Fariha Naqvi-Mohamed Headshot

Quebec's Charter Makes Minorities into Second-Class Citizens

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Public hearings for Bill 60 are getting underway; with that, public sentiment is heating up. Our government appears to have turned a blind eye to the long-term impact of its actions on its people; in particular its visible religious minorities.

Complaints of "verbal or physical abuse" against Muslim women in Quebec rose by 300 per cent in the last three months of 2013. Our friends in the Jewish and Sikh communities have also been victims of discrimination. These laws go beyond the simple cloth of the hijab, kippah or turban. They have cut into the fabric of our society. Montreal has long been known as one of the most multicultural cities in the world -- a place of tolerance, diversity and acceptance.

I have been reminded that if I do not work in the public service I will not be affected by this proposed charter and should just give up the fight. The reality is that as a mother of a little girl who will one day be not so little, I cannot bear to tell her that her future career options will have to be limited by unjust, divisive rules.

Bill 60 is government sanctioned employment discrimination, pure and simple. It is being dressed up in the veil (pardon the pun) of secularization, to marginalize religious minorities, religious identities and all those who are committed to a religion other than that which Quebec was founded upon.

Here in Montreal you can hardly give someone directions without using the words Saint, be it St. Catherine, St. Jean, St. Genevieve, the list goes on. The cross sits atop the city at Mont Royale and is prominently displayed in the Quebec National Assembly.

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Let's stop all this pretending. Let's call this what it truly is: a bill that encourages intolerance, divides the population and makes visible and religious minorities into second class citizens in their own home.

Bill 60 has become the perfect vehicle for fear-mongering. Our elected officials are mandating the idea that it is not alright to be a visible religious minority and work for the government. This makes religious minorities feel like second class citizens in their home, and will lead to an even greater lack of representation among these minorities in government.

Quebec has become a laughing stock in front of the world. North American culture prides itself on its diversity, on its forward thinkingness and on its tolerance. We are the world's example of where people's values and beliefs are respected, and where we are free to practice our own faith. Apparently Pauline Marois failed to read that chapter of our history. It is time for the opposition to step up and stop this nonsense.

I speak up and continue to speak up about this cause because it directly affects my belle province. My parents, along with millions of others, immigrated to our great country to provide a better future for their families. For me to sit this one out and not get involved would be a disservice to my family's presence in this country and to its wonderful people.

When Nelson Mandela passed away Premier Marois, in her tribute at the legislature in Quebec city on Thursday December 5, was quoted as describing Mandela as a man of

"peace, ideals, fight for racial equality and dignity...Some men and some women are able to move forward their societies and to make a better world," Marois said. "Nelson Mandela was one of those men. His fight against apartheid has changed the history of a whole continent."

I cannot help but balk at this statement. While her words are accurate and well deserved, the fact that they stem from a politician so determined on destroying the equality, tolerance and freedom of religion in this province makes me question her authenticity.

The public hearings are getting underway and it's time to play close attention to this debacle as it unfolds. Until then I remain Canadian, Quebecker, a visibly practicing Muslim and proud.

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