27 May 2013

Opinion: Quebec’s secular tradition, unlike the PQ’s version, is open and inclusive

Opinion: Quebec’s secular tradition, unlike the PQ’s version, is open and inclusive

Pauline Marois’s government is committed to tabling a secularism charter. But in the secularism espoused by Marois and the Parti Québécois, Catholicism plays an important role — not as a living faith, but as a strange religious/political hybrid, part of Quebec’s “heritage” that can be invoked to fend off forms of religious expression deemed to be alien to “Quebec values” and national identity. In this provincial vision of the secular, a crucifix can be displayed in the National Assembly as a treasured relic of our national patrimony, but other religious symbols are deemed unreasonable intrusions into the public sphere.
But this brand of secularism is not the only game in town.
In fact, Canada’s celebrated liberal heritage is profoundly indebted to traditions of political thought, public service and statesmanship that were nurtured in Quebec Catholic culture. From the beginning, the concern for religious- and cultural-minority rights surfaced as one of the key characteristics in the struggles of the French Catholic minority with British colonial power. The experience of Catholic-minority status gave birth to a form of small-l liberalism marked by a deep respect for the rights of religious and cultural minorities.

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