MONTREAL - An artistic parody was drawing sharply different responses in Quebec, with reactions Tuesday ranging from amusement to disgust over a depiction of a dead Premier Jean Charest.
Police found that likeness of Charest on a printed leaflet in the home of rival politician Amir Khadir, a prominent Quebec MNA. In it, the premier's body is laid out at Khadir's feet.
It's a parody of an 1830 painting by Eugene Delacroix, "Liberty Guiding The People," which depicted a scene from the French Revolution.
The altered painting is a promotional item from a local rock band. The parody version puts Khadir in the role of a gun-toting revolutionary. It also shows a police officer on his knees, crouching before a man dressed in a banana suit — the band's singer, known as "Bananarchist."
Khadir, the sole elected member of the tiny Quebec solidaire party, says it's a parody — no different than a recent newspaper column in the Journal de Quebec that portrays him as a left-wing dictator.
He appeared more upset over a front-page headline about the poster Tuesday, in the same newspaper. The headline said, "Khadir Armed, Charest Dead." Khadir suggested he might sue the paper.
"As far as I know Jean Charest is very much alive and I hope he stays that way for a long time," Khadir told parliamentary reporters in Quebec City, noting that his party is staunchly pacifist and has never preached violence.
"All I want for Jean Charest is to lose his elections."
Ironically, Khadir was waking up that headline Tuesday on his birthday — his 51st.
Khadir's wife laughed when asked about the item.
"It's an album liner for the music group Mise En Demeure. Go see it on the Internet. It will make you smile, too," Nima Machouf told reporters at the Montreal courthouse, after a bail hearing for the couple's daughter Tuesday.
The rock group in question, on its websites, has a number of incendiary images and songs about right-leaning politicians including Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
There is an entire song called, "I Hate You Son — Margaret Harper," purporting to be in the voice of the prime minister's mother, expressing regret about having conceived him.
The band expressed surprise that a two-year-old promotional insert might now be making such waves. It joked on its Facebook page that it welcomed all the publicity, saying it would soon have its own Wikipedia page and fancy cars.
But some of Charest's cabinet ministers say it's not funny at all. Culture Minister Christine St-Pierre called the painting disgusting. Another minister said Khadir was violating parliamentarians' duty to respect each other. One said it was the kind of thing that might give a disturbed person some ideas.
"There are always subliminal messages you send with paintings like this one," said Health Minister Yves Bolduc. "For certain vulnerable people, it could represent a risk."
Police found the item, covered in glass, on a kitchen table when they entered the Khadir family home last week. They were there to arrest the politician's teenage daughter in connection with a series of illegal acts allegedly committed at recent protests.
Police mentioned the item in court this week during a bail hearing.
It's not the only case of artists making dark references to the premier lately. Some musicians have even created a dance track using a chant commonly heard at protests — one that describes "Charest in a trunk."
That's a reference to Pierre Laporte, a cabinet minister killed by the terrorist FLQ group in 1970. The dance tune was among several posted on a website by Quebec's equivalent of Much Music, under the headline: "Songs for the student cause!"
-With files from Alexandre Robillard