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Charter of Quebec values to ban religious symbols for public workers
September 10, 2013 7:57 PM   Subscribe

Today the government of the Canadian province of Quebec released its proposed charter of Quebec values. “The minister in charge of the charter, Bernard Drainville, announced … that if the charter were adopted by the legislature, the wearing of kippas, turbans, burkas, hijabs and "large" crosses would be banned for civil servants while they are on the job.” (Images of acceptable and unacceptable religious symbols) The Canadian federal government indicated that it would “challenge any law that [it] deem[s] unconstitutional.”
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear (176 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
But don't worry! The huge crucifix in the national assembly and the big cross on the top of the mountain in Montreal can stay because they aren't religious.
posted by jeather at 7:59 PM on September 10, 2013 [42 favorites]


And there's lots of fantastic links and good commentary on this topic at mefi's own zadcat's Montreal City Weblog.
posted by jeather at 8:02 PM on September 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Oh, fuck a bunch of that. Pretending that there are lots of Christians running around wearing giant crosses solely so that you can claim that your ban on Muslim and Sikh religious garb isn't racist - oh, fuck that. This isn't going to actually become law, right?
posted by Frowner at 8:04 PM on September 10, 2013 [25 favorites]


'Marois also said women who wore hijabs and who worked in daycares could be in a position to incite children to practise religion."

Umm... I'm really as secular as the next person (more so, I would imagine), but it's beyond my imagination that a 5 year old would suddenly convert (to a religion they are unfamiliar with, no less) because a day-care worker was wearing a sign of their religion.
posted by el io at 8:05 PM on September 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Is the white skin used in the diagram of acceptable and unacceptable symbols going to fool anyone?
posted by Area Man at 8:06 PM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm glad to hear la belle province has solved every other problem it faces.
posted by ocschwar at 8:07 PM on September 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


Is it remotely possible that this is constitutional?
and why is the PQ making the conservatives seem sane?
posted by colophon at 8:08 PM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fake France in a less charming way
posted by knoyers at 8:12 PM on September 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


hijabs and "large" crosses

ok so I can wear a teensy little hijab right
posted by threeants at 8:12 PM on September 10, 2013 [29 favorites]


Outside of some nineties rappers who paired them with oversize dollar sign pendants and Madonna in her "Like a Virgin" days, who wears oversize crosses anyway? It's just a bit convenient that the only religious garb tradition that happens to be sufficient "discreet" by the standards of the province is the one that happens to be that of the racially privileged.
posted by Kurichina at 8:15 PM on September 10, 2013 [19 favorites]


Finally, Quebec will solve its problem of Jewish civil servants wearing enormous Magen David rings to work.

You hear that, both of you?
posted by griphus at 8:15 PM on September 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


Is it remotely possible that this is constitutional?

No, but neither was Loi Bill 101, and that is still in effect.

and why is the PQ making the conservatives seem sane?

One of money or the ethnic vote; you guess which.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 8:16 PM on September 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Is it remotely possible that this is constitutional?

In one way it doesn’t matter since it's possible for provincial governments and the federal government to override parts of the constitution by using the notwithstanding clause.

The government of Quebec has used this clause before:
After the Charter came into force in 1982, Quebec inserted a notwithstanding clause into all its laws; this stopped in 1987, when the Quebec Liberals, having ousted the Parti Québécois, determined the practice should not be continued. However, the most notable use of the notwithstanding clause came in the Quebec language law known as Bill 101 after sections of those laws were found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada in Ford v. Quebec (A.G.). On December 21, 1988, the National Assembly of Quebec, under Robert Bourassa's Liberal government, employed the "notwithstanding clause" to override freedom of expression in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (section 2b) as well as the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, and equality rights of the Quebec Charter, in their Bill 178. This allowed Quebec to continue the restriction against the posting of certain commercial signs in languages other than French. In 1993, after the law was criticized by the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the Bourassa government had the provincial parliament rewrite the law to conform to the Charter, and the notwithstanding clause was removed.
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear at 8:22 PM on September 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


I was going to point Americans to stuff about religious accommodation in the Charter, because it is a notable difference from Americans laws and secular values, but I can't find a good summary because the first three pages of results are news items about this fucking travesty designed to rile up the would be pure laine racists.
posted by mobunited at 8:25 PM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe it's me but I have never seen someone wear either those crescent and star earrings or Star of David ring and I'm a Muslim guy who grew up in Thornhill (home to 10% of Canada's Jewish population).

Can we just annex Montreal and let the rest of the province go already?
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 8:27 PM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


These things happen when your Head of State is the Defender of the Faith.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:28 PM on September 10, 2013


These things happen when your Head of State is the Defender of the Faith.

Uh, this is being pushed by a separatist party of cultural Catholics who despise the monarchy, so really no.
posted by mobunited at 8:30 PM on September 10, 2013 [36 favorites]


But don't worry! The huge crucifix in the national assembly and the big cross on the top of the mountain in Montreal can stay because they aren't religious.

From the article:
The charter’s limit on religious symbols would apply to public sector workers from police and prosecutors to teachers and hospital staff. However, it would exempt a host of Catholic symbols, from streets named after saints to the crucifix hanging in Quebec National Assembly and the large cross on Mount Royal in the centre of Montreal.
I mean, do they have to be so fucking transparent?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:31 PM on September 10, 2013 [24 favorites]


it would exempt a host of Catholic symbols

No, no, they aren't Catholic symbols. That would make them religious and forbidden. They're cultural, so they're fine.
posted by jeather at 8:33 PM on September 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


I love Québec and I generally cut it a bit of slack, but this is bullshit.
posted by Flashman at 8:33 PM on September 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


Do dead religions count? And what about the Flying Spaghetti Monster, are public servants going to be banned from eating pasta?
posted by Athanassiel at 8:34 PM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's what's happening in the most liberal, progressive region of North America. Meanwhile, in horrible redneck Calgary, our (observant Muslim and generally cool as fuck) mayor is inviting disgruntled Quebeckers to come west.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 8:35 PM on September 10, 2013 [15 favorites]


I kind of hate a lot of people in my province of birth, the province I currently live in, and, oh, the rest of the country right now:
[August 26, 2013] A new Forum Research poll says 42% of Canadians approve of Quebec’s controversial proposed Charter of Values, which would prohibit public employees in public offices from wearing religious headwear and symbols. ... Forum compiled the poll by looking at responses from 1,189 Canadians 18 years of age and older throughout Canada on Aug. 23. Approval was highest in Quebec, where 58% of citizens support the proposed charter. ...

When respondents across Canada were asked whether they approved or disapproved of such a proposal, less than half, 47%, said they disapproved. Support was highest among Conservative supporters, with nearly 50% in favour, while 39% of New Democrats and only 32% of Liberals said they approve. Next to Quebec, the most supportive province was Ontario, with as many as four in 10 voicing approval.
Thankfully, regional governments are pretty plainly calling this bullshit.

This may also be the first and last time I'm approving of a position taken by the Harper Government(TM), too. I may have to lie down for a while.
posted by maudlin at 8:38 PM on September 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Now, the movement towards the banning of religious dress in schools and certain governmental contexts in France, while transparently racist, was at least justified under the principle of laïcité, which is central to the Republic.


Of course, Quebec hasn't been a part of France since seventeen-sixty-fucking-three, and kind of missed out on revolutions and such in general.

Of course, if the PQ wants to go ahead and shoot themselves in the foot with the only groups of people who will actually move there, speak French, and have kids, I guess that's their business. It's not like the bloc can lose any more federal seats.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:42 PM on September 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


The Forum Research poll results are here (PDF). There's no breakdown by city, but Alberta as a whole seems to be pretty close to the shameful national mean. It's the Atlantic provinces who seem to be the most strongly opposed.
posted by maudlin at 8:47 PM on September 10, 2013


This isn't going to actually become law, right?

No. Marois' PQ Party has a minority government facing two large opposition parties that either oppose the proposal outright (Liberals) or don't want to go there (CAQ). By launching this hopeless attempt at legislation she panders to her nationalist base and distracts the electorate from her ineffective record since being elected a year ago.
posted by cardboard at 8:52 PM on September 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


Would it be OK for a public workers to drape themselves in the flag of Quebec, consisting of nothing more symbolic than a white cross, white fleurs-de-lis and a blue background ("symbolizing Heaven"), all apparently from "a banner honouring the Virgin Mary"?
posted by rh at 8:53 PM on September 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


They probably also shouldn't sing the second verse of the national anthem.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:57 PM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Token atheist checking in: this is bullshit. Fuck you, Quebec.
posted by klanawa at 8:58 PM on September 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Neither hijabs nor burkas are "religious symbols" strictly speaking. That is, the Qur'an doesn't make any specific demands on women to cover their faces or their hair, let alone their entire bodies. There are plenty of muslim communities that don't practice veiling. One wonders if, under this law, a Christian woman who chose to wear a hijab as a fashion item would be considered acceptable, or will Christian women not be allowed to drape a shawl over their heads?

Even by Quebec standards this is pretty stupid.
posted by yoink at 9:03 PM on September 10, 2013 [15 favorites]


I'm about as pro-atheist as the come but religious fashion accessories and accoutrements have got to be some of the most benign aspects of organized religion out there. Fashion is also a moving target: 30 years ago every nun in Quebec wore an outfit comparable with a hijab, 60 years ago it looked like a burka.

This talk of a secular state is outright dog-whistling to the party base and I'll be honest, I think most pure-laine are smarter than that and being taken for a ride. It's a simple attempt to alienate the non-separatist population in order to create the referendum-winning conditions the PQ so desperately want.

If the PQ was really serious about creating a secular state they would ban religious based school boards, they'd stop infant genital mutilation, make religious indoctrination before the age of consent illegal, get rid of the cross in the National Assembly and get rid of swearing on the bible in courts.
posted by furtive at 9:06 PM on September 10, 2013 [17 favorites]


maudlin: "The Forum Research poll results are here"

‘In addition, the Quebec provincial government is considering legislation outlawing religious clothing and symbols such as hijabs, turbans and skullcaps from being worn by the public seeking government services such as hospital treatment in government buildings in Quebec. Do you approve or disapprove of this?’

Approve: 48%
Disapprove: 41%


This is ludicrous. Most people here seriously want hospitals to turn away patients wearing hijabs!? Maybe this isn't the place for me, after all.
posted by vasi at 9:09 PM on September 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


If the PQ was really serious about creating a secular state they would ban religious based school boards,

Which was done, 20 years ago.
posted by jeather at 9:09 PM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Which was done, 20 years ago.

Ah, four years after I graduated. Who knew!
posted by furtive at 9:14 PM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


A Devil's Advocate's moment:

Just from personal experience, we've all been dicked around with by license-issuing bureaucrats at various times, as in: (we only take passports) X (we never take passports) X (we only take the one document that you do not have at the moment) X (etc...) = (bring all the correct documents, and be told to go back and get other documents. This has never happened to you?)

Now imagine that you dress in a way that represents your culture, and that in the queue in the government office you happen to get a license-issuing bureaucrat who dressed in the style of a culture which is involved in a bitter geopolitical conflict with your culture. That bureaucrat naturally starts dicking around with you about the usual runaround. Take it in stride? You could also try to complain to their manager, who is off on a break at the moment.
posted by ovvl at 9:19 PM on September 10, 2013


A dear friend of mine in Montreal insists the PQ is proposing this charter knowing it won't pass as a way of courting the conservative vote without actually having to get anything done on their behalf.

(That smells an awful lot like horseshit to me.)
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:20 PM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


So Wikipedia says all Catholic schools in Ontario are fully government funded. Only the Catholic ones. No others. Wow.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:21 PM on September 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was going to point Americans to stuff about religious accommodation in the Charter, because it is a notable difference from Americans laws and secular values, but I can't find a good summary because the first three pages of results are news items about this fucking travesty designed to rile up the would be pure laine racists.

Generically, it's not too different; Section Two states it pretty much straight off: 2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: (a) freedom of conscience and religion
Section 27 adds in an additional backing wrinkle: 27. This Charter shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians. Note that this is not a right so much as an instruction -- however, this has been cited in the past in similar cases.

The big difference is the Notwithstanding clause, which Jasper Friendly Bear did a good job of describing above.

The second difference is the Oakes test coming from Section One, which basically requires proportionality in laws -- an important objective must be achieved, with the minimum impairment in rights in ways that are rationally connected and proportional. So it acknowledges a trade-off as opposed to an absolute right, but it makes a strong stance on that tradeoff; a blanket ban on certain religious practices to maintain an appearance of neutrality that applies to all government workers totally fails. It's a significant impairment to rights, for a small benefit that may not even be rationally connected; further it extends beyond any reasonable limits -- even if you bought the tenuous idea that police or teachers shouldn't appear to endorse a religion (or only endorse a religion a little bit), why would you require the same of, say, a GIS draftsperson or a garbage truck driver?

I'm not exactly a Charter scholar or any sort of a law-talking person, but three big landmark precedents are:
R*. v. Big M Drug Mart, which was the first time a religiously based law (The Lord's Day Act of 1906, which banned shopping on Sunday) was struck down using Section Two, and in which the chief justice noted that the right to religious freedom includes "the right to manifest religious belief by worship and practice or by teaching and dissemination". Presumably wearing a religious garment is manifesting religious belief by practice.

Multani v. Commission scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys, which unanimously struck down a Quebec school order banning a child from wearing a Sikh kirpan (ceremonial dagger) to school. It was felt to be an unreasonable restraint on his religious freedom given the small risk it posed, particularly since the family had already agreed to rules requiring him to wear it under his clothes. The application seems obvious.

R. vs. N.S. (2012) where N.S. is a person's initials, not the province of Nova Scotia. N.S. was sexually assaulted by two men and wished to wear a face-covering niqab at trial while testifying. In the end, the Supreme Court upheld the judge's refusal to allow her to wear it, as her wearing it affected the rights of the accused to a fair trial. This was not a unanimous decision, and was left as something of a compromise -- a niqab or similar could be allowed had the testimony been about matters that were less under question of witness credibility, or the witness been stronger in their religious belief (she had previously removed it to have her driver's license photo taken, for instance). In this case, a restriction was upheld, but only with the very strong competing right to a fair trial hanging on the other scale pan, and only in a limited fashion.

But this Quebec law is basically ridiculous on the face; the restrictions are extreme and would ban people of several religions from government employment, and the benefit is so vague as to be invisible to non-racists. If it passes a Charter challenge at the Supreme Court, I'll eat my invisible Wikipedia Law Degree.

* note the R. stands for Regina as in the Queen, which really means the Governor General, which really means the Canadian government. Basically, "R. vs." is the equivalent of "Canada vs.".
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 9:22 PM on September 10, 2013 [13 favorites]


My theory is that half the reason they pull this shit is to convince the rest of Canada to separate from Quebec.

They've certainly convinced me that the province is choc-a-bloc with assholes.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:23 PM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Now imagine that you dress in a way that represents your culture, and that in the queue in the government office you happen to get a license-issuing bureaucrat who dressed in the style of a culture which is involved in a bitter geopolitical conflict with your culture.

Do you ban people talking in accents that might be recognized (Northern Irish/Southern Irish, say?) Do you ban people from keeping surnames that identify them as belonging to particular cultures? Do you ban black people from being hired because sometimes they'll have to serve white supremacists who'll be dicks about it?
posted by yoink at 9:25 PM on September 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


So Wikipedia says all Catholic schools in Ontario are fully government funded. Only the Catholic ones. No others. Wow.

Wow indeed; I'm not sure what back alley you're reading that horseshit on. Education In Ontario says (correctly) that both the Catholic and the public (i.e. secular) boards are government funded:
"Ontario operates four publicly funded school systems: An English-language public school system, a French-language public school system, an English language separate school school system and a French language separate school system."
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 9:26 PM on September 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Quebec has been trying to make second class citizens of everyone other than French Canadians for years. I've had other anglos tell me it was okay to have the crappy language laws because it's "theirs here" but.. you know... it's mine too.

I'm a Canadian Citizen and I pay taxes, a lot of taxes, in Quebec because I live here. So I don't much like my money going to the creation or enforcing of laws that are basically against me and other minorities.

This is a plain and simple strategy to stomp out everything non-majority (as they see it). I get the message. They have a 10 year plan to make it bad to live here. I have a 5 year plan... not to live here.
posted by Napierzaza at 9:32 PM on September 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


This editorial from La Presse (in French) is making the rounds on facebook.

The gist of it, for the non-Francophones is:
"To my muslim friends, I have travelled to all of your muslim countries, and surely you must agree that Canada is a much freer, better place to live. Here in Quebec, we lived for hundreds of years under the yoke of the Catholic Church, which, for all intents and purposes, is similar to the Taliban today.

Do you think that we, here in Quebec, would allow your religion to come into our lives and into our public space? Do you expect me to be happy to have my grand-daughter in a classroom where, at the front, you have a teacher wearing a headscarf? A headscarf that screams 'I am better than you, I have my religion!'

You've left war behind from the places you have come from. The only price you have to pay is to Integrate, like others. You have everything to gain."


I apologize for the rough translation but the combination of rage and embarassment seems to cloud my language centres.
posted by cacofonie at 9:33 PM on September 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


'Marois also said women who wore hijabs and who worked in daycares could be in a position to incite children to practise religion."

Or they might have the audacity to *gasp* expose children to diversity and thus instilling values such as acceptance of others.

Just the thought of that gives me the vapours.
posted by littlesq at 9:36 PM on September 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


So it acknowledges a trade-off as opposed to an absolute right

This is required in all law-based system. The state must have the power to compel redress for tort or fraud between private parties, and must be able to punish all manner of conduct, from murder to an oil spill. To punish is to take away a property or liberty interest. Also, the state must be able to subpoena citizens to testify as witnesses. All of these things must be balanced against rights in liberty and property.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:40 PM on September 10, 2013


Actually the Catholic school thing is kind of true. It was a way to ensure that at the time of Confederation religious minority rights (Catholics in Ontario and Protestants in Quebec) were protected. At this point we're stuck with them because it would take a constitutional amendment to get rid of them, and that won't be happening any time soon. Of course, non-denominational public schools are also fully government funded. I think Ironmouth was saying that amongst religious schools, only the Catholic ones are fully funded.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 9:41 PM on September 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


In defense of Quebec, however, if you polled any random Canadian town outside of a major city, you'd find that Canada is essentially full of racially and religiously (though less so than in the US) bigoted assholes. I grew up in one such town.
posted by klanawa at 9:44 PM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, man, cacofonie. Right after the part about the headscarf: "And how do you think I'm going to react when you will impose halal food in school? We are now a free people, free from religion."

And something I'll leave in the original German: "Alors, je vous tends la main, je vous demande à vous, mes amis musulmans, de vous joindre aux autres immigrants, italiens, chinois, grecs, vietnamiens, latino-américains, qui pratiquent eux aussi leur religion, mais discrètement à la maison. Pourquoi est-ce si facile pour eux et pas pour vous?"

Oh, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you.

More of the charming Jacques Leclerc, globe-trotter and world expert on every culture, including his own, wearing something that doesn't look all that pure laine to me.
posted by maudlin at 9:49 PM on September 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Wow indeed; I'm not sure what back alley you're reading that horseshit on.

That would be: Education in Canada on Wikipedia. Everyone judge for yourself, it says the UN found it to be discrimination.

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_in_Canada
Each province deals differently with private religious schools. In Ontario the Catholic system continues to be fully publicly funded while other faiths are not. Ontario has several private Jewish, Muslim, and Christian schools all funded through tuition fees. Since the Catholic schools system is entrenched in the constitution, the Supreme Court has ruled that this system is constitutional. However, the United Nations Human Rights Committee has ruled that Ontario's system is discriminatory, suggesting that Ontario either fund no faith-based schools, or all of them.[40] In 2002 the government of Mike Harris introduced a controversial program to partially fund all private schools, but this was criticized for undermining the public education system and the program was eliminated after the Liberals won the 2003 provincial election.

In other provinces privately operated religious schools are funded.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:50 PM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


And check out Separate Schools entry on wikipedia:

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Separate_school
The Constitution of Canada does not establish separate school education as a natural or unconditional right available to all. Only Protestants or Roman Catholics, whichever is the minority faith population compared to the other in a community, can consider the establishment of separate school education. The separate school establishment right is not available to citizens of any other faith (such as Orthodox Christians, Jews, Mormons, Hindus, Muslims, or Sikhs). In addition, the minority faith must establish that they wish to leave the public school system and create a separate school system.
Wow, the Canadian Constitution enshrines special rights for Christians.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:55 PM on September 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


If that shocks you, hold onto your hat: the Queen of England is, gasp!, the head of the official state religion!

Which is all neither here nor there, as it has nothing to do with Quebec's tomfoolery. There are historical justifications for public funding of private religious schools. There is no justification for banning clothing.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:05 PM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


A headscarf that screams 'I am better than you, I have my religion!'

This charter is (the Quebec version of) dogwhistle identity politics. The PQ, though in power, are in a minority, and coming back from a historic low, almost an extinguishment of their party. They are struggling to find a new issue to make their center. This is what they've decided upon, secularism as their new formulation of their politics of identity.

Here in Quebec, we lived for hundreds of years under the yoke of the Catholic Church, which, for all intents and purposes, is similar to the Taliban today.

That's how many in the PQ see religion. Secularism resonates very strongly with their base. Mind you, that's secularism for some and less for others, for the recent wave of francophone, but Arabic, Muslim, visibly different immigrants.

I think some pequistes truly believe that this is heading towards a free-er society, freedom from religion. It's a distortion of the Canadian Charter which gives people freedom of religion, but that's just an expression of the French Fact, as far as the folks in Quebec City are concerned.

However, I think this is a carefully constructed tarbaby by the PQ leadership, designed to be as provocative as possible, to highlight the difference between "Canadian" and "Quebec values". From this point of view, reaction from the federal government, and better a ruling from the Supreme Court, gives them what they want---a new way to differentiate from Canada, and a greivance of imposition of values by anglo Canada on franco Quebec. Trolling by identity politics, in other words.
posted by bonehead at 10:12 PM on September 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


Ack. So much to sort out. First: this is not a reflection of Quebec's or Quebeckers' general feelings towards marginalized or oppressed populations within the province. Particularly in urban areas (e.g. Montreal), you will find one of the most cosmopolitan and open-minded populations you will find anywhere in the world. So the knee-jerk "Quebeckers must be racists" response is totally off base (more on this later).

Second: this is totally, 100% a political tactic to get a minority provincial government a re-elected majority. A few elections ago, a splinter right-wing party, the ADQ, went from nothing (literally nothing: they were a new party) to official opposition by flogging this "reasonable accommodation" issue with social conservatives. They created a foreigner boogeyman and the mainstream media, as they do, bought right into it. The feebleness on which the campaign was based was soon revealed, since now the ADQ and their former leader are nowhere.

Pauline Marois, the current Premier, is gambling that this wedge issue will give her the votes she needs to put her in majority territory. She is hoping that her left-leaning sovereigntist base will hold fast -- either because they buy the "secularist" argument that has some truth in it (the Left in Quebec is largely defined by its resistance and ultimate disarticulation from the Catholic Church, and still has large resonances with much of the population) or they will just hold their nose and vote for the PQ anyway. You can see how the latter scenario is playing out because the right-wing neoliberal Liberal party (PLQ) is opposing the Charter and trying to nab those disaffected centre-left voters.

Third: The rest of Canada (ROC) loves to paint Quebec, particularly Quebec sovereigntists as racist -- largely because of one racist comment by a former leader, who, on the eve of a very close sov. referendum loss, blamed it on "money [code for anglophones] and the ethnic vote [code for non-French-descended francophones]." That's not to say that this convinced the ROC that Quebec was racist, but that it has been a very easy gambit to play when talking about Quebec's right to self-determination, which the ROC largely has a ver bad history with understanding. So the knee-jerk response I mentioned above has actually been set up with gusto and intention by Canadian media who were hoping to deliver the message the ROC loves to hear: that Quebec is full of "pure laine racists -- which, as I said above, is no truer of Quebec than it is of any other Western nation ever.

If you need evidence of Canada (and the U.S.'s, for that matter) chutzpah on this issue, here is a good primer. Someone mentioned Calgary's Nenshi, who is indeed a very good mayor -- but his comments on the Charter ring hollow and opportunistic. Since Alberta is the home of the hardest hard-right conservatives living in Canada, and Calgary is perhaps the only Canadian cities where its considerable neo-Nazi population tries to march each year on Hitler's birthday.
posted by Catchfire at 10:15 PM on September 10, 2013 [11 favorites]


The above is not meant to make the facile argument that "everyone is racist so who cares" -- although there is a certain question of sovereignty involved when the ROC is so keen on checking out the mote in Quebec's eye when there are bars in its own -- but to say a) that the ROC media has primed people to indulge in their latent and predictable Quebec bashing and b) that the media is actually complicit in this cynical move by the PQ to steal votes by continuing their history of treating a racist decision by the odd bigoted bureaucrat as real issues until a Charter deciding them has enough traction to actually become a real thing.
posted by Catchfire at 10:20 PM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


More relevant may be the Quebec Charter
(Notable for being the first larger than a municipality in the world to to protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation--Quebec is always such a weird mix of great amd terrible, like much of canada, i guess)

In any case, heres a heartening response (in french)--manifesto for an inclusive Quebec, published in Le Voir (via Amarchpanda!)
posted by chapps at 10:29 PM on September 10, 2013


note the R. stands for Regina as in the Queen, which really means the Governor General, which really means the Canadian government

The Governor General represents the Queen, not the other way around. "R" does not refer to the Governor General.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:31 PM on September 10, 2013


This is just wedge politics. Can't do much about the economy, so pick a fight with the federal government.

Besides, Marois' Quebec isn't really Canada, anyway. It's a different country.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:53 PM on September 10, 2013


Someone mentioned Calgary's Nenshi, who is indeed a very good mayor -- but his comments on the Charter ring hollow and opportunistic. Since Alberta is the home of the hardest hard-right conservatives living in Canada, and Calgary is perhaps the only Canadian cities where its considerable neo-Nazi population tries to march each year on Hitler's birthday.

Considerable neo-Nazi population? I suppose; both of them turned out this year. Literally two people. To be vastly outnumbered by antiracism demonstrators, as happens every year. I suppose the 35,000 who turned out for Pride last weekend don't count. On the bright side, no other city in Canada has two assholes living in it; congratulations guys.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 10:55 PM on September 10, 2013 [11 favorites]


You're right. I made it all up. But before we get in a derail about which province/city is more racist (a losing argument if ever there was one) let me say that I think Canada as a whole unfairly disparages Alberta according to frail stereotypes that don't hold up to the real thing. My point only was that Nenshi's statement was just as much a political tactic as Marois' -- and just as disingenuous.
posted by Catchfire at 11:05 PM on September 10, 2013


But don't worry! The huge crucifix in the national assembly and the big cross on the top of the mountain in Montreal can stay because they aren't religious.


Ahem. The law specifically cites large crosses, but makes no mention of "huge" or "giant" or "big" ones.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:35 AM on September 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Catchfire, how do you square this is not a reflection of Quebec's or Quebeckers' general feelings towards marginalized or oppressed populations [...] you will find one of the most cosmopolitan and open-minded populations you will find anywhere in the world

with the poll results discussed by Vari, namely

‘In addition, the Quebec provincial government is considering legislation outlawing religious clothing and symbols such as hijabs, turbans and skullcaps from being worn by the public seeking government services such as hospital treatment in government buildings in Quebec. Do you approve or disapprove of this?’ Approve: 48%

???

I understand your idea that the political party (PQ?) is using this issue to gain traction, but it wasn't PQ strategists who made up the bulk of the poll responders, no?

n.b. I am not being rhetorical; it's a sincere question.
posted by feets at 12:57 AM on September 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


So the knee-jerk response I mentioned above has actually been set up with gusto and intention by Canadian media who were hoping to deliver the message the ROC loves to hear: that Quebec is full of "pure laine racists -- which, as I said above, is no truer of Quebec than it is of any other Western nation ever.

Every time Quebec does something that betrays the hideously prevalent racism of the general non-Montreal population, there's always somebody that trots out the "no, they're not really racist, it's just a rest-of-Canada anglo conspiracy!" angle to try to excuse it.

But there comes a point, when you live in the province and outside of Montreal -- which I have, for over 15 years -- when you begin to notice this defense getting pulled out over and over and over again.

I also know journalists at most of the Usual Suspects that get pulled out as the terrible media bogeymen spinning a narrative about Quebec to try to hornswoggle the gape-mouthed population of Canada into believing lies about the horrors of Quebec.

There's no rest-of-Canada conspiracy to make Quebec look bad. There's no "gusto and intention" in the media to report Quebec Bad. News media reports news, and they love crazy because crazy is interesting, and Quebec is crazy racist.

You can claim that Quebec isn't more racist than some other places, with some anecdotal stuff about a Nazi in Calgary, but first, saying that there are other racists in the world doesn't excuse racism any more than pointing out there's a high murder rate in Detroit makes murder in Sarasota perfectly okay.

Second, Quebec is currently run by a party that is trying to make racism the law with a barely disguised dogwhistle.

There comes a point where you have to lay aside prejudices about the media, and stop buying into the self-persecution hype that the separatists play at every opportunity, and look at the facts and say "hey, is this the behaviour of a culture that values inclusiveness and equality, or is this straight-up racist bullshit?"

This is straight-up racist bullshit.

It's supported by half of the population here.

You can dance around it any way you want, but the sad, unexciting truth of the matter is that there's no national conspiracy to make Quebec look bad. Quebec manages to make itself look bad all on its own, over and over and over again.

Again, I understand the stick-up-for-the-underdog impulse. I used to subscribe to it. Go back a decade and you can probably find painfully sincere e-mails from me to friends in Ontario that sound a lot like what you've written above.

But over time, and with repeat (and repeat, and repeat, and repeat) experience, I have slowly come to understand that just because an underdog exists, doesn't mean it's worth defending. There's a huge problem here, and the more people hand-wave it away as being "complicated" or "a media conspiracy", the further we get from any actual solution.
posted by Shepherd at 2:13 AM on September 11, 2013 [18 favorites]


There is a horrible element here of being the Franco white savior standing up for women they think are oppressed. And since this grossness reminds me of Richard Dawkins' particular brand of Islamophobia, I will be glad to see the backside of the province in a year.

Quebec has been one of the most beautiful places I've ever lived in--Montreal is probably one of my favorite cities now--but the politics here have also made it one of the ugliest places I've ever lived in...and I'm from the South, where we still have a problem with racism.
posted by Kitteh at 2:46 AM on September 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


This charter is (the Quebec version of) dogwhistle identity politics

I think the rest of us can hear them.

It won't actually become law, so it's just something to spill some ink over. Like all culture war bullshit.
posted by dry white toast at 3:25 AM on September 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


As a former Montrealer, I think this is a tragically effective ploy. I bit right away and got outraged at the xenophobia and didn't hesitate to bash Quebec.

This will definitely distract people from the serious economic and political crises in Quebec's municipalities.

Sad
posted by ServSci at 4:12 AM on September 11, 2013


However, I think this is a carefully constructed tarbaby by the PQ leadership, designed to be as provocative as possible, to highlight the difference between "Canadian" and "Quebec values". From this point of view, reaction from the federal government, and better a ruling from the Supreme Court, gives them what they want---a new way to differentiate from Canada, and a greivance of imposition of values by anglo Canada on franco Quebec. Trolling by identity politics, in other words.

This. It's not just identity politics, it's identity politics expressly designed to provoke a reaction from the rest of Canada, eventually leading to a Comstituional crisis and a new (and successful) referendum. The endgame is sovereignty.
posted by googly at 4:32 AM on September 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


And what about the Flying Spaghetti Monster, are public servants going to be banned from eating pasta?

don't be silly - pastafarians can still eat all the pasta they want

they just can't WEAR it
posted by pyramid termite at 5:07 AM on September 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Since Canadians seem too polite to do so, why not send a delegation of Americans to Quebec to slap some sense into these nincompoops? I'd be more than happy to be one of them.
posted by tommasz at 5:51 AM on September 11, 2013


pastafarians can still eat all the pasta they want

Yeah, but only if they use the French terms for it.
posted by jeather at 5:54 AM on September 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'd be open to considering a law like this if there were a practical case for it promoting newcomer integration and gender equality. It seems clear to me that the opposite will be true, that people who wear overt religious symbols will feel like they're deliberately being singled-out and pushed out of society, and that women who want to wear a hijab just won't consider teaching as a viable career option.

I also think that these kinds of laws help created a ripe environment for racist elements in our society to fester and grow. And stink.

The arguments for the law are almost entirely emotional and void of logic..."well they got bombed in English for being multicultural!"..."my ancestors were threatened with hell if they didn't go to Mass so it makes me feel bad when my kids' teacher is wearing a hijab". Whaaat??
posted by beau jackson at 6:32 AM on September 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm Canadian with French, Irish and British roots and if 9/11 taught me anything, it's that a number of my relatives are bigoted assholes.

Quebecor is a right-wing (FOX News-type) publishing giant that runs the SUN TV and newspaper chains. Targeted boycotting of their sponsors might be a way of undercutting their power.
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:42 AM on September 11, 2013


'd be open to considering a law like this if there were a practical case for it promoting newcomer integration and gender equality.

None of that justifies religious oppression. Guess what? Migrants don't have to assimilate. That's what freedom means. And gender equality does not trump religious (or atheist) expression.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:56 AM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


And this, along with the language laws, is why I will never return to live in the province I was born in no matter how badly my wife wants to teach at her alma mater. I am not welcome in the place I was born because I am not really French enough.
posted by srboisvert at 7:05 AM on September 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Catchfire, yes, it obvious that there are racist people all over. I certainly wouldn't deny it - casual, off-hand racist comments is one of the reasons I don't attend more family events on one side of my family. However, there's a big different between a smallish group of racist assholes making trouble once a year, and a state that goes so far as to institutionalize a racism narrative by excluding large swaths of the population from public service.

Most defenses of this bill I've seen from Quebecois with whom I typically agree on other issues point to the idea that a public servant is a representative of the state, and saying that wearing a visible symbol of a culture alien to Quebec (and turbans, hijabs and kirpans were all cited as examples of such symbols) is incompatible with representing the state. I submit that articulating this notion is institutionalizing Quebec (whether as a province of Canada or as an independent nation) as a white, traditionally Judeo-Christian/Catholic-but-now-officially-atheist-maybe-except-we'll-keep-the-gigantic-cross-in-the-assembly political entity. It is the opposite of neutral. The message is: Quebec is white, you're welcome as long as you do your best to pretend you are, too, otherwise you're not a part of our society.

This isn't just a matter of which area has more or less racist individuals; this is a matter of institutionalized, state-sponsored racism, which is qualitatively different from a passive indifference to racism in the general public arena.
posted by Kurichina at 7:17 AM on September 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


Where I’m a bit conflicted on what the response should be from federal parties. This an obvious electoral strategy for the PQ. I mean, having a Charter challenge and then the PQ using the notwithstanding clause to opt out would fit very well with Marois’ preferred narrative of “look how mean the Anglos are to us”. It's actually probably easy enough for the Conservatives to respond, as I think they've more or less given up on winning any significant number of seats on QC. For the Liberals, opposing it, even vigorously is a pretty straightforward win, as it fits with Trudeau federalist history. Doing so could mean hurting the chances of some BQ/Lib swing seats (not sure there are that many of those), though. Certainly, it's a challenge for the NDP who have to call out this obvious racism (the base demands it) but need to tread lightly, especially after having won so many formerly BQ seats in the last federal election.

On the other hand, this law is really different from Bill 101, which while it has a somewhat adverse affect on visible minorities (as more of them speak languages other than French), the affect was comparatively very minimal to this current law. And a lot of the folk opposing Bill 101 weren’t particularly sympathetic. I think the image of hajabi or turbaned civil servants walking off the job in Montreal would look very different (and much worse) than the Anglo store-owner who’s upset because he has to pay for a new sign for his business. I’m hoping that it won’t pay off as an electoral strategy for Marois. I'm also, as a Dipper, hoping that if that happens, I'll see Mulcair walking alongside those public servants in solidarity with their human rights, pointing out how they are as much part of his home province as he is.
posted by Kurichina at 7:25 AM on September 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Quebec will, of course, keep its doors wide open for immigrants, because it receives big federal funds for doing so. Then Quebec will continue to "encourage" those immigrants to skedaddle to other provinces, so that Quebec doesn't have to pay for their education, healthcare, and other costs.

It's just another way for Quebec to fuck over the anglos. The proposed laws will make it even more effective.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:31 AM on September 11, 2013


The more I read of this story, the more surprised I am at how extreme the Quebec political parties are. As far as I know, no other government in Canada is even remotely considering something like this. A few people have mentioned that the Parti Québécois is in a minority government and couldn’t pass this on its own. In this Toronto Star article I read this morning, there was this describing the views of one of the opposition parties:
The proposal will be a difficult sell in Quebec’s national assembly. The third-party Coalition Avenir Québec, whose votes could carry the proposal into law, says that a ban on religious clothing should apply only to those in authority positions. Police officers, judges, prison guards, teachers and others who have a coercive power over rank-and-file citizens should face the restrictions, while daycare workers, nurses, bureaucrats and doctors should be exempt.
Between the Parti Québécois and the Coalition Avenir Québec, there are enough seats to pass some version of this law.
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear at 7:39 AM on September 11, 2013


feets: Catchfire, how do you square [your opinion that Quebec is not racist] with the poll results discussed by Vari [in which 48% of Quebeckers support some version of the legislation]?

I actually find this number quite low -- and it gets lower the younger you poll and the more urban you poll -- both encouraging trends. There are two policies of immigration/acculturation in Canada. The official policy for anglophone-majority Canada is multiculturalism. A cursory check found that 86% of Canadians support this approach. The Quebec approach, which has its roots in France, is secularism/reasonable accommodation.

The usual response to this in the ROC is that multiculturalism=good and secularism=racist. Whenever these stories rise up -- and they punctuate Canadian news every six months or so -- there is instant blanket condemnation of secularism with no attendant analysis of multiculturalism, which, is just as racist and white supremacist. It's been used to justify all kinds of unequal immigration laws like the despicable Canadian Foreign Workers program, among others. MC more or less provides a cheap work force for middle-class white Canadians that underwrites their class privilege. Certain middle-class immigrant families are rewarded if they buy in to the ideology to a certain extent -- which is exactly what happens to immigrant families who buy into secularism.

I think there is a significant amount of blindness that happens whenever Quebec takes a bad step like this (for the record, I condemn this legislation too -- I support Québec Solidaire, a sovereigntist arty which also rejects this "Charter"). This angry, hostile reaction is never accompanied by a similar analysis of how these narratives play in local society. It too easily plays into the tired story of separatism -- which is a very minimal part of this story. It's only relevant insofar as sovereignty and self-determination are relevant.

The idea that Quebec --rural stereotypes notwithstanding -- can be more racist than our imperial brothers to the south who are set to wage yet another war on brown people for being brown (actually, Syrians tend to be light skinned, but don't mention that to Congress) or any other province in Canada, is simply ludicrous.
posted by Catchfire at 8:11 AM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Neither hijabs nor burkas are "religious symbols" strictly speaking. That is, the Qur'an doesn't make any specific demands on women to cover their faces or their hair, let alone their entire bodies. There are plenty of muslim communities that don't practice veiling.

Hold up for a second, lemme get into why I hate this approach to religion. I'm not saying you're a bad person or your opinions are bad, it's just that I vehemently disagree.

Even if you're not personally Protestant, it is a gloriously Protestant way of viewing religion. Seriously. That's what the Protestant Reformation was all about: returning to the original text of the Bible and eschewing commentary (there's a reason that non-banned English translations of the Bible first popped up after 1520, and that Martin Luther himself took at crack at translating the bible). It wasn't intrinsically 'right' or 'wrong', it just was. Always returning to the original text.

Unfortunately, most religions don't quite work that way. To put it briefly: contemporary Christianity is, in practice, about orthodoxy (right belief) far more than it is about orthopraxy (right act). Lots of justification by faith (thanks Luther), and what behavioural norms are required of most contemporary Christians are fairly easy to fulfill compared to other religions, especially if you're a mainstream Protestant (but even Catholicism has been moving in this direction for the better part of a century). Go to church. Don't do a bunch of things, but especially don't do these 10. Pray daily. Follow the calendar. For Catholicism, you still have to go to confession and do your penance. If you do Lent, well, you have to do lent.

Now let's compare that with Orthodox Judaism. 613 commandments. Codified blessings to be said before and/or after just about everything (going to the bathroom, eating, going on a long trip...). Long, complicated restrictions on food. Regular holy days that include strict restrictions on what you can do that day. A legitimate argument to be made that having serious doubts in your faith is ok, and expected, but it is better to doubt than to stop acting.

And if you look at the Hebrew Bible almost none of it would make any goddamned sense because, as it turns out, that there is a separate repository of Jewish knowledge (oral law/Talmud) that is as valid as the Bible. (...Well. It's complicated.).

And so to with the Qur'an and its commentary stream, the Hadith. And much like the Talmud and its early rabbinic arguments, different hadiths are given different weights. And a lot of the discourse over hijab comes from the hadiths. Just because it isn't from the Qur'an doesn't mean it's not religious, especially since both the Qur'an and the hadiths were originally transferred only orally (and only written down when Muhammed died).

At least Judaism's main branch of commentary (the Talmud) is 1) nearly 1500 years old and 2) written down with 3) commentary on the commentary that is itself nearly a thousand years old, so it passes the "age" test that is intrinsically part of any "return to the source" movement, but it still gets a lot of crap because you wouldn't be able to understand Judaism by reading the Hebrew Bible. There's a lot of additional stuff, including the concept of 'minhag' (your family's and community's custom, and for women, the Dat Yehudit--practice of Jewish women) that has the force of law. It's all very complicated.

So basically I really hate appeals-to-holy-texts from outsiders in determining what is "authentically religious" for that group. It's significantly more complicated than that for almost every religion. I mean, even Sikhs, who view the Granth Sahib (a book) as the final and still-living Guru, have a lot more to their religion than what can be found in the Granth Sahib.

There's been a history, in North America and the Occident more generally, of laws about religion not quite working well with the fact that not all religions are about "faith," but many are instead about "action." So while this is a racist, desperate dog-whistle from the PQ, it does slot itself pretty well in a long chain of legislation and judicial rulings that presume that Christian religiosity is "normal" and anything else is "exceptional" or "unnecessary." It really gets my goat because even if this act fails (and unless Marois works a lot with CAQ, it will fail), the discussion in Quebec will probably create an atmosphere where, instead of being seen as novel, non-Christian forms of religiosity will be seen as mere "decoration" to the root of (Christian-style) "faith". It will normalize Christian forms of expression and discoursively disrupt non-Christian religiosity. And that might pave the way for less-overtly-racist actions and laws that still have the effect of reducing religious liberty.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 8:17 AM on September 11, 2013 [14 favorites]


As usual in these discussions, Catchfire is dead on, and expressing himself in a much more even-handed tone than I would. Gentle request: fewer "Fuck you crazy racists" comments would be a nice gesture to make the thread a bit less painful to read for other Quebecois mefites.

In discussing the Major Problem of Racism in Quebec, you always have to keep in mind that in the province (and other areas of the Francophonie), we tend to take a more compartmentalized approach to race, language and culture. That doesn't exactly jive with the Great Canadian Mosaic model, where every people of the world comes to this great land of opportunity to shine in their own colors and live side by side in perfect harmony. I think we can fairly say both models of cultural cohabitation have their problems in practice.

We also have a history of deep trauma with regards to Catholic rule here, so anti-religious sentiment is a bit more overt (even virulent) than it might be in Anglo parts of the country. This is not ancient history, either, Catholic oppression and the rejection of those shackles is in living memory. My parents went through it, signs of it permeate the culture still.

So those are fresh wounds being rubbed for political gains. Marois be trolling, and you guys are walking right into it. The PQ project is rooted in identity politics, but the dogs they're whistling at are getting old... It will take something major to push more voters over the fence. They failed spectacularly at winning over the student movement, so now they're going for the Radio X redneck contingent (the only ones here to buck the trend towards progressivism and vote Conservative).

The more strident you are in your condemnation of what most right-thinking people agree is Bad Politics, the more effective that discourse is to those backwards contrarians.
posted by Freyja at 8:25 AM on September 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Guess what? Migrants don't have to assimilate. That's what freedom means.

The Quebec law is discriminatory nonsense, but I'm not sure where you get the idea that anyone has the right to move to another country and insist that that country adapt to them, rather than vice versa. "We did it that way in the old country" is not a valid opt-out for needing to try to adapt to the ways of the new country.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 8:30 AM on September 11, 2013


but I'm not sure where you get the idea that anyone has the right to move to another country and insist that that country adapt to them, rather than vice versa. "We did it that way in the old country" is not a valid opt-out for needing to try to adapt to the ways of the new country.

I get the idea from the right of free speech, in any language, in any place, at any time. It is racist to insist that the low cost labor imported into a country must act, talk and look like you.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:39 AM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I get the idea from the right of free speech, in any language, in any place, at any time.

We're not talking only about speech in this case, but where do you think this unlimited right of free speech is enshrined?
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 8:55 AM on September 11, 2013


First: this is not a reflection of Quebec's or Quebeckers' general feelings towards marginalized or oppressed populations within the province.

Yeah, you keep telling yourself that.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 8:58 AM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I get the idea from the right of free speech, in any language, in any place, at any time.

We're not just talking about speech, but where do you think that right is enshrined?


I dunno, maybe Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?
2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
(d) freedom of association.
The idea that persons residing in a free country must comport to the ways of acting, dressing, appearance and language of the people there is a morally wrong one. It is perfectly ok to restrict immigration if one wishes, but fundamental freedom means you can look, act or be any way you like. Otherwise you are not free, only 'free' to act like the majority.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:03 AM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]




I get the idea from the right of free speech, in any language, in any place, at any time.

We're not talking only about speech in this case, but where do you think this unlimited right of free speech is enshrined?


This was edited for content by the poster after I posted my response. I just want people to know that my quote of the prior language was correct at the time of my response.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:07 AM on September 11, 2013


This was edited for content by the poster after I posted my response. I just want people to know that my quote of the prior language was correct at the time of my response.

This is a lie.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 9:09 AM on September 11, 2013




This was edited for content by the poster after I posted my response. I just want people to know that my quote of the prior language was correct at the time of my response.

This is a lie.


Original: We're not just talking about speech, but where do you think that right is enshrined?

Modified: We're not talking only about speech in this case, but where do you think this unlimited right of free speech is enshrined?

Note the content is different.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:15 AM on September 11, 2013


It's really, really important to remember, when discussing the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, that no freedoms or rights in Canada are absolute, certainly less so than in the the US Bill of Rights, for example. The first clause of the Charter says:

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

The courts have taken that very seriously. It's the basis of federal Hate Speech laws, limiting the freedom of speech and expression, for example. That's the out the PQ is arguing. Whether that will work or not is up to the court to decide.

A Supreme Court referral is, of course, Marois' game plan---the PQ secular charter is designed to fail a challenge, in my view. Harper may be dumb enough to fall for it too.
posted by bonehead at 9:15 AM on September 11, 2013


[Folks, this is why editing for anything other than literally typos is problematic especially in fast-moving threads. one more dead town's last parade, I totally get that you were just refining a thought there but if it's in the middle of an active conversation instead of e.g. a late comment in a dormant thread probably best to leave even those sorts of clarifications to a followup comment rather than a midstream rewrite. No real harm done here but please keep it in mind. Everybody carry on.]
posted by cortex at 9:18 AM on September 11, 2013


None of that justifies religious oppression. Guess what? Migrants don't have to assimilate. That's what freedom means. And gender equality does not trump religious (or atheist) expression.

You have the mistaken belief that Quebec is America (where "freedom reigns") or multicultural Canada. Quebec (at least the Quebec of Marois and the PQ) does not consider itself an immigrant society. Migrants most certainly have to assimilate.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:18 AM on September 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


The Quebec approach, which has its roots in France, is secularism/reasonable accommodation.

PQ minister Bernard Drainville is on Radio Noon right now, and he is clearly saying that if you want to wear a discreet cross or what not as a sign of your faith, that will be considered religious accomodation. If you want to wear any other symbol of your faith that is not discreet, to him, it seems like unreasonable accomodation.

I get that QC has a terrible history with Catholicism, I do, but just because they did doesn't give them the right to dictate how people do their jobs just fine can dress or practice their faith. There have been many stories today of people in fear of losing their damn jobs just because they are of a different faith and wear those articles.

I know the Quebecois hate it when they get painted as crazy racists--I hate it too when it's assumed I carry some of my family's prejudices solely by dint of where I'm from--but the simple fact is this: if you don't want people to think you are racist, then don't pass or table crazy horrible racist laws.
posted by Kitteh at 9:27 AM on September 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


[Seriously, if you want to argue with each other about the applicability of "for content" in this instance, hash it out over email, not here. If you want to talk about the editing feature at large, Metatalk. Drop it in here.]
posted by cortex at 9:29 AM on September 11, 2013


I have to agree with Freyja and with Catchfire. This is clearly a political grab by Marois and the more heat and noise this generates in the media and with the ROC the happier she will be. The general consensus seems to be leaning toward an election next spring so her timing is excellent.

I think that the legislation is odious. My large collection of in-laws (who live outside of Montreal and are francophone) do not agree with me. Some of them are conservative, others more liberal but all of them are with Mme. Marois on this one. As ever the background and the story are more complicated than it seems at first glance. My brother in law believes that 95% of women who wear head coverings (and he doesn’t discriminate between the hijab, burka or niqab) are forced to do so. While listening to the family discussion last week I realized he knows this, and that nothing I can say will convince him otherwise. For him then this echos the way that women (our foremothers, he called them, in French of course) were oppressed in Quebec until very recently. Women didn’t get the vote in Quebec until 1940 – the last province in Canada. My mother in law was not allowed to continue her career as a schoolteacher after she was married in the mid 1960s. It wasn’t her husband that forbade her, but the school board. This is recent history in many minds.

In addition the ties to Catholicism are very odd in this province. On the one hand the crosses are everywhere, including Mount Royal. People who never go to church make sure to have their children baptized. And at the same time Quebec has the lowest marriage rate in all of Canada. Women do not take their husband’s name by default when marrying, you have to apply for and pay for a name change to do so. While the province is largely secular ties to Catholicism are inexorably linked to language politics, whether we like it or not.

A friend told me that Quebec is emblematic of what is happening in other places in the world. She thinks the major conflict of our time is between the secular and the religious. However, many political leaders are working to create conflicts between believers. A common enemy and all that. Marois has been very successful at doing this under the guise of “patrimonie” even though the majority of Catholics in this province are lapsed. The way out of this mess then is not to give in to the simplistic arguments and pronunciations that are brought forward (All women wearing head coverings are oppressed! Quebec is full of whiny racists!) but to develop conversations that go deeper and challenge the overriding narrative.

So I’ll tell my brother in law about the student I had a couple of years ago who came from a Pakistani family, but who had never worn the hijab until after 9/11. She put it on in solidarity with others so that she could be easily identified as a Muslim woman who was neither a terrorist nor oppressed. As a highly educated westernized woman from a largely non-religious family she felt like she needed to be seen. Wearing a headscarf was a courageous and very visible form of political activism for her. How sad that this new policy would make her gesture invisible. Maybe my brother in law will hear me.
posted by Cuke at 9:35 AM on September 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


Gentle request: fewer "Fuck you crazy racists" comments would be a nice gesture to make the thread a bit less painful to read for other Quebecois mefites.

I'm sure most Quebecois aren't racist. This legislation isn't designed to appeal to them. It is designed for folks who treat pure laine as a thing, who supported Parizeau, and who supported Bouchard saying that there weren't enough white babies being born, who supported the attempt to exclude observant Sikhs from organized soccer and who are now the folks who feel empowered by this piece of shit legislation.

So sorry, I'm gonna go with the "Fuck you crazy racists" all day long, but understand that certainly isn't for everyone in the province. Because Quebec's separatists have some fucking crazy racists in their ranks who have more than fringe influence.
posted by mobunited at 9:35 AM on September 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


None of that justifies religious oppression. Guess what? Migrants don't have to assimilate. That's what freedom means.

I agree that religious oppression is not justified. Though in a practical sense, it's important to remember that immigrants do have to assimilate, even in a multicultural society. For example, it's not discriminatory to refuse to give someone a job, or even citizenship, if they don't speak the language of the workplace, being French or English.

So there is a reasonable expectation of assimilation. And it's important to remember that immigrants come to Canada with the intention of assimilating. In good faith, they learn the language and laws of the land. From my perspective, a multicultural society trusts the newcomer to do his or her practical assimilation (with some support, i.e. language classes) and leaves the other personal stuff (religious expression) up to the individual. Of course, a multicultural society that allows this much immigration has to be ready to change and do it's own adaptation.

I don't like this charter, partly because I feel like it's impractical, it will do more to alienate newcomers than to create a pacific society. It just seems to come from a place of fear and xenophobia, and, worst of all, cynical political calculation.
posted by beau jackson at 9:37 AM on September 11, 2013


Any difference between "unlimited" and "in any language, in any place, at any time" is negligible. The very first section of the Charter states that there are limits to the freedoms it recognizes.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 9:38 AM on September 11, 2013


I know it's not a solution, but the other provinces should be begging immigrants in Quebec to relocate. The small, Island-bound city of Victoria where I live has a growing Muslim population and at least downtown the hijab is not an uncommon sight at all. About 40% of Metro Vancouver's population speaks a first language other than English.

Quebec has an ageing population - they need immigrants to a certain degree, especially when young people often leave the province to find work... in and English-speaking environment.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:38 AM on September 11, 2013


...And yet whenever I whine about person freedoms in France everyone rolls their eyes at me and moans "It's coooomplicaaaaateeed". Yeah, right.
posted by Mooseli at 9:39 AM on September 11, 2013


> I'm not sure where you get the idea that anyone has the right to move to another country and insist that that country adapt to them, rather than vice versa.

There's also the third option where the immigrant group neither adapts nor makes the surrounding culture adapt — they instead adopt an insular culture. In the US, this was the way it worked. If you were German, you came over on a boat with other Germans, you moved into a German neighborhood, and you associated with other Germans. You might have learned English, but you could get along without having to do so, if you wanted. Same for Irish, Italians, Scandinavians, and the like.

I'm not saying that it's a positive thing to have a bunch of insular cultures, but neither am I saying it's a negative thing. We're not a perfect melting pot in the US, largely for reasons of racism, but those Americans whose ancestry came from Europe are now much more similar than they are different. I've never understood this insistence that immigrants need to work to assimilate. If assimilation is advantageous to everybody, it'll happen in its time.
posted by savetheclocktower at 9:44 AM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Simple question for those favoring assimilation forced by law: if another culture and language became the dominant one in your political area, would it be "constitutional" for that other culture via legislation to force you to assimilate to their culture because they are the majority?
posted by Ironmouth at 9:44 AM on September 11, 2013


The more strident you are in your condemnation of what most right-thinking people agree is Bad Politics, the more effective that discourse is to those backwards contrarians.

Or, y'know, the more stridently you're condemning very bad ideas. The idea that you should just let flagrant racists pass flagrantly racist bills into law because you're scared of what a bunch of hypothetical other racists might do might have some vague keep-the-peace appeal, but at the end of the day what you still have is a bunch of emboldened racists, and shitty laws.

I understand how the struggle narrative that the PQ have worked so hard to create for a generation can be compelling. It's a great tale: the minority persecuted by massive conspiracies from the outside world. It's a story a well-intentioned person can really throw themselves behind. I was once an adherent, and am in many ways still sympathetic to the argument.

But there's another struggle narrative here: people that don't happen to be white, and don't happen to be Christian, trying to live in a place where the sitting party in power does everything they can at every turn to devalue, belittle and eradicate their identities. Either from a place of sincere, deeply felt racism, or cynical, calculated racism.

I keep hoping some of their story will make some sort of impact on the champions of the PQ "poor us" choir, but so far, there's no sympathy to spare for anyone that doesn't fit into the rigid confines of the PQ vision of Quebec.
posted by Shepherd at 9:56 AM on September 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Simple question for those favoring assimilation forced by law: if another culture and language became the dominant one in your political area, would it be "constitutional" for that other culture via legislation to force you to assimilate to their culture because they are the majority?

It depends on the constitution, does it not (note to Ironmouth: not everyone has adopted the "exceptional" American Constitution).

In Canada we have the Charter etc etc, but individual provinces have the prerogative to opt-out of whatever they want thanks to Canada's "Notwithstanding Clause."

Besides, Quebec as a province never signed the repatriated Constitution.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:57 AM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I presume, Ironmouth, that you are a citizen of the USA. Why do you want to impose your country's laws and culture relating to freedom of speech and religion, etc. on another country?
posted by JeffL at 10:01 AM on September 11, 2013


Besides, Quebec as a province never signed the repatriated Constitution.

They're still bound by it.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:02 AM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


would it be "constitutional" for that other culture via legislation to force you to assimilate to their culture because they are the majority?

The short answer is that that is mostly undefined in Canadian law, as no one has tried to do that until yesterday.

Certainly, freedom of conscience and religion, of speech and expression are both part of the charter, however that's governed also by the first clause. Most opinion seems to be that this secular charter is unconstitutional, but no one knows for sure as there's no ruling on it.

Finally, even if the court does rule this to be in contravention of the Charter, the PQ could invoke the not-withstanding clause and pass it anyway, as they did with the language law. Legally, theoretically, they have ways to do this.

As others have said though, this has a snowball's chance in hell of ever becoming law. It's an election platform.
posted by bonehead at 10:10 AM on September 11, 2013


...and a springboard towards "winning conditions" for a referendum on sovereignty. With the PQ, everything they do should be viewed in that light.
posted by bonehead at 10:13 AM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


and a springboard towards "winning conditions" for a referendum on sovereignty. With the PQ, everything they do should be viewed in that light.

This is why discussions on Quebec politics and the right to self-determination never go anywhere with ROCs and many anglophones in Quebec. Because this statement is totally and utterly untrue.
posted by Catchfire at 10:21 AM on September 11, 2013


I agree with everybody saying that this is a political move to grab a majority. But the only reason it could work (and it is working) is because Quebec is fucking racist. I live this reality every day. In Montreal, the most cosmopolitan city in the province. Just google "Quebec blackface."
posted by TheGoodBlood at 10:22 AM on September 11, 2013


"because Quebec is fucking racist"

This is so depressing. What's the point in engaging on this issue if everyone's mind is already made up?
posted by Catchfire at 10:28 AM on September 11, 2013


I presume, Ironmouth, that you are a citizen of the USA. Why do you want to impose your country's laws and culture relating to freedom of speech and religion, etc. on another country?

The question of whether or not these laws are "constitutional" is, surely, an entirely separate one from whether or not they are morally defensible. No one is saying "Quebec shouldn't do this because the US constitution wouldn't permit it" they are saying that "Quebec shouldn't do this because it's nothing but codified bigotry."
posted by yoink at 10:34 AM on September 11, 2013


...this statement is totally and utterly untrue.

Come on. Their first affirmation in their 2012 platform is: Réaliser la souveraineté du Québec à la suite d’une consultation de la population par référendum tenu au moment qu’il jugera approprié.

Separation/Sovereignty is their number one priority. There's lots of other stuff about expanded powers for the province and protection of francophone language, but all in aid of their top priority.
posted by bonehead at 10:39 AM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't understand your point, Catchfire. It is indeed depressing that Quebec is racist. Are you trying to say it isn't racist? I don't get it. Honestly, do you think Quebec is not racist? Do you live here while being a person of colour? I can give you a hundred anecdotes of my life or my friends', but there's no need for that. The mere fact that this political move has any tract at all (instead of being rejected outright by a majority) is a reflection of a society the thinks white is the norm and it should be the only norm.

Do you support the Charter? Do you think the Charter is racist?

The "who's more racist" conversation is silly and useless and unproductive. People and countries are racist in different ways. Those things are not measurable. Let's talk about the Charter.
posted by TheGoodBlood at 10:46 AM on September 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


*cough*

Yes, how does Quebec not have a problem with race or at the very least, use of racist stereotypes?
posted by Kitteh at 10:53 AM on September 11, 2013


I don't understand your point, Catchfire.

I think you should read what I've written in this thread on the larger cultural, historical and political context.
posted by Catchfire at 10:53 AM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I did! You didn't answer me though! But I guess you're convinced that Quebec is not racist for some reason, despite an abundance of evidence to the contrary, including the existence of this Charter (and everything that's being said in its favour).
posted by TheGoodBlood at 11:04 AM on September 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think you should read what I've written in this thread on the larger cultural, historical and political context.

I think you might be advised to re-read your own first comment in the thread. You know, about how the ADQ went from nothing to being a real political presence by playing on racist anti-immigrant wedge issues and how the PQ took those racist wedge issues over from them. Somehow we're supposed to see this (political party rises from obscurity playing on racist anti-immigrant fears) as proof that Quebec isn't racist, although I'm not at all sure how that part of your argument was supposed to work. Then we're supposed to think that the fact that the PQ is playing the same racist song now simply as a cynical way to advance the rest of their political agenda makes the racism not really matter, or something.
posted by yoink at 11:04 AM on September 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Please do not invalidate a POC's experience in QC because you think you know better. That's very ugly and will make me incapable of listening to anything you say.
posted by Kitteh at 11:11 AM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is silly. I object to the wholesale, blanket condemnation of Quebec as "fucking racist" or full of "crazy racists." But I said upthread that both the multiculturalism model of integration and immigration and Quebec's secularist model are white supremacist in theory and practice. I think that this Charter is divisive, exploitative of racial bigotry, and short-sighted. But those who would take it as "proof" that Quebec has a problem with racism any different with the rest of North America, that they are somehow extra deserving of the vitriol present in this thread, is bigotry of its own.

So far, TGB, you haven't given anything to support your assertion that "Quebec is fucking racist," other than "trust me." That's the argument a new McGill student would make.

It's incredible to me that the blackface incident is brought out as proof that Quebec has a culture-wide problem with racism. When American celebrities do shows wearing blackface, or when an NFL football team still calls itself the Redskins, these are isolated incidents indicating the racism of the individuals responsible -- and not somehow indicative of a culture-wide trauma. But when Quebec is involved, the anglophone media is only too happy to make blanket declarations about all Quebeckers. It's offensive, small minded and ignorant.
posted by Catchfire at 11:13 AM on September 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's pretty rich to accuse someone of not reading comments, but then also to quote "Quebec is fucking racist" and skip the next sentence: "I live this reality every day."
posted by snorkmaiden at 11:13 AM on September 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


On edit: did TGB say he was a person of colour? I don't think so.
posted by Catchfire at 11:13 AM on September 11, 2013


Do you live here while being a person of colour? I can give you a hundred anecdotes of my life or my friends', but there's no need for that.

Uh, yes, they did.
posted by Kitteh at 11:14 AM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's this CBC interview about "Quebec bashing" with former premier Bernard Landry, where he says that "immigrants are welcome but they have to integrate" and "I am not a prophet, but I think in Toronto and in Vancouver, in some years they will regret multiculturalism."
posted by TheGoodBlood at 11:15 AM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


You know, I've tried very hard to be balanced on this. I have never said that racism does not exist in Quebec, and I would never invalidate the lived experience of POCs. If that's how I came across, I apologize -- I imagine it's the result of how highly pitched this debate becomes, immediately.
posted by Catchfire at 11:15 AM on September 11, 2013


I'm starting to understand how Texans, Alabamans, and other mefites in problem regions feel when it's their government discussed on here. Ouch.

By saying "Quebec is racist", you're making it sound like those policies are being adopted unopposed. That's hardly the case. Any time one of those issues comes up, whether it be black face, reasonable accomodations, language laws or the Charter, they prompt MASSIVE social debates. There have been plenty of op eds against the Charter, public demonstrations and protests (we love those!), it's the one topic of discussion province-wide. There's no consensus that warrant the charge that the whole province is a racist cesspool.

Even Marois' rise to "power" isn't really that clear a sign. She wasn't elected because she played on anti-immigrant fears. In fact, her campaign was very much about aligning herself with the student movement (the hot topic at the time). People who wanted an alternative to the Liberal party (here, remember, Liberal = neocon) had too many choices (CAQ for the conservatives, ON/QS/PQ if they leaned more leftwards). Of the 3 more progressive parties, only the PQ was established enough to be a plausible winning choice, so here we are.
posted by Freyja at 11:16 AM on September 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Kitteh: I did not read that as an affirmation of identity. If TGB feels that it's important to the discussion, perhaps he or she can clarify. But again, I am not arguing, and have never said, that racism does not exist in Quebec.
posted by Catchfire at 11:19 AM on September 11, 2013


There's always a larger cultural, historical and political context to local, regional, and national forms of bigotry. Politicians all over the world make bigoted appeals that resonate with constituents because of historical grievances. There are rich cultural, political and historical backgrounds to ethnic tensions in the Balkans or racial relations in the U.S. and those contexts are worth understanding, but I don't see why they make particular expressions of bigotry immune from outside criticism.
posted by Area Man at 11:20 AM on September 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


I don't see why they make particular expressions of bigotry immune from outside criticism.

Right, so obviously I've never said this. I condemn this piece of racist legislation. Which I have already said. But those using this as special proof that Quebec deserves a special circle in hell for their ingrained xenophobia are wrong: and have their own xenophobic horses in this race.
posted by Catchfire at 11:25 AM on September 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


But you yourself seem ready to condemn Calgary as a particularly racist place and were aghast that anyone could ever think your province was racist like the U.S. You seem willing to paint with a broad brush when it isn't your home. I think most of us are sensitive in that way.
posted by Area Man at 11:28 AM on September 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Um, no. I was referring solely to Mayor Nenshi's comments which were referenced upthread. On the contrary, I said this: "let me say that I think Canada as a whole unfairly disparages Alberta according to frail stereotypes that don't hold up to the real thing."
posted by Catchfire at 11:30 AM on September 11, 2013


Sorry, I missed that one. I was thinking of the claim that Calgary has a considerable population of Nazis.
posted by Area Man at 11:32 AM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


What would happen if we discussed this as a "separation of church and state" issue? Because that's more what this debate is about in the minds of many who are perceived as defending the legislation.

NB: I don't dispute that there are bigots out there who are loving the Charter and support it without reserve for crazy racist reasons, but I don't frequent the same circles and, for my own mental health, don't really want to familiarize myself further with their arguments.
posted by Freyja at 11:33 AM on September 11, 2013


But those using this as special proof that Quebec deserves a special circle in hell for their ingrained xenophobia are wrong

I don't actually see a whole lot of that in this thread (although it is there, to be sure). How about we all agree that it really doesn't matter a damn whether Quebec is the "most racist" province or the "least racist"--what matters is that there is far too much fucking racism in Quebec and the fact that an initiative like this can look like a politically savvy move is proof that there are a disturbingly large number of bigots who A) vote and B) like the idea of sticking it to non-white and non-Christian immigrants. And we can all agree that that is a really bad thing. Fair enough?
posted by yoink at 11:33 AM on September 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


What would happen if we discussed this as a "separation of church and state" issue? Because that's more what this debate is about in the minds of many who are perceived as defending the legislation.

I would argue that the "separation of Church and State" should dictate that the state doesn't tell people what religious symbols they can and can't wear. This is especially so when the state knows full well that it will always find ways to turn a blind eye to certain forms of religious expression that magically (miraculously?) fail to trouble it.
posted by yoink at 11:35 AM on September 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


What would happen if we discussed this as a "separation of church and state" issue?

We don't have that in Canada, that's a US concept. What we do have is "freedom of conscience and religion". That can mean freedom from religion, and there is some support constitutionally for that, but it also mean that those who are religious should be allowed to practice, as long as that doesn't infringe on someone else.

Does someone, a teacher, a clerk at Services Québec, wearing a headscarf infringe on your freedom of secular conscience? Does making her take it of infringe her freedom to practice religion? If restrictions are targeted at one group, but exempt for others does that make them discriminatory?
posted by bonehead at 11:41 AM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fair enough?

I'm clearly threadsitting so this will be my last comment for a while (also work: arrgh). All I've asked for since my first comment in this thread is that people add a little context to their analysis of this situation and consider their own position viz. the discourse around secularism and the Charter. Secularism -- which is indeed another word for the separation of church and state, as Freyja rightly points out -- should be debated on its terms: not on the terms that secularism fails when compared to multiculturalism (the ROC's model) -- or, specifically, a multiculturalism that is not subjected to the same critical lens as Quebec's model. Because, when that happens, we're buying into existing narratives that shame Quebec on different terms: the ROC's understanding of sovereignty and self-determination. Which are, incidentally, egregious.

To answer the specific question in your post, I would agree with the premise, but I actually believe that the PQ's gambit will fail (despite the polls cited above). I don't think that the hard-right CAQ voters will shift to the PQ and that the left-leaning voters who the PQ considers their soft base will move to the Liberals, perhaps because of this legislation, but mostly because it's pretty clear the PQ doesn't have a convincing, solid platform. This Charter will not become law anyway, but the electoral gambit will not pay off and could actually annihilate the party. As a Quebec Solidaire supporter, I don't think that can happen soon enough (next up, the Liberals!)
posted by Catchfire at 11:43 AM on September 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


That can mean freedom from religion, and there is some support constitutionally for that, but it also mean that those who are religious should be allowed to practice, as long as that doesn't infringe on someone else.

So I guess any quasi-legitimate defense of the proposed Charter would need to claim that having services provided by someone wearing a turban, burkha, large cross, etc. is itself an infringement. I don't see that. I understand there is a different conception of secularism in France and Quebec, but I don't just get why it would be such an infringement to deal with a public servant wearing a religious symbol. I've certainly had such dealings and it just hasn't felt like my own rights were infringed. I also don't understand why a small cross would not be an infringement.
posted by Area Man at 11:53 AM on September 11, 2013


Right? That's already a much more productive line of inquiry than "Y'all are all racists".

If we ignore the blatant play for votes that the Charter represents, I think there's something not entirely depressing about the debate on secularism in Quebec. The province is in a position that's fairly unique on the continent. You can talk all you want about the wonders of multiculturalism in Canada, remains that it occurs in a context of assumed WASP (benevolent) dominance.

Whereas what we have here is a culture struggling to define itself after a wholesale rejection of Catholic hegemony. What will replace it? If we base our provincial identity on a more extreme form of secularism than the indifferent tolerance for diversity exhibited by our neighbours, where do we get to draw our lines?

I've heard a lot of bright intellectuals with flawless progressive bona fides who argue, for example, that the Charter's problem is that it starts with others and doesn't go far enough. That the first step should be to put our money where our mouth is and take down all the crucifixes in public institutions, bring down the Mt Royal cross Saddam-statue-style, start desaintifying the name of stuff, the whole deal. Then we can ask others to follow suit. Call me a racist, but that's something I'd love to see.
posted by Freyja at 11:53 AM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


So Freyja, if I understand right, and correct me if I'm wrong, you support the Charter? As long as it also rejects Christian iconography?
posted by TheGoodBlood at 11:57 AM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've heard a lot of bright intellectuals with flawless progressive bona fides who argue, for example, that the Charter's problem is that it starts with others and doesn't go far enough. That the first step should be to put our money where our mouth is and take down all the crucifixes in public institutions, bring down the Mt Royal cross Saddam-statue-style, start desaintifying the name of stuff, the whole deal. Then we can ask others to follow suit. Call me a racist, but that's something I'd love to see.

Well, it would certainly be a less hypocritical position. However, I don't think it respects the freedom of conscience and religion of minority religious communities. Is imposing some sort of culutural hegemony in place of the Catholic church necessary? You talk about "imposing our lines" but those are lines that will be imposed onto Quebecois of minority religions. Shouldn't those people be considered as part of who "you" are?
posted by Area Man at 12:04 PM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Okay, so I'm totally willing to have my hat handed to me, but as a Torontonian, I'm fairly proud of the city's diversity, and it's something that most visitors to the city remark upon in a positive way.

I'm not trying to defend the general history of Canada as especially benevolent (it most certainly isn't), nor even that multiculturalism as layed out in the 70s was done for noble reasons. In my view, however, the result has been that Canada has had for some time one of the most open immigration policies in the world. Toronto, for all its other problems, isn't suffering waves of racially motivated violence, and most people I know feel extremely positive in this regard both towards how the city is and the direction in which it's heading. Marois had to look overseas to find obvious examples of failure of multiculturalism (never mind that highlighting the situation in England while ignoring that in France is highly disengenuous).

So again, sincere open question: can someone explain to me why it is so obvious to dismiss multiculturalism as just some other tool of white domination?
posted by Alex404 at 12:10 PM on September 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


I've heard a lot of bright intellectuals with flawless progressive bona fides who argue, for example, that the Charter's problem is that it starts with others and doesn't go far enough. That the first step should be to put our money where our mouth is and take down all the crucifixes in public institutions, bring down the Mt Royal cross Saddam-statue-style, start desaintifying the name of stuff, the whole deal. Then we can ask others to follow suit. Call me a racist, but that's something I'd love to see.

You know what, if you're happy to stipulate that Quebec can start asking Muslims not to wear hijabs if and only if they have already completely eliminated all Christian symbolism from the public sphere then I think everyone can rest easy. Because you and I both know that that is never going to happen. No politician is going to be remotely interested in playing this card if its starting premise is "O.K., let's get rid of all the crosses and rename 'St Laurent' street 'Charles Darwin Avenue'! Who is with me?"

And that, of course, is what reveals any claims that this is really about secularism to be hollow. Secularism is a fig-leaf. No child in Quebec is brought up without being surrounded by reminders of the Christian religion and Christian mythology. Few get more than fleeting encounters with Islam. And yet the excitement of these proposals is all in the "wheeee, we're banning the hijab and the burka and, you know, Sikh turbans too because fuck them!!!!" It's like saying you're mounting a campaign against drunk driving, but you only prosecute people who drink absinthe. I mean, sure, absinthe can make you drunk, but it's pretty clear the policy's about absinthe, not about alcohol per se.
posted by yoink at 12:10 PM on September 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


What really troubles me about this law is that it makes evident how vastly different my thinking about "reasonable accommodation" is from that of many folks here in Quebec. To me, the scale from least-to-most accepting of minorities looks something like this:

0. Group X is entirely unwelcome.
1. X is allowed here, as long as they never act different.
2. X can do their own thing, but no changes will ever be made on their behalf
3. If something helps X, and has no cost at all to other people, let's do it.
4. If something helps X, but has a very small cost to others, let's do it.
5. If something helps X, but makes life much more difficult for others, let's do it.

For me, it's self-evident that (4) is "reasonable accommodation", and (5) is "unreasonable accommodation". If someone wants a day off for Eid or Holi, and their job already gives employees days off for all sorts of other reasons, it seems pretty fair to make that accommodation. If strict working hours are really required for the job, though, maybe that's too high a cost, so it would be unreasonable accommodation. Steps (1) to (3) aren't "accommodation" at all as far as I'm concerned, how can they be when there's no cost to anyone in the majority?

But for the supporters of this law, or many of those complaining about reasonable accommodation back during the Bouchard-Taylor commission, things are very different. Just my step (1), accepting the existence of different people, is already seen as an effort. Anything more than that is obviously unreasonable. So that's how it becomes unacceptable for a restaurant to voluntarily serve halal food, or for someone to wear a turban in public.

This is just very difficult for me to understand. I really do find myself agreeing with Charles Taylor when he says that it's reminiscent of Putin's anti-gay laws. There, you can't "act gay", here you can't "act religious", regardless of the fact that nobody at all is being materially harmed by either of these actions.
posted by vasi at 12:13 PM on September 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Shouldn't separation of church and state, or freedom of conscience and religion, or whatever you want to call it, be about the government not involving itself in religion, period? In my (agnostic) mind, it doesn't matter whether the government is supporting religion, or restricting it.
posted by snorkmaiden at 12:17 PM on September 11, 2013


So Freyja, if I understand right, and correct me if I'm wrong, you support the Charter? As long as it also rejects Christian iconography?

I don't know where I said I'm in support. I'm even going to the march against it! But if we're gonna make it about me, cool, it'll give Catchfire a break.

I'm generally of the opinion that less religion is better, especially in public institutions. Like Catchfire, I throw my vote away in support of Quebec Solidaire, our crunchiest most diverse party that's sadly not getting anywhere. I'm appalled but unsurprised by this latest move by the PQ, but not actually worried it's going to make it on the books. I'm fascinated by the nuances of the debate. I'm annoyed by black and white views on what is, actually, a complicated issue. I'm sick to the death of the gleeful ways we're portrayed as virulent racists in the rest of the country.

I'm the furthest thing from a nationalist, but I love Quebec's differences. Its history, political context and culture is entirely unlike the rest of Canada, France or the US (I even went there and checked!) So is the way it tackles social issues. Sometimes, it's a little hard to watch (like in this case), but other times it results in things like the Quiet Revolution, a vibrant and distinct cultural scene, socialized healthcare, strong unions, or the most progressive family-friendly policies on the continent.

tl;dr: I object the Charter, but I object small-minded, uninformed or uncharitable opinions on the topic more.
posted by Freyja at 12:24 PM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, I'm not thrilled by the talk in this thread about how the real issue is terrible people in the Rest Of Canada who dare to call this policy and its supporters racist. I don't think most people mean it this way, but it feels a lot like the oft-used right-wing tactic. Aren't we used to seeing this? When someone does or says something racist or sexist, and is called out on it, somehow the discussion always turns to how terrible it is that people call other people racist/sexist. And then that takes over everything—no longer are we discussing the effects of racism or sexism, or the ways to fix things, but just putting people on virtual trial for calling other people racist/sexist. Ugh.

If we're going to talk about how this proposed law has affected discourse, it's the normalization of discrimination that strikes me. The debate in news media seems to now be between "no hijabs anywhere!" and "well, let's only ban them in a select set of situations". As if the idea that maybe it's nobody's business telling women what to wear is now beyond the pale, but it's totally ok for one white-culturally-christian-québecois after another to give us their take on which restrictions on Other People are the correct ones.
posted by vasi at 12:27 PM on September 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


So that's how it becomes unacceptable for a restaurant to voluntarily serve halal food, or for someone to wear a turban in public.

Well, that was always one of the inherent problems with Bill 101, wasn't it? It wasn't enough to say "you need to have signage such that a French speaking person is not handicapped in any way"; instead you had a law that said "the mere public reminder that there are English speaking people in this province is an insult to the community; all English signs must be eliminated." As much as one can understand the historical anxieties that motivated the law it is undoubtedly the case that they made this idea that the mere visible presence of minorities was a threat to Quebec national identity something deeply entwined with Quebec nationalist politics.
posted by yoink at 12:28 PM on September 11, 2013


For what it's worth, I don't at all think that all québecois are racists! I vote for QS as well, and I applaud their stance on this law. There are a ton of things about Quebec that I like, and one of the biggest is what a unique and mostly-harmonious multicultural, multiethnic and multilingual city Montreal is. I can't easily think of a motto I like more than "né sous le lys, je crois sous la rose".

That's why I'm so frustrated by this law, it feels like a betrayal of what I love about my province. I'm also not convinced that the law won't pass. It's unlikely to win majority support in this sitting of the assemblée. But there will surely be an election soon, and while it's unlikely that the PQ will win a majority, it's hardly implausible. Should they win, I don't see them abandoning their own charter.

(PS: My name is "vasi", not "vari", just fyi :) )
posted by vasi at 12:34 PM on September 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


tl;dr: I object the Charter, but I object small-minded, uninformed or uncharitable opinions on the topic more.

Why? If the charter passes, real people could lose their jobs. Isn't that worse than the psychic harm of being exposed to uninformed critiques?
posted by Area Man at 12:44 PM on September 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't know exactly why but anytime I see anyone from Quebec refer to Canadians outside of Canada as the "ROC" I immediately distrust their opinion. Perhaps it's that while the acronym makes for an easy shorthand, it fits all too readily with the experiences I had living in Quebec where every Canadian outside of Quebec is considered to be exactly same. ("Bloke" jokes anyone?) It also seems to betray an us versus them outlook that is really unfortunate.

I wish the PQ was not proposing this, it's transparently unwelcoming and casually insulting to immigrants to the province. And yes, it is racist. Perhaps my views are biased from the casual racism I've witnessed in Montreal (at a video store, the label for a bunch of topically unrelated DVDs that just so happened to have black leading men? "Yo! I'm the Black Man."). I loved living in Quebec as a teenager and still meet many lovely people when I visit, but I find the insularity of the province to be more and more off putting.
posted by Hutch at 12:45 PM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, I'd like to be clear as well. The way Quebec promotes progressive social change about childcare/maternity leave, environmental concerns, gay rights, etc is amaze-balls about this place. I love telling people about it, but then I also have to tell them the awful stuff too when they ask. I'm not surprised the PQ are pushing this--after the failure of their stricter language law, they needed something--but it's constantly disheartening to be bombarded with this in media of BOTH languages. It very much stresses how white Quebec is outside of Montreal, as well as how insular it is out here as well.

Again, this is one of the most beautiful places I've ever lived--especially out here in the Townships where so much is unspoiled--but the constant negative politics of all sides has made it one of the ugliest places too.
posted by Kitteh at 12:59 PM on September 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm sick to the death of the gleeful ways we're portrayed as virulent racists in the rest of the country.

I can understand where this sentiment is coming from, and I respect many of the things that you and other Quebecois are saying in this thread. What tires me however is how the 'Rest of Canada' (it doesn't actually feel super great to be called that) needs to be treated like a bogeyman in order to justify the policies of Quebec.

I genuinely care about Quebec, value its place in our country, and would be sad to see it go. That being said, I would probably vote for Quebec Solidaire myself if I had the option, in terms of which party I think would be best for Quebec.

While certainly some in Canada revel in the opportunity to call Quebec backward and small minded, that's not the only conversation being had, and I don't think it's the important conversation being had here. The fact of the matter is, is that obsessions with language, religion, and ethnicity stradle racial issues very closely.

Of course such issues need to be taken in context. What are the biggest reasons for Canada arguably not suffering from the same degrees of racism as in the US? I would venture to say: it's too cold to grow cotton and we don't share a border with Mexico. It has nothing to do with a special nobility on our part.

In Quebec with its (your) history of oppression from various forces, and its unique cultural, linguistic, and ethnic history, the tensions brought out by globalization and mass immigration are experienced all the more sharply. The fact that the situation is more complicated though, doesn't make the proposed laws any less racist.

The reaction from many Quebecois in this thread (as much as I can identify it) is extremely defensive. When people in this thread speak of their own experiences with racism in Quebec, and when they say its coupled to the Quebecois mentality, this should not be so easily dismissed. An equally bad reaction is too immediately say that the policies and behaviours of your neighbours are just as racist. In my experience many Quebecois (certainly not all) are obsessed with defining themselves as different and distinct, from, well, just about everyone else. Fine. That's a right. But it has a serious cost, in that when new people come and alter that distinct fabric, tensions naturally arise.

Dismissing this is racist. Accepting it, addressing it, and taking responsibility for it is what is necessary to avoid this label. As long as many Quebecois define themselves as apart from others though, I'm not sure I personally see a way forward. If Quebec could identity itself as such, rather than as merely different, then perhaps it could share with others those beautiful, unique, enchating qualities that many Canadians (and people around the world) value, rather than desperately trying to draw a line between us and them.
posted by Alex404 at 1:02 PM on September 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'm totally against this rule, but if they actually went for strict laicite -- which would mean, yes, getting rid of every Christian symbol first, especially including statutory holidays that are on Christian holy days -- I'd . . . you know, go for it. I think it's wrong, but the hypocrisy almost bothers me more. Oh my god, the horrors, a hijab! That's way more problematic for women than high heels, right? It's this story where (a) all Catholic everything (and by extension, a lot of Christian iconography) is actually cultural and (b) the sexist parts of other cultures are horrible and we are totally not at all sexist.
posted by jeather at 1:20 PM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Catchfire, I appreciate the contextualizing you've been doing in this thread (which is why I engaged you in the first place). I don't know anything about Canadian politics, and am not approaching this as "Quebec is more racist" than another place. I appreciate you grounding the discussion in inter-province politics because it makes the thread a lot more interesting and educational for me (and, I assume, other non-Canadians).

That said, did you look closely at the link that Vari (Vasi?) posted? It wasn't just to Quebeckers approving of civil servants wearing secular clothes. It was to Quebeckers approving of hospitals denying care to people in religious garb. I can't read that as a separation of church and state. I can't read it as secularism.* It seems indefensible.

The reason I keep engaging you on this topic is because you arrived in the thread saying that Quebec was remarkably non-racist. You're making a good argument that racism is alive across North America and just enacted differently in different regions. But I don't see you making a good argument that Quebec is one of the most cosmopolitan and open-minded places on Earth.


**And I don't read ANY of this as true secularism while crosses continue to be OK.

posted by feets at 1:24 PM on September 11, 2013


I don't know exactly why but anytime I see anyone from Quebec refer to Canadians outside of Canada as the "ROC" I immediately distrust their opinion.

Dude, it's just easy to type. Trust me, it doesn't mean anything, except sometimes slight confusion when you're discussing mythical birds or the career of actor/athlete Dwayne Johnson.
posted by Shepherd at 1:42 PM on September 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Dude, it's just easy to type. Trust me, it doesn't mean anything, except sometimes slight confusion when you're discussing mythical birds or the career of actor/athlete Dwayne Johnson.


I know, I know, it just bugs me. I guess I'm not super-fond of the term "rest of Canada" either. Just as many Quebecers don't like being lumped in with some of the more retrograde denizens of their province (and rightfully so), neither do people outside of the province appreciate being lumped in all together.
posted by Hutch at 1:55 PM on September 11, 2013


I immigrated to Canada when I was quite young, lived in a small town in Newfoundland for a few years and then mostly grew up in Calgary. I did French-Immersion through most of it, so even though I grew up in Calgary, most of my teachers were Quebecois and so were many of the books/texts I read. I'm also non-white (and neither of my parents speak French) -- so was much of my french immersion program. It's not surprising then that I have been, and remain, a believer in a Canada that is a bilingual *and* multicultural society since I was educated with that ideal in mind, and in many ways have lived it.

This long-winded setup is by way of explaining that there are Canadians outside Quebec who are genuinely knowledgable and fluent with its culture and history, but deeply distressed by laws like these (even if they are only proposed) in a very fundamental way. They make me question Quebec's place in Canada -- and I'd argue I probably better understand, and am more sympathetic to, Quebec than the vast majority of the 'rest of Canada'. For you see, as imperfect as the rest of the country might be, we've had turbaned RCMP officers since 1990. We make small talk happily with the hijab-wearing woman at the passport office without blinking. Thinking back further, turbaned Sikh soldiers fought and died on behalf of Canada/the Allies during the Second World War -- this includes Quebec.

So yes, this is a political gambit, and I understand that many Quebecers oppose it. But, even if it were not to pass, the news headlines will still say "Quebec Charter of Values" -- it claims to speak for the whole province. That's why a 'don't engage the troll' approach will not work, especially for Quebecers of good faith and those that are federalist-inclined. Otherwise, even those of us most favorably predisposed to a robust vision of a bilingual Canada with Quebec as a key aspect of it, will inevitably begin to reconsider our views. (Especially the increasingly non-white younger generations in Canada's urban centers who are reading this news and wondering why they should care about a seemingly racist province whose worldview doesn't reflect their lives in the least)

PS: This also has negative practical consequences for an economy that's not doing well, and a place with a declining birthrate and chronic doctor shortages:
http://www.montrealgazette.com/life/Charter+Quebec+Values+Issue+hits+home+public+sector/8895485/story.html -- If I were, for example, the Sikh or Jewish doctor mentioned, I'd sure think hard about living somewhere else. More emigration is not what's needed right now.
posted by strangeloops at 2:32 PM on September 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


The 15 mayors of the municipalities that make up Montreal have resolved that they would opt-out of the Charter of Values. La Presse article.
posted by beau jackson at 3:16 PM on September 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


The "Manifesto for an inclusive quebec" has been translated to English by the wonderful people at Translating the Maple Spring.
posted by chapps at 9:01 AM on September 12, 2013


From the manifesto for an inclusive Quebec noted above:

"The unemployment rate dramatically affecting Quebec immigrants is among the urgent problems in terms of integration. However, the ban on religious symbols in the public service, schools and daycares can only exacerbate the exclusion of immigrants from the Quebec labour market. In this regard, the ban will only contribute to making women wearing the hijab more vulnerable and increase inequality between men and women, particularly in terms of access to employment. It is therefore to be expected that this Charter, proffered as a tool to help achieve gender equality, would have the opposite effect."

hear hear!
posted by chapps at 9:04 AM on September 12, 2013


My friend's member of parliament was just expelled from the Bloc Québecois for belonging to a group "Sovereignists for an inclusive secularism" that opposes this measure. She was the only BQ representative in Montreal.
posted by vasi at 9:21 AM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is a recruitment ad a Toronto area hospital is running in Montreal.

Man, I hope Mulcair is chatting with Mourani right now.
posted by Kurichina at 9:34 AM on September 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


The only good part about this is that with the last minority victory of the PQ it was about 50-50 whether the party would a) be able to revive itself and regain its former vigour as a progressive force in QC or b) continue its downward trend via an identity politics swing swiped wholesale from a defunct right-wing party.

It's pretty clear now that this is the death-rattle of the PQ. Everyone with a voice in Montreal has spoken up against it (pretty much) and the contradictions are, on their face, simply too ridiculous to be taken seriously. Which makes it absolutely crystal clear that this is nothing more than a complex plan to engineer a situation in which the Canadian Supreme Court is forced to reject Quebec Values.

It's all they've got - and it isn't much.

And now to derail my own post - anyone who doesn't see gleeful near-racism in almost all anglo media punditry about QC outside of Quebec is simply not paying attention. The Canadian media is deeply, institutionally anti-Quebec and there are examples of this pretty much daily. And not just anti-sovereigntist. Aside from the native French-speaking columnists, Paul Wells is pretty much the only anglo pundit outside of QC who is remotely qualified to speak about Quebec politics.
posted by mikel at 9:35 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Canadian media is also deeply, institutionally owned by Quebecor. The Sun newspapers are the best-selling newspapers in every big city, and Quebecor owns the newspaper of record in dozens of smaller cities. They also own a major cable company, television channel, a huge magazine publishing arm, and a hell of a lot more.

Quebecor is not anti-Quebec.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:56 AM on September 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Quebecor is most certainly anti-Quebec. They are also anti-immigrant, anti-worker, anti-woman, and anti-people.

Just because they are owned by one rich dude who happens to live in Quebec means nothing -- he knows who is friends are and they are not the people of Quebec (or Canada, or the world, etc.)
posted by Catchfire at 10:59 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Most Canadian media are anti-everything. They take glee in bringing low anyone in power that they can. You just notice it more when it's directed at your home province.
posted by Hutch at 11:12 AM on September 12, 2013


I subscribe to the French-language daily in Sherbrooke (La Tribune), and was at a restaurant today that carries the Journal de Montréal. While English-language media was all about this policy today, it didn't even make the front page of the French papers. Those two, at least.

But the two papers I saw -- middlebrow Sherbrooke and lowbrow Montreal -- didn't even see fit to spill ink on this on the front page of the paper. Glancing at either, you wouldn't even know there was a debate on the issue.
posted by Shepherd at 4:05 PM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


It has been covered extensively in La Presse and Le Devoir. Anecdotally, the issue has blown up my Facebook for the past couple days, fueled by both my Anglo and Franco friends.

Le Journal de Montreal is a tabloid run by Quebecor. I did happen to notice that it wasn't on their front page today, but that's not terribly shocking. There was probably a Canadiens training camp or something to report on...
posted by Maugrim at 5:11 PM on September 12, 2013


“Who will defend my identity? Is it the independence movement? I can’t answer this.”
posted by Kitteh at 9:25 AM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here are a few more interesting links to this story:

The union representing the province’s civil servants has come out in favor of the charter. Whereas it seems like the business community may not be very supportive:
Business leaders say they are afraid much damage is already being done, especially outside of Canada, where they often try to recruit. “Outside of Quebec, where these companies are trying to attract talent, it is already perceived as a sign of intolerance,” said Michel Leblanc, president and CEO of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal. Mr. Leblanc stated that the chamber has been advocating for a more open immigration policy. “This charter is in contradiction with everything we’ve been working for,” he said.
Meanwhile, “in an interview with The Globe and Mail on Wednesday, Bernard Drainville, lead Parti Québécois minister on the charter issue, urged the private sector to use the charter as a guide for determining whether to accommodate religious differences in the workplace.”

Also, the Conservative Minister of Employment, Social Development & Multiculturalism Jason Kenney has changed his Twitter photo to one of him wearing a Sikh head scarf.
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear at 11:20 AM on September 13, 2013


Good lord has Kenney actually done something I like!?

Too bad I am so mad about cutting health care coverage for refugees (saves money!) and the more recent stoopid decision that Bill C-35 (meant to protect against fraudulent immigration advising scams) applies to university advisors for international students thus stopping the ability of universities to advocate for students about their visas, or provide much helpful information.
posted by chapps at 3:32 PM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not to mention Harper is a hypocrite if he criticizes this law since he tried to stop women from wearing niqab in polling booths (which thankfully Elections Canada struck down--after all, we can vote by mail in ballot wearing whatever we like in Canada!).
posted by chapps at 12:41 PM on September 14, 2013


"Madame, change your religion."

I realize this is probably a one-off--I hope it is at any rate--but this is sickening.
posted by Kitteh at 8:21 AM on September 16, 2013


After all of Montreal said they were opting out, the PQ decided to maybe not let it happen (French link).

An open letter to the premier.
Rather than providing for an environment of religious neutrality, the Charter seeks to regulate belief. It says that a non-Muslim woman may wear a headscarf when she is having a bad hair day, but it prohibits an observant Muslim from wearing one at all. It insists that religious Jews in public employment go bare-headed at all times, unlike their non-Jewish colleagues, since the essence of a yarmulke is not its shape but its function.

Indeed, not all “‘overt and conspicuous’ religious symbols” are garments. The “examples” that your government has provided are only a few of the ways that people display their faith. A Chasidic Jew’s beard and payot and a Sikh man’s uncut hair are as significant and conspicuous symbols of their faith as any head covering. Though not explicitly prohibited by the Charter, they are not excluded, either. Will Jewish, Sikh and Muslim public employees be forced to visit the barber to hold onto their jobs?

[...]

Even when they are available on Saturday, government services are closed on Sundays. The word “dimanche,” in fact, derives from the Latin dies Dominica – the Lord’s day. School, government and businesses officially close for the Christian holidays of Christmas, Good Friday and Easter Monday, but not for Yom Kippur or Eid. Our national holiday is celebrated on 24 June because St-Jean Baptise is the Catholic Patron Saint of the Québécois. Indeed, one cannot walk a block anywhere in any town or city in Québec without encountering a Saint-Louis, Saint-Hubert or Sainte-Catherine. The flag flying over government buildings conspicuously displays both a Christian cross and the fleur-de-lis – a symbol of the Holy Trinity and of the Christian God’s authority, as wielded by the French monarchy and its successors.

To prohibit the display of religious symbols by citizens in public employment while the government of Québec displays them on its letterhead, in the Assemblée nationale, on Sureté de Québec cruisers – the physical embodiment of state power – and our society displays it in its geography and calendar, is not to preserve neutrality but privilege.
The whole thing is worth reading.

And Quebec francophone vegetables for Quebecois!
posted by jeather at 6:00 AM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Intersting analysis of how Quebecor has manipulated the debate framing both within and without of Quebec on Reddit here.
On one side, Quebecor tells Quebec that it is about the obligatory neutrality of the state and the safeguarding of individual freedom and the equality between men and women.

On the other side, Quebecor tells English Canada that it is a fight to safeguard basic individual liberties from the overreaching of the government where the Charter is an abomination that negates individual freedom.
posted by bonehead at 9:07 AM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just a thought: if a former QC Premier--and staunch PQ sovereigntist--that got (rightfully) dinged for a very racist comment apres the 1995 referendum defeat says the current PQ government is going too far, you might want to dial your shit back.
posted by Kitteh at 10:12 AM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


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