WATCH: Fête nationale float causes outrage, calls parade diversity into question
It's an image of stark contrasts, literally of black and white.
Video from Montreal's annual St. Jean parade on Saturday has ignited a firestorm online.
It shows one float in the parade with singer Annie Villeneuve at the bow, being pushed by young men that are all people of colour. Villeneuve, who is white, is followed by a cohort of smiling parade goers who appear largely to all be white, and are all dressed in white. The young men of colour pushing the float are in brown.
Since the footage was published around 1:30 p.m. Saturday, it has been viewed nearly 560,000 times, as of 8 p.m.
It has been shared over 8,000 times, and over 500 comments have been left, largely negative.
"OMG WTF," one commenter wrote, "it looks like back in 1872."
"Dear organizing committee, shame on you," another wrote. "You can not defend yourself from the perception of what it looked like, and tell me there was no rehearsal before the parade [where this could have been address]. I was there and I could not believe my eyes."
The president of the committee for the Fete National says people are making a mountain out of a non-existent molehill.
Maxime Laporte told CJAD 800 News the teens pushing the float were enlisted from a local high school.
"It's just a coincidence, that's the truth," he maintained.
Sterve Lubin is the football coach at Louis-Joseph-Papineau high school in St-Michel. He says 60 of his students volunteered to help out at Saturday's parade, it just happened the three visible in the video are all visible minorities.
Floats in the St-Jean parade have been pushed by hand for several years now to cut down on the event's environmental impact, according to Laporte.
He adds that organizers made concerted efforts to ensure Quebecers of all backgrounds were represented in the parade. This year, the theme was "Once upon a time," meant to showcase snippets of Quebec's history.
"I think you should not see polemics where there are none," Laporte said. "I invite people to watch footage from the parade on television, in the entire parade you will see how well diversity is represented."
"[The racial backlash] is unfortunate because we put such immense effort to represent diversity [and] represent it proudly," he added, "because every Quebecer is a part of the Quebecois people. That's the message we want to impart.