Parti Quebecois refocuses campaign on values charter as election looms

PQ refocuses campaign on values charter

Janette Bertrand argues the accommodation of religious minorities life threatens to erode the equality between men and women

Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois, right, arrives with women's rights activist Janette Bertrand during a Quebec provincial election campaign stop in Laval, Que., Sunday March 30, 2014. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois, right, arrives with women’s rights activist Janette Bertrand during a Quebec provincial election campaign stop in Laval, Que., Sunday March 30, 2014. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)


MONTREAL – A prominent supporter of the Parti Quebecois’ values charter made waves in the provincial election campaign on Sunday, using the example of an apartment swimming pool to warn of the dangers of religious accommodation.

Janette Bertrand, the head of a pro-charter group known as the Janettes, argued the accommodation of religious minorities in everyday life threatens to erode the equality between men and women.

And she gave an example to illustrate the need for a charter.

Imagine, she said, two men come to a swimming pool in a Montreal apartment, and the sight of women in the water upsets them.

“Well, suppose they leave, and go see the owner,” said Bertrand, an 89-year-old former actress and journalist, emphasizing that the owner would be happy to have such “rich” McGill University students in the building.

“Then they ask, ‘Well, can we have a day,’ and they will pay… And then in a few months, it’s them who have all the pool time.”

“That’s what will happen if there is no charter.”

Bertrand made the comments alongside PQ Leader Pauline Marois at what was referred to by the party as a “secular brunch.”

In recent days, the PQ has tried to turn attention toward identity issues such as language and the values charter as the April 7 election enters the home stretch.

The party’s charter of values would ban public sector employees — including teachers and daycare workers — from displaying or wearing religious symbols such as the hijab.

It would also includes a framework to deal with accommodation requests.

Later, Marois accused Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard of not having a plan to deal with such issues.

“He doesn’t have one. He will decide it case by case,” she told reporters.

Marois said Couillard’s ad hoc approach is exactly what previous studies of the issue, such as Quebec’s 2008 Bouchard-Taylor report, suggested the province avoid.

The Liberal leader was grilled on a similar issue during last Thursday’s debate.

Coalition party head Francois Legault peppered him with questions about whether a Quebec police officer should be allowed to wear a hijab.

Couillard didn’t take a clear position and said he wouldn’t speculate since the specific situation hasn’t come up in Quebec.

Legault’s party is also in favour of a secular charter, though it doesn’t go as far.

For his part, Couillard again Sunday accused Marois of practising the politics of division with her focus on the charter. He said his party is committed to “building” up the province and focusing on “inclusion,” not “exclusion.”

From the beginning, protection of the French language and the values charter were expected to be key to the PQ’s campaign, but they originally took a back seat to talk of whether there would be another sovereignty referendum — an idea disliked by many Quebecers.

The proposed charter has been highly controversial but polls suggests it’s favoured by a majority of francophones, a crucial voting group in the tight election.


PQ refocuses campaign on values charter

  1. > Referendum? Independence? Sovereignty? Lots of words. Just go to Google – Quebec Debt Clock. That debt number is after all the transfers from Ottawa for years. Last fiscal year the Government posted a $3.4 Billion deficit and that was after receiving over $19 Billion from Ottawa in the three types of transfers; Equalization, Healthcare, and Social Services. Be careful because that is the real debt total; the Quebec Government always shows the much lower net debt after subtracting it assets such as the dams and infrastructure. First the dams will stay with the Cree and Inuit since they is own their traditional lands, and, as for infrastructure who in their right minds would buy our roads.
    > As for the promises of jobs: it is just more borrowed money and more bureaucrats. With that cement plant in East Quebec, for example, there are already three such plants in the region; in essence, there is overcapacity right now. Last year, in all of Canada including Quebec, 9 out of every 10 jobs were created in…Alberta. These were real jobs, not fake jobs by borrowing more money;
    > The charter is a political ruse to win a majority on the back of a fearful populace. The Quebec people really want the access to healthcare improved, the creation of real jobs not fake jobs using more government debt. Now, with the raised fist of Mr. Peladeau in front of the cameras, we now know without any doubt the real agenda of the separatist Parti Quebecois in this election. A minority within a minority with access to the levers of government and the writing of law is trying, still trying, to force an unwanted option on the Quebec people;
    > Currently, over 60% of the electorate does not want a referendum or even talk of a referendum. The government debt is too high, investment is going elsewhere in the country, and, the new jobs are being created elsewhere.