A Quebec City resident has filed a complaint to Elections Québec denouncing hate speech in a municipal party's platform.
On its website, the Alliance Citoyenne de Québec (ACQ) calls Islam a "cancer that is growing slowly within Quebec society."
Radio-Canada obtained an email sent to the Quebec City returning officer, in which the plaintiff says ACQ made hateful remarks aimed at Quebec's Muslim community.
The plaintiff called the comments "problematic" and asked the returning officer to "take the appropriate action" against the party for sharing those words publicly.
The ACQ platform the plaintiff took issue with says the party will never run a candidate who "favours the Islamization of Quebec City," and it vows to establish a municipal administration, which will "do its best to counter Islamization of Quebec City."
It does not provide a definition or explanation of the term "Islamization."
Recent platform addition
Alain Giasson, ACQ leader and mayoral candidate, says the "Islamization" section at the bottom of the website was added to the platform weeks ago.
Giasson says the co-founder of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec announcing his candidacy for municipal councillor prompted him to include the section. The centre was the target of a shooting in 2017, where six men were killed.
"I take 100 per cent ownership of the platform and the section on Islamization," Giasson told Radio-Canada. "I'm not surprised that it caused a stir, I was expecting it."
"Boufeldja Benabdallah isn't hiding it: he wants to Islamicize Quebec City," he said.
The ACQ leader says his party's platform doesn't target immigration, crime, terrorism or even radical Islam, rather it's aimed at the "the subtle and deep Islamization of society."
"Quebec City is currently experiencing a slow, gradual and insidious Islamization," he said.
"At the mosque there is a door for men and a door for women; this is standard for them. Imagine if we had a door for Blacks and a door for whites."
Benabdallah calls for apology
Candidate Boufeldja Benabdallah says the ACQ leader is using a "distorted analogy."
He says the separation of prayer rooms is accepted among Muslims.
"They're not offended. It doesn't diminish one group in favour of the other," he said.
"Let's not go down this path. It's pointless.
Benabdallah says he wonders what the ACQ is referring to in claiming an "Islamization" of Quebec society.
"I have been here for 52 years. When did I ever use words that would incite violence or [...] make a move to convert everyone to the Muslim religion like he claims?"
Benabdallah says he has no intention of turning his back on his religion, and that he does not have the right, be it during the campaign or after, to impose a Muslism perspective on anyone.
He also says he's open to explaining his religion to the ACQ's Giasson, but he wants the leader to apologize publicly for making heinous comments.
Elections Québec's limited power
Elections Québec says it can't intervene even though someone reports the platform.
"The content of party platforms or the comments made by them are not governed by the Act respecting elections and referendums in municipalities and it is with regard to this law that Elections Québec has jurisdiction to intervene at the municipal level," a spokesperson said by email.
From 13 to 5 candidates
In the last municipal elections, in 2017, 13 candidates ran under the ACQ banner, whereas only 5 will do so this year.
Daniel Brisson ran for mayor in 2017 and won 0.61 per cent of the vote.
Although he is still involved with the party, Brisson isn't running again.
He was recently a candidate for the People's Party of Canada (PPC) in the riding of Quebec.
ACQ leader Giasson won 1.25 per cent of the vote in 2017 when he ran for councillor in Limoilou.
This year, Giasson joined the Quebec City mayoral race and his party is running candidates in four districts: Saint-Roch – Saint-Sauveur, Maizerets-Lairet, Saint-Louis – Sillery and Val-Bélair.