The Charter of Values is an omnibus bill

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Sept 23 2013 copy2

Religious and ethnic diversity is something to be cherished in Canada. Unfortunately, there have been attempts lately to undermine this principle. In Québec, the Parti Québécois (PQ) under the leadership of Pauline Marois have recently unveiled a “Charter of Values” purportedly aimed at solidifying the secularization of Québec.

At first glance, the rationale surely seems reasonable. However, a further look uncovers its disturbing intentions. While advocates claim state secularism will be promoted, the proposal fails to meet the supposed goals of its proponents by ensuring loopholes in its provisions. Instead, it’s a furtive attempt to undermine religious diversity.

Therefore, contrary to the officially stated goals of the PQ, its provisions are actually the manifestation of hate-based politics. Perhaps more disturbing is the PQ’s adept strategy of creating an “us vs. them” mentality in an attempt to secure the bill’s passage.

While overt religious symbols from the kippah to the crucifix are no longer permitted to be worn by public employees, this falls short of actually ensuring a “secular” Québec; the bill contains a provision excluding religious symbols considered an integral part of the province’s history. As Québec has a decidedly Catholic past and continues to have a Catholic majority, this means Catholic names and symbols are here to stay.

Not only will thousands of geographic names not be renamed, but the crucifix in Québec’s National Assembly building will also not be removed. With this taken into account, the true intentions of the separatist PQ become much clearer. Rather than seeing a law which applies secularism fairly across Québec for all religious communities, the bill aims to solidify the Catholic nature of Québec, thus imposing a set of double standards throughout the entire province.

These inequities can also be seen in the proposal to remove tax exempt status of all houses of worship. While this applies equally to churches, mosques, synagogues, etc., the reality is that religious minorities — unlike the Catholic majority — would not benefit from the clause recognizing religious symbols that are deemed a part of Québec’s past.

Therefore, while increased financial burden will put pressure on smaller congregations of all religions (whereby diminishing their presence), Catholics will fare better in their ability to offset this effect.

This inequity is also made worse by its failure to officially recognize the past influences of other religions. Québec, for example, has had Jewish and Protestant communities — among others — for more than two centuries. Thus, such a discriminatory bill aims to marginalize religious minorities by seeking to minimize their public presence and recognition in mainstream society.

In an effort to implement a twisted vision of religious inequality under the guise of secularism, the PQ has turned to double standards formally enshrined in the bill. In fact, it has actually been fanning the flames for some time already; a dig of derogatory remarks made not long ago further underscore their true intentions.

In a 2012 Globe and Mail article, PQ politician André Simard (then the PQ’s Agriculture Critic) was quoted making disparaging comments toward the practice of slaughtering livestock in accordance to halal dietary codes, labelling it “inhumane” and incompatible with Québec values.

Such methods actually serve to minimize pain, meaning there is little evidence the comment was made out of sincere concern for the animals involved. Rather, it was a poorly disguised attempt at fostering bigotry and intolerance and — more importantly — stirring up tensions to win support for the PQ’s twisted proposals.

While we sometimes take the notions of diversity and tolerance for granted, the recent happenings in Québec serve as a reminder that we shouldn’t, in fact, do so. Rather, we should be proactive in our attempts to uphold such values in our society.

1 COMMENT

  1. This article seems to be missing the point when it comes to examining Quebec’s insistence on retaining Catholic symbols.

    Quebec is no longer a Catholic province. Church attendance is extremely low, and most of those who do attend church are actually immigrants or Anglophones. Catholics symbols, therefore, really are hollowed out, reduced to mere historical artifacts rather than meaningful indicators of, well, meaning.

    There is also no distinction made between the different kinds of secularism. We in the Anglophone world are used the secularism as being negative and pluralism, that is, of not taking sides but nevertheless allowing many religions to flourish. In Quebec, we have a much more aggressive, positive secularism that the French in Europe know as “laicite”, that is, the banishment of all religious belief to the private sphere. The absorption of traditionally Catholic symbols into a mealy notion of “heritage” is not a contradiction but part and parcel with the aggressive secularism that the Quebec government promotes.