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Religious intolerance in Canada

2013-OCT/NOV: Still more responses to the
proposed "Charter of Quebec Values:"

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This essay is a continuation of a previous essay

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  • 2013-OCT-09: Haroon Siddiqui, a columnist for the Toronto Star newspaper wrote that Premier Pauline Marois really wants to:

    "... banish the hijab, especially from daycare centres and schools. That’s the bee in her bonnet. Her Charter of Quebec Values would outlaw the kippa, the turban, the head scarf and large crucifixes. But as Parizeau notes, all those have been around for years with no outcry from Marois and Co., whose sudden preoccupation has 'only one explanation: Islamism'."

Charles Taylor was co-chair of the 2007-08 Quebec commission on reasonable accommodation and is known worldwide for his writings on contemporary pluralism. That commission had recommended at the time that only top-ranking provincial officials be not allowed to wear obvious religious symbols and clothing while on the job. He said:

"We looked at it from the point of the accused — would they find it traumatic [to be judged by someone visibly non-Christian? His commission had talked about restrictions on clothing for] ... only of a limited number of people, those with coercive authority — people who could arrest you or put you in jail. That’s a totally different category than teachers or daycare workers. It’s ridiculous to try and fudge that and say that teachers and daycare workers are persons of moral authority." [Marois and her cabinet colleagues are doing this in the name of state neutrality, when] actually, they are the ones who would be breaking state neutrality and discriminating against selected people.”

Siddiqui continued, mentioning that Taylor:

"... said that a majority of Quebec feminists understand the absurdity of firing women in the name of gender equity. “It’s only the hard-line feminists that don’t. They get all wound up arguing that the hijab means submission. ... In fact, the women working in schools and daycare are more likely to be independent women. It would be terrible for them to lose their jobs. It’d be catastrophic, really, taking away their livelihood. 1

  • 2013-OCT-23: Feedback by the Quebec public to the government web site: The Quebec Government is considering changes to its values charter in response to public feedback to their web site. Over 26,000 emailed and phoned messages were received of which almost 70% were in favor of the proposed charter.

    Possible changes include:
    • 2,974 respondents supported the removal of the large Roman Catholic crucifix above the speaker's chair in the provincial legislature that was installed in 1936.

    • 774 respondents supported extending the religious clothing ban to include elected officials.

    • 1,425 respondents supported elimination of the renewable opt-out clause that some universities, hospitals and municipalities vowed to invoke.

Bernard Drainville, the Democratic Institutions Minister, indicated that a bill to implement the Charter would be tabled in the coming weeks. He said that:

"The majority of the citizens who have expressed themselves have told us, in one phrase, finally a government that is responsible; finally a government that has the courage to put in place the necessary rules; finally a government that is not scared to affirm our common values."

Alan Woods, reporting for the Toronto Star newspaper, wrote:

"The proposed charter has raised concerns in immigrant communities, among constitutional scholars at the municipal and federal levels and even among Quebec's human rights commission, which issued a notice last week warning the ban on religious items would breach both Quebec and Canadian law and would not stand up to a legal challenge." 2

  • Webmaster's comment [Bias alert]
  • I have no problem with the Quebec Government asserting its secular nature, and enforcing strong barriers between religions and the state. That is healthy for both faith groups and the government. But the proposed charter goes much further than merely separating religion and state. It would seriously intrude on personal religious expression -- on true religious freedom. Wearing of religious symbols is a personal statement of a person's faith. Many devout people feel that their faith requires them to wear certain clothing and/or symbols. If this is banned, then the people of Quebec would no longer enjoy freedom of religion -- often considered the "First Freedom." That would be a horrendous loss.

    We suspect that:

    • The Charter of Values will be approved by the Legislature.

    • The Parti Québécois will receive a boost in votes from those Québécois who are concerned about the increase of Muslim immigrants. This, along with hatred of "the other" may have been the main motivation for the introduction of the Charter.

    • The Charter's limitation on clothing and religious symbols will be found to be unconstitutional by the courts.

    • Hijabs and other religious clothing will return, and the culture will revert to religious acceptance and inclusion.

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2013-NOV-08: Values charter to be introduced in the Legislature:

The charter was tabled in the Quebec Legislature under the title:

"Charter Affirming The Values Of Secularism And The Religious Neutrality Of The State, As Well As The Equality Of Men And Women, And The Framing Of Accommodation Requests." 3

This is the third name for the Charter. During the last election, it was referred to as the Charter of Secularism. More recently it was the Charter of Values. The intent remains the same: state employees will have to choose between continuing their employment, or removing their headscarves, yarmulkes, turbans, and large crucifixes.

The opposition Coalition party has tabled its own version of the Charter. It is the "Charter of Secularism" and would apply to a smaller number of public employees.

Coalition Leader Francois Legault issued a statement, saying:

"It’s been months that the ministers Bernard Drainville and Jean-Francois Lisee are engaged in a detail-leaking contest on the values charter

We’ve known for months that the PQ government was tabling a bill. Despite the olive branch extended by our party, which even tabled its own secularism charter two weeks ago, never has the government of Pauline Marois taken the trouble to consult us or listen to us.

Whether or not Mrs. Marois likes it, this government is a minority and it needs to accept that.

Premier Pauline Marois said:

" We’ll do things in order. Once this bill is tabled, the debate will be open. The leader of the CAQ ... can then provide his point of view. The members of the Liberal opposition, I hope, will have one." 3

The Toronto Star newspaper commented that the Charter:

"... appears to have no chance of passing in its current form, in the current legislature. The PQ has only a minority government and will have two basic options: water down the bill to get it adopted, or preserve it for an election campaign. 4

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2014-JAN-13: Public hearings begin this week:

Opinions appear to be hardening. Chantal Hébert, writing in the Toronto Star, said:

"Quebec Premier Pauline Marois has signalled she would rather fight an election over her government’s secularism bill than water it down."

"... A good number of the institutions that would be impacted by the charter have irreconcilable differences with the imposition of a secular dress code on their workers.

Their ranks include most of the province’s universities, Montreal’s municipal government as well as Quebec’s hospital network and a majority of doctors.

Otherwise sovereigntist-friendly labour unions such as the FTQ have warned that if the dress code comes to pass they may end up challenging it in court on behalf of some of their members.

On the other hand the main nurses’ union is on side as is the union that represents Quebec’s civil servants.

Some feminists embrace the PQ plan; others totally dislike it. Past PQ premiers such as Jacques Parizeau and Lucien Bouchard oppose it but it has inspired no public dissent in the ranks of the government."

A committee of the National Assembly faces more than 200 briefs as it starts the hearings. 5

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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. Haroon Siddiqui, "Hijab is what Marois really wants to banish:," The Toronto Star, 2013-OCT-09, at: http://www.thestar.com/
  2. Allan Woods, "PQ stands by values charter," The Toronto Star, 2013-OCT-23, Page A2. A2.
  3. "PQ values charter given complicated, 28-word name," The Globe and Mail, 2013-NOV-06, at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/
  4. "Quebec's values charter splits feminists," Toronto Star, 2013-SEP-19, at: http://www.thestar.com/
  5. Chantal Hébert. "Get ready for Quebec values charter debate replay," Toronto Star, 2014-JAN-10, at: http://www.thestar.com/


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Copyright © 2013 & 2014by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2013-OCT-03
Latest update: 2014-JAN-13
Author: B.A. Robinson

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