The Jewish General, founded in 1934, is one of Quebec's most prominent institutions. It is located in one of Montreal's most diverse multicultural areas. Approximately one third of its doctors, nurses and other employees wear religious headwear. Mindful of the Charter's impact on the Jewish General, Marois inserted "The Jewish General" clause in the Charter which permitted hospitals such as the Jewish General to temporarily exempt itself from this Charter. But to the Jewish General's credit, it refused to compromise its principles, to "play ball" with Marois.
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.
Prime Minister Harper is often viewed by his many supporters and critics as a calculating political strategist with great political instincts. But here is a case, where Harper's acute political instincts have failed him badly. Harper has permitted his Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to revive Flaherty's all-consuming goal of creating a single federal securities regulator. Accordingly, Harper has committed an enormous political blunder.
While there's little serious debate in the Canadian press about the overall need for the Quebec charter and the headgear bans within, there's still much back-and-forth to be had regarding why the Quebeckers created the thing in the first place, and whether those motives are sympathetic or sinister. It's entirely possible for the Quebec charter to be a cynical vote-grab stemming from the dark side of Canadian politics, while also allowing that the "problem" the headgear ban seeks to solve is real and legitimate.
I can't help but suspect your motives, Mme. Marois. It seems that you are trying to turn nous inside-out by cynically using the trust that we have in our leaders against us. The Charter seems to be an effort to convince the majority of Québécois who do not live in Montréal or Québec, where cultural and religious diversity is the quiet background to our daily lives, that they have something to fear from those who are different. You seem to be telling them that they have special privileges and that the only way to preserve them is to deny the rights of others.
Like most religious minorities in Quebec, I am only slightly shocked by the proposed charter of values. The people that at the short end of the proverbial legislation stick are kids. Because our kids will live the rest of their future in the shadow of the laws and governments we support, it is imperative to consult them. So I decided to put my ear to the ground, and asked my youth group girls and their friends what they thought of the Quebec charter of values. Here are some reactions by girls age 12-16, all from different backgrounds and religions.
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.