Quebec’s minister responsible for Montreal, Jean-François Lisée, says that if the Parti Québécois were to get a majority government in the next ...
One possible justification is that he might have genuinely not acknowledged the thousands of people taking to the street to demonstrate their rejection of the Charter in its present form and its incompatibility with Quebec's own Charter of Human Rights and Freedom. Given Mr. Lisee's erudition and intelligence, that is however an unlikely scenario.
Imagine your child's favourite teacher. This teacher is known to provide her students with an enriched classroom. Now imagine that this exemplary teacher is a person who subscribes to a religious faith for which she dresses in a particular fashion. Should she remove the outward signs of her faith so that she can keep teaching?
The Quebec Association of Health and Social Service Institutions has reported that none of its members have ever had any problem with staff who wear religious apparel, and the Bouchard-Taylor Commission found -- after examining 900 briefs and 13 academic studies -- that the supposed crisis of religious accommodation was largely a "crisis of perception."
I'm an atheist and a feminist, who is, in theory, 100 per cent in agreement with separation of church and state, yet dislikes everything about this Charter. To many, this appears to be contradictory. How, you ask, can an atheist not be in favour of secularism? How, you ask, can a feminist, not be in favour of women's liberation and freedom; the right not to wear a restrictive piece of patriarchy-imposed clothing like the hijab? For the simple reason that the Charter of Quebec Values has absolutely nothing to do with those two issues.
The divisive PQ secularism initiative in fact provides our national leadership with a valuable opportunity to invite Quebecers to engage with all other Canadians in a broader debate -- one that brings us together to confront the challenges of the 21st century and build a country that matches our highest aspirations for the future.
Moving forward with its charter, the PQ is dangerously going down a road where stereotypes rule and where suspicion towards cultural and religious diversity is legitimate. It is opting for a policy that hits us violently, that hurts our convictions, that collides with our hopes and with our interpretation of civics and mutual respect.
We are a collective from the fields of law, philosophy and journalism that citizens of all orientations and origins have sought to join. Among us are separatists, federalists and "agnostics" with regards to the constitutional future of Quebec. It is with great concern that we commit these words to denounce the Quebec Charter of Values (formerly the Charter of Secularism ) project, announced by the Parti Québécois government.
During my several visits to Quebec, I have been spit upon, hurled insults at my face, not served at restaurants, and ticketed by traffic police for driving while being Ontarian. I do not speak French and I am not a Francophone. If my experience of Quebec ended with just this story, and with the recent developments of the minority Parti Québécois proposed plan to introduce the Charter of Values as law in Quebec, I would not be hard pressed to imagine the people of Quebec to be one of the most bigoted and unfriendly specimens of the human race the world has ever seen. But I love Quebec.
As expected, the provincial government's proposed Charter of Quebec Values contains a highly problematic ban on religious symbols or attire for all public sector employees. The Charter's supporters argue that it is necessary to protect the religious neutrality of the Quebec state, but that argument is based on a number of faulty premises, such as: The state cannot be religiously neutral if public employees wear religious items; religious identity can be "turned off" during business hours; religious symbols in the workplace undermine gender equality and that certain Catholic symbols in public institutions are cultural or historical, but faith-based accessories worn by public employees are religious.
If Quebec's charter of values is to guard us against others, then please explain what exactly happens to the thousands like me? The ones who were born and raised in this beautiful province, the eaters of poutine and joueurs d'hockey, who yes, by the way, also drape a piece of cloth over their heads or wear a turban, or a kippah, or a star around their necks.
When the state takes an interest in regulating religious expression, it invites religious institutions to reply by using their force of numbers to remake government policy. More seriously still, excluding people of faith from the mass of society is the surest way to isolate and drive them into the arms of radicalism.