04 October 2015

'Covering' ourselves in truly liberal democracy

As University of Toronto Prof. Clifford Orwin wrote in the Globe and Mail about Mr. Harper's comments about the niqab: "Liberal democracy isn't about compulsory baring of ourselves (or our faces) to others. Nor is it about consorting as one big 'family.' It's about reconciling majority rule with the right of each of us to lead a life of our own, in religious matters as elsewhere."

Freedom of religion under the Canadian Charter(s) of (Human) Rights and Freedoms

Larry Miller and the case against the niqab - Macleans.ca

Freedom of religion under the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms (and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms ) consists of the freedom to undertake practices and harbour beliefs, having a nexus with religion, in which an individual demonstrates he or she sincerely believes or is sincerely undertaking in order to connect with the divine or as a function of his or her spiritual faith, irrespective of whether a particular practice or belief is required by official religious dogma or is in conformity with the position of religious officials. This understanding is consistent with a personal or subjective understanding of freedom of religion. As such, a claimant need not show some sort of objective religious obligation, requirement or precept to invoke freedom of religion. It is the religious or spiritual essence of an action, not any mandatory or perceived‑as‑mandatory nature of its observance, that attracts protection. The State is in no position to be, nor should it become, the arbiter of religious dogma. Although a court is not qualified to judicially interpret and determine the content of a subjective understanding of a religious requirement, it is qualified to inquire into the sincerity of a claimant’s belief, where sincerity is in fact at issue. Sincerity of belief simply implies an honesty of belief and the court’s role is to ensure that a presently asserted belief is in good faith, neither fictitious nor capricious, and that it is not an artifice. Assessment of sincerity is a question of fact that can be based on criteria including the credibility of a claimant’s testimony, as well as an analysis of whether the alleged belief is consistent with his or her other current religious practices. Since the focus of the inquiry is not on what others view the claimant’s religious obligations as being, but what the claimant views these personal religious “obligations” to be, it is inappropriate to require expert opinions. It is also inappropriate for courts rigorously to study and focus on the past practices of claimants in order to determine whether their current beliefs are sincerely held. Because of the vacillating nature of religious belief, a court’s inquiry into sincerity, if anything, should focus not on past practice or past belief but on a person’s belief at the time of the alleged interference with his or her religious freedom.

"Bourassa destroyed anglos as political force"


As a person who was involved in Alliance Quebec from its inception to its decline, I feel I am qualified to add to the discussion about the English-speaking MNAs and their defence or lack of it of the anglo population.

I notice that most correspondents do not mention Robert Bourassa and his part in the suppression of the English language. When I was first active in Alliance, the members hoped and expected with good reason that when the Liberals came to power the language policies of the Parti Québécois would be modified.

I remember when I was first elected to the Alliance council that President Michael Goldbloom asked us what we wanted from the new government. We agreed we favoured compulsory bilingualism on signs. Goldbloom was very insistent that while French should have primacy, "We do not want differences in size," and we laughed at the idea of inspectors running around with tape measures making sure the English was not too big ...

29 September 2015

Translator: From 1960s Ball Park French, to English, to 2010s OQLF French

Get 'em while they're hot!
biftek a la Hambourg = hamburger = hamburger (prev. hambourgeois)
saucisse fumee = hot dog = hot dog
frites = French fries = (pommes de terre) frites
liqueur = soft drink = boisson gazeuse
cacahuete = peanut = arachide
patate chips = potato chips = croustille

William Johnson: Lysiane Gagnon stands as witness to Quebec's two referendums

Gagnon also denounced those who insisted that secession must abide by the Constitution. She said they “caused a debate that is essentially political to be diverted to the sterile ground of abstract legality.” In her last column before the 1995 referendum, she advised: “Both options are equally honourable.”

“Je ne me souviens pas” might be Canada’s motto. Thomas Mulcair repeats that, for the 1980 and 1995 referendums, 50 per cent plus one for Oui was the threshold for Quebec’s secession. “Those were the rules in 1980 and 1995,” he said in Friday’s debate. False, but it’s still widely believed by many Quebecers, including some people who should know better ...

Her 52-page essay, followed by a collection of her columns from the 1995 referendum cycle, demonstrates that Quebec is caught in a cultural and political bind. Its intelligentsia largely subscribes to Quebec’s independence, but most Québécois, while easily roused to fury at perceived contempt from les Anglais, remain attached to Canada ...

Whatever was said by some Quebec politicians, the law governing both referendums set no standard for a victory. The white paper announcing that law repudiated any such standard. The impact of a referendum, it said, was “the political value of the referendum process.” Because a referendum had no executive effect on laws or the Constitution, it was pointless to specify a threshold of victory: “This consultative character of referendums means it would serve no purpose to include in the law special clauses with respect to the majority required or to the required level of participation.”

23 September 2015

William Johnson: Statesmanship at last

Statesmanship at last

 ... the news filtered out that the federal government had, Wednesday, intervened in a court challenge launched by private citizens against Bill 99, passed by former premier Lucien Bouchard, decreeing that Quebec can secede at will, its present territory intact, with just 50 per cent of the votes plus one, in a referendum where Quebec alone sets the rules. 
As Maclean’s columnist Paul Wells revealed, the federal government argues in a submission to Quebec Superior Court that Bill 99 is unconstitutional. As the news spread, all of Quebec’s political party leaders circled the wagons, indignantly defending the indefensible ... 
As premier, Charest defended Bill 99 before Quebec Superior Court when it was challenged by former Equality Party leader Keith Henderson, McGill law professor Stephen Scott and lawyer Brent Tyler. Bill 99 manifestly repudiated the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling, in the secession reference, that Quebec could only secede legally via an amendment to the Constitution, itself requiring the consent of Parliament and at least seven provinces ...

Jeffrey Simpson re: Thomas Mulcair's Quebec nationalism questionable

Similarly, Mr. Mulcair has driven the party into a very Quebec nationalistic position on language, whereby Quebec's Bill 101 would take precedence over the Official Languages Act for federal institutions in Quebec. This position, similar to the one taken by the Parti Québécois and Bloc Québécois, will undoubtedly please Quebec secessionists and strong nationalists, but it does not jibe with the NDP's stated policy of support for the Official Languages Act.

William Johnson: Independence referendum? Scotland has it right


The referendum on independence to be held by Scotland in 2014 differs dramatically from the two referendums Quebec held in 1980 and 1995. The issue in Scotland will be clear: independence. Equally clear will be the referendum question, just 10 words long: “Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?”

In 1980, Quebec asked a question that ran to 109 words, but still left the outcome uncertain and confused. The question began: “The Government of Quebec has made public its proposal to negotiate a new agreement with the rest of Canada, based on the equality of nations.” Who could object to such an agreement? There followed many words on sovereignty and association. Then the question concluded on this promise: “No change in political status resulting from these negotiations will be effected without approval by the people through another referendum; on these terms, do you give the Government of Quebec the mandate to negotiate the proposed agreement between Quebec and Canada?”
The 1995 referendum question would be shorter – 43 words, but still tendentious. It stressed “partnership” and “agreement,” not secession or independence: “Do you agree that Quebec should become sovereign after having made a formal offer to Canada for a new economic and political partnership within the scope of the bill respecting the future of Quebec and of the agreement signed on June 12, 1995?”

William Johnson: Quebec’s constitutional powers, real and imagined

William Johnson: Quebec’s constitutional powers, real and imagined | National Post

Quebec’s entire political class disgraced itself this week when the province’s National Assembly unanimously passed a motion that would be spurned as an absurdity in just about every mature democracy. Even Philippe Couillard’s nominally federalist Liberal members supported a motion that condemned the federal government for defending Canada’s constitutional order against a unilateral secession by Quebec.

The motion stated: “[Quebec’s] National Assembly condemns the intrusion of the Government of Canada into Quebec’s democracy by its determination to have struck down the challenged articles of the Act Respecting the Exercise of the Fundamental Rights and Prerogatives of the Québec People and the Québec State. The National Assembly demands that the Government of Canada abstain from intervening and challenging the Act respecting the exercise of the fundamental rights and prerogatives of the Québec people and the Québec State.”

The Act in question is Premier Lucien Bouchard’s Bill 99, which was passed in 2000 to counter the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling in the secession reference, and the federal Clarity Act. The Court had insisted that a majority vote for secession, even a “clear answer” to a “clear question,” would not give Quebec a mandate to secede. Independence could be achieved legally only through an amendment to the Constitution of Canada with the Parliament of Canada and the provinces concurring ...

William Johnson: ‘Conditions gagnantes’ – the NDP dilemma

‘Conditions gagnantes’ – the NDP dilemma - The Globe and Mail

This was not a new posture for the NDP. In 2006, the party held its convention in Quebec City and adopted as official policy the so-called “Déclaration de Sherbrooke.” It committed the party to many demands made for years by Quebec’s provincial politicians but that had been rejected by the Liberals of Pierre Trudeau. 
The NDP accepted special status for Quebec under the name of “asymmetrical federalism.” Quebec was to exercise powers not available to other provinces: “The NDP believes that asymmetrical federalism is the best way to consolidate the Canadian federal state with the reality of Quebec’s national character. That means that Quebec has to have specific powers and room for manoeuvring.” 
The NDP also accepted unconditionally Quebec’s right to secede unilaterally by obtaining a majority vote on a question of its choosing: “The NDP recognizes Quebec’s right to self-determination, which implies the right of the people of Quebec to decide freely its own political and constitutional future. This right can be expressed in various ways and can go as far as achieving sovereignty.” 
In the Commons, the NDP has supported subjecting federally regulated industries in Quebec to the Charter of the French Language, in violation of the Official Languages Act. [1] It opposed the right to accede to English-language public schools in Quebec obtained by a sufficient stay in non-subsidized private English schools – a right recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada. [2] It opposes the nomination to the Supreme Court of Canada of anyone who is not fluently bilingual. [3] And it opposes changes to representation in the Commons according to population that would mean more seats for Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, if that would have the effect of diminishing Quebec’s present proportion of seats [4].
[1] symbolic pandering; the bill does not change the legislation, nor open the constitution;[2] hateful pandering: the number involved are small now; but it opens the school system slightly to rich non-anglos , too;[3] useless pandering; bilingualism will be even more important than judicial competence;[4] anti-democratic: contra one man, one vote.