15 June 2018

Globe editorial: Which side is the NDP on in Quebec?


The federal New Democratic Party has long played footsie with Quebec separatists, but recent statements by the new leader, Jagmeet Singh, suggest that the party has become more audacious in its advances.
The fluently bilingual Mr. Singh last week told reporters in Alma, Quebec, that, if a majority of Quebeckers voted to secede from Canada in a third referendum, he would "respect the decision of the people, without fail and without a doubt."
"[The right of self-determination] is so fundamental, and if people choose their future, I am completely in agreement with their decision," he said ...

New guidelines not enough to fix Quebec's niqab ban, lawyer says


Quebec's new guidelines on religious accommodation have failed to ease concerns about whether Muslim women will be able to access public services — such as riding a bus — if they wear a niqab or burka.
The guidelines were released earlier this week, and are meant to become part of a law that requires Quebecers to leave their faces uncovered in order to give or receive public services.
They state that exemptions to the law can only be granted on religious grounds if the demand is serious, doesn't violate the rights of others and doesn't impose "undue hardships."

Notes: NDP "Unity" Act v. Clarity Act

The NDP's Unity Act, a private member's bill drafted by the party, spells out that a bare majority of 50% plus one vote would be sufficient to trigger negotiations on Quebec’s secession, provided that the referendum question was clear and that there were no “determinative irregularities” in the vote and in the 'spending limits'.

The bill says that the Quebec National Assembly — by definition, directed by a Parti Québécois government — would have the right to table the question. 

The government of Canada would be able to object, but would have to take those objections to the Quebec Court of Appeal.
The Clarity Act, based on a reference to the Supreme Court of Canada,  specifies that the federal government will not negotiate secession unless a clear majority votes Yes on a clear referendum question. 
It does not specify what constitutes a clear majority, allowing parliamentarians to take into account the eligible voter turnout rate, valid votes cast in favour of separation, voting irregularities, and other factors, before concluding whether the result is sufficiently unambiguous to warrant divorce talks.

PATRIQUIN: Trudeau fails Muslims by not challenging Quebec’s niqab law


Justin Trudeau cares deeply. Feeling your pain, and channeling your optimism, is largely the reason behind his rise to power.
By now, his perfectly staged empathy, delivered as soliloquy, is the stuff of rote, as is the ensuing hug or occasional tear. Women, Indigenous people, the poor, the middle class, sexual minorities, religious minorities, refugees, Holocaust survivors, the public service, the disabled: Trudeau cares deeply about all and more. His allies call it humanity. His critics call it virtue signalling. His handlers see it as good politics.
There are limits to this empathy, however. As Quebec commemorates the one-year anniversary of the Quebec City mosque shootings, in which six Muslims were slaughtered because of their religion, the Trudeau government have shown that when the Prime Minister’s storied empathy collides with political considerations, politics inevitably win out. And Quebec’s 243,000 Muslims find themselves less safe and more targeted because of it.

Old Tradition of Secularism Clashes With France’s New Reality - NYTimes.com

Old Tradition of Secularism Clashes With France’s New Reality - NYTimes.com

The law of 1905, said Roger Cukierman, the director of the Representative Council of French Jewish Organizations, “was an agreement in a Christian country among mainly Christians,” long before the influx of Muslim workers and their families, but it recognized Judaism.
While laïcité meant keeping religion in the private domain, “it’s more and more difficult because the Muslim minority is requesting the ability to pray every few hours and to have halal food, including in private enterprises,” Mr. Cukierman said.
Voltaire wrote that religion was on a diminishing road, but it has returned with a vengeance, said Dominique Moïsi, a French political scientist. “Laïcité has become the first religion of the Republic, and it requires obedience and belief,” Mr. Moïsi said. “But I care more for democracy than for the republic,” he said. “To play Voltaire in the 21st century is irresponsible.”

Jedwab: A lack of understanding of laïcité isn't the problem


Lise Ravary (“What laïcité is and what it is not” Opinion, April 13) contends that when it comes to the place of religion in society, Quebec prefers laïcité and integration while Canada (that is, the rest of Canada) opts for liberal tolerance leading to multiculturalism.

In fact, Canada’s model of multiculturalism does not reject integration, nor does Quebec reject liberal tolerance.

Rather, the Canadian approach to diversity does not require the abandonment of one’s customs and traditions in order for someone to be integrated into society. Hence it does not label as non-integrated a public school teacher who wears a kippah, a prison guard with a turban and and/or a police officer wearing a hijab.

12 May 2018

Hébert: Running in Outremont a risky move for NDP Leader Singh

Winning in Mulcair’s riding is far from certain and losing would inflict further damage to NDP party morale, Chantal Hébert writes.

MONTREAL—With pressure mounting on Jagmeet Singh to enter the House of Commons at the earliest opportunity, the rookie NDP leader is apparently seriously considering a run for Thomas Mulcair’s soon-to-be-vacant Outremont seat.
Winning the Montreal riding would be a big deal. A Singh byelection victory would assuage fears that on his watch the NDP is at risk of returning to its non-starter status in Quebec.
It would shatter the Liberal assumption that Justin Trudeau can count on his home province to deliver enough gains in 2019 to make up for seat losses elsewhere.

Singh's religiosity complicates the NDP’s Quebec quandary


The turning point in the 2015 federal election campaign in Quebec came in mid-September, a month before voting day, when the Federal Court of Appeal struck down a Conservative government ban on face coverings at citizenship ceremonies. For New Democratic Leader Tom Mulcair, it was the moment of truth that ended his party’s long run atop the polls in the province it had swept in 2011.
The NDP had come face-to-face with its own two solitudes.
The Quebec left is uncompromisingly secularist. While it supports freedom of religion, it believes that visible manifestations of faith are to be discouraged in the public sphere, lest they impinge on the separation between church and state. Quebeckers fought hard to throw off an oppressive Catholic Church and see any religious accommodation by the state as a threat to the gains of the Quiet Revolution. More recently inspired by France’s secularist approach, the Quebec left supports strict limits on where and when religion can be practised.

Léger: Cracking the Quebec Code: An insider’s guide to understanding Quebec's 7 core values

Jean-Marc Léger has written a book that only a Quebecker could write.  The famed pollster says so himself – and the bold title he’s chosen gives away the reason.
Cracking the Quebec Code: The 7 keys to understanding Quebecers, makes the kind of tantalizing promises for itself that a reader might expect from a marketing guru like Mr. Léger. “For the first time,” a foreword boasts, “English Canadians will have access to Quebeckers’ best-kept secrets.” Here, finally, is a “skeleton key” to the “question of Québécitude.”
Co-written with journalist Pierre Duhamel and business scholar Jacques Nantel, the book uses survey data, interviews with provincial leaders and a novel approach measuring reactions to hundreds of key words to come up with seven traits that define the Quebec character:
  • joie de vivre [ant: sobriety]   
  • easygoing [ant: alert]  
  • non-committal [ant: principled]   
  • victim [ant: survivor]
  • villagers [ant: cosmopolitan]  
  • creative [ant: rational]  
  • proud [ant: assertive].

06 May 2018

Montreal Gazette: Loss in Quebec Bill 99 constitutionality case is ultimately a win

Thursday's judgment changes nothing. Still, it provides a welcome reminder that a UDI in the absence of prior negotiations would be illegal.  


Keith Henderson may have lost his court challenge against Bill 99, but Justice Claude Dallaire’s nuanced decision Thursday in the long-running case ultimately leaves him a winner. It allows just about everyone else to declare victory, too. 

The law, enacted in 2000 by the Parti Québécois government of the day, asserted Quebecers’ right to determine their future. Underpinning Henderson’s challenge was the concern that certain articles might be used as a springboard to a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI). 

Dallaire basically ruled that the law was constitutional because it does not serve as any such thing, nor was it intended to. Rather, she noted, it merely affirmed Quebec’s existing rights and jurisdictions in response to what was perceived as an encroachment by the federal Clarity Act; it was a political cry of “Maîtres chez nous.” As was made clear by the Supreme Court of Canada’s 1998 reference opinion, a referendum victory (with a clear majority and clear question) could be only a first step toward secession, and a UDI without prior negotiations with Quebec’s partners in Confederation on the terms of secession would be illegal.