June 24, which marks St. Jean de Baptiste Day, or alternately the Fête Nationale in Quebec, is usually the focus of controversy. But this year, along with the usual accusations that the holiday feeds separatist politics in the province, many people are focused on a float in the Montreal parade that some are calling racist because it allegedly depicts blacks as slaves.
The float featured Quebec vocalist Annie Villeneuve singing “Gen du pays” on a platform that was being pushed by four black men. It was recorded by a parade attendee who posted the video clip on Facebook. The choral singers backing up Villeneuve walked behind the float and all wore white clothing.
Félix Brouillet, who posted the video, remarked on Facebook, “I’m not sure the organizers of the parade understand the concept of diversity.” The page has been shared over 200,000 times since then.
The float was intended to represent life in Montreal around the time of the city’s founding in 1642. Brouillet told French-language La Presse, “It’s fine to tell the history of Quebec, but the subtext given off by the scene and the context in which it put its participants makes no sense.”
The float was also seen on the Facebook page of the Montreal Fête nationale committee and was also the recipient of angry and outraged viewers.
Rachelle Houde Simard slammed what she called four black men in “slave outfits,” declaring the float “disgusting.”