NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair is standing behind a Quebec election candidate whose account of his impoverished childhood has been challenged.
Jonathan Genest-Jourdain, the son of an Innu father and Québécoise mother who grew up in the Innu community of Uashat, described the hardships of his childhood in an interview published earlier this month in the online legal magazine Droit-Inc.
The magazine says Genest-Jourdain, who represented the riding of Manicouagan for the NDP, spent his early years in a home ravaged by alcohol.
He told the magazine he sometimes ate from garbage bins and the family’s apartment floor was a “swamp of beer.”
He said he realized he did not want to end up like his father or his cousins, “working on cirrhosis of the liver or begging in the streets.”
Eventually he pursued law school at the University of Laval and became a member of the Quebec bar in 2007.
But a story in the Journal de Montreal this week cites a Facebook rant from a woman who says she is Genest-Jourdain’s cousin, calling the story a pack of lies.
Edith Morissette did not respond to a request for an interview.
In a posting published by the newspaper that now appears to be deleted, Morissette says Genest-Jourdain grew up in Quebec City with a stable mother.
She says his father was not an alcoholic and he is smearing the family to gain sympathy and “political capital.”
“We were never rich but not extremely poor, either,” she wrote.
Genest-Jourdain did not respond to a request for an interview, either, but Mulcair denounced the personal attack on his candidate.
“He has my support,” Mulcair told reporters at a news conference Wednesday in Lévis, Que.
He says Genest-Jourdain has followed an “admirable” path, finishing his studies and passing the bar exam.
“We are very proud to have recruited him,” he says. “He has had a difficult path. It reflects the difficult path of many First Nations across Canada.”
Genest-Jourdain’s account was backed by a man who says he was a neighbour for many years.
“I can tell you it’s not hearsay,” Jean-Pierre Roussy wrote on his own Facebook page.
Roussy, who also did not respond to a request for an interview, says Genest-Jourdain did live in misery for a period of time.
“I saw him pass before me in a very poor state,” he writes, appealing to those bashing the young man to show some restraint.
Genest-Jourdain was among the youngest members of Parliament after he was elected in 2011.
He made headlines in February 2012 after a viral YouTube video showed him doing his hair, using his cellphone as a mirror, during a debate in the House of Commons. He later appeared to fall asleep during debate on the long-gun registry.