Montreal Gazette

Saguenay Mayor Jean Tremblay makes waves again with racially insensitiv­e remarks

Tremblay delivers racist-tinged comment during radio interview about working poor

- GEOFFREY VENDEVILLE Presse Canadienne contribute­d to this report.

Under fire for his call to action against “Greenpeace and intellectu­als,” the mayor of Saguenay slipped up in a radio interview on Friday, offending some listeners.

On the air with Radio X Saguenay, Jean Tremblay used a pejorative expression to describe the working poor in his region. “Il y a des gens qui travaillen­t comme des nègres,” he told Radio X, before quickly excusing himself.

“Who work hard,” he corrected himself. “Because a black person works hard, we know that. They don’t have a big salary, and they work hard those people. That’s what I mean. I pity those people.”

Tremblay wasn’t available for an interview Friday.

Fo Niemi, executive director of Montreal’s Centre for Research Action on Race Relations, said he didn’t know “whether to laugh or cry” when he heard Tremblay’s comment.

“‘Travail comme des nègres’ is still (used) in the French language,” Niemi said, “but for a mayor to say this publicly and not recognize it’s an unacceptab­le slur in this day and age, it just shows his head space is not in this century.

“I’m sure it was a source of embarrassm­ent for a lot of people in that town — especially after what he said about Greenpeace.”

On Tuesday, Tremblay made headlines for calling on citizens “to mobilize against Greenpeace and the intellectu­als of this world.” In a YouTube video, he accuses environmen­talists of hindering local business, especially in the forestry sector.

He referred to a drawn-out battle between environmen­talists and the papermaker Resolute Forestry Products. Just over a week ago, Resolute said it was scaling back production and cutting 85 jobs at its plant in Alma, 60 kilometres northwest of Saguenay, because of poor market conditions, “exacerbate­d by ... the misinforma­tion campaigns by Greenpeace and other environmen­tal activists.”

Greenpeace has been pushing Resolute’s clients to switch to greener suppliers certified by the Forest Stewardshi­p Council, a Bonn-based non-profit that promotes the responsibl­e management of forests.

According to Greenpeace, Resolute’s logging threatens Quebec’s slow-growing boreal forest, a caribou habitat, and runs roughshod over the rights of First Nations.

On a visit to Saguenay on Thursday, Premier Philippe Couillard said Greenpeace bears some responsibi­lity for jobs lost in Saguenay–Lac-St-Jean.

“There are hundreds of people whose jobs are threatened — yes, by the circumstan­ces of (demand for) paper, but equally by the direct actions of Greenpeace on the level of the clients of Resolute paper,” he told reporters.

I’m sure it was a source of embarrassm­ent for a lot of people in that town.

 ??  ?? Jean Tremblay
Jean Tremblay

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