Quebec’s war on religion -

Quebec’s war on religion

By pandering to ethnic nationalism, the PQ is playing a cynical and dangerous game


Roger Lemoyne

Imam Sayyed Nabil Abbas stood with roughly 40 faithful at his feet for Friday afternoon prayers at Montreal’s Lebanese Islamic Centre. After greeting each with a handshake, Abbas launched into an hour-long khotbah, or pre-prayer speech, decrying the Parti Québécois’s proposed “values charter,” which would ban Quebec’s public sector employees from wearing “conspicuous” religious symbols. “This Quebec charter is an attack not only on Muslims, but on Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Sikhs and others,” Abbas said. “Now we are meant to live our lives differently, forcing us to ask the question: do we leave Quebec?”

The very next morning, across Montreal’s many geographical and religious divides, came a very similar sentiment. “The reason us Jews have flourished in North America is because we came to countries that allow us personal religious freedom,” said Rabbi Reuben Poupko to the hundreds of Jewish faithful gathered at the Beth Israel Beth Aaron Congregation for Yom Kippur. “We all know what happens in those countries that don’t.”

The fury was hardly contained to Montreal’s places of worship. Later that day a stream of people stretching 11 city blocks—many in the very religious garb the PQ seeks to limit—snaked through the city’s downtown core, chanting “La charte à la poubelle!” (the charter in the garbage!) and “Marois raciste!”—a reference to Premier Pauline Marois.

“She is committing economic and cultural genocide,” said Surjit Singh, a 42-year-old financial adviser, as the bells of St. John the Evangelical church rang in support of the marchers. “It’s very hard to tell your children that if you follow your religion then you can’t get a job. We will fight while we can. If we lose, then we have to leave.” The spectre of losing even one immigrant caused medical secretary (and avowed secularist) Marie-Josée Bernier to don a novelty-sized gold cross and take to the streets. “We will lose a lot of good doctors and a lot of good nurses” should the charter become law, she said.

After laying dormant for five years, the issue of religion and identity within Quebec society has awoken, kicking and screaming, once again. In what is either an essential measure to set societal rules (if you believe the Parti Québécois line) or a cynical ploy to regain electoral favour (if you believe just about everyone else), the sovereignist party has essentially declared the next election won’t be fought over the separation of Quebec, but on separating the pious from the symbols of their faith.

The loud and near-instantaneous backlash against the PQ’s values charter has already caused the party to backtrack somewhat, with ministers saying they are open to compromise. As it stands, though, the PQ’s plan is divisive, to put it mildly. A recent Léger Marketing poll suggested 43 per cent of Quebecers supported the charter, while 42 per cent opposed it. Not coincidentally, it has pitted the cosmopolitan island of Montreal against the vast and largely homogenous hinterland beyond it. It also led to the removal of Bloc Québécois MP Maria Mourani—the party’s only Montreal MP, its sole elected woman and its only visible minority—when she suggested the charter was an example of “ethnic nationalism.” There have also been reported incidents of Muslim women being attacked for wearing the hijab, while a mosque in Saguenay was sprayed with what appeared to be pig’s blood.

The vitriol has spread onto social media networks and the airwaves. “We need to keep our culture,” a resident of the Montreal suburb of Terrebonne told Radio-Canada following a press conference with Pauline Marois. “Right now we are being invaded.”

For the Parti Québécois, which has struggled to find a resonating issue, limiting supposed religious indulgences amongst its public sector employees struck a chord particularly with what former Péquiste premier Jacques Parizeau proudly called the Nous: white, francophone, old-stock Quebecers. A full 80 per cent of self-identifying Péquistes said they agreed with the idea of a charter. And if the charter has drawn the ire of many Canadians from other parts of the country, that’s perhaps all the better for a government quick to point to Quebec bashing.

This isn’t a particularly new debate. Just how much cultural and religious space should be given to new arrivals is an enduring issue across the country and much of the Western world. Indeed, recent polls suggest a surprising amount of support for the PQ’s Quebec values charter outside the province. Yet in turning to the reductionist (and some would say dangerous) precepts of ethnic nationalism—and using them as an electoral battle horse—the PQ has effectively turned its back on founding PQ premier René Lévesque’s vision for Quebec, and given up on anyone who isn’t part of the Nous.

At its heart, the PQ’s Quebec values charter is a simple affair. Any outsized religious garb—a Muslim head covering, a Jewish kippah, a Sikh turban, an overly large crucifix—would be banished from the bodies of anyone drawing a paycheque from Quebec’s public service. It would further amend Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms to include a formal declaration of the neutrality of the state, and make it mandatory that anyone giving or receiving a government service do so with his or her face uncovered—an apparent reference to the Muslim niqab.

Yet much of the proposed law remains vague. What, for instance, constitutes an “overt and conspicuous” religious symbol? Does it include, say, Rastafarian dreadlocks, a Muslim man’s beard, or religious tattoos? And what happens to those who, like Surjit Singh, would sooner die (or move to Ontario) than remove their religious accoutrements?

PQ minister and charter architect Bernard Drainville only said the law would be implemented “humanely.” “We are going to sit down with these women and explain [the law] to them,” Drainville said during the charter’s unveiling, which included rather sterile diagrams of the verboten religious garb. Drainville also said how he hoped the private sector, inspired by the PQ initiative, would impose a similar charter.

No one at Quebec’s Secretariat for Democratic Institutions and Active Citizenship could tell Maclean’s what happens if these people didn’t acquiesce—though Drainville said municipal governments, hospitals and post-secondary schools could apply for a renewable five-year exemption clause to the charter.

“We aren’t there yet,” said Drainville spokesperson Bryan Gélinas of enforcing the charter. “You have to respect the law, but we don’t think anyone will lose their job over this.”

What is clear, however, is how the charter would overwhelmingly affect Montreal. According to Statistics Canada figures, nearly 87 per cent of immigrants coming to Quebec settle within the island’s 500 sq. km. Quebec City, the province’s second-largest immigration destination, receives about three per cent. The demographics have meant Montreal is Quebec’s enduring bête noire, a bracing counterpoint to the province surrounding it.

At one point in time, it was also fertile ground for the Parti Québécois. The party won 15 of Montreal’s 29 ridings in 1976, when it first formed a government. Under Lévesque’s leadership, the PQ aggressively courted the immigrant vote. Poet and eventual Péquiste immigration minister Gérald Godin saw Quebec as a beacon for “the uprooted men and women who came to make a life in our corner of the globe.”

“We made enormous progress amongst the neo-Quebecer population,” said former Péquiste premier Bernard Landry, who in the PQ’s earlier days was given the often thankless task of convincing immigrants to vote for a sovereignist party. “We had a very interesting rapprochement with the Jewish community. We recruited David Levine, who eventually became health minister.”

Times have changed. Today, the PQ has only six of Montreal’s 28 ridings; the party draws much its support from staunchly nationalist ridings like Chicoutimi and Rimouski, where immigrants make up less than two per cent of the population. The party is also pursuing support in the northern and southern suburbs flanking the city, where more and more francophone families are settling. (Blainville, a mostly francophone exurb of Montreal, has grown by nearly 16 per cent since 2006.) Meanwhile, 49 per cent of Montrealers are against the charter, according to the poll—the highest level in the province.

There is a certain irony to Marois’s pursuit of the off-island vote. During the 2012 election, Marois aligned herself with the so-called “maple spring” student protests over tuition hikes, which originated in (and drew most of its support from) Montreal. Then-premier Jean Charest, meanwhile, courted the conservative sensibilities of off-island voters—the very voters Marois is seeking today.

Indeed, the recent protest against the PQ’s proposed charter began from the same spot in downtown Montreal, and had a similar raucous, pot-banging atmosphere, of the student protests of yore—minus the mass arrests and tear-gas crescendos.

Mathieu Gionet, 20, marched in the student protests in 2012, and found himself on the same streets with the same fury just over a year later. “The position of the PQ is practically xenophobic,” said the university student, the red square emblem of the student protest pinned to his chest. “I’m an inclusive indépendantiste, and taking to the street is the most beautiful way to show how we feel.”

For Will Prosper, the values debate wrought by the PQ smacks of a “Stephen Harper-style wedge politics.” Born to a Haitian father and a Québécoise mother, Prosper is a community organizer, former RCMP officer and proud indépendantiste who once ran for the sovereignist Québec Solidaire party. Like many prominent sovereignists, former Bloquiste Maria Mourani included, Prosper says focusing on religious and cultural minorities will only hurt the sovereignist movement in the long run.

“With this charter, the Péquiste government only accentuates the perception among immigrants that if Quebec ever attains its independence, there will be two types of citizens: Marois’s ‘Nous’, and the others who may have different colour skin, differently shaped eyes, or who wear a headscarf, a kippah or a turban,” he said. “We need to find a way to open the off-island regions to Montreal’s reality and reverse the perception that the city is a debaucherous hellhole filled with immigrant barbarians who attend public stonings on Saturday nights.”

Bernard Landry, the former premier, remembers being in the room where then-premier Jacques Parizeau gave his notorious speech blaming “money and ethnic votes” for the narrow loss of the 1995 referendum. Parizeau’s words, preceded as they were by his numerous references to the ethnocentric Nous, changed the tone in the room, Landry said. “I was surrounded by neo-Québécois people who weren’t born in the province, and who supported independence. They had tears in their eyes after Parizeau’s speech. They were completely shaken by his words.”

Yet he sees the PQ’s charter as a necessary step to integrate immigrants into Quebec society. “Immigrants themselves are the first victims of non-integration,” Landry said. The unemployment rate of recent immigrants is more than double the rate of Canadian-born Quebecers and, at 11.9 per cent, the highest of any province, according to Statistics Canada figures.

Landry says the charter is also necessary to curb the apparently increasing number of “unreasonable accommodations” afforded to religious minorities—though he is frustratingly vague on specific cases of deferring to the religious convictions of immigrants.

Landry says he heard of cases in which civil servants with Transport Québec refused to take a driver’s test because the instructor was of the opposite sex. (A Transport Québec spokesperson said there is no record of any such incident; Audrey Chaput of the province’s motor vehicles department says “there are less than five” religious accommodations made by the department every year.)

He also cites the case of a Hasidic Jewish male refusing to interact with a female Montreal police officer—though no such incident was ever reported. Rather, an internal Montreal police newsletter published guidelines in 2006 recommending women police officers defer to their male colleagues when dealing with Hasidic men. “There’s no record of any such incident between a Hasidic Jewish man and a female police officer,” a Montreal police spokesperson told Maclean’s.

In any event, Landry said, the PQ doesn’t necessarily need “ethnic votes” to win an eventual referendum, should one ever occur. All that needs to happen is for old-stock Québécois to vote en masse for Quebec separation. “Montreal is important and winning with diversity is fantastic. But winning is winning, and that’s great too,” said the former premier.

To be fair, the often-ugly debate over the place of religion and immigrants in Western society is hardly unique to Quebec. A recent Angus-Reid poll suggested 44 per cent of Albertans and 40 per cent of Ontarians support measures similar to the PQ’s values charter. Something else worth remembering: Ontario, home to the country’s largest number of immigrants, also has the second-highest provincial rate of reported hate crimes in the country, according to Statistics Canada. With 2.2 incidences per 100,000 people, Quebec has by far the lowest rate of reported hate crimes among the four provinces—Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta—that welcome the lion’s share of immigrants to Canada.

Still, there’s no question, as shown by the recent protest and outraged comments from religious leaders, that immigrants in Quebec are suddenly wary of state efforts to target their values and beliefs.

But while the charter, introduced as a well-placed media leak less than a month ago, galvanized the PQ’s support and had surprising resonance beyond the party’s traditional base, that support appears to be softening. The batch of Léger Marketing polls bookending the charter’s initial release in the media and the subsequent fallout tell an interesting story. For whatever reason—prevailing cooler heads, perhaps, or just simple issue fatigue—support for the charter in Quebec nosedived by 14 percentage points over a three-week span. The Parti Québécois has apparently taken note, and has already begun backtracking. “We will listen and then see how we can improve the proposed charter,” said PQ minister Jean-François Lisée on Tuesday. “Ms. Marois always tells us that we must be firm on the objectives but soft on the means.”

Such a compromise seems inevitable. If Imam Abbas and Rabbi Poupko—not to mention the several thousand people in the streets—are any indication, Quebec’s religious minorities won’t likely part with their conspicuous religious symbols any time soon.

“The only dignified thing to do in the face of this is to wear an even bigger yarmulke. Ladies, get a big, garish Magen David”—the Star of David—“and wear it wherever you go,” said Poupko. His flock chuckled, more determined than ever.


Quebec’s war on religion

  1. “Bernard Landry, the former premier, remembers being in the room where then-premier Jacques Parizeau gave his notorious speech blaming “money and ethnic votes” for the narrow loss of the 1995 referendum. Parizeau’s words, preceded as they were by his numerous references to the ethnocentric Nous, changed the tone in the room, Landry said. “I was surrounded by neo-Québécois people who weren’t born in the province, and who supported independence. They had tears in their eyes after Parizeau’s speech. They were completely shaken by his words.”

    So what did he proceed to do? He berated a hotel clerk of Mexican origin, blaming immigrants for the referendum loss.

    • Just like it was yesterday with your comment. Je me souviens! Ha! Ha! What a fraud Parizeau was! Remember when he mustered his best educated old boy UK English to bid Rene Levesque good-bye? “Good-bye Old Chum!”. What a moron.

  2. Meanwhile, we don’t talk about these things in the ROC. I am an Ontarian. In my province, according to the Toronto Star and the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario, there have been more than 210 forced marriages these last three years. The majority of the victims were muslims, but there were also victims from the Hindu et Sikh communities. There are likely a lot more than that, as the legal clinic only keeps data on those who have filed complaints.
    Most victims were between 16 and 34 years old, coming from different countries; 97 % were women; 44 % were Canadian citizens; 41 % were permanent residents.
    Sixty-eight percent of the victims had been threatened; 59 % had been the victims of physical violence; 26 % of sexual violence.
    We will ignore these cases because we prefer to talk about Quebec because the French, as we all know, are intolerant. We’re English-speaking therefore we’re tolerant – of a lot of things, don’t you think?

    • Lorraine, are you suggesting that not allowing people to wear religious symbols in public will stop forced marriages from occurring behind closed doors in these communities? Are you also suggesting that the forced marriages are occurring everywhere in Canada but Quebec? Further, I would like to know what the statistics are for forced marriages among the highly educated immigrant Muslim, Sikh and Hindi because that is who Marois is targeting right now…physicians, nurses and teachers, not to mention judges, etc. Do you have statistics for whether those individuals are participating in forced marriages? Should we punish all religious people because some ignorant people are behaving badly? This has been the mentality of those who rallied against having a mosque near the site of the twin towers in NYC even though it is a fact that most Muslims are peaceful people who do not participate violence or forced marriages and female circumcision.

      • All I wrote is that we don’t talk about these things. We don’t talk about our values. Forced marriage is not something we’re accustomed to in Canada. We usually associate being forced into marriage to pregnancy. I don’t know if the state should go as far as making forced marriage a crime but it’s something we should talk about and recognize the dangers of the practice in our society. We educate children in a pluralistic setting; they may grow up not sharing their parents’ liking for forced marriage which may lead to conflict and violence against young Canadians.
        I am not a statistician so I can’t provide you with all those stats you’re asking for but if we don’t talk about these things it is very unlikely that we’re going to compile statistics on them. We close our eyes and are content to know that it is not happening to us.

        • I have seen TV news reports and documentaries on the subject. It is not a universal practice in any community. As healthcareinsider says, it is some people behaving badly. I wouldn’t worry about forced marriage becoming commonplace in Canada.

          • Most bad behaviours are not universal practice or commonplace.

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      • Not in public. Only if you represent the state at work. Inform you !

        • Really? Is that why the government is suggesting the private sector adopt their values charter?

    • It seems to me that if you want to stop forced marriages, then you would ban forced marriages. You wouldn’t tell people what clothes they’re allowed to wear.

      • I make no relationship between clothing and forced marriages. All I’m saying is that in Ontario we don’t talk about issues related to behaviour of immigrants because we feel they don’t concern Ontarians at large but the immigrant community itself. Joe Clark used to define Canada as a community of communities, with common goals of freedom and security. Forced marriages has no more to do with freedom than banning religious clothing, yet we silently accept it.

      • forced marriages are banned in Canada. they just take the poor girl back to the old country and marry her off there.

  3. Marois knows how to rattle English cages….and we let her.

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    • Who is this “we” Emily.
      You and Trotsky? You and Lenin? Or is it just you and Justine?

      • Con deliberate stupidity on ‘we’ is boring. Stop it.


        [1. nominative plural of I.

        2. (used to denote oneself and another or others): We have two children. In this block we all own our own houses.

        3. (used to denote people in general): the marvels of science that we take for granted.

        4. (used to indicate a particular profession, nationality, political party, etc., that includes the speaker or writer): We in the medical profession have moral responsibilities.

        5. Also called the royal we. (used by a sovereign, or by other
        high officials and dignitaries, in place of I in formal speech): We do not wear this crown without humility.

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          • why must you continually claim people who disagree with you are communists? is it because you are of the “I’m a man and that makes me the boss” ilk?

  4. ”Yet he sees the PQ’s charter as a necessary step to integrate immigrants
    into Quebec society. “Immigrants themselves are the first victims of
    non-integration,” Landry said. The unemployment rate of recent
    immigrants is more than double the rate of Canadian-born Quebecers and,
    at 11.9 per cent, the highest of any province, according to Statistics
    Canada figures.”

    So Bernie’s solution to high unemployment amongst immigrants is to fire the ones who wear religious symbols ?? Proving yet again Robert Bourassa’s take on him : ” Bernard Landry, toujours brillant, parfois intelligent”

    • If employers know that the future employee don’t have the right to ask a ‘reasonable accommodation”, he will engage him. Now, the employer are afraid and don’t engage him. The chart give lines to shape.

      The state have to have appearance of neutrality. People have the right to be serve by neutral state (no religious or political signs)

  5. Its always funny to read the Macleans as someone from Quebec, sometime
    what you say is so much stupid i can’t believe that kind of news exist, The Journal of Montréal which is one worst journal in Montréal look like a Nietzsche philosophy book compare to the Maclean ahahah

    • Tellement raison! Je suis abasourdi en ce moment par l’idiotie crasse de ce que je lis. Mais ce qui me dégoutte le plus c’est définitivement la section commentaire.

      • Ouais, presque dégouttant que des commentaires qu’on peut trouver envers des immigrants au JdM dans les articles concernant la charte.

        • I wish the English would mind there dam bis this is a qc affaires

          • Je demeure a Montreal, merci.

  6. We can debate and analyse as much as we want, and give all the reasons why the PQ should not do what it is doing, these people will remain unmoved – the only reason a government is not swayed in its stand on an issue is when it is confident it is getting the support of the majority! No use blaming this government which has always hated cultural minorities, we should blame the majority of french quebecers who are supporting this offensive charter. If they were better educated they would have been more open. Let also the muslims understand now how non-muslims feel when living or just visiting middle east countries.Intolerance is a mark of all extremist bigots whether it was Hitler or the muslim despots and the PQ!

  7. We need to keep firmly in mind the point MacLeans makes, that there is actually quite strong support for measures “similar to PQ’s values charter.” About 40% in Ontario, for example, support such measures. Let’s not presume that somehow Quebec is “bad” and everyone else is “good”. Also, what often seems to get lost in all of the hoopla is the issue about religion itself. If religion and the accompanying religious-based hatred for anyone associated with other religions didn’t exist, none of this would matter. As Christopher Hitchens put it (appropriately): religion poisons everything.

    • Absolutely true that there’s healthy support for such measures in RoC. I wish all the commentators (outside and inside Quebec) would stop framing this as a Quebec peculiarity and instead recognize that this is abhorrent regardless of who was proposing it or in what jurisdiction.

      Lets not forget how the ADQ rose to become Quebec’s official opposition on a wave of similar anti-immigrant hysteria, and they were seen as close buddies of the federal conservatives.

      What makes this worse is that this whole debate in Quebec bears all the appearance of being nothing more than a cynical ploy to show the PQ’s ownership of identity issues while relegating their inept handling of more important concerns to the backburner, in the hopes of calling an election to try gain a majority and ultimately work in earnest toward their true goal.

  8. “In any event, Landry said, the PQ doesn’t necessarily need “ethnic
    votes” to win an eventual referendum, should one ever occur. All that
    needs to happen is for old-stock Québécois to vote en masse for Quebec
    separation. “Montreal is important and winning with diversity is
    fantastic. But winning is winning, and that’s great too,” said the
    former premier.”

    Bourassa was right about this guy, he’s isn’t very intelligent or wise.
    That’s a recipe, in the worst case, for the partition of QC.

    A word of caution on those lower incident stats favouring QC. Since most immigrants live on the island of Montreal and not in the Francophone hinterlands it stands to reason there might well be fewer incidents then in the RoC – not that integration is perfect elsewhere either. It seems to me one way we might have avoided some of the present day problems over integration and accomodation is to have found a way to encourage more immigrants to settle in smaller remote communities. Sadly that ship may have largely sailed in QC. Of course you need the prospect of jobs to bring this about – probably not easy in rural QC.
    One of the reasons this is less of an issue in parts of the RoC is that there are jobs, and people are coming, people of all backgrounds and ethnicity. You take a stroll down the streets of downtown Yellowknife these days and you will immediately notice a marked increase in the diversity of the population. In the crudest of terms i can’t recall noting a black face there say 10/15/20 years ago. Although there was of course always a diverse asian community and a large FNs one.

    • Maybe not 20 years ago, but certainly fifteen. I taught at the public high school and was astonished at the diversity of our school community; this was also the case for the catholic high school. Now living in a more white bread part of Canada and truly missing the tolerance of the north.

      • The north wasn’t all that tolerant if you go back not too far – certainly not if you were native.

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  10. I have just come across the official PQ propaganda tract directed to the Quebec population. It comes in the form of a black-and-white flyer.

    Of note is that all resonable accommodations for religious diversity will be bound by a central set of “rules,” set by the PQ, no matter where they occur, either in employment, schools, colleges, or in a muncipality. Whatever is “outside” those bounds is illegal. This means, for example, that if a female teacher volunteered to help a moslem female student in some extracurricular activity, because the student could not be served by male staff, that would illegal. The female student would be deprived of the activity unless she violated her religious obligations.

    The above will be enshrined in the Quebec Charter of Rights.

    It also means that a xenophobic student or parent could lay charges against the female teacher and against the board.
    Now is the time to speak out.

    • Well that’s the issue, isn’t it? “Reasonable people” can differ on what “reasonable accommodation means. Re

  11. This is religion’s war on Quebec, not the other way around. The public sector of a secular country shouldn’t have to cede to religious demands. Would a company receive the same outcry if it disallowed conspicuous religious garb for its public-facing workforce?

    • I suspect it would.

      What difference does it make to you what someone wears on their head while they are saving your life in the Emergency Room?

      My entire life I have encountered people who wear crosses on a chain around their neck. It has not corrupted me in the slightest.

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        • No one is wearing a niqab but you might want to re-think the turban because if the ER’s where you live are anything like in Alberta, you cannot be picking and choosing who sees you if you expect to be seen in a timely manner. As for your ridiculous suggestion about people who wear turbans not washing them, they are actually a long piece of cloth that is wound around the hair, which is also clean.
          You are at much higher risk from the stethoscope or the doctor’s ‘white coats” or ties. In Britain, they don’t allow any long sleeves. They do however, accommodate the different religions as long as they push up they sleeves to their elbows and wash according to asceptic technique.
          Bacteria only thrives when you don’t wash the items you wear. Nurses hats could not be washed.

          • nurses’ caps could be washed they were often done so and then starched stiff. and sorry, but do you really want some doctor in the er who has just treated a patient with viral pneumonia in a turban or niqab sewing up your wound. I know I don’t and welcome to Canada where the doctor is often in jeans and t shirt or scrubs in the er.

          • Judy, the nurses weren’t washing their caps and starching every shift.
            Further, viral pneumonia is spread through droplets…coughing sneezing, etc. Also sneezing into your hand and touching a door-knob. What you are likely thinking of is bacterial pneumonia which could be transferred via a solid surface like a stethoscope.
            Now, how would I feel about a Sikh doctor wearing a turban wanting to sew up my wound? How do you feel about a doctor wearing a surgical cap sewing up your wound? Do you know that the staff in the ER are provided with ONE clean pair of surgical scrubs are the start of the shift? They are not changing clothes between patients so they are coming to you after they have cared for patients with all kinds of infectious illnesses. Why? Because they are not rubbing their clothing surfaces up against the wounds and then rubbing against you, the next patient.
            Judy, I would suggest that you look to real scientific research as to how nosocomial (hospital borne) infections are spread by hospital staff. You will find that BY FAR the most common offense is a lack of hand washing. You will also find problems with clothing that isn’t washed daily and does make contact with patients (lab jackets/ties) and even long-sleeved shirts which can come into contact with one patient’s wound and then infect another patients. If you find research supporting your claim that turbans and surgical caps are spreading infection, definitely provide the source as we are always concerned about decreasing the number of infections.

    • A few months ago, a private employer on the Montreal South Shore tried to prevent anglophone employees from speaking to one another in English. There was an outcry, not only from English speakers but from French speakers as well, recognizing the fundamental injustice.

      Perhaps there would be an outcry as well if a muslim checkout clerk was asked not to wear her hijab, perhaps not. But I suspect most people would not care if she wore one.

      • Hey- don’t forget the English pet-store parrot** that was ordered sent to a PQ re-education camp for wayward oiseaux.

        I’m actually thinking of making my dog wear a hijab. This should effectively upset TWO sets of believers…

        ** Yeah,yeah… I know- it’s an apocryphal story.

        • no the parrot story was not apocryphal, it was out-and-out satire.

          • Satire? Not when it has more that 2000 people SIGNING THE PETITION! By the laws of the internet, this makes it a true story!

            I signed it! Why don’t you??

  12. It’s really amazing what a few thousand years of dedicated brainwashing can do! I wanted to add a comment here re the benefits of keeping your religious allegiances personal and private (where they belong), but then I reflected on how many times it has been proven to me that all logical thought processes stop at the door of “religion”.
    God save us from the pious!!

    • Why do they have to be private? What next? I cannot wear an Edmonton Oilers shirt because that is a personal choice and I should not be foisting my love for my team on someone else?

      • An Oilers shirt? obviously. That and Leafs jerseys, surely a sign of poor judgement! (Go Habs Go)

        • Maybe it was poor judgment the last 7 years, but this year we are coming back! :)

    • Quite a closing statement!

  13. “A poll by Forum Research also showed a divide between Quebec and the rest of the country, but not to the extent some had perhaps expected. Overall, Forum found that 42 per cent of Canadians approved of the PQ’s plan (including 58 per cent of Quebecers, very similar to Léger’s findings), while 47 per cent disapproved. A majority of Canadians disapproved of it in every region outside of Quebec, except Alberta. But a significant minority were not put off by the plan either, with approval ranging from 35 to 40 per cent depending on the region, and disapproval never being higher than 56 per cent.”
    The above is from a Huffington article. There is another place where I read that 49% of the supporters of the Conservative Party would support the Quebec charter and in fact in the most Conservative province of Alberta the majority support it.
    If something like this were put to a vote by referendum in Canada we may have a big surprise of the result.

    • I bet the numbers would be a lot higher on the get rid of religious items if it was directed at ‘no face coverings’ in public only. We should not be naval-gazing on this issue. Look to London, UK, for insight on how crazy Muslim tolerance can be with Sharia only zones. McGuinty tried floating Sharia law a few years ago

    • Yuri, I am from Alberta and I can tell you that there are any number of Albertans that would be delighted to do many things. The first thing would be do get rid of bilingualism in our country. Most do not speak French and find it annoying to enter a grocery store and find an item with the “French side” facing outward. Of course a good number might agree with the government of Quebec. It doesn’t matter because the government of Alberta is never going to pluck this low-hanging fruit and harvest it for votes. In other words, it doesn’t matter, in Alberta, the government won’t be oppressing anybody.

      • “…find it annoying to enter a grocery store and find an item with the “French side” facing outward…”
        Why does this annoy you so much?
        Think of it as a trip to an ethnic grocery store. But then, you would probably even never step inside such a culturally alarming den anyhow, would you?
        What is it like to see your whole private world collapsing all around you?

        • Claude, I think you misunderstood my comment. I did not say that I was one of the Albertans who was bothered by the French writing on products. Rather, I was using the fact that many are bothered by insignificant differences in culture to point out that no matter how popular bigotry is among the public at large, no government should be using it to get votes let alone instituting laws that oppress the freedom of expression among ethnic groups that pander to people’s bigotry. If you got something different from my comment, Claude, then perhaps you might want to re-read it.

      • wrong! Try getting non medical help when caring for an elderly parent! Alberta oppresses the elderly.

  14. This is the logical outcome of allowing Quebec to become a narcisstic state hung up on its own “identity” (whatever that is…) Does it surprise anyone really that now they’d like to force conformity on everyone else?

  15. I don’t have a problem with head dress, but face covering is definitely out. We are a bare faced society. The vast majority of Canadians, and Americans greet with their faces revealed. Canada doesn’t live in the Crusade era. But, the line has been stepped over. As to Pauline Marois and the PQ, this is a frustrated, barely hidden, racist party, looking to rally the ethnic pure Francophones for another separation vote. When it is convenient, Quebec is part of Canada, not when it isn’t. It will be interesting to see if a court challenge will put Quebec in line or show the rise of the PQ Nazis.

    • being anti religion is NOT racist

      • Of course not since religions and “race” (as problematic as the term is) are not coextensive. But it is bigotry!

        • but you too state bigoted arguments when you say take off the face scarf, according to muslims. where do we stop? many muslims want ALL women covered, not just muslim women. do we bend to that as well or do we insist that everybody be equal, no special privileges for the religious conservatives? why must we be forced to give into the demands of the religious few?

          • My god, talk about missing the point. It’s not at all bigotry to argue that in some circumstances (such as getting a driver’s license, testifying in court) that women who wear a full face covering should be compelled to show their face since basic public interest is threatened if not. However, there is no such danger with some women choosing to wear a head scarf or with the beards of orthodox Jewish men or Muslim men. Therefore, there is no “bending” going on, no one is being forced to give in to any demands of the religious, nor do religious conservatives have any special privileges. You’re imagining things.

          • have you seen Indonesia, Tahiti or much of Africa lately? 20 years ago, not a hijab in sight, now women are beat for not covering their faces, muslim or not

    • So should I shave my beard off?

  16. “Civilization will not attain perfection until the last stone from the last church falls on the last priest.”
    Emile Zola

    • FYI Christianity ushered 21st century secular society as we know it now

  17. While it is a Good Thing to promote religious freedom, if your religion prohibits you from doing normal things, then you just have to not do those things.

    For example, a driver’s licence or passport need to show your face entirely, and anyone checking your ID needs to see your face as well.

    If your religion demands you wear a full beard, you just don’t get to work in a gas plant, since the face mask of the respirator protecting you from H2S won’t seal.

    If you don’t want to show your face to the attendants at the airport gate or security table, you don’t get to fly.

    If you insist on wearing a turban for a hard hat job, it’s up to you to find and buy one that meets CSA standards, and not up to your employer to find one for you.

    If your religion insists you wear dangly jewelry, don’t work on a lathe or other mechanical equipment that can grab your decorations and pull you into the machinery.

    • You are absolutely right, GlnnMhor but in the “values charter”, the Quebec government is not interested in the ability of the people they are oppressing to do the job. There is no reason why a person wearing a covering their head cannot provide medical care. As a matter of fact, physicians wear surgical caps all of the time. What they are saying in Quebec is that people wearing head coverings that suggest a certain religious affiliation are banned from wearing their head covering but for everyone else, the head covering is a necessity of the job.

      • Yes, I am aware of the excesses of their supposed ‘charter’.

        But we ought not to go too far the other way, thinking that freedom of religion involves freedom to demand that everyone else make adaptations to various different religions.

        • I hadn’t heard that demands were being made that “everyone’ adapt to various different religions. In fact, the government of Quebec had already outlawed the wearing of facial coverings in public buildings by any citizens so there wasn’t really any danger that things were going to go “too far the other way.”

          • It isn`t just about face coverings

      • yes there is a reason…I do not wear my religion and I do not feel comfortable with people who distinguish themselves from others

        • So you are okay with a doctor “distinguishing themselves from others” by wearing surgical scrubs and a surgical hat, just so long as the distinguishing items aren’t of a religious nature?

          • do not compare a professional attire from a religion identity costume, not the same

  18. Montreal may yet become like Sarajevo- a sophisticated city full of diverse cultures, but surrounded by the pure laine Serbs, who will soon perhaps be training their sniper rifles and mortars on this mongrelized city in their midst.
    Maybe we can cobble a Royal Commission together and send them to Sarajevo to see how they dealt with this vexing problem.

    Hint: Do NOT send in Dutch UN peacekeepers. Slobodan Marois may object.

  19. I completely agree with the government! Religion has no place outside of church or your heart. I would not give a rats if I was asked to remove my cross at work. I know who I am, I don’t need a symbol to prove it.

  20. I wonder how the government of Quebec is going to handle the wearing of wedding rings. These, according to all I can find, are symbols based on the wearers religion (generally christian or jewish) as not all religions offer/use wedding bands. If the charter is passed a valid argument could be made that ALL public servants in Quebec must not wear wedding rings as these are symbolic of their religious belief and affiliation.

    • Very true and the wedding rings certainly aren’t hidden.

      • If any of you actually bothered to read what the Quebec government proposed, you would see that this is a topic already adressed. With pretty drawings!

  21. We finally got religious symbols out of government buildings. The clearly pushed religion down our throats. Now, individual civil servants that we must deal with face to face are demanding they be allowed to continue to push their personal religions front and centre.
    This is an affront to freedom from religion and we the public are a captive audience.

    • So wearing a T-shirt with any message should also be banned because many of them offend me and some even promotes drugs!!! When I wear my cross outside my shirt, it is to show that I am proud to adopt christian beliefs and therefore should be a model of such values and beliefs. People just have to get off this War on Religions… You are becoming puppets of the government…

      • seriously? proud of christian values and beliefs? did you sell your daughter for a couple cows? have you stoned a whore lately? have you worn 2 different types of fibers? did you burn a female doctor for being a witch? have you done anything but pray on Sunday. Those are christian values and beliefs. NOT the one you claim are christian values, THOSE are secular

        • Those are values from the dark ages and before. This is the 21st century.

          • nope, those are the values espoused in the bible. really, if you want to pick and choose which rules you follow, why even call yourself christian, since you are just using at as an excuse to bully others into doing what you want.

    • Maybe you haven’t heard but the government of Quebec has no plans to take the big Catholic religious symbol…a crucifix…out of their national assembly. This is part of why this values charter is such hypocrisy. Citizens can’t wear religious symbols to work but the government has them on display in their buildings.

  22. If we can allow hate or pro drug slogans on T-shirts, we should leave Freedom of expression alone with religious beliefs. I hate drugs and find such attire deplorable, I would not condemn them… It gives us a clip of the person`s identity and they should be free to do so… This is quite simply a War on Religions – religious beliefs. My ancestors are orginally from Québec but I guess this past summer`s trip there will be my last if such Charter is adopted. It should universally be treated as an attack on Canada`s Charter of Rights and Freedom – check Section 2…

  23. I think the Quebec Charter should forbid Scotsmen from wearing kilts.

    • Only on windy days, so as not to frighten the children.

      • Those bagpipes could bring on a lot of civil unrest if not controlled.

  24. The charter is not anti-religion – it is secular. That is, keeping religion and state separate. That is how great countries keep the peace and equal rights for all. If I deal with a public employee, I don’t want them telling me by their dress or ornaments that they support a particular religion. The only problem with Quebec’s charter is that it does not go far enough. Crucifixes and other Christian emblems should also be kept away from their job. We accept that people in Government should not promote a particular political party, why is religion different?

  25. Every job has a dress code.

  26. Marois mentions all these religious groups but what about their biggest Cult in Quebec – the Catholics, and their nuns wear head coverings too. They would never change their Habit (pun intended!)

    • silly….nuns don’t work for or represent government

  27. Always the hammer on the head…never slow and easy. Marois could have just asked for schools to be non-religious. She should balance immigration as well.

  28. good on u marois get er done before its too late 70 Catholics killed in Pakistan 69 in kenya

  29. the swiss just banned the full face hijab qc next

  30. On August 4, 2013, Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, addressed the

    Duma, (Russian Parliament), and gave a speech about the tensions with

    minorities in Russia:

    “In Russia live like Russians. Any minority, from anywhere, if it wants

    live in Russia, to work and eat in Russia, should speak Russian, and

    should respect the Russian laws. If they prefer Sharia Law, and live

    the life of Muslims then we advise them to go to those places where

    that’s the state law.

    Russia does not need Muslim minorities. Minorities need Russia, and we will

    not grant them special privileges, or try to change our laws to fit

    their desires, no matter how loud they yell ‘discrimination’.

    We will not tolerate disrespect of our Russian culture. We better learn

    from the suicides of America, England, Holland and France, if we are to

    survive as a nation.

    The Muslims are taking over those countries and they will not take over

    The Russian customs and traditions are not compatible with the lack of
    culture or the primitive ways of Sharia Law and Muslims.

    When this honorable legislative body thinks of creating new laws, it should
    have in mind the Russian national interest first, observing that the Muslim
    Minorities Are Not Russians.”

    The politicians in the Duma gave Putin a five minute standing

  31. Not enough examples, anecdotes, and experiences are provided by either side of this debate. Without these real-life practical applications, the pro-charter side comes off sounding like a bunch of racists, and the “no” side comes off sounding like a bunch of thoughtful, pure, tolerant freedom fighters. I can’t speak on the issue of “religious accommodations”, but I have some concerns about the culture that has created the need for the hijab.
    The hijab is not merely a “scarf” that some women from another culture wear on their heads. The hijab is all about sexual modesty between men and women, and places the responsibility for this squarely on the head and shoulders of the woman. Islam doesn’t actually require that a woman be completely covered-up, so this is really a cultural interpretation. In the hijab-requiring culture, it is implied that if a woman does not wear it, she is eliciting the sexual arousal of men and any harm that comes to her is her own fault. This UNDERMINES women’s rights in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms and every further accommodation or tolerance of the hijab is a step backwards for women’s rights of freedom from sexual assault and oppression.
    Recently in the news, a woman in an exercise class required all the windows to be covered so that men outside could not see her without her hijab. Also, a man refused to accept a woman driving instructor because she was not wearing a hijab.
    A divorced friend of mine recently arrived at a London airport with her fourteen year old daughter for a one-week get-away. The customs official was a hijab-wearing woman. She questioned whether the girl was really her daughter because they had different last names (not uncommon in the western culture). The customs official then inquired further into where the father was, and why my friend was no longer married to him! My friend said that this went on for quite some time, and she felt violated and uncomfortable. She said it was as if her values and life decisions were being dissected and the answers she provided would make the difference of whether or not she would be permitted to enter the UK. By the way, my friend is a VERY bohemian and multi-culturally experienced woman. She is not pushy or “rights”-oriented. She is your typical apologetic Canadian. I wonder if the customs official would have behaved differently had she not been permitted to wear the hijab on the job.
    Canadians who think that discussions/ dialogue on the role of non-western cultures in Canada are important should not be rashly labelled “racist” by the ignorant “head-in-the-sand” Mouseketeers of Canada. How can you have a nation, with a culture that tolerates another culture, which in turn doesn’t tolerate the original culture? It is great to have ethnic diversity and to celebrate our different cultural backgrounds, but these should stay in the “background”. Our “foreground” is Western and I believe that open discussions on this issue are long overdue.

  32. so is Marois hateful of all religions ?? or is the issue here security concerning full face covering. That is a legitimate concern. So why does she not deal with that issue? does she fear for her life – political and natural? what do the police do when they stop someone they cannot identify? What do the polling station people do at election time when they cannot identify people ? What does airport security do when there is no ability to match picture id ( if there is a picture) and the person. what do Muslims wearing full face covering do to get a passport? Let Canada operate at a more civilized level.

  33. The
    Québec Charter brings up a vast amount of controversy. From our basic rights
    and freedoms to the examples of other countries, how will this affect society
    and how will it change it?

    The “Quebec Charter of Values” will propose the banning “conspicuous” religious
    object from being worn in public, if you work as public jobs; for/ in the
    government, hospitals, teachers and government funded day cares etc. The Parti
    de Québécois hopes that this will minimize culture tension and lead their
    government to be a secularist. They
    believe that this will benefit society for the better, but will it?

    Secularism is the term used to describe a certain view of religion and society “The first
    is strict separation of state from religious institutions. The second is that
    people of different religions are separate before the law,” states the National
    Secular on their About Us page.

    In theory this could be believed to make sense. For the most part I do agree that
    people should be equal before the law, but does this not then go against the
    Charter of Values proposed by Pauline Marois?

    People cannot be equal if different groups of people are persecuted for their beliefs
    if others are not. It cannot there for represent equality!

    If people cannot express themselves will that benefit society?

    • I agree with you a lot. Government and religion should be separate. Through out history when a society tries to merge it’s faith or some of the people’s faith into the government, it fails miserably with miserable consequences. Take for example the Crusaders, Sharia law . However I agree that people should have a right to believe in their own faith, and be able to express themselves. If humans did not have the ability to express what we thought , or what we did then e would still be stuck in the middle ages. The renaissance was a time full of re evaluation of the human mind. And yes much of it was expressed through religion, too.

      • Yes! Exactly!

    • Let`s get this straight….nobody gets persecuted for their beliefs here, that only happens in other certain parts of the world, and we know where and who!. Asking them not to wear overt religious dress in public institutions is not persecution, is not discrimination nor is prohibition of religious belief.
      Those who persecute others are often the ones who cry fowl.

  34. Unfortunately, it seems a lot of people do not understand the underlying political aspect of a certain religions, these people do not intend to integrate and have a profound disrespect for democracy, with a manipulative goal of someday acquiring special political status, ie. special accommodations in public places, such as schools, hospitals, special laws and exemptions, in fact they`re already causing trouble. Religious dress can be like an identity card. What is wrong with you people who don`t see this. Since our crucifixes have been removed from our schools and we no longer have religious class so not to offend them, then they should not wear their religion In schools or public service either. This charter is a good start to defending our fundamental values of equality and neutrality for all in a pluralistic society from those who wish to destroy it. It does not prohibit anyone from practising religion.

  35. The main problem with the Canadian government is that they are too afraid to come off as racist. Look at what it has done to the country. Hundred of “Honour Killings” that go under the radar because it looks “discriminatory” to place them on the polls, young girls being force to marry men they don’t love, and punished for loving someone outside your religion. It’s sickening to see in the streets all these people promoting such over-the-top religions with their garments.

    Now they are playing the victims when they don’t accept other cultures or lifestyles. Who is the racist here?

    It’s fine is you want to bring your culture here, but at the end of the day you have to remember: This country gave you the freedom your country didn’t, respect it and adopt its culture.

  36. The War against Religion will take much effort to win. The Quebec Government is on the right track, but must extend the effort to encompass all religions. There has been great strides over the last 50 years. The next 100 or so will be decisive. When religions follow the route of slavery all will be well.