23 September 2017

William Johnson: What counts as history in Quebec


What these eminences stated in 1992, the Supreme Court of Canada would also state in 1998. But Quebec’s textbook, dated 2009, distorts history and law to legitimate unconditional secession.

Recalling Lévesque’s 1980 referendum, the textbook omits the fact that a veto was promised to the rest of Canada. 

Then, revisiting the 1995 referendum, it ignores the fact that Parizeau intended, with the merest majority, to overthrow the Constitution, even though the question was confusing and, as polls showed, most voters assumed that Quebec would remain in Canada. 

Then, Stéphane Dion’s Clarity Act of 2000, setting federal conditions for negotiating secession, is discussed with no reference to the Supreme Court’s decision on the conditions for secession. 

And there are more examples of bias. This is history?

Don Macpherson: What's wrong with Quebec's proposed new electoral map


You can’t please everybody, as we are reminded every time Quebec’s electoral representation commission proposes to re-draw the boundaries of the 125 provincial ridings to reflect changes in the distribution of the population.
This time around, the loudest complaints have come from Québec solidaire MNA Manon Massé.
Massé has been leading what so far has been an unsuccessful legal as well as political campaign to preserve her riding of Sainte-Marie—Saint-Jacques in south-central Montreal.

22 September 2017

Chris Selley: Charles Taylor … niqab defender?


Nor was there anything disreputable about Messrs. Bouchard and Taylor’s undertaking, which was to travel around the province and listen to Quebecers of all stripes vent their various cultural angsts, from the very theoretically legitimate (there’s a reason people would object to cops wearing niqabs) to the thoroughly bizarre (the mortal threat of unlabelled halal chicken). You can’t sneer such worries away, much as urban elites try. The Bouchard-Taylor report is in the main a sober call for calm and unity, an assurance that Quebec is not reasonably accommodating itself toward theocracy. And while forcing agents of the state to wear a non-religious uniform might run afoul of the Supreme Court — which settled turban-wearing cops a quarter-century ago — it’s not inherently outrageous ... 
But they must have known, from their observations and their travels, that Quebecers tend to be less resolutely secular than preferentially secular — particularly suspicious of Islam and particularly respectful of ostensibly “cultural” Christianity. Pauline Marois epitomized a very popular version of secularism that leaves in place a crucifix hanging over the speaker’s chair in the National Assembly that was installed in 1936 by noted non-secularist premier Maurice Duplessis. Ms. Marois’ “values charter” at least had the decency to target all religious symbols in the public sector; now Premier Philippe Couillard, channelling Mr. Harper, proposes to ban both giving and receiving public services with a covered face because “certain principles have to be clarified;” because “I think this is a line in the sand for many Quebecers and Canadians.” How convenient that it only affects the world’s least popular religion! ...
Of course, leaving those insecurities alone more or less entirely worked out rather well for Canadian politics for a very long time. That’s a pretty good option, too.

‘We are beginning to overcome the divisions’ in Quebec, Charles Taylor says of reasonable accommodation | National Post

‘We are beginning to overcome the divisions’ in Quebec, Charles Taylor says of reasonable accommodation | National Post

Nine years after signing a report that called for a ban on religious symbols worn by public servants in positions of “coercive” authority -— police and judges — McGill philosophy professor Charles Taylor says times have changed and Quebecers have changed along with them, and that he no longer endorses the recommendation.
In an open letter published Tuesday in La Presse, Taylor, who with sociologist Gérard Bouchard co-chaired a commission on reasonable accommodation of cultural communities in Quebec, wrote that his support for the measure was never more than qualified, but added that at the time, “to not impose these restrictions would have shocked public opinion to the point of jeopardizing our proposal for open secularism.”
But Taylor writes now that “things have very much changed since then, and that’s more than just my opinion.”

20 September 2017

Majority of Quebecers want ban on religious symbols [for positions of authority]: poll

The Repère communications firm polled 750 Quebecers in all regions of Quebec, concluding 63 per cent of respondents agree with the old Bouchard-Taylor formula on religious symbols: persons in positions of authority, judges, police and prison guards should not be allowed to wear them. (36.8 per cent don’t agree.)


QUEBEC — The Parti Québécois tried to shame Premier Philippe Couillard Wednesday, releasing results of a poll showing 60 per cent of Quebecers — including many Liberals — approve of a ban on religious symbols despite Couillard’s opposition to the idea.

But Couillard fired back that it would be a grave error in democracy for a government to make policy, especially on matters affecting minorities, based on polling results. The PQ did just that with its “infamous” charter of values and that was a disaster, he said.


Angus Reid: Could our national leader be: _____? Most in Canada, U.S. say they’d vote for more diverse candidates - Angus Reid Institute

Could our national leader be: _____? Most in Canada, U.S. say they’d vote for more diverse candidates - Angus Reid Institute

Could the PM be monolingual? English Canada says ‘yes,’ Quebec says ‘non

Visible religious symbols have long been a source of contention in Quebec, which perhaps explains why two-in-three say they could not support a party led by a person who wears a religious head-covering:

Jedwab: The worrisome tone of Quebec’s [Charter of Values] rhetoric

The worrisome tone of Quebece’s values rhetoric - The Globe and Mail

If the Quebec government has its way, it a new class of offenders will be introduced into society. They might be called values violators. The Nov. 7 tabling of the Charter of Quebec Values of Secularism (Bill 60) confirmed the potential list of violators includes doctors that wear kippas, nurses wearing a cross, daycare workers with hijabs and university professors with turbans.

The loss of employment is the ultimate punishment such offenders face if they don’t remove their threatening symbols. The genius of the Parti Québécois government’s proposed bill outlining Quebec’s so-called values is that it puts the burden for enforcement on those institutions that harbour potential values violators. This is surely a relief to the province’s law enforcement agents. But in the unlikely event this draconian bill ever becomes law, the potentially affected hospitals, universities, daycares and other potentially affected institutions would face a serious conundrum. Not implementing the law, they might assume, will result in cuts to their finances.

Quebec’s Muslims, Jews and Sikhs are the most obvious targets for potential values violations. Many members of these communities are extremely concerned not only about the consequences of the proposed legislation but are also worried with good reason about the very unhealthy tone of the values rhetoric. As revealed in an October Leger Marketing poll, the most fervent supports of the values bill are favorable to an extension of the ban on religious symbols beyond public institutions.

[PQ's Charter of "Secular" Values] is clearly unconstitutional, but could still become law - The Globe and Mail

Quebec’s secular charter is clearly unconstitutional, but could still become law - The Globe and Mail

By contrast, the PQ argues that preventing public servants from exercising religious freedom at work is part of a broader secularism or “state neutrality” with respect to the state’s role vis-a-vis religion. This is a perversion of the principle of the separation of church and state, which is normally regarded as preventing government from imposing particular religious doctrines on citizens (such as requiring children to say the Lord’s Prayer at school). Instead, the PQ government proposes to strip citizens of any overt religious identification when working in the public sector. That is a far cry from a “neutral” state objective.

As an entirely symbolic enterprise, the legislation should fail on the first step of the judicial test for determining whether an infringement of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is “reasonable in a democratic society,” which states that the government requires a substantial and pressing objective when it seeks to limit a right. In a case on prisoner voting rights, the Supreme Court majority made it clear that objectives which are symbolic in nature are “problematic” and noted that a legislature “cannot use lofty objectives to shield legislation from Charter scrutiny.”

16 September 2017

Globe editorial: It’s time for Quebec to kill Bill 62, and stop targeting religious minorities


The murder of six Muslim men praying in a Quebec City mosque on Jan. 29 has provoked a watershed moment in the thinking of Quebec politicians, intellectuals and the public at large. Where Muslims were once an easy target for nationalist populists and radio shock jocks, now it is not quite so easy to stigmatize them for the sake of votes and ratings.
That’s a start. But there is still a stain on the province – one last official vestige of the fear-mongering that flowed from Quebec’s post-9/11 debate over the accommodation of immigrants and religious minorities. That is Bill 62. It needs to die, and now is the moment to kill it.
The mosque attack prompted an unprecedented show of grief and solidarity among Quebeckers of all beliefs. Premier Philippe Couillard spoke emotionally of the “demons” in Quebec society. Nationalist politicians, including Parti Québécois Leader Jean-François Lisée, acknowledged the need to tone down their anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Line between religious heritage and discrimination unclear despite ruling against city council prayer


By saying “not all” are in breach of the duty of neutrality, the implication is that many are. Gascon goes on to quote favourably a passage from the 2008 Bouchard-Taylor report on religious accommodation: “(We) must avoid maintaining practices that in point of fact identify the state with a religion, usually that of the majority, simply because they now seem to have only heritage value.”
And yet when the court had an opening to make a statement about two such symbols — the crucifix and the statue of Jesus with a glowing red heart found in two locations where Saguenay council meets — it declined. The Court of Appeal had declared the symbols were mere historical artifacts stripped of their religious meaning for most residents. The Supreme Court dodged the question by finding that the human-rights tribunal that originally heard the case and ordered the removal of the crucifix and Sacred Heart statue had no jurisdiction to consider the symbols.

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

Professors question health of academic freedom at McGill after Potter resignation


A CAUT official said the association received information from within McGill alleging ‘political pressure (was) placed on the institution to get rid of Potter’

13 September 2017

Quebec and the Constitution: A timeline of dead ends

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard wants to reopen the constitutional debate. Here’s a timeline of previous attempts.

Globe editorial: Why did McGill fail to defend Andrew Potter’s academic freedom?


'Unless McGill offers a viable explanation, or Mr. Potter himself clears the air, the logical conclusion is uncomfortable: McGill professors can write whatever they want, as long as their views are palatable to Quebec’s establishment. There can be no harsher condemnation of a university. Or of a society, for that matter.'

10 September 2017

Ask the CCLA: Do I have to show my face? When? | Canadian Civil Liberties Association

Ask the CCLA: Do I have to show my face? When? | Canadian Civil Liberties Association

Generally, a person’s right to express their religious beliefs by wearing a religious article of clothing is protected and should be accommodated. For the purposes of identity and security however, it may sometimes be necessary for a woman to remove her niqab, though significant efforts should be made to ensure that any interference with religious freedom is as minimal as possible. Whether or not asking a woman to remove her niqab is a justified or reasonable restriction of her Charter protected religious freedom depends largely on the purpose of the request and the surrounding context.

CCLA (Via The Globe And Mail): When religious freedom should take a back seat to equality rights


In my view, both rights are fundamental for a society to be grounded in respect for human dignity. Indeed, in Canada, both rights are protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms – but the Charter, which applies to government action, would not directly apply to a commercial airline.
How far do we go to accommodate a sincerely held religious belief when it comes into conflict with the equality rights of someone else? If all rights are equal and there is no hierarchy, do we figure out these questions on a case-by-case basis? In Canada, decision-makers have ruled against a bed-and-breakfast owner who refused to rent to a gay couple. But some may ask, what about religious freedom? What about the innkeeper’s rights?
Personally, I don’t think that in a public or commercial space the religious beliefs of one person can be used to deny, or relegate (intentionally or not) as inferior, the equality rights of someone else. Religious freedoms are writ large and people are free to believe what they wish, and to act as they wish, short of causing harm to another. Gender segregation can and is upheld in private religious institutions freely attended by individuals – but in public spheres we must be vigilant about upholding the equality rights of all. If we wouldn’t tolerate the refusal to sit beside a racialized person, we shouldn’t tolerate sex discrimination, either.

Bill 60 (Charter of Quebec Values): CCLA Hearings Brief

CCLA’s Opposition to the Quebec Charter of Values: Read our Brief « Canadian Civil Liberties Association

CCLA has submitted a brief to the Quebec National Assembly’s
Committee on Institutions’ as part of its general consultation and
public hearings on Bill 60.  Bill 60, or the Charter affirming the
values of State secularism and religious neutrality and of equality
between women and men, and providing a framework for accommodation
requests, is a deeply troubling law that would infringe basic
rights and cannot be justified in a free and democratic society.  In our
submissions, CCLA argues that the Bill infringes freedom of religion,
freedom of expression and the right to equality and to be free from
discrimination.  CCLA also points out some concerning inconsistencies in
the proposed law which would have a disproportionate impact on
individuals from minority religious groups and, in particular, women
from these groups.  We are urging the Quebec government not to move
forward with the proposal and hope to have an opportunity to address the
Committee in person in their public hearings, which are scheduled to
start in mid-January, 2014.

08 September 2017

The stats bear it out: In Quebec, trust is low - Macleans.ca

The stats bear it out: In Quebec, trust is low - Macleans.ca

Two scholars on trust dig into the data to see what they believe Andrew Potter got right
—and wrong—about Quebec

01 September 2017

Supreme Court rules against prayer at city council meetings

Mayor Jean Tremblay of Saguenay argued reciting prayer respects Quebec’s Catholic heritage

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled the municipal council in the Quebec town of Saguenay cannot open its meetings with a prayer.

In a unanimous decision today, the country's top court said reciting a Catholic prayer at council meetings infringes on freedom of conscience and religion.

The ruling puts an end to a eight-year legal battle that began with a complaint filed by atheist Alain Simoneau and a secular-rights organization against Saguenay Mayor Jean Tremblay.

Don Macpherson: The Charter of Pants encourages discrimination

But maybe the strongest kick was to the Quebec human-rights commission.
The rights watchdog had called Drainville’s original proposal not only a “clear break” with the province’s own charter of rights but also a violation of international standards for the protection of minority rights.
Drainville’s response was to add a new restriction in the rights charter: rights must be exercised with a “proper regard” for “the primacy of the French language.”
That has nothing to do with “secularism,” the supposed objective of the Pants Charter. But apparently, if the PQ was going to encourage discrimination against minorities, it didn’t want to overlook anybody.
And it’s slipped a poisoned pill to the official opposition Liberal party. Now the Liberals, whose leader Philippe Couillard had vowed to let the original proposal pass only “over my dead body,” will expose themselves to the accusation of being “against French” if they filibuster against the Pants Charter.

Jedwab: France’s ‘beautiful notion’ of secularism is not a model for Quebec

For a romantic getaway you can’t beat France. It’s a great place to visit, but as a member of a religious minority it doesn’t appear these days to be the best place to live. 
Quebec Premier Pauline Marois recently pointed to France as a model for Quebec (and presumably for all of Canada) in its approach to diversity. The French national doctrine of secularism seems to be a source of inspiration for the Premier’s proposed Charter of Values.
 While cautiously acknowledging imperfection in the French system, Ms. Marois prefers it to the British approach to diversity which she recently characterized as a source of severe social unrest and violence. While presumably not wanting to comment on the Quebec debate during a visit to the province last week, French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici described French secularism as a "beautiful notion" that creates unity – not division. The terms he used resemble those being employed by the Quebec government to describe its Values Charter. The Quebec government conveniently chooses to ignore the deep inter-ethnic divisions around the Charter debate as reflected in public opinion surveys ...

Pro-Charter of Quebec Values rally in Montreal draws several hundred supporters

Pro-Charter of Quebec Values rally in Montreal draws several hundred supporters

"I respect everybody and what they do when they go to the synagogue or when they go to a mosque, that's their (business)," she said. "But I don't think it belongs in the public space." ...

Marchers carried cutout fleur-de-lis and Quebec flags. They carried signs that read "'we're born naked and everything else is superfluous" and "secularism that's open to closed religions doesn't work." ...

"For me the freedom of religion should not surpass liberty of expression and if we can't have political badges at work, why should we be allowed religious symbols?," Chantraine said. "It should be the same for everyone." ...

Quebec National-Sovereignism

The spectrum of socio-political views held by most Quebecois.

Examples include anti-partitionism, Franco-supremacy, and Catho-laicite.

Patrick Lagace: Quebec has a strange view of secularism

Quebec has a strange view of secularism - The Globe and Mail

The Quebec Soccer Federation announced last week that it won’t allow turbans on its soccer pitches because, well, FIFA’s Rule 4 on equipment doesn’t explicitly allow turbans on soccer fields.

FIFA’s Rule 4 also doesn’t “allow” players to wear gloves in freezing late October games. It doesn’t “allow” women to wear headbands for their ponytails. Still, you’ll find players wearing gloves and headbands without the QSF invoking Rule 4 to ban them.

 Apparently a recent FIFA ruling that lets Muslim women wear the hijab on the pitch wasn’t enough to convince the QSF that the spirit of the rules is tolerance ...

Jedwab: Religious accommodation survey promoted intolerance

MONTREAL — Is the Marois government moving toward requiring that a teacher of the Jewish faith in a Jewish private school remove his kippa?

That might sound preposterous. But a survey last March commissioned by the Quebec Ministry of Democratic Institutions and Active Citizenship (as it is called) asked Quebecers the following question: “If the Government of Quebec decides to prohibit wearing religious attire would you agree or disagree that such a measure be applied to employees of private elementary and secondary schools?”

In preparation for this fall’s tabling by the government of what it is now calling a Charter of Quebec Values (a reworking of the original plan for a Secularism Charter), the survey also asked whether a similar ban on religious signs and symbols should be extended to health institutions — and more specifically to doctors and nurses.

What is 24 JUN? As usual, Quebec is ambiguous

from the (Quebec) National Holiday Act:

1. The 24th of June, St. John the Baptist Day, is the National Holiday.

Since St. John is the patron saint of French Canada (not only of Quebec), the day takes on an "ethnic church" dimension. So much for 'secularism'. These days the holiday's all about bonfires and getting drunk.

As the years went by and the sovereignty movement gained momentum, the celebration morphed into a sovereignist celebration as well. There isn't an Anglo-Quebecker older than 40 who doesn't remember the sickening television images of drunken revellers desecrating and burning Canadian flags, amid shouts of 'Vive la Quebec libre [sic]'

from Bonjour Quebec:

This holiday originates from the tradition, prevalent in several countries, of celebrating the summer solstice by lighting bonfires and performing popular dances. June 24 was officially designated "Québec's National Holiday" in 1977. Shows and bonfires will take place in several municipalities. Since 1984, the Mouvement national du Québec (MNQ) has been the national coordinator of this event.

This assumes that Quebec is a nation and/or a nation-state, rather than what is it: a province.

The government has been two-faced, claiming that the holiday is for everyone and then sub-contracting the organization of the event to radical groups.
If the government wants to signal that it really means that the 24th is a holiday for everyone, they must remove sovereignist groups as the exclusive organizer of the event.
In short, if you want a holiday that is inclusive, don't hire ethnocentrics to run the show, it's as simple as that.

The SSJB is what it is and everyone knows it. As long as the government employs them to run the show, sanctimonious protestations by Ministers decrying the decisions they take, is cynical and unfair.
On every level, it is politics at it's worst.
All the society has to do, is call it Quebec Day, and I'm all for it. Because in spite of myself, I am a Quebecer too.

Supreme Court sides with Quebec Catholic school on religious freedom


The decision Thursday handed a victory to Loyola High School, which went to court over a Quebec program that sought to teach ethics and world religions from a neutral standpoint. At the same time, the top court helped define some of the boundaries of Quebec’s goal of state secularism ...
 "A secular state respects religious differences; it does not seek to extinguish them," the court said ...
Constitutional lawyer Julius Grey says Thursday’s ruling strikes a blow against “strident secularism” in Quebec.