20 April 2014

Globe editorial: Couillard should bury the Charter of Values


Here’s the thing about the Charter of Values: It was the perverted solution to a problem that never existed. Mr. Couillard knows as well as anyone that the bill was created by the PQ to sow fear and division in Quebec, both of which serve the darker side of the separatist cause. To his credit, he kept saying as much before and during the election campaign. And his popularity grew as a result.
There were simply no crises that precipitated a call for a law banning conspicuous religious symbols from the offices and bodies of public servants. The Bouchard-Taylor Commission had spent a year examining the question of reasonable accommodation and concluded it was not a preoccupation for the majority of Quebeckers. If anything, the commission said, Quebec should do more to accommodate religious minorities, though it suggested that judges, Crown prosecutors, police officers, prison guards and the president and vice-president of the National Assembly be prohibited from wearing religious symbols.
How that was twisted into the Charter of Values, with its draconian call to eliminate religious garb from tens of thousands of public-service jobs, even if that meant eliminating the employee in the process, is a mystery that will forever be confined to the consciences of the PQ’s now-redundant election strategists. Mr. Couillard should leave it there. If he truly feels that the combined force of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Quebec Bill of Human Rights and Freedoms, the courts and the ongoing maturation of modern Quebec society are not enough to manage the reasonable accommodation of minority religious rights in Quebec, then perhaps his government can make itself feel better (and keep the PQ quiet) by adopting an anodyne motion restating that Quebec’s government is secular and that men and woman are equals. But the smarter play is to just wait. After six months go by, and then another six, and then a few years, and Quebeckers realize the supposedly imminent threats that the Charter of Values was purported to be a bulwark against never existed in the first place, they will lose interest in the subject and develop even more of a distaste for politicians who play the identity card.

12 April 2014

William Johnson: Quebec — land of political myth


The Supreme Court established that Quebec can only secede by revolution or — with the agreement of the other provinces and the federal Parliament — with an amendment to the constitution. Such a negotiated agreement would include defining new frontiers. A credible third referendum could not merely ask about a preference for independence over federalism; it would have to define the territory that would emerge with independence. That would almost certainly exclude the lands of the Inuit, the Cree, the Montagnais, the Mohawks and — probably — the Outaouais region. Would the Québécois still vote for a new country cut by half?
The secessionists are not alone in having fundamental assumptions to rethink. The Quebec Liberal Party, ever since the Quiet Revolution, has also been formulating its constitutional policies under an illusion. All the premiers, from Jean Lesage to Jean Charest, have called for a supposed renewal of the federation. But what all of them offered was not a federation, but rather a confederation, a union of two sovereign states, on the model of the European Union. And all assumed that Quebec could demand whatever constitutional change it really wanted and, if it failed to obtain it, the alternative was to secede.
The demands for constitutional change were in fact revolutionary, and hence unworkable. We have been at an impasse from the start. If Philippe Couillard decides to pursue an amended constitution, he will have to begin by discarding all the federalist illusions and utopian dreams of the past six decades. Only then would an agreement become possible.

Macpherson: Only federalists can awaken the sovereignty movement


Former PQ leader Pauline Marois wanted to take the initiative with a strategy of “sovereignist governance,” trying to create winning conditions by provoking crises between Quebec and Ottawa.
Her government was defeated before it had much of a chance to apply the strategy. But it probably wouldn’t have worked anyway.
The sovereignists need federalists to prove to Quebecers that Canada doesn’t work. And for the past 19 years, the federalists have refused to co-operate.