MONTREAL — The Quebec government came under fire this week for funding a women's group that is alleged to have spread transphobic views and targeted trans activists online.
On Thursday in the legislature, Jennifer Maccarone of the Liberal Opposition read excerpts of documents that refer to sex change surgeries as a form of "mutilation," which she said had been published by the group Pour les droits des femmes du Québec (PDF Québec) on its online platforms.
Maccarone then questioned the minister responsible for the status of women, Martine Biron, on the fact that the Coalition Avenir Québec government has been funding the group, which she said also encourages trans people to reverse their transition.
"The government is using public funds to subsidize an organization, PDF Québec, who are openly transphobic," Maccarone said. The $143,000 given to the group for the 2022-23 fiscal year goes directly against the province's action plan to combat homophobia and transphobia, she added.
Biron replied that every group has its own "opinions" and "objectives" and all groups should be respected and listened to.
"They are being consulted now, and it's very obvious that I will make sure that it's not negative or hateful towards others. I think that all women in Quebec as well as people in the LGBTQ communities, deserve to be respected and deserve to be well represented," the minister said.
Fae Johnstone, an Ottawa-based activist, said that she was called a "violent man" in a tweet last week by PDF Québec. She said that in the past, the group has also described her as "misogynistic."
"It was really hurtful to read that in the first place, and then to see them contributing to the sustained campaign of hate directed at me was really atrocious to witness," Johnstone said. "PDF Québec doesn't consider trans people to be who we know ourselves to be, but rather that we are somehow deceived or that there is something wrong with us."
Johnstone said that until this week she was unaware of the funding the group had received from the Quebec government and called it "absolutely atrocious."
PDF Québec, which describes itself as feminist, non-partisan, "universalist" and secular, first received provincial funding of about $120,000 in 2019-20. The group, which was created in 2013, did not respond to repeated requests for comment this week.
Catherine Poulin, a spokesperson for the Department of Labour and Social Solidarity, which provided the funding, said the department was not aware of the allegations of transphobia.
"This will be addressed in accordance with the grant agreement signed with the organization," Poulin said in a written statement on Thursday. "If the organization does not meet the requirements of its grant agreement, corrective action will be required before the renewal of its financial support, which is scheduled for April 2023."
Celeste Trianon, a Montreal trans activist who runs a legal aid clinic helping trans women, said that she has been targeted by PDF Québec on multiple occasions.
"They started singling me out recently and attacking me because of my standing within Quebec's trans community. Some of the things that PDF Québec has done include sharing disinformation about me either as an organization or as an individual member thereof and also, in some cases, going as far as to publish slandering articles on me," Trianon said.
The activist said she has received multiple death threats because of misinformation spread by the group.
On Wednesday, Catherine Boucher, a spokesperson for Biron's office, said Quebec is an open and welcoming society where homophobia and transphobia have no place.
"Our government has taken many actions to fight against this discrimination, and we will continue to denounce the prejudices that persist," Boucher said in a written statement "The Quebec government's funding of PDF Québec is not a sign of support for all their positions."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 18, 2023.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Marisela Amador, The Canadian Press