It’s no longer good enough to roll our eyes and goodnaturedly sigh, “Oh, Quebec.”
This time, this bastion of close-mindedness, intolerance, xenophobia and exclusivity has gone far too far.
The ruling Parti Quebecois government wants to introduce legislation this fall banning religious symbols worn by anyone whose employer receives public funding. This includes Muslim headwear (hijab, niqab, burqa), Sikh turbans, Jewish kippas, and “highly visible crucifixes”.
One of the most highly visible crucifixes in Quebec is, of course, the one hanging on the front wall inside the National Assembly building in Quebec City. But that gets to stay because it part of the province’s “heritage”, according to PQ.
The proposed legislation is based on PQ’s so-called “Charter of Quebec Values”. Now, I know Canada is a federation with extreme decentralisation of power to the provincial levels. But Quebec is still a part of Canada, and it deserves reminding that Part I of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms reads as follows:
2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
a) freedom of conscience and religion;
b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression
So Quebec secularlism can suck it (not a legal term) if it, in the form it takes as provincial legislation, contradicts Canadian values. And here it is in total violation of the Charter, not to mention human rights. But it’s not really about secularlism, is it? A secular state or institution can still have religious employees who express their faiths and beliefs as long as there is no institutionalised favouring or practicing of one religion over another.
The hostility and intolerance we are witnessing in Quebec is over culture, not religion. It is an unabashed us-vs-them policy that aims to alienate a minority group in order to preserve the historically dominant group. Well, tough beans, cos the rest of Canada will not stand idly by while a small subset of its population are unwilling to uphold the core elements of the country’s identity – namely, respect for others, openness and welcoming of diversity. We try to foster a multitude of cultures.
The only people not welcome in Canada are the unwelcoming ones.
Further reading: PQ’s us-vs-them agenda out of touch with reality (Montreal Gazette)