07 November 2015

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 ...

Bill 101: PRO-French Provisions? No, ANTI-English


Quebec’s Bill 101 states that, “civil administration shall use only French in signs and posters, except where reasons of health or public safety require the use of another language as well.” The CISSS de Gaspésie was apparently in violation of this clause by having bilingual signs both for matters of health and safety (i.e. instructing people to wash their hands or wear masks in certain areas) but also for more minor instructions, such as directions to an examination room.

31 October 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 = croustilles

Pierre Trudeau on the 1995 Referendum

William Johnson: How Jack Layton courted Bloc voters


The game-changer of the 2011 election campaign is the New Democratic Party's surge in Quebec while the Bloc Québécois declined.
None had predicted it. It took all by surprise. But was it an entirely unaccountable phenomenon? Hardly.
From the time he won the NDP leadership in 2003, Jack Layton manoeuvred to build his party in Quebec from the ground up by courting the nationalist clientele of the Bloc Québécois. His strategy followed that of Brian Mulroney when the Progressive Conservative party was defunct in la belle province. The Tory leader built support in Quebec by recruiting separatists like Marcel Masse and Lucien Bouchard, then launching nationalist messages like treating the 1982 patriation of the Constitution as an infamy.

Survey reveals troubling data on religious tolerance in Quebec


  • 43 per cent of respondents said you should be suspicious of anyone who openly expresses their religion.
  • 45 per cent said they had a negative view of religion.
  • 48.9 per cent — roughly one out of two — said it bothered them to be attended to by a woman wearing a hijab.
  • 23 October 2015

    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.

    Quebec's historical demands


    The Quebec government has said that any talks about the Senate would have to be broadened to deal with that province's "historical requests," such as recognition of its distinctiveness and demands for more powers — the same divisive issues on which the last two constitutional ventures, the Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords, foundered. First Nations leaders would likely insist that aboriginal issues be part of the mix as well.

    approval over appointment of Quebec judges to the Supreme Court of Canada
    opting out of shared-cost programs in provincial jurisdiction,  with full compensation for compatible programs
    recognition of a distinct society in the constitution
    more powers (e.g., communications)
    and a veto over constitutional amendments

    '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."

    Johnson: Is the time ripe for Quebec to recognize the Constitution?


    Now that Quebecers have given Trudeau a plurality of their votes and a majority of the province’s seats, surely he and Couillard can cut the Gordian knot by rallying the premiers for a constitutional amendment that proclaims: “Quebec is a distinct society within Canada, as was recognized by the Fathers of Confederation, by the 1867 Constitution Act, and by the Supreme Court of Canada in numerous decisions since.”