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“If the state is neutral, its agents must be neutral.”
January 14, 2014 9:36 AM   Subscribe

Public hearings of Quebec's controversial Charter of Values is set to begin today. The proposal of Charter of Values seems to be a divisive issue in the province for native Francophones, Anglophones, and allophones. It has led to a rise of ugly incidents. Previously.
posted by Kitteh (45 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm all for a secular government. This isn't that.

They say it's "secular," except for, you know, the giant crucifix that will remain on the wall of the legislature. Barring "religious symbols" such as the yarmulke, hijab, and dastar, effectively bars people from either participating in government or in their religion, both of which are supposed to be guaranteed freedoms in this country.

If this passes, it's time for the federal government to step up and either finally force Quebec to submit to the Constitution Act of 1982 or cut them off completely.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:56 AM on January 14 [9 favorites]


Harper said if the Quebec national assembly was to adopt a charter of values that was found to violate the rights of Canadians, Ottawa would take "whatever action is necessary."

I can't believe I agree with Harper on something. Is what the PQ attempting federally legal? Seems like the charter would violate the religious discrimination portions of the Human Rights Act, for a start.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:56 AM on January 14


it's agents must be neutral human
posted by klanawa at 9:58 AM on January 14


This is not going to end well. I hope people take the high road in the hearings in their opposition.
posted by GuyZero at 10:02 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Marois has said that the (totally secular!) crucifix in the National Assembly will stay until the Charter is adopted, at which point we will discuss it, maybe put it somewhere else public but not hide it. (Link is French.)
posted by jeather at 10:06 AM on January 14


If this passes, it's time for the federal government to step up and either finally force Quebec to submit to the Constitution Act of 1982 or cut them off completely.

So this is how they're trying to achieve independence? What a bait and switch!
posted by Apocryphon at 10:09 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


Shepherd and I are likening this Charter as a version of bread & circuses here. Quebec doesn't have the best economy right now, the job market is a bit stagnant, there is corruption all over the place, and the highway infrastructure is in pretty bad shape. To me, personally, these seem to more pressing issues than whether or not someone's faith should be subject to scrutiny if they're employed in an official capacity. But hey, keep 'em distracted with this and they won't bother to notice all the other stuff!
posted by Kitteh at 10:22 AM on January 14 [12 favorites]


Oh God, not this again.

Periodically we are visited by my mom's friend, an older lady who appears to spend most if not all of her free time tooth-grinding about Islam, Muslims, veils, hijabs, burkas, Muslims and Islam. Her big complaint last time she visited was that it's perfectly reasonable to make the Muslims submit to our culture by tearing off their ladyveils (they might really be men under there! With bombs!) but the yarmulke business - that's going too far!

Anyhow I think the bill would be more popular amongst the Quebec Englishes if it didn't also stick it to the Jews - but on the other hand, I get a strong impression that a large chunk of the PQ voter base doesn't mind sticking it to the Jews, at all, at all.

(She also like to rant about how it's an affront that she's taxed on her investments while students - students! - are able to afford beverages and telephones. I believe she was married to Hollingsworth Hound earlier in her life. But that's for another thread. Really looking forward to her bi-annual visit this spring. )
posted by fleetmouse at 10:33 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


I may have to avoid or severely curtail listening to the news until March because something tells me that this isn't going to be pretty. I could do with less vitriol in my life right now.
posted by Kitteh at 10:36 AM on January 14


It's also my interpretation, the PQ is using this as something to fill the news while it's not doing much of anything. In reality, the best move would be to forget about this whole silly episode and...

Er, I don't know what else the National Assembly would spend its time on — maybe they could put a big TV in the blue salon and rebroadcast the proceedings of the Charbonneau Commision? That's what everyone is watching anyway.

To our friends in Ontario and the rest of Canada: recall, oh friends, that corruption is not a peculiarly French Canadian or Catholic vice, and that the future may see you uncovering a good bit of it in your own backyard. See, for instance, Ornge.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 10:37 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Is what the PQ attempting federally legal?

I suspect that the PQ doesn't care, or maybe even hopes that it isn't. I have read some analyses which say that the PQ would welcome condemnation from the ROC (Rest of Canada) -- it would reinforce their sense of difference and provide them with another sovereigntist talking point.

In short, a more serious version of what Apocryphon said...
posted by dhens at 11:19 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


If this passes, it's time for the federal government to step up and either finally force Quebec to submit to the Constitution Act of 1982 or cut them off completely.

The federal government has no legal authority to force Quebec to annul this charter, not if the Quebec legislature is willing to push our constitutional nuclear button. The Canadian Constitution includes the notwithstanding clause. In part, it reads as follows:

Section 33. (1) Parliament or the legislature of a province may expressly declare in an act of parliament or of the legislature, as the case may be, that the Act or a provision thereof shall operate notwithstanding a provision included in section 2 or sections 7 to 15.

Translation: part of the way Canada's constitution balances legislative and judicial powers is that Federal and Provincial legislatures have a line-item-veto on the rest of the constitution. For example, our courts have ruled that marriage equality is constitutionally required, but if Parliament really wanted to be bigoted they could use the notwithstanding clause to allow a bigoted law to remain in force in spite of the supreme court's ruling. (Alberta tried this in 2000 and failed only because marriage law is not in their jurisdiction, not something they could pass any law about) The notwithstanding clause has almost never been used because overriding the bill of rights is widely viewed as crazily extreme, but it is a lawful option that any province could use.

So, the Canadian constitution offers the Quebec legislature the option of hoisting the Jolly Roger and ignoring court rulings if they so choose. That's legal under Canadian law. Harper's threat is BS because he has no constitutional authority to override the Quebec legislature if they do this. Using the notwithstanding clause to defend otherwise unconstitutional bigotry would not be unconstitutional, just evil.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:55 AM on January 14


Oh, where are you now, Mordecai, now that we really need you?

Re, legality: Couldn't Quebec invoke the notwithstanding clause?
posted by docgonzo at 11:55 AM on January 14


So, uh, Canada's constitution is more a bunch of helpful suggestions rather than rights or laws?
posted by Justinian at 12:02 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]


This was a pretty hilarious, Onion-like take on the utter idiocy of banning religious symbols on actual human beings, taken from a French language newspaper right after this madness was first proposed. Beards, of course, are the Muslim-male equivalent of the hijab on women. Shouldn't they be banned too?

Sect. 4 (b): b) Any bearded person who does not consider his beard religiously significant is obligated to demonstrate that it satisfies one or more of the following exemptions, in order to keep his employment without being obliged to undergo a national shave:
...
iii)If the beard is said to be 'leftist', the bearded person is obligated to swear on Das Kapital that all religions are the opiate of the masses, and in particular minority religions which do not correspond to traditional Quebec values.

And the even funnier French language original, for those who can.
posted by jackbrown at 12:16 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


Justinian: Invoking the notwithstanding clause is considered the nuclear option. It has only been used a couple of times, if I recall correctly, and never by the feds.
posted by docgonzo at 12:21 PM on January 14


(Alberta tried this in 2000 and failed only because marriage law is not in their jurisdiction, not something they could pass any law about)

The division of powers is odd here - the Provinces are responsible for the "solemnization of marriage," so I can see why Alberta thought they had a chance at the time. Glad they failed.

Our constitutional law is weirdbeard.
posted by gohabsgo at 12:31 PM on January 14


I was born in Quebec and am patrilineally French-Canadian but Quebec is lost to me because of french nationalism. My wife would love to teach at her alma mater, McGill, but we can't move there because I am not bilingual. My family was part of the FLQ triggered middle class exodus in the early 1970's I grew up in Ontario and sucked at French when they finally started teaching it (grade 6 - 11 years old).

It is weird to not be French enough to live where you born when you have a name 99% of anglos can't pronounce.
posted by srboisvert at 12:40 PM on January 14


The Notwithstanding clause...It has only been used a couple of times

Wikipedia's list

Federally, never.

Provincially used or attempted as follows:

Twice by Alberta
- 2000, anti-marriage equality (failed due to lack of provincial jurisdiction)
- 1998, attempt to weasel out of lawsuits resulting from its horrid eugenics program

Twice by Quebec
- 1982-1987, overriding the entire constitution due to anger about the way it was ratified
- 1988-1993, the Bill 101 language law, rewritten in 1993 to conform to the constitution

Once by Saskatchewan
- 1988, forcing a labor union back to work

Once by the Yukon
- 1982, in an obscure land usage bill that was never actually enforced

That's all.

Note that any use of the notwithstanding clause must be renewed every five years. The bigoted government can't stay in power forever...
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:42 PM on January 14


The bigoted government can't stay in power forever...

Fair play, but the more cynical of political observers have suspected that this is what the PQ wants to leverage a future election on. If it works, they get what power they need to truly enforce it.
posted by Kitteh at 12:47 PM on January 14


If this passes, it's time for the federal government to step up and either finally force Quebec to submit to the Constitution Act of 1982 or cut them off completely.

Quebec is subject to the constitution, including the Charter, the same as any other province. Don't buy the separatist bullshit about Quebec being "outside" the constitution. The fact that Rene Levesque didn't agree to it doesn't mean it's not legally binding.
posted by Dasein at 1:47 PM on January 14


> If this passes, it's time for the federal government to step up and either finally force
> Quebec to submit to the Constitution Act of 1982 or cut them off completely.

Aren't there bunches of Québécois who want that to happen anyway? Don' throw me in dat ole briarpatch, b'rer Fox.
posted by jfuller at 2:25 PM on January 14


It may be binding, but it doesn't mean it wasn't adopted in a pretty bullshit way. Killed the federal liberal vote to this day, led to Meech and its aftermath.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 3:00 PM on January 14


Dasein: "The fact that Rene Levesque didn't agree to it doesn't mean it's not legally binding."

Er. Can someone with a firmer grasp on English sort this sentence out for me? I've read it six times and still can't quite figure it out.
posted by scrump at 3:14 PM on January 14


Harper's threat is BS because he has no constitutional authority to override the Quebec legislature if they do this.

I'm pretty sure the feds' power of Disallowance is still on the books, however unlikely it is that it would ever be used. Probably the same odds as reanimating Rene Levesque, which you'd might as well do, since federal Disallowance would have the same effect for the cause of Quebec independence.
posted by Capt. Renault at 3:23 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


The sentence refers to the fact that Lévesque disagreed with the Kitchen Accord (a.k.a. the Night of the Long Knives) which led to the adoption of the 1982 Constitution, but that the law was adopted nonetheless, over Quebec's vehement objections.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 4:50 PM on January 14


scrump: The 1982 Constitution is legally binding on Quebec and all provinces regardless of the disapproval of Rene Levesque, the premier at the time.
posted by docgonzo at 6:51 PM on January 14


"Killed the federal Liberal vote to this day"

Henh?
posted by docgonzo at 6:53 PM on January 14


So this is how they're trying to achieve independence? What a bait and switch!

That's my read on the situation.

The PQ is using this issue as a point in the next provincial election. The best part for them? It's win-win. If the law stands, they win. If the law is smacked down in the courts, it's just the Anglos not understanding Quebec again so vote PQ!

I'm willing to bet the PQ will make a serious bid for removing Quebec from Confederation if they win the next provincial election.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:05 PM on January 14


I feel like I should add: Mon Canada comprend le Quebec.

Guys? Mes ami(e)s? Could you maybe join the 21st century please? Oh and all this separatist nonsense? Please think ahead. Quebec would be screwed as an independent country.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:13 PM on January 14


This post is ruined.
posted by L E M M at 8:37 PM on January 14


?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:48 PM on January 14


I'm willing to bet the PQ will make a serious bid for removing Quebec from Confederation if they win the next provincial election.

I really, really doubt it. Even if they won (most of their right wing has gone over to the CAQ, and their only strong point is that both Legault and the Liberal leader are unappealing), they will want to go at least one term of "good government" (in a majority) like in '76. Even after Meech and with Lulu Bouchard in his corner Parizeau couldn't do it! They'll never chance it after just a minority term.

feckless: Sorry friend, but your Canada doesn't understand Quebec. Although it is and will continue to be rooted in the past, Quebec doesn't particularly want to dwell on it; it's just that it cannot abstract it away. Or rather, that individual Quebecers cannot.

Nationalism may have irrational foundations, but once it exists, you cannot wish it away; you have to deal with it. Trudeau and Chrétien, on one side, and Lévesque, on the other, tried one way of dealing with it, at their speed: very, very fast. They wanted to forge a new Canadian, bilingual nation, or to make Quebec into a full nation-state. Lévesque Failed. I don't think Chrétien and Trudeau succeeded. Now we have to deal with the consequences.

We can also bury our heads in the sand, of course.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 8:57 PM on January 14


Although it is and will continue to be rooted in the past, Quebec doesn't particularly want to dwell on it

The idea of Quebec as a separate nation hasn't been an actual achievable reality for over two hundred years. The sovereigntists aren't just dwelling on the past, they're living there.

Even if tomorrow we somehow changed the Constitution (won't happen), Quebec quite simply would not be able to survive on its own. Once you take out all the federal dollars and infrastructure (for which, I think it's pretty obvious, Quebec would have to pay cash money), there isn't much left.

Sovereignty is a stick certain Quebeckers use to hit Anglophone Canada with and I for one am sick of it. You are part of this country, you have been part of this country for centuries, and the entire reason we are a bilingual country is because of you, Quebec. Stop whining.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:18 PM on January 14


1837 could have gone another way, you know. And the 1976 PQ government made damn sure that's taught to every 15-year-old in the province.

Sovereignty is a stick certain Quebeckers use to hit Anglophone Canada with and I for one am sick of it.

Not everything is about English Canada, you know (francophones outside Quebec do exist, although they don't exactly prosper). Neither is everything about Federal Infrastructure (you mean like the Champlain Bridge?) or Equalization payments.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 9:32 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Not everything is about English Canada, you know

I'm aware, thanks.

Neither is everything about Federal Infrastructure

And the basic training school for the army, other military installations, etc.

Entertain me. How exactly do you think Quebec could realistically secede from Confederation? Bear in mind this would require:

1) Rewriting the Constitution. Do you really think the rest of the provinces would agree to do so? The entire process would be a shitshow from end to end and nobody is going to touch that with a ten-foot pole.

2) Dealing with the loss of all federal jobs in the province. While that may not be a huge part of Quebec's economy, it's not insignificant.

3) Dealing with the loss of, as you say, equalization payments. Can Quebec really pay for itself? I don't think so.

4) Purchasing all federal infrastructure and Crown land. With what money?

5) Handling the flight out of Quebec of everyone connected to federal jobs, and probably a large chunk of Anglos as well. Given this 'Charter of Values' (how Orwellian) I would be rather surprised if an independent Quebec were bilingual.

6) I've probably missed a few.

Each of these hurdles would be near insurmountable on their own. Rewriting the Constitution is an impossibility. Sovereigntists just use the idea, as I said, as a stick to beat the rest of Canada with, and/or a stick to rile up small-c conservative votes every election. It is a non-starter. It cannot and will not ever happen. Its existence is merely its use as a political football, and the entirety of Canada--including Quebec--needs to recognize that very basic reality and just get on with the business of being a country together.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:44 PM on January 14


feckless fecal fear mongering wrote: Mon Canada comprend le Quebec.

to which Monday, stony Monday replied: Sorry friend, but your Canada doesn't understand Quebec.

I think feckless meant "comprendre" in the sense of "include," not (necessarily) in the sense "to understand."
posted by dhens at 10:32 PM on January 14


I meant both.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:05 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


Entertain me.

Sorry, but I have other things to do than rehash arguments that have gone on endlessly ever since the PQ was a glimmer in Lévesque's eye.

Sovereigntists just use the idea, as I said, as a stick to beat the rest of Canada with, and/or a stick to rile up small-c conservative votes every election.

Have you ever spoken to a real, live sovereigntist? I'm not one anymore, but I was one, once. "Beating the rest of Canada" wasn't on the agenda. Of course sovereigntism starts from the perceived failure of the Federation, but after that's been established, it's really about creating an independent country. You can say it's all a big dream, but the dreamers are sincere.

Sovereigntism is also really an idea that transcends left/right divisions. That's a basic problem in the PQ; their right wing and their left wing are constantly at odds. And it's even true within the Marx-o-sphere: there's a constant struggle between marxist groups that advocate independence (in the name of national liberation and the fight against colonialism and imperialism), and others that see Quebec nationalism as a petty bourgeois distraction from the necessity of Establishing the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 6:18 AM on January 15 [3 favorites]


Entertain me. How exactly do you think Quebec could realistically secede from Confederation?

From the examples of real life secession and independence movements, they wouldn't have to modify the Canadian constitution with the agreement of the other provinces or buy federal infrastructure.

From examples of successful movements, all they'd have to do is (1) state their independence and start acting as if they were independent, (2) seize the property of the crown and worry about possible reparations later, and (3) have Canada not make war on them to keep them in (or just defend themselves well enough against Canada's military actions to be not worth the trouble).
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:53 AM on January 15


Sorry, but I have other things to do than rehash arguments that have gone on endlessly ever since the PQ was a glimmer in Lévesque's eye.

Sooo... no leg to stand on. Okay.

Have you ever spoken to a real, live sovereigntist?

Yes. Yes I have. Remember the referendum in the 90's? I was there. I spoke to actual sovereigntists.

I'm not one anymore, but I was one, once.

So what exactly convinced you that the pipe dream would never happen?

From examples of successful movements, all they'd have to do is (1) state their independence and start acting as if they were independent, (2) seize the property of the crown and worry about possible reparations later, and (3) have Canada not make war on them to keep them in (or just defend themselves well enough against Canada's military actions to be not worth the trouble).

One wonders why they haven't done this, then. Could it possibly be that sovereignty isn't actually what they're aiming for?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:22 AM on January 15


I don't think sovereignty can't happen. I think it shouldn't happen.

One wonders why they haven't done this, then. Could it possibly be that sovereignty isn't actually what they're aiming for?

Or simply that they believe strongly in it, but that they are unable to convince the rest of the population that it's a good thing? That they tried referendums twice, and failed both times? Quebec politics are very self-centred, and the PQ is its own little world, with cliques, conflicts and drama. And the question is almost never "should we become independent" but almost always "what is the best way to achieve independence". So a referendum now, or later? What are the "winning conditions"? Etc., etc. The current "sovereigntist governance" thing is just the newest strategy they've come up with, but it's just another one, like the etapist strategy in 1976 (first we'll govern for one term, and then, if we're reelected, we'll do a referendum).

It's entirely possible for an independence or autonomy movement to fail in the short or long term. Will the Basque country or Catalonia secede from Spain? Now or later? Were the Baltic countries going to regain their independence? Were Bohemia and Moravia going to secede from the Austro-Hungarian Empire?
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 11:17 AM on January 15


From examples of successful movements, all they'd have to do is (1) state their independence and start acting as if they were independent, (2) seize the property of the crown and worry about possible reparations later, and (3) have Canada not make war on them to keep them in (or just defend themselves well enough against Canada's military actions to be not worth the trouble).

They'd probably have to get other countries to accept them as independent, as well. The only major exceptions to that have been Taiwan and Israel/Palestine. And my hunch is that the other countries aren't going to recognize Quebec as independent without some sort of fig leaf, which would be either be Quebec playing nice in its formalistic withdrawal from the rest of Canada, or the rest of Canada launching some sort of (international-standards-level) oppressive crap.

Otherwise, o embassies, no consulates, no seat at the various international orgs (UN proper, UNESCO/World Bank/etc/etc, La Francophonie), possible problems in trading (on the grounds that any boats coming in would have to pass through Canadian waters first), etc.

Quebec wouldn't separate without some serious form of nice-making with Canada.
posted by Lemurrhea at 5:49 PM on January 15


"Praying on all fours on a carpet; what's that all about?"
posted by Kitteh at 6:03 AM on January 19


And it's even true within the Marx-o-sphere: there's a constant struggle between marxist groups that advocate independence (in the name of national liberation and the fight against colonialism and imperialism)

As a capital-L Leftist myself, this is what bugs me most about the PQ Left. They're hellbent on eliminating the "colonialist" English, but then what? Somehow I get the feeling the next step isn't "Now all us francophones fuck off back to France."
posted by Sys Rq at 7:27 AM on January 19


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