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Canada Pauline Marois' Unicultural Dream

Discussion in 'Breaking News' started by spnadmin, Aug 25, 2013.

  1. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    Pauline Marois’ monocultural dream

    Robert Fulford

    http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2013/08/24/robert-fulford-pauline-marois-monocultural-dream/

    For years, Marois has been working the rich vein of identity politics, searching for a way to arouse enthusiasm among her more myopic supporters.

    For generations, a large part of the Quebec population has nourished the dream of a unitary, indivisible society in which everyone speaks the same language and holds roughly the same views. While the world and the rest of Canada grow increasingly multicultural, many in Quebec, including leaders of the present government, struggle to create a monoculture.


    The details of the Parti Québécois government’s planned Charter of Quebec Values that leaked this week have been denounced by minority groups and compared to repressive Russia by a leading expert on multiculturalism.

    Federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has expressed his “enormous concerns” that the charter will limit individual freedoms.

    In other words, everything is going perfectly as far the PQ is concerned.

    It’s a hopeless idea in 2013, but that doesn’t even slightly diminish the passion of those who believe in it.

    The monocultural dream was the guiding impulse behind the province’s severe restrictions on the use of English, the first language of about a million Quebecers. The provincial government, by interfering with residents’ access to business and education in the official language of their choice, has relegated English speakers to second-class citizens.

    The same motive lies behind the plan of the Parti Québécois government to ban from public buildings all the visual identifiers people use to express their religion — hijabs, crucifixes, kippas and turbans. Many will consider this proposed law trivial, but it will mortify the individuals it affects, robbing them of what they have good reason to consider an intrinsic and unquestionable freedom.

    Still, there’s nothing surprising in what Premier Pauline Marois now proposes: PQ voters who gave her a minority government last year must have known what they were doing. For years, she’s been working the rich vein of identity politics, searching for a way to arouse enthusiasm among her more myopic supporters.

    The term “identity politics” began in the 1970s, among U.S. blacks, and has since been applied to gays, North American Indians, the disabled and many others. Those groups identify themselves as minorities struggling for justice, unfairly ignored by majorities. It’s an impossible stretch to apply this way of thinking to French speakers in Quebec — a heavy majority in their nation. They control provincial politics, the courts, labour codes, education policy, etc.

    This doesn’t stop Marois. She follows the pattern set originally by Dr. Camille Laurin, a psychiatrist and a minister in the first PQ cabinets. Four decades ago, he successfully argued that historic oppression had so damaged the soul of Quebec that the government needed to mend it by limiting the use of English. Laurin did all he could to persuade millions of people to see themselves as victims of history.

    In 2007, while in opposition, Marois proposed a “Quebec Identity Act,” which would have forced immigrants to learn French before running in any election, local or provincial. After that idea failed, she came up with a plan to bring all businesses, small as well as large, under the language law, and require newcomers to learn French. That failed, too. Undaunted, this summer, she declared her vigorous support for the Quebec Soccer Federation’s short-lived ban on turbans worn by Sikhs.

    In the Fall, she hopes to propose an official, government-written “Charter of Quebec Values” to ensure that civil servants aren’t wearing their religions on their sleeves. That word, “values,” takes on a peculiarly ugly sound when used as a tool of oppression. Abusing it is now the habit of politicians everywhere. Traditionally, our values grow organically, out of the lives of the citizens, our history and our private institutions. Values legislated by civil servants and politicians are bound to be hollow and intrusive.

    Telling Sikhs not to wear turbans when they work in a government office demonstrates a perverted view of secular government. In a secular state, as this is usually understood, all religions are free to flourish because no religion holds power. Secularism in government is not a licence to inhibit expression of religious views.

    Jocelyn Maclure, a philosophy professor at Laval University and the co-author with Charles Taylor of the 2011 book Secularism and Freedom of Conscience, believes that a secular state “should not be anti-religious, it should not criticize religion, it should leave it up to the people to decide.” Maclure doesn’t believe state neutrality requires government employees to hide their religious identity: “What matters is how they act. Their rationales, their decisions, their behaviours need to be neutral.”

    If the law allows that a small neck-worn crucifix or Star of David is inoffensive, precisely how small will such an object have to be in order to escape censure

    Around 75 years ago Quebec society was the opposite of secular. Governments and media deferred to the Roman Catholic Church, which represented itself as an essential instrument in Quebec’s survival. At that time, a Catholic Quebec insisted on the public display of one set of religious symbols. Today, in the name of the same cultural survival, the Quebec government is moving toward an insistence on no religious symbolism.

    Apparently, there’s sizeable public support within Quebec for the ban on religious symbols. If so, then making it a law will surely represent the tyranny of the majority. It will also create a legislative and enforcement nightmare. Expensive lawyers will write elaborate rules, creatively expanding their billable hours by drawing up ever more detailed specifications. If the law allows that a small neck-worn crucifix or Star of David is inoffensive, precisely how small will such an object have to be in order to escape censure (Please give dimensions in cm)?

    Will inspectors be empowered to enter schools and offices, searching for offenders? Naturally, many citizens will break the rules, as a matter of principle. We can imagine a day when the cries of inspectors — “Take off that kippa!” or “Drop the hijab!” — will resound through child-care centres and government buildings.

    This will add to Quebec’s uniqueness by demonstrating the parochial small-mindedness of nationalist politicians, in themselves a unique community of busybodies.

    National Post

    robert.fulford@utoronto.ca
     
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  2. spnadmin

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    Pauline Marois Desperate to Turn Ban on Religious Symbols into Wedge Issue

    Pauline Marois desperate to turn ban on religious symbols into wedge issue

    Graeme Hamilton

    http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com...rn-ban-on-religious-symbols-into-wedge-issue/

    The details of the Parti Québécois government’s planned Charter of Quebec Values that leaked this week have been denounced by minority groups and compared to repressive Russia by a leading expert on multiculturalism. Federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has expressed his “enormous concerns” that the charter will limit individual freedoms.

    In other words, everything is going perfectly as far the PQ is concerned.

    Entering their cabinet meeting in Quebec City Thursday, senior ministers in Pauline Marois’ government gave no indication they would bend in the face of criticism from inside and outside the province.

    “We are going to show leadership. We are going to weather the storm,” said Jean-François Lisée, the Minister of International Relations and onetime adviser to Ms. Marois on matters of identity.

    “The proposals we are going to table are very balanced proposals,” Bernard Drainville, the minister responsible for the proposed charter, said. “I think they find an appropriate balance between the respect of human rights and the respect of Quebecers’ common values.”

    The most controversial aspect of the proposal leaked to the Journal de Montréal — one that the PQ promised in last summer’s election campaign and that no government minster denied Thursday — is a ban on public servants wearing religious symbols. Hijabs, kippas, turbans and conspicuous crucifixes would be off-limits for everyone from daycare workers to liquor-store clerks.

    That is what led McGill University philosopher Charles Taylor to invoke Vladimir Putin’s Russia in his criticism of the charter and spurred the Jewish group B’nai Brith to accuse the government of discrimination. The media have reported on a turban-wearing physician mulling a move from Quebec

    For the PQ, annoying Jewish groups, federal Liberals and anglo intellectuals is not going to cost them many votes. And the angst it is creating among minorities is a price worth paying to appeal to the insecurities of francophone Quebecers, particularly in the regions outside Montreal where immigrants are scarce.

    The tensions offer a taste of what is in store when the PQ starts its promised discussion “among Quebecers” this fall of what should be done to ensure religious minorities do not threaten Quebec values.

    Quebec lived through a similar discussion five years ago when Mr. Taylor and Gérard Bouchard led a public inquiry into what the state should do to reasonably accommodate minority religious practices. And it was not pretty, with some treating the public hearings as an invitation to vent intolerant views.

    There is no good reason to reopen this can of worms, except that the PQ thinks it will serve as bait to voters. Leading a shaky minority government, standing at 29% in the latest CROP poll compared with 40% for the Liberals, Ms. Marois is desperate for a wedge issue that will stir up emotions.

    She saw her predecessor as PQ leader, André Boisclair, take the path of inclusiveness and end up third in the 2007 election while Mario Dumont’s Action Démocratique du Québec successfully played up fears of an eroding Quebec identity. Within months, she had replaced Mr. Boisclair and tabled her Quebec Identity Act in the National Assembly.

    Her bill, which was never adopted, would have required newcomers to demonstrate an “appropriate knowledge” of French before they could run for office or donate to political parties. It also would have modified Quebec’s charter of rights to specify that “the fundamental values of the Quebec nation” had to be taken into account when ruling on individual rights.

    Since its creation, the PQ had been able to play to Quebecers’ fears about the survival of the French language. But the lukewarm reception given the government’s recent attempt to rewrite Bill 101 revealed that the language card is no longer a guaranteed winner.

    So now the threat of the Big Bad Anglo has been replaced by the spectre of Muslims, Jews and Sikhs imposing their religious beliefs on Quebecers. “We do not have to apologize for being who we are,” she liked to say during last year’s election campaign, as if Quebec’s heritage was somehow under assault.

    The most harmful would be to give in to the way of fear, to the temptation of withdrawal and rejection, to play the victim

    After months of study by two of Quebec’s foremost intellectuals, the Bouchard-Taylor report concluded that the supposed crisis of Quebec identity was largely a crisis of perception, fuelled by erroneous media reports.

    The authors said the province’s French-Canadian majority had the largest share of responsibility for smoothing intercultural relations and warned of traps to avoid.

    “Among them,” they wrote, “the most harmful would be to give in to the way of fear, to the temptation of withdrawal and rejection, to play the victim, to fall back on an inheritance that, with the drop in the birth rate, leads to a future that has no long-term horizon — a frozen heritage that isolates and impoverishes.”

    Ms. Marois was not listening then, and she is not listening now.

    Her Charter of Quebec Values sounds a lot like a “frozen heritage that isolates an impoverishes.”

    National Post
     
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