A sign has appeared outside a cemetery in the Quebec town of Saint-Honoré with an unmistakeable message, “Saguenay ville blanche.” The sign appeared shortly after the local Muslim association said it would attempt to revive a two-year-old plan to have space for Muslim burials in the town’s cemetery.
The incident isn’t the first time the “Saguenay ville blanche” sign has been found. According to the Montreal Gazette, a similar sign appeared in 2014, along with xenophobic stickers.
The town’s mayor has spoken out against the message behind the sign. In comments made to CBC, Saint-Honoré Mayor Bruno Tremblay said, “To have signs like this on our territory, it’s unacceptable.” The mayor was reportedly having breakfast at a diner when other patrons told him about the sign.
“In 2017, we need to be more open-minded than that,” said Tremblay, adding that he had sent a work crew out to take the sign down. “Whether it’s a Muslim cemetery or a Catholic cemetery, or both, what does it change? … We’re all humans.”
Much of the focus on cemetery spaces for the Muslim community only came to light after Alexandre Bissonnette killed of six worshippers at a Quebec City mosque while they were praying, one of the worst mass shootings in the country in years.
The posting of the sign comes at an time of increased polarization between Quebecers and Muslims residents of the province. Last week, residents of another small town in the province, Saint-Apollinaire, voted against overturning zoning laws to allow the construction of a cemetery space for Muslims.