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      Italian community speaks out against ad

       
      By
      Sep. 18, 2013

      Last week (September 9, 2013), the Montreal Blue Collar Union (Syndicat des cols bleus regroupés de Montréal) released an ad campaign calling for the clean up of the now infamous public works corruption in Montreal. The Clean Up Montreal Campaign (La Campagne Nettoyons Montréal) premiered as the Charbonneau Commission resumes and as Montrealers get ready to head to the polls in November.

      The ad features a suited man with a rat’s tale stuffing cash into a safe to the soundtrack of Italian folklore music.

      The Charbonneau Commission, officially the Commission of Inquiry on the Awarding and Management of Public Contracts in the Construction Industry, is a Quebec-province public inquiry into the possible corruption in the management of public construction contracts. The Commission started in May of 2012 and is set to submit its final report in 2015.

      Repercussions from various testimonies heard at the Commission already include the resignations of Laval mayor Gilles Vaillancount in October 2012, Montreal mayor Gérald Tremblay in November 2012 and Montreal interim-mayor Michael Applebaum in June of 2013.

      As soon as the ad appeared, Montreal Italians took to social media to voice their outrage at the campaign. Many people of Italian origin complained that the ad suggests that Italians are at the heart of the corruption scandal.

      In an interview with CBC News, Stéphane Meloche, spokesperson for the Montreal Blue Collar Union, explained that the ad should be seen as a satire of some of the details heard at the Charbonneau Commission. The main character in the ad, for example, is inspired by a French-Canadian political party fundraiser who admitted to piling illegal political donations in his office safe for years.

      “Nobody can deny the fact that… some names heard on the Charbonneau commission sound Italian, but we want to assure the Italian community that it was not an attack against them,” Meloche told the CBC.

      On Monday (September 16, 2013) the Quebec Chapter of the National Congress of Italian-Canadians sent an open letter to the president of the Montreal Blue Collar Union asking his organization to remove the ad from circulation and to apologize to the Italian community.

      In the letter, the Congress wrote: “Please be advised the Italian community in Quebec, 300,000 members strong, does not share your opinion to the effect that this distasteful video is not an attack against the Italian community in Quebec. On the contrary, the use of Italian popular music that permeates this video directly targets the Italians of Quebec, making this an offensive, retrograde and insulting to our community. This behavior serves only to reinforce the insidious stereotype that instinctively associates Italians to organized crime.”

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