Anti-racism minister apologizes after saying Black artist was dead at awards | #socialmedia

A Quebec provincial cabinet minister has apologized after mistakenly saying a renowned Black artist was dead, at an award ceremony Saturday.

Benoit Charette, the province’s minister responsible for the fight against racism, was speaking at the Dynastie Gala, which celebrates Black artists and performers, when the mistake was made.

Charette was paying tribute to Black artists who had died in the past year when he incorrectly included Lamine Touré’s name to the list.

Touré, who owns famed Montreal venue the Balattou and founded the Nuits d’Afrique festival, was very much alive and in attendance — and was set to be honoured for his work.

Touré and those around him began to stand up and point to him, calling out that he was alive. Charette continued to offer his sympathies, before appearing to realize his mistake, saying he did not have his glasses and could not read his speech well.

In a statement released Monday, the minister’s office apologized, saying the speech was written in an “ambiguous” way and that “in trying to get out the speech, he misinterpreted it.”

“Contrary to what some report, the incident became a bit of a joke to most of the participants, including Mr. Touré, with whom the minister spoke later in the evening,” it concluded.

But many aren’t laughing, saying it shows the lack of care the Quebec government takes when approaching relations with the province’s Black communities.

Introduced as ‘minister of racism’

Fabrice Vil, a lawyer and social entrepreneur, was attending the gala and watched the mistake happen live. He said Charette’s only job was to show up and not take away from the Black communities who were there to celebrate, but he didn’t even manage that.

“There is no mistake as huge as saying that someone is dead in front of that person being alive,” he said. “It’s a symbol of how little consideration this government has for Black communities in the way it deals not only in symbols, but also in so many decisions.”

Lamine Touré, pictured here in front of the Balattou in 2018, was in attendance when the minister mistakenly listed him as dead. (Radio-Canada)

Vil pointed to the fact that Charette was introduced by parliamentary assistant Christopher Skeete as the “minister of racism,” as opposed to the proper title, of minister responsible for the fight against racism.

“And that mistake in this specific case is particularly important, because we should remind ourselves that the Quebec government does not acknowledge the existence of systemic racism,” he said.

Stanley Bastien, who owns a limo company in the city, saw videos of the gaffe circulating on social media. He said it’s the lack of preparation, not the error itself, that’s insulting.

“It just showed that he just didn’t care. He just came here because, oh, I have to be there because they’re all Black people. Let me say a few words to them, make them happy, get a round of applause and then keep on doing my stuff,” he said.

“This is what hurts. It’s not even what he said — he just didn’t care. Because if he did care, he would have been prepared.”

Bastien said it was unfair that a show meant to celebrate Black excellence has instead been overshadowed by this incident.

When reached by CBC News, the organizers for the Dynastie Gala said they will soon be releasing a statement about the incident.

After Charette’s speech, the comedian Preach, who was the event’s MC, made a quip at the minister’s expense, saying you could come for an award and receive “a death sentence.”

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.


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