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Lesson #4 : THE CHARTER OF QUEBEC VALUES

It is incomprehensible that the PQ has decided to push ahead with its charter of Quebec values or maybe not. Remember that Marois and people of her ilk want to create a sovereign Quebec and the charter may help it accomplish this, or so their thinking must be going. It is important to note from the outset that this charter has the support of as much as 65% of all Québécois – francophones, allophones and anglophones all included. So initially we can say that the charter will not do the PQ any harm in the polls and may in fact improve it’s standing after the next election, possibly as early as next spring. (Remember part of yesterday’s lesson about a week being an eternity in politics? For wasn’t it less than a week ago that Obama was pressing to get the American people and government’s support for some kind of military intervention in Syria? Now, a relatively short time later, in any case less than a week, the Congressional vote on whether there should be military action taken against the regime of that fuckface and criminal, Assad, has been postponed. Russia has begun to make some positive noise while the Syrians, although having moved around their stockpiles of chemical weapons as soon as American sabre rattling hit the airwaves and the like, have also taken steps towards satisfying at least one of America’s demands: that the Assad regime hand over control of its chemical weapons to the “international community”.In politics – both national and international – things happen really fast.)

Also true, at least for now, is the fact that the Parti Quebecois hard liners believe that provoking confrontation with the federal government is in the interests of the final achievement of an independent Quebec (“within a strong and united Canada” as joked Yvon Deschamps). This is due to the fact that as increasing numbers of people in Quebec, mostly francophones, begin or continue to view the federal government as meddling in Quebec’s affairs, the more the PQ can use these disputes to ramp up Quebec nationalism. In so doing, our provincial government would turn the federal government into an object of ridicule, comedy and intense distaste among larger segments of our Quebec population. Fortunately, our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, realises this and so far, for the most part, has refused to become embroiled in Quebec politics since the the separatist government came into power a little over a year ago.

However, the charter has caused a definite line to be drawn in the sand. Jason Kenney, federal employment minister has come out swinging. He has definitively stated that federal government will ask Justice to investigate the charter, with a view, presumably to taking it to court if necessary. This plays right into the Quebec government’s hands in terms of provoking conflict with the federal government thereby possibly increasing the vote for the “oui” in any future referendum.

In addition, the administration of the contents of the charter will probably cause an exodus, – hopefully much milder than that provoked by both the election of the PQ in 1976 and the passage of Bill 101 in 1977 – among both allophones and anglophones, supporters of the “non” in the vast majority of cases. These people may decide to leave Quebec for destinations perceived by them to be more tolerant of their religious customs and mores than the PQ is in the process of making Quebec. This exodus is pretty well guaranteed among teachers, doctors, and civil servants, for example, whose jobs may be threatened (as well as their chances of landing these jobs in the first place) by the contents of the charter. Kippah and turban-wearing teachers, doctors and lawyers, for instance, as well a nurses, university professors and day care workers who sport hijab or burkhas, when faced with the choice of removing their “religious symbols” or submit to being terminated choose the latter course of action, thereby being forced to exit this province and head to another or to the United States where what they wear and how they dress are non-issues. This emigration has the potential to create another of those “winning conditions” as far as the result of a future sovereignty referendum is concerned, due of course to the reality that anglophones and allophones voted overwhelmingly for the “no” side in the past two referenda and can be expected to do the same in any ones held in future.

Bernard Drainville’s statement that the Charter of Quebec values will unify Québécois, presumably of all stripes, as well as serving to reduce and relive social tensions is just more drivel from a government bent on destroying Quebec’s present and relatively peaceful social fabric.

It is important that one takes the long view in all this. Everything the PQ government does has one underlying goal: to create the context for the final achievement of Quebec independence from the rest of Canada, by hook or by crook. It would be a serious mistake to get bogged down in the details.

Taking points: THE CHARTER OF QUEBEC VALUES

  • Charter would bar public sector workers from wearing hijab, Kippah, and turbans in schools, and throughout the public sector in license bureaus, hospitals, daycare centres, and universities.
  • France’s policy of laicite (secularism) the separation of church and state inspired Marois charter of values
  • Restriction of the rights of religious minorities
  • Job opportunities for religious minorities would be severely restricted if the charter becomes law including for Quebec’s Moslem community numbering around 25% of the Canadian total of a million Islamists
  • Parizeau: “To my knowledge, this is the first time, in Quebec, we have wanted to legislate a ban on anything religious.”
  • Bouchard stated that religious symbols should be banned only for figures of authority like police officers and judges.
  • Latest polls indicate that 48% of Québécois are in favour of the charter and 41% oppose it; among francophones, however, it’s a much deeper split: 53% for, 33% against
  • In her Gazette article “Many States of secularism” (Saturday, 10/12), Marian Scott argues that Canada has never formally declared a division between church and state as has been done in the United stares and some other countries. Quebec underwent rapid secularisation during the Quiet Revolution of the 1960’s first under the Liberal government of Jean Lesage (1960 to 1966) and then while the Union Nationale under Daniel Johnson was in power in this province. It wasn’t until 1998 that Quebec abolished denominational school boards, replacing them with linguistic boards. I remember feeling fairly uncomfortable while in elementary school and having to stand for a daily prayer each day. It wasn’t so much the prayer as it was about the last few words of each of them: “Through Jesus Christ our lord. Amen.” I am Jewish and Jesus Christ is no more my lord than he would be to Moslems or Sikhs so we Jews in the class, used to just shut up when we would reach the end of these daily prayers. There were no Moslems or Sikhs in our elementary school, only Protestants and Jews. There was a fairly high percentage of Jewish people in that school to the extent that when we stopped each prayer right before the part we found unpalatable the difference in volume was definitely noticeable.
  • If the crucifix is maintained, this would make the proposed charter discriminatory because it would ban symbols used by religious minorities while maintaining that of the francophone Catholic majority. This is opposed to France’s approach which bans all religious symbols and is thus more egalitarian. The PQ argument that the crucifix is a cultural symbol rather than a religious one can be seen as racist. Saying that the crucifix is part of our cultural heritage but that the Muslim hijab is not, is racist in the sense that it is based on the politics of exclusion rather than of inclusion. The same statement defines Québécois as a group whose ethnic background is Catholic. Playing the cultural card is basing things on peoples’ origins and not on their beliefs.
  • Charter is already leading to a degree of social alienation. “Measures that highlight cultural differences and exclude minorities do not serve any useful purpose and lead to social alienation…this kind of targeting forces the minority community to look inward…to close up.” — Demetrios Papademetriou, president of the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington-based think tank.
  • “It leads to divisions, rather than to cohesion. There is ample evidence that this is the case. So if the objective of this charter is to create additional cohesion, that is not what it is likely to accomplish.” — Ibid.

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