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Religious intolerance in Canada

2013: Quebec's wars on religious expression:
1. The conflict over turbans in soccer.
2. Proposed Charter of Quebec Values.

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The process of secularization in Quebec:

The provincial election in 1960-JUN resulted in a major shift in Quebec's politics, religion, and culture. Premier Maruice Duplessis -- leader of the Union Nationale party -- had recently died, as did his successor Paul Sauvé shortly afterwards. The Liberal party under Jean Lesage was voted into office. This set into motion processes to end what has been referred to as the Great Darkness (Grande Noirceur in French) and the launching of a rapid process of secularization throughout the province. The latter is often referred to as the Quiet Revolution (Révolution tranquille in French). During the 1960's the government took over health care, social services, and public education in the province -- functions that had mostly been under the control of the Roman Catholic Church. 1 During 2013, the secularization process entered a particularly aggressive phase with:

  • Early 2013-JUN: A brief banning of turbans as worn by male Sikh soccer players in Quebec, and

  • Late 2013-AUG: Information was leaked about the proposed "Charter of Quebec Values" to suppress personal religious expression in Quebec.

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2013-JUN: Banning of the wearing of turbans by Quebec soccer players:

Many Sikh males traditionally wear a turban to contain their head hair which they do not cut throughout their lifetime. This may have health benefits for Sikh soccer players, because the turban may prevent -- or lessen the effects of -- repetitive "heading." This is head-to-ball contact, which is common in the sport. One study of women soccer players showed that:

"... repeated 'heading' of the ball was associated with increases in blood proteins associated with inflammation and mild injury to the brain." 2

Not a good sign!

On 2013-JUN-09, the Quebec Soccer Federation (FSQ), which is responsible for organized Soccer leagues for all ages in the province, banned the wearing of Sikh headwear by its members. Curiously, the Federation justified the ban because of their safety concerns over the wearing of turbans.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) commented:

"The ruling was controversial and criticized for being senseless, ridiculous and, some argued, outright prejudiced." 3

On JUN-10, the Canadian Soccer Association suspended the Quebec federation so that soccer leagues in the province were no longer able to compete in national tournaments.

On JUN-11, Premier Pauline Marois of the Parti Québécois said:

"I believe the Quebec federation has the right to make its own rules. It's autonomous. it's not bound by the Canadian federation. In this regard, I support it in its orientations." 3

Bernard Drainville, the minister for Democratic Institutions and Active Citizenship, said:

"It is not up to the Canadian association to decide what is going on Quebec soccer fields. This power belongs to the Quebec Soccer Federation." 3

"Linbo in J," a reader of the CBC article, posted a comment which may have some resonance among many Quebec residents. He wrote:

"Religion in our politics, public institutions, government, and other public events is a very delicate and controversial subject in Quebec! Learn one thing: the PQ is vehemently anti religion especially towards the Catholic church. Most Quebecois still remember the hard fought battle to remove religion, the [Roman Catholic] church and all the controls it imposed on our society. Finally after decades of fighting we achieved an equal, neutral, secular system. Now we have other religious groups demanding that we allow their faiths to be prominently displayed. Sorry if we seem intolerant or even paranoid but look at our history; look [at] what religion did [to us] in the past. This is not aimed at the Sikhs or any religion in particular but at all religions equally. We like our secular society. We like that no religion can tell us what to do. We will be damned if we are going to roll back the clock to be slaves of religious dogma again! [Punctuation and spelling slightly altered from the original posting.] 3

The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is the the governing body of international soccer. On JUN-14, they released a statement saying that the FSQ ban on turbans among its players was inappropriate and that turbans are acceptable during games. 4

Balpreet Singh, a lawyer for the World Sikh Organization of Canada, issued a statement saying:

"This announcement is certainly good news; it’s absolutely clear now that any restriction on the wearing of the turban is illegitimate, and we’re hopeful the Quebec Soccer Federation will now immediately lift its ban. The children should really be allowed to play as soon as possible." 5

On 2013-JUN-15, the Quebec Soccer Federation lifted its turban ban. Religious tolerance and accommodation in Quebec was restored.

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2013-SEP-10: Quebec Government tabled bill to create a "Charter of Quebec Values"

In late 2013-AUG, the Government of Quebec, which is currently controlled by the Parti Quebecois, proposed a "Charter of Quebec Values." Details were released on SEP-10 when the Parti tabled a bill that emphasizes the secular nature of the Province.

Bernard Drainville, the minister for Democratic Institutions and Active Citizenship, said:

"The time has come for us to rally around clear rules and common values that will put an end to tensions and misunderstandings."

The Government launched a $1.9 million campaign to convince voters of the secular Charter's wisdom.

One component of the campaign is a widely distributed pamphlet in which Drainville says:

"The time has come to rally around our common values. They define who we are. Let’s be proud of them."

As introduced, the Charter is patterned after changes made in the recent past by the French government. The changes would involve:

  • Amendments to the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

  • Specifying that the state is secular.

  • A statement saying that changes would have precedence over other legislation.

  • Changes by the government, its employees, employees of groups financially supported by the government, private companies. and the public.

  • A four-part test for any future religious accommodations:

    • Does the request discriminate?,

    • Does it respect the equality of men and women?,

    • Is it reasonable, and

    • If it’s a public service, does it respect the neutrality of the state? 6

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This topic continues in the next essay.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Quiet Revolution," Wikipedia, as on 2013-SEP-10, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
  2. "Do soccer header bands really protect you from injury?," Real Colorado Soccer, 2013-APR, at: http://realcolorado.net/ This is an accursed PDF file.
  3. Michelle Gagnon, "The politics behind Quebec's soccer turban ban," Canadian Broadcasting Corp., 2013-JUN-13, at: http://www.cbc.ca/
  4. Sam Borden, "FIFA Seeks to End Quebec Soccer’s Ban on Turbans," New York Times, 2013-JUN-14, at: http://www.nytimes.com/
  5. Philip Authier, "More than religious attire at stake as Quebec unveils 'values.' Marois government proposes entrenching secularism in Quebec’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms," Montreal Gazette, 2013-SEP-11, at: http://www.montrealgazette.com/
  6. James Mennie, "," Montreal Gazette, 2013-SEP-10, at: http://blogs.montrealgazette.com/


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Copyright © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2013-SEP-29
Latest update: 2013-OCT-03
Author: B.A. Robinson

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