A silver lining in the PQ's identity gambit - Macleans.ca

A silver lining in the PQ’s identity gambit

No point fretting, as it’s likely the PQ will backtrack — as they have on everything else


Should the Parti Québécois’ “Quebec values charter” become law, it will be by far the most comprehensive set of rules governing the wearing of religious symbols in North America. The government would have the power to remove daycare workers, police officers, health care staff, judges and civil servants (though not, ironically enough, elected officials) from their positions, should they insist on wearing head coverings or “conspicuous” religious symbols. Crucifixes and the like can be worn—but only if they aren’t too flashy. Turbaned Sikh men and veiled women, be they practising Muslims or grieving Catholic widows, need not apply.

If there is a silver lining for critics of the PQ government’s latest identity gambit—and there are many critics, within and beyond Quebec’s borders—it might be this: There is very little chance that such a charter will pass muster, legally or politically, in its current form. The proposed law, which will be introduced this fall, is already on shaky legal ground; one of the PQ’s own advisers would allow only that the charter “might” withstand the all-but-inevitable legal challenges against it.

There’s a chance it won’t even live long enough to see the inside of a courtroom. If the Parti Québécois has proven anything during its year in power, it’s the capacity to backtrack on its many chest-thumping declarations. Exhibit one: Bill 14, the PQ’s effort to reinforce Quebec’s language laws.

When first announced by minister Jean-François Lisée in December, the proposed law contained similarly vast limits on the ability of immigrants to study and work in English. This included prohibiting immigrants from attending English-language CEGEP finishing schools, mandatory French-language daycares, and extending the Frenh-language charters to apply to small businesses, as well as large.

Practically from the outset, Lisée and language minister Diane de Courcy began backing away from the more controversial aspects of the bill, including the French-language daycare and CEGEP stipulations. It wasn’t enough. Released with great fanfare by the PQ, Bill 14 is currently dying a quiet legislative death in the bowels of National Assembly committees.

There are other examples. Over the last year, the PQ has reversed itself on rescinding the health tax, greatly increasing government mining royalties and keeping electricity rates frozen, three of the party’s main election promises. The same goes for its batch of tax increases for higher-income earners, and its plan to retroactively tax dividends and capital gains. Finance minister Nicolas Marceau reversed himself on both—and said the government may be forced to present a deficit budget after months of promising otherwise.

What is the cause of these frequent reversals? Premier Pauline Marois has said it’s because of her minority government—or, in the case of the budget, cold economic reality. Yet much of the pressure faced by the PQ has come from Quebec’s voting public, not its opposition parties. Having been unpopular throughout its year in power, the party has shown itself to be particularly vulnerable to the loud squawk of public opinion. And despite the PQ’s claims to the contrary, there has been much squawking over its values charter.

Save for a few exceptions, Quebec’s commentariat has come out loudly against it, as has the province’s secularist society, the (militantly secular) Quebec federation of women and the (equally secular) Fédération autonome de l’enseignment, one of Quebec’s main teachers’ union federations. Louise Harel, a former péquiste minister and Montreal mayoral candidate, came out strongly against the charter. The Bloc Québécois typically walks in lockstep with the PQ; nonetheless, the party stopped short of endorsing it.

Tellingly, the PQ has already shown signs of softening the charter’s scope. Its architect, PQ minister Bernard Drainville, has said certain institutions like hospitals and universities will be able to opt out for a renewable five-year period, meaning places such as Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital could conceivably argue for perpetual extensions. Of course, it’s entirely possible that, with the charter, Drainville is spoiling for a fight with the federal government; for the sovereignist party, a legal challenge from Ottawa is the perfect cudgel with which to go into an election.

Quebecers, though, will likely see past such a distraction, come election time. While one poll showed a small majority of Quebecers favour a Quebec values charter, another suggested they don’t much care about it either way. This second poll, published recently in L’Actualité magazine, placed the charter 10th out of 11 priorities on which Quebecers feel the government should concentrate—well behind government spending, tax reduction, fighting corruption and employment.

Unfortunately for the PQ, Quebecers seem to want their government to focus more on the purse strings than head coverings.


A silver lining in the PQ’s identity gambit

  1. I agree with this, church and state should be separated!

    • If the government thinks it should publish rules to its employees on what is acceptable clothing for work, so be it. The state can, and does, forbid their employees from wearing tee-shirts with political logos, or baseball caps, and for some positions insists that men wear shirt and tie.
      So why a Charter? Charters, such as those on the French language and on the rights of the individuals apply to all citizens. But this proposal is about a dress code for civil servants for crying out loud. Unless, as I suspect, this is only the first step in a campaign to ban all religious signs, other than the cross, from public view. Give me a good reason why the QC government is not simply publishing a dress code for its employees banning all head coverings and religious signs, while permitting smaller jewelry in the shape of a cross, Star of David, etc.?

      • Because they know that the public service unions would then be called upon to defend members who face disciplinary processes for wearing religious symbols, potentially harming the PQ relationship with unions. The wedge would be on the other foot.

      • They are already talking to the private sector ‘encouraging’ them to adopt these values charter in their own businesses. Don’t kid yourself, before you know it, this will apply to the all of the citizens of the province. Perhaps they are looking for a mass conversion to Catholicism in order to maintain the history of their heritage.

          • I am sorry Lorraine, I do not speak or read French but in seeing those women in the picture it struck me that they look very much like the women I see in the Cancer hospital in Calgary. They wear the same sorts of scarves to hide their hair loss which often falls out in chunks. How long it will it be before the Quebec government bans the public from wearing certain so-called religious symbols in public?

          • Thank you, Lorraine. Reading about this incident made me feel ill. If things keep up like this, I hope people do mass emigrate out of the province. One cannot oppress people, especially educated ones and expect them to embrace it and stay. This isn’t world war II Germany. These people have somewhere to go.

    • Why Charles is the Quebec government calling on the private sector to follow their example and “outlaw” those kind of articles in the private workplace? This is not about separating church and state, it is about bigotry toward people who have deep-seated personal beliefs and reflect those beliefs in the way they cover their body. The fact that these people aren’t Catholics is the real issue here. If they all would agree to convert to Catholicism which is part of “Quebec’s heritage”, I believe the issue would likely disappear.

      • I disagree, I believe the real issue is the Nijab, and the rest is collateral damage. I am sorry you are offended by all of this, but before I make my point let me just remind you if you do not like it here, you can always #$#% off back to your own country. It comes down to this, I want my child the age of 4 years old at school being taught by someone who my child can see their face. facial recognition is a large part of a child’s education process. My child’s right to an full education is more important then her right to express her religious beliefs.

        Furthermore I find it insulting that when she is at home with her family her children are giving the benefit of seeing her facial expressions but my child is not.

        This brings up another point, this is Canada, women are not cows, covering up their face is nothing more then control by insecure men! Either their wives are too ugly and they are afraid their fellow man will look down on them or their wife is pretty and they are insecure and feel another man will come and steal her away. Women are not your cows, you do not own them.

        And before Canadians are forced to go back to medieval times these people should be forced to go to whatever country they CHOOOOOOOSE TO LIVE IN!

        Religion is like a penis, it is nice to have one, great you are proud of it, you can even think your religion is better then anyone the next, you can do what you want with it in private, but don’t take it out and start waving it around in public.

        I do wish they would ban all symbols, all sizes, permitting tiny ones and the cross in the legislature is rubbish. All or none.

        • Steven, the real issue is NOT the nijab because in Quebec citizens cannot even wear the nijab in public buildings. Don’t you remember a few years ago when a woman was ejected from evening classes when she refused to remove her nijab? NO public servant has ever been allowed to wear a nijab to work.
          So, now what is it really all about?
          As for me going back to my own country. My ancestors were Irish. They came to Canada in 1835. My daughters are fifth generation Canadians. What country should I go back to if I don’t like this bigoted decison? If I am not a Canadian, who exactly is? I for the record do not EVER wear any religious symbols. I was raised Catholic and so was every one of my ancestors. Had I been in Quebec, I would be one of the exalted ones.

          • It is about separating church and state, and it can’t come soon enough. ceid mille failte

          • So you really believe they keep the big cross in the assembly because it is indicative of their heritage and not about their Catholic religion? I am afraid I am not convinced.

          • I did say in my first statement that it should be all or none, in this case none. I agree with you on that point, so let’s say we agree on this no religious symbols whatsoever, are you on board then?

          • I am sorry to disappoint you Steven but I don’t understand how a doctor who is Sikh covering his long hair with a turban is going to affect the medical care he gives you or your daughter. Approximately 25 years ago in Canada we struggled with allowing men of the Sikh religion to wear their turbans when they joined the RCMP. For a 1/4 century it has been a non-issue. Much ado about nothing! To my knowledge there have been no complaints of Sikh male doctors trying to convert patients to their religion. This is a solution without a problem. We already have separation of every church and the state with the exception of the Catholic church. If they really want separation, they should stop using taxpayer money to fund the Catholic schools. To believe that a person who works for the state has to be wearing a religious symbol to pose a danger for preaching religion is naive in the extreme. Has this government never heard of the Church of Scientology and their use of good looking celebrities like Tom Cruise and John Travolta to bring in new members? No, Steven, I can’t be on board because I am a nurse and they want to oppress the people I work with based on the beliefs these people hold dear. I cannot support oppression.

          • I agree a Sikh can be just as a good a doctor with or without the religious head dress, but the home is the place for your religion and not in a government building. I went to an all boys catholic and that is the one religion I would like to see gone the most! I believe Marois is gunning for the Nijab and I am gunning to see the catholic symbols taken down.

            It is about no more religion, it is about put away your superstitions and get with the reality of science and living in 2013 and not medieval times. It is about religions causing more pain then they do good.

            It is about teaching children that as afraid as you are to die, there is no fairyland where you live forever. It is about evolving.

            Let’s kill each other because my magical fairyland is better then your magical fairyland.

          • Yes but Steven, a Sikh man does not cut his hair so under the turban he has very, very long hair. Do you think the government is going to let the Sikh doctor wear his long hair down to his bum to work?

          • My mother is first nation’s, long hair is a problems the native men faced for a long time. i also played cricket in a club with mostly Sikh men, I support your right to wear your hair as long as you like, as long as it does not interfere with your job. I do not support your right to wear religious garments in a government place.

          • Do you support a First Nations right to wear a ceremonial feather?

          • I do not support any symbol that is based on GOD, you know your fairy belief that you are going to live forever. What are you 12 years old, grow up, there is no magic man who is going to make you live forever, you will eventually die. Religions are a load of crap sold to people with the carrot being eternal life.

            Sorry such is not the case, put the fairy tales down, I do not support any religious symbol, so to answer your question if there is a belief in a god, magic man, ya whey or any other name for the make belief character you NEED to feel will help you live forever.

            It is almost like you enjoy being subservient to a mythical creature, almost like you enjoy being below a god that doesn’t exist.

            Take it like an adult, you are born to die, do not take life seriously… no one gets out alive. Ban all religious symbols period. All, in case you were still wondering.

          • Steven, I am 50 years old and no I don’t believe in magic but I certainly don’t feel it is the right of government, myself or YOU to tell anyone else what they can believe in. If they find comfort in their beliefs, who are we to deny them that? I am not sure why you are bitter about what others believe or why you feel what they believe has anything whatever to do with you but having worked in psychiatry for 18 years, I can only be glad that people find comfort where than can. I am especially glad if that comfort is not physically and emotionally destructive as is often in the case when they self-medicate with alcohol and illicit drugs.
            By the way, are you giving your daughter a loonie when she loses a tooth and puts it under the pillow? I am not subservient to any mythical creatures but I surely enjoyed it when my kids believed in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the tooth fairy. Somehow things were a little bit magic. Good luck to you Stephen.

          • Please do not try to twist my comments, no one is stopping or holding you back from your comforting magic man belief (straw man), or to stop sticking money under the pillow, actually quite the opposite, I am not TELLING any one not to believe, I am just asking you to keep it out of a Government Run Office. Do not say we are the thought control police, you are dishonest in that comparison.

            Please understand I am not bitter about religions as all,I see how much the damage it has done to mankind, now and through the ages, and I believe religions stop mankind from evolving. No one is asking you to give up your religion, when you go to work just leave it at home.

            Also note I do not have any children it was a hypothetical situation, sorry for any confusion. I will be more clear in the future.

            Please bring valid arguments to the table vs straw man arguments and finger pointing. They are counter productive.

          • Steven, perhaps you haven’t been with people who are dying or suffering greatly. As a nurse, I have no right to question their beliefs and as my job is to alleviate their suffering, I am grateful if they find comfort anyway they can. I myself DO NOT have those beliefs so I won’t be bringing them into your government office but I can tell you that spiritual care is offered in every hospital because people do find solace in their faith and whether you stop nurses from wearing a cross around their neck or not, that is not going to change.
            For the last time, I DON’T HAVE A RELIGION.

          • I have been around people who are dying, no one is asking them to give up or question their beliefs, I am not forcing the questioning of their superstitions, what I am saying is when you go to work you leave your superstition trinkets behind.

            You can take your superstitious beliefs with you, just keep them to your self.

            Kinda like a child going to kindergarten being asked to leave his blankey behind. I know the child needs the comfort of the blankey but do not worry, it all works out without the blankey after a few days you forget all about it.

            And if like you say, whether you stop nurses from wearing a cross around their neck that is not going to change. Great, if it is not going to change what is the problem.

            We are sick of religions interfering with the peaceful co-existence of man.

            And atheism is not a religion nor is agnostic.

            I am glad you agree it will not effect the spiritual side of dying people, so there is no real reason to restrict secularism.

          • So, if the physician of Sikh faith comes to care for you and your not real daughter with his hair down his back in the ER, you will let him care for you because he left his turban as home? By leaving the turban at home, you don’t have to fear that he will try to convert you and your not-real child?

          • Health care insider, I will say it again, religious trinkets worn or not worn do not effect my health care. There is no fear from being converted, please stop trying to put words into my mouth. I never said I was afraid of them, I never said it would interfere with my care either. You are presenting yourself to be thick now. You are irish so you should understand that term.

            Leave it at home, where it belongs. Sundays and Saturdays etc..

            You are trying to paint out the reason I want the religions gone. I will give it to you, because religions are nothing more then a way to control people to make them think they are subservient and they cause a lot of destruction and pain.

  2. Please do an article on the parallele of the parizeau last speach in 95 and the bills that the PQ is puching for since their election.

    This charter and the Bill 14 is a direct response or better follow-up on Jacques Parizeau’s speech when he lost the referendum in 95. The PQ remembers. They lost because of allophone (i.e. immigrants) and money (in their understanding the english population). Their solution is :

    1- Restricting the access to english by immigrant

    2- Reducing the employment opportunities for allophone and force them to speek french.

    3- Secure jobs of authority to french speaking white Quebecois.

    4- Force their version of history to all kids for them to rally onto their cause when they are ready to vote.

    By doing so all dissident resident who do not fit into the new model will leave the province and give up their voting right in a future referendum. The PQ is doing a racist immigration program in only selecting french speaking immigrants. On the other side they do not want them to be part of a working society. The message is like we want your vote to win the referendum but you’ll remain as a second class citizen. This is what the french did after the second world war. They wanted the north Africans to come rebuild their country but not consider them as french citizen. This is what we are seeing. They are telling immigrant come and help us built an independent Quebec country but do not push your luck. You will remain a second class citizen (like their expression “On les aime mais chez eux”).

    This is a Machiavellic approach in winning their independence. Look how the lawyers in the Charbonneau commission behaved & harsh with the Italians and were very complaisant with the white french Canadian who did worst then the mafia.

    This look a lot like how the Nazi party initiated their brain wash ethnic re-engineering of society. Quebec is only missing the charismatic leader and a very bad economy.

    More Quebecois from outside of Montreal should travel to other places in north america and west Canada. This is instead of travelling to small Quebec ghettos in Florida, Dominican republic and the east coast of the united state. Then they would understand that they are not the Gaulois village. There are a lots of Romans in the village (Ref. Asteix & Obelix).

    Have a nice day

    • 2 Godwin points, congrats!