Quebec member of the legislature apologizes for using N-word in front of students
Parti Quebecois MNA Francois Gendron, walks back to his seat as members of the National Assembly applaud for being an elected member for the last 40 years in Quebec City on Tuesday, November 15, 2016. The longest-serving member of Quebec's legislature is apologizing for using the N-word in front of secondary-school students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
November 29, 2017 - 11:25 AM
QUEBEC - The longest-serving member of Quebec's legislature has apologized for using the N-word in front of high-school students.
Francois Gendron, 73, used the derogatory term in French last month while he was visiting a Quebec City school in his capacity as third vice-president of the national assembly.
Gendron, who was first elected in 1976, told the students he "worked like an (expletive)'' as a cabinet minister.
In a letter later sent to the national assembly and obtained by CTV, the school complained that students of African and Haitian descent had been shocked to hear the expression.
Gendron, who served as education minister in the 1980s and was deputy premier between 2012 and 2014, told reporters Wednesday he apologized to the school and said the word should not be used.
"You know me — if anyone is authentic, it's the person speaking to you right now," he said, before acknowledging that "one doesn't have the right to use this expression in the context of today."
He then said in the same breath he thought the affair had been blown out of proportion.
PQ Leader Jean-Francois Lisee said Gendron should not have used the word.
"I was informed of that a while ago by Mr. Gendron and I told him, and he agreed, that it was not an expression that was acceptable and he should apologize, which he had done already," he said.
"I think it's a lesson for everyone that, no matter how long these kinds of expressions have been in the vocabulary, society evolves and you should just never use it."
Asked about the semantics of whether the term in French is as offensive as it is in English, Lisee replied, "I don't think you should even try to get into this argument."
"The word is offensive and even though some might have other explanations, you just should not use it, period."
Dan Philip, president of the Black Coalition of Quebec, called the comment "very disturbing."
"It is important that people like him be educated as to the history and circumstances of members of the black community, what we have suffered over time, and to bring a new understanding to the problems facing the black community," Philip said in an interview.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2017