois Legault for his statement last week that there is no Islamophobia in Quebec. After Muslim groups condemned Legault's comments, the Prime Minister stated that Islamophobia exists, but there is no culture or present in Quebec.
The counselor apologized if someone was harmed by his comments but remained defiant in a statement on her Facebook page Monday. She said the Quebec community is far from Islamophobic, and she remains critical of "all cultural or religious practices that do not respect human rights, equality between women and men and children's rights."
She said that the loss of her deputy mayor title makes her curious about whether freedom of speech is at risk in Gatineau. Later in the day she changed her profile picture to a woman knight in armor with the statement: "Sometimes you have to remind yourself that you are a warrior and warriors do not give up."
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