Why it’s possible to imagine a Marois majority

Paul Wells tries to explain Quebec’s love for the charter of values


Quebec Premier Pauline Marois (Jacques Boissinot/CP)

More accountability for pundits! In September, Quebec’s Parti Québécois government revealed details of its proposed “charter of Quebec values,” which aims to forbid civil servants in the province from wearing prominent religious symbols, such as head scarves and kippahs. Surely, I wrote, nobody would put up with such nonsense. “It’s make-or-break for the entire sovereignty movement,” I wrote, “and I’m pretty sure [the PQ architects of the proposed charter] just broke it.”

Yeah, well, that was wrong. A Jan. 20 Léger poll for QMI found the PQ with a three-point lead over the Opposition Quebec Liberals. The lead grows to 18 points among francophones, who determine the winner in most Quebec ridings. Satisfaction with the government of Premier Pauline Marois, which hasn’t done much that most people would notice besides talk up its headscarf ban, has risen five points in a month. Support for the ban has risen to 60 per cent among all respondents, which breaks down to 69 per cent among francophones and 26 per cent among non-francophones.

It’s possible to imagine Marois winning a majority on the strength of the headscarf ban, and increasingly likely she’ll try her luck by calling an election within weeks.

I still disagree with the whole notion of treating religious conviction as something ugly that should be hidden away. I think the Quebec charter is profoundly misguided. But I also like Quebecers and I note that many of them disagree with me, in growing numbers. What’s going on? A few things, I think.

A secular imperative. I have friends who disagree with the PQ on just about everything—but who applaud the notion that it should be impossible to tell a person’s religion by looking at him or her. These people tend to be atheists who view religion as inevitably backward and retrograde. They tend to keep books by Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins on the nightstand. They’d sooner everyone got over religion altogether. In the meantime they don’t want to have to look at evidence of religion.

As the Université de Montréal sociologist Marie McAndrew has pointed out, these attitudes exist everywhere, but they’re particularly common in culturally Catholic societies where there’s often widespread memory of, and a generation-old backlash against, the establishment of a state religion. Or to put it another way: the last time women in veils were a frequent sight in Quebec, they were nuns and the Quiet Revolution hadn’t begun yet. In such places, it’s arguably harder to ignore displays of faith.

The suggestive power of government. Canadians, including Quebecers, tend to trust and listen to their governments. Governments can lead opinion, and often do. I know all this sounds crazy. And the people least likely to notice the willingness of the public to be led are those who consider themselves full-time opponents of any given party in power. But it’s one reason why highly ideological politicians seek power: not for its own sake, but because it gives leaders the hope of being followed.

Islamic fundamentalism. Does anybody believe the PQ would be on this—what’s the word?— this crusade today, if 9/11 had never happened? Is anyone surprised that so many witnesses at public consultations on the PQ charter focus exclusively on Islam that government officials are left pleading with witnesses to mention other religions at least once in a while?

There’s a lot of tension around the role of Islam in Western societies. This magazine used to serve up a helping of it every week, under Mark Steyn’s signature. The notion that we can win a clash of civilizations by asking a licence-bureau clerk to show her ears makes no sense, but a lot of people are in no mood to make sense on these questions. They cannot tell which, among a lot of different people, are the ones who wish their neighbours ill, so they wish people would stop being different. Or at least that they would stop looking different.

The moral collapse of the Quebec Liberal Party. These days you can’t find the Liberals’ new leader, Philippe Couillard, with a dog and a flashlight. I wish this were more of a surprise. The notion that diversity is a strength and that there are different ways of being Québécois is on trial. That notion has animated the Quebec Liberal Party, on its better days, for more than a century. But the Liberals decided 40 years ago that there’s room for only one party with any convictions in Quebec, and that’s the PQ. Couillard represents the third consecutive case— after Daniel Johnson and Jean Charest— where the party chose the most viscerally federalist leadership candidate on offer, then surrounded him with advisers who systematically advise him not to say what he believes. The results are predictable. The PQ sets the debate’s terms, the Liberals hide under the coffee table.

It’s fun to notice, in public hearings on the proposed charter, how few of witnesses’ complaints would be addressed by the law. Once head scarves and big crucifixes are banned in the provincial workplace, the law’s supporters will wonder why bus drivers still wear them, or the guy at your corner store. Two witnesses this month became a YouTube sensation by wondering aloud why Muslims pray funny. State-endorsed recrimination isn’t easy to stop. Or, as Marois no doubt prefers to see it, it’s a growth market.


Why it’s possible to imagine a Marois majority

  1. This comment was deleted.

    • I love these satirical comment-board accounts.

      • “Anti-MSM Hulk” say, SMASH!

      • This comment was deleted.

    • “Explain.” I do not think that word means what you think it means.

      • The writer meant ‘rationalize’. You could be charitable by pointing that out.

        • Personally, I think I can forgive Sean for not being charitable to the guy who’s claiming that all Francophones are intolerant racists.

          • Not all Francophones are intolerant racists, just the majority of them. I am sure there are one or two decent francos who are afraid to speak out but who knows. One of my cousins is married to anglo who’s family use to live in Montreal but were driven out in late 1970s. Que have a long history of intolerance, it is not a new phenomenon.

            There is an astonishing amount of white people who live in Rest of Canada that are quite comfortable with Franco bigotry, more than I would expect.

          • Well, it’s big of you to concede that out of the hundreds of millions of Francophones there are one or two who aren’t intolerant racists.

          • It’s their refusal to eat the pudding before the cheese that really ticks him off. Wars have been fought for less.

          • There’s a lot of intolerance everywhere when you leave the large cities. The biggest difference I find is that the French are outspoken on these things while those of English descent keep it to a small groups. The French love to argue, and if you can have a huge verbal fight with one of them they will respect you in the end. I was in Somerset, Devon, Cornwall last fall and I found the conversations in pubs very interesting. The English love to gather in small groups and gossip, and talk of ‘you know what I mean’s. The popularity of the British gossip press is easy to understand. Some of the traditions from the source countries persist here in Canada.

          • You don’t have to leave the city to find intolerance

          • I know a whole state ( Louisiana) whose ancestors were driven out of Eastern Canada by bigotry and intolerance, the British settlers stole their farms and renamed Île St-Jean PEI. The Acadians fled with nothing. Most anglos who fled Quebec in the 1970’s had their moving expenses paid for by their unilingual employers.

          • Really, the Acadians, you’re going to go there? Well I know some folks of First Nations descent who are playing the violin for you and chuckling… why do Francophone North Americans seem to think they were the first to ever live here?

          • just replying to the comment above about the poor anglo family reportedly driven out of Quebec, where did I mention Acadians were first to live here ?

          • You can never top anecdotal evidence.

          • Except his.

          • Especially not his. There have been some doozies.

          • Oh right…i wasn’t paying attention there.

        • Jolyon’s a big boy, and certainly doesn’t need my charity.

        • Maybe you could re-write the whole thing for him.

      • I would agree that Wells is trying to rationalize his admiration for a culture that is strongly xenophobic by bringing Steyn into his explanation.

        “What’s going on? A few things, I think.”

        Merriam Webster – “Explain: to give the reason for or cause of …”

        • 1. Rationalize and reason are not the same thing. Not even remotely close – don’t let the root of the word fool you.

          2. Wells can drop in and explain if he meant differently, but referencing Steyn’s time with Maclean’s was to illustrate the context of broader Western attitudes (post-9/11) toward Islam.

    • Giving insight into what motivates a certain behavior is NOT the same as making excuses for the behavior. Now carry on Mr. Wells.

      • It is the same thing if you have intolerant Franco friends who you don’t want to confront.

        • No… It is the ability to ponder why a situation exists in a rational way without making gross generalizations and becoming emotionally charged because let’s face it that does not accomplish anything.

          • Unless you don’t happen to like the French in the first place and you need a handy rationalization to cower under.

        • In a nutshell, you seem to be the only person here who thinks Wells is condoning the PQ’s behaviour here, when in fact he’s explaining to us how they find comfort by doing something he finds (and hopes we find) rather appalling.

    • I just had to break the tie because of your intolerable bigotry against the Quebecois. And please do not attempt an explanation for your behavior.

    • WTF?

    • Love the idea of being intolerant of intolerance

  2. There’s no doubt about it that this is about islam not being integrable with our society. Unfortunately, no one has been willing to deal with that because it’s politically correct, so now we get extreme overreaches such as Quebec’s highly supported proposal.

    Since the West is afraid to admit that islam is the enemy, Quebec decided to take it into their own hands, and unfortunately that means all religions are set back. If we’d just be honest, this wouldn’t happen.

    But no, we’ll continue to pretend islam is peaceful and blah blah blah, because no one dare offend them. Understandable why you wouldn’t dare offend them though: THEY’LL KILL YOU FOR IT.

    • If I accept your ridiculous notion that all Muslims want to kill me, isn’t that a pretty darn good reason to support their wearing of conspicuous religious symbols?

      If the nice lady at my corner store is one inadvertent insult away from lunging at me with a sword, I think I’d like her to keep wearing a headscarf so that I can more easily spot her in a crowd. Maybe we should pass a law insisting that all Muslims, women AND men wear the hijab. And we should probably make them bright orange.

      • lol

        It’s people like you wot cause unrest. How about a flashing beanie for out of control vegan tree planters while we are at it?

        • It occurs to me that maybe everyone should have to wear t-shirts explaining (hopefully concisely) just how and why they plan to execute me. It would certainly be helpful.

          • Personally I would settle for potential muggers wearing T shirts with saying: i’m asking nicely first time, on the front and maybe a number for legal aide printed on the back.

            *I particularly liked the suggestion that men should be forced to wear an identifying hijab too.Most efficient use of social capital, and It nicely covers the gender equality issue as well.

          • Drat – I didn’t see this before I posted above.

          • It’s ok, i don’t have it copyrighted yet.

          • That would take printing both sides of the shirts and you’d have to master ‘Please turn around’ in a number of languages.

    • There’s about 1 million muslim Canadians. If they’re trying to kill off all the non-muslims, they’re not doing a very good job of it.

      • Of course not all Muslims are radicals. The full burka is part of a more radicalized strain of Islam. Full Burkas were actually quite rare prior to the radicalization movement in Egypt and Saudi Arabia from the 1970’s to today.
        And it’s not about “killing” though a small percentage do support death to infidels, its about dhimmitude and the belief by many Muslims that we (non believers) nevertheless respect Allah’s will. As such, it is not merely about letting them worship their god, it is about the broader society conforming to the Will of Allah.
        Allah’s Will verses clear laws about identification is the fulcrum of this issue.

        • That would be useful insight, had Ryan’s post not stated that Islam and “The West” are necessarily incompatible enemies, and where Muslms are all lying in wait to exterminate the rest of us.

      • Yes ..and look at the THOUSANDS of Moderate Muslims who demonstrate in the streets AGAINST THE FUNDAMENTALIST Members of their religion who murder innocent men women children (including their own church members)

        OH…sorry that is a daydream of mine…NOT REALITY

  3. Dans la rue ! A number of witnesses complaints may be addressed by other means than by law.

    As for your friends, it should be noted that the government would allow its employees to wear certain discreet religious signs, small crosses, stars of David, etc., If your friends claim in all seriousness they could never tell that a QC employee named Samuel Bronfman wearing a star of David ring on his finger is a Jew because he doesn’t wear a kippa, I think they are taking you and us all for fools.

    Obviously, this has to do with Islam, and what the QC government is going to do will be to refuse employment to a woman wearing a hijab because it is an ostentatious religious sign while they will encourage that woman’s husband to apply for government jobs so that they can meet their target on hiring people from minority groups. Then they will congratulate themselves on having strengthened the legal provisions on equality of the sexes.

    • Can you tell me where an individual can get a star of David ring? Because no Jew in Quebec has ever seen one.

      And don’t forget that a guy named Samuel Bronfman could never work for the government. The number of non-white francophones working as civil servants is somewhere under 5%.

      • Why are you asking me where to find a star of David ring, ask the QC government it’s their idea, not mine:
        Maybe a guy called Samuel Bronfman could never work at the Jewish Hospital in Montreal, I don’t know. I don’t think the government is implying that non-Jewish persons wear a star of David ring, non-Christians wear a small cross, and non-Muslim wear star and crescent earrings, I think they are suggesting that these are acceptable signs.
        Pretty silly stuff, IMO.

      • Google Jewish jewelery – judging by the vendors there must be a market for it and yes, there are Star of David rings.

      • This misleading statistic keeps getting trotted out. True, there are very few working in the civil service outside Montreal – because there are few non-white francophones outside Montreal.

        On the other hand, members of “cultural communities” make up 17,7 % of “regular” employees, and 28,4% of “occasional” ones, in Montreal.



        And in 2011-12, 29.3% of regular, and 21% of occasional hires in Montreal, were from cultural communities. p.11

        As soon as all those non-white francophones start living in the Gaspé, Saguenay, Quebec City, etc., the government will be glad to hire them.

        • It’s not misleading if it’s accurate as the stats you point out indicate.

          Provincewide the number of non-francophones in the civil service is tiny.

          The telling figure is the number of anglos in the civil service, which is about 1% even in Montreal.

          • It is misleading when it is trotted out as evidence of “racism, bigotry, anti-immigrant feeling, discrimination”, and so on. What is Quebec supposed to do about it, drag immigrants and anglophones out to where the jobs are, or fire Montreal francophone employees to replace them with others?

            As for anglos, as their big beef is that French is being “forced down their throats” and leaving the province in droves rather than do that, how likely is it they are lining up for jobs working in French for a government they despise, or that their French is good enough for it?

          • Your notion of anglos is about 30 years out of date. And even then, most left because their jobs left and they were transferred.

            Current bilingual levels among anglophones in Quebec is somewhere around 90%, and the younger you are the better you speak French.

            Not that it matters well you speak or write French: if you went to a non-french elementary or high school you *must* take a civil servant language exam which is impossible to pass.

            And it’s not just my impression that it’s impossible to pass. The people who give the exam have admitted to reporters that the only way to pass is to take private tutoring so you can learn the precise wording of the only acceptable answers. (Oh, did you write 9 sentences in your mini-essay? Deduct points – this section requires 11 sentences.)

            It’s usually about 10 hours worth of tutoring at $100 an hour.

            I dunno about you, but where I’m from, that’s called a bribe. Or evidence of discrimination.

          • Please provide a link to that report.

            But I doubt it says what you think it does. I would guess it means the standard of French expected, at least for responsible positions requiring, for example, subtly worded memos and reports, is high, and you wouldn’t get there just by doing ok in a French-as-as-second-language course in elementary or high school. Becoming fluent in a language requires more effort than that.

            How many “francophones” working in responsible positions for the Ontario or BC governments would have weak English skills?

  4. It is unfortunate that Quebec has lost the ability to distinguish between an accommodation versus a restriction.

    It is even more unfortunate that Quebec is not particularly isolated in this disfunction.

    • Not sure who flagged your moron post. For what it’s worth, I understand the point you’re trying to make, and it’s a fair one, but you have to admit that the popularity of this initiative, particularly amongst a certain segment of the population of Quebec, is a bit troubling.

      • Isn’t the apparent popularity of this initiative arguably largely a symptom of the inability of people to distinguish between an accommodation and a restriction?

        I guess I’m a little confused by your reply here. It seems to me that Stewart is saying that the popularity of this initiative is troubling, and your response is “I see what you’re saying, but you have to admit that the popularity of this initiative is a bit troubling”. I mean, didn’t Stewart JUST SAY that it was troubling?

        • Smart arse.

    • F.Y.I. 38% = could mean Sharia Law in Canada!

  5. Paul – any thoughts on similarities or differences in the social/political context of France in 2004 (when they passed the ‘religious symbols’ law)?

    • The ‘law’ banning ‘religious signs’ in civil service and education actually dates to 1905. It was an emergency law passed as part of the defense of the state, when an attempt was made to overthrow the Third Republic — the Dreyfus Affair.

      The Church of France had ties to the anti-Dreyfus plotters; its power was taken away from it by a frightened secular state. The French law today is exploited by the extreme right-wing National Front, and that’s its only political significance. The typical Frenchman is indifferent to the idea of being taught by someone wearing a hijab, kippa, or even turban.

      • I don’t think you know what you’re talking about, with regard to French attitudes. From a 2013 poll…

        “86 percent of French people back introducing legislation that would ban “all signs of religious or political affiliation” in private schools and nurseries. According to the same poll, 83 percent support imposing a law making it illegal in all privately-owned businesses.”


        • Your ‘poll’ registers one set of reactions to an event about allowing VEILED women in one area of life. It has everything to do with veils in those conditions. I said nothing about veils in my comment.

          The French are ultra-sensitive to the dress of the individual, and that’s partly cultural. So no, your poll says nothing about a girl handing out car licences and wearing a hijab.

          • The poll question was about ALL forms of symbols. The response was to the Fatima Afif firing from Baby Loup, a daycare, for wearing a hijab. So yes, the poll speaks directly to the attitudes I still suggest you’re inaccurately glossing.

          • I said the poll was a REACTION, which it was, and which is why it fournishes you with such welcome evidence of prejudices which you yourself embrace.
            Of course, you ignore — either from ignorance or malice — the historical context. The context of niqabs and chadors in France is NOT any phony desire for ‘secularism’; it’s related to the colonial history of the country — the Algerian War and other North-African conflicts. The prejudice against Arabs comes from that, and the fear and hatred of veiled women is the public bogeyman of French racism.
            By the way, tell us more about yourself. Are you a Keep Canada White-and-Christian militant, or are you a Fellow Traveller of Quebec Separatism?

          • You asserted that most in France had no issue with the hijab – and gave no evidence to support it. I countered with evidence that suggests hijabs are tolerated less than you argue.

            Feel free to offer evidence of your own – beyond a convoluted rehash of the wiki article you’ve learned your history from. Go ahead and debate the particular meaning of the poll I cited.

            But take your accusations of racism and shove them up your stupid punk a**. The whole reason I asked Wells to compare current Quebec to 2004 France was to seek to understand the dynamics he’s writing about (he was posted in France for a time, by the way). And seeking to understand xenophobia does not – for a second – mean I endorse it.

            Finally, do you realize that you just argued against your original point? If this is the proverbial gunfight, you’ve shown up armed with a spoon.

          • your petulance is entertaining, if not particularly persuasive. Been decades since I was called a ‘punk’ — I love it!!

            I’m guessing about your accusation about self-contradiction. You mean my assertion, that the French are ‘sensitive to dress’?
            Ok, but that’s a question of degree. The French are bothered by vieled women; only the true anti-semite is bothered by a kippa and only a Marine Lepen racist is bothered by a headscarf.
            This has nothing to do with “French secularism.”

            My own French experience includes living there for decades. I should not have to make that point, but you’ve dragged life-experience into this, so I guess your red herring is met with a herring knife. I’d pass it to you, but the police chief might worry.

          • It seems to me that Sean invited you to present evidence that the typical Frenchman doesn’t care about the wearing of the hijab, to counter a poll that found that more than 80% of French citizens support legislation to ban the hijab. Your reply is essentially that you lived in France for decades, so you ought to know how French people feel.

            It shouldn’t need to be pointed out, but anecdote and data are not synonyms.

          • The ‘poll’ is meaningless, when compared to decades of life lived.

          • “lived”

          • The moral seems to be: how dare you quote a poll to make a point without having first lived there a decade or two at least.
            If you haven’t lived a couple of decades or so in QC as well you might want to quit commenting about now.

          • The weakness of your reply, and Seans’ and that of Lord K above, is that you are all spellbound by one survey. Wow. It is called a ‘poll’ so it must be all-revealing.

            Very conveniently, one poll confirms your desire to justify the Marois bill as “normal in France.” But you fail to note that the French were being polled on extending an existing law, a law that has been around for 105 years, based, then on accepted practice; not “liked” — accepted. While Pauline’s poll is about slicing up the Que and Canadian bills of rights — to infringe rights we have taken for granted; and passing new legislation that restricts freedoms; and, that the entire legal and human-rights community has condemned.

            Not very scientific, very political.

          • Well you could try quoting another poll rather then taking refuge in: i bin there like forever, so wot the f’k do you know about it?

          • Indeed. I’d imagine that the pollsters probably solicited the opinions of maybe 1000 French citizens. 2000 max. Whereas I’m sure that you’ve talked to literally tens of thousands of French people regarding their opinion about religious clothing in your life.

  6. Mr Wells is talking about right-wing identity nationalism, and it’s useful to say that. Also, useful to say that there is NO crisis of ‘religious signs’ in Quebec, it’s entirely manufactured by Pauline Marois, and everyone knows that, and knows why the campaign is being waged.

    The reference to nuns wearing veils is absurd, demagogic, fatuous. No Quebec girl not belonging to a religious order was required to cover her head nor any portion of her face. No-one ever suggested in 1935 that that was the model of female behavior. The so-called fear of the old church is fake.

    Today, the Quebec church is the opposite, an institution light-years ahead of the so-called secularists in terms of embracing ecumenism, and state and social pluralism. The Church is a protector of individual rights, where it used to be an oppressor. The collectivist mob of Quebec has simply walked out the Church and grafted the old religious xenophobia onto the PQ. It’s the so-called secularists who still revere Canon Groulx, the notorious Jew-hater priest who happened to also be a nationalist.

    As for the islamic population, they’re the ‘visible’ target; however, the real targets of Quebec nationalists are the Jews. The ‘Arabs’ speak French and their kids — hijab or none — will be chattering in unaccented Quebecois within 20 years. The Jews are a long-established English-speaking community, and hated for strong ties to private media, for their resources, and their longstanding history of fighting for Canada and individual rights.

    • No, I don’t agree that Jewish Quebecers are the “real target” of this legislation; the debate here has really been focused on women’s head scarves and Islam. The other religious communities are really collateral damage, except that their situation is so invisible (ironically) to Pro-charter Quebecers, that their plight hasn’t really registered. Yes, you are right that historically, the Jewish community was predominantly English speaking, but that really isn’t true these days.

      • Not a few Jews in Canada want to believe you, but are probably wrong.

        Many Quebec Jews are functionally bilingual; however, 75% claim English as the first language and you’d be hard pressed to find a PQer among them… and you won’t find a single PQ supporter among the 25% who come from North Africa. The most outspoken opponents of Quebec nationalism in the Anglophone community are still Jewish, and that includes in the mass media.

        Secondly, Jewish finance is strong in the (real-estate) development sector, where francophones work in the hundreds of thousands, and where the FTQ has its base. Mrs Marois’ husband is ex-FTQ (although not as a union militant) and her base of activists have been FTQ for decades. So the Jewish-French conflict is not only historic, it’s contemporary and visceral. No, I don’t think that the anti-Arab racism in France has translated itself literally to Quebec (France was the colonial power, not Quebec). It’s all a smokescreen, in my view. Sure, there are anti-islamic tensions in Montreal area; however, the Jews are still seen as “rich and unassimilable”…and have been, for 150 years.

        • OK, I don’t live in Montreal, and perhaps you are just better informed than I, but I have never heard in either English or French media or even as a rumour,,anything about the charter being some way hit the “Jewish finance” and real estate industries.

          • It’s not a question of ‘hitting’ anyone, AD.
            It’s a question of which prejudice is most pandemic to Quebec. It’s a question of which branch of the demagogy works best.

            The image of the rich anglophone Jew is everywhere. If workers are out there, working on a $10-B project or a $20-M one, every single one of them will know that the “owners are Jews.”

            Just last week, a francophone worker of Italian origin assured me that “the Jewish mafia run everything,” including the local (Italian) mafia!

            I have moved around among Quebec workers for many years, and the idea that “the Jews own everything” is universal. The idea of the “rich Moslem” is non-existent. On the other hand, there’s lots of anecdotal conflict with North-Africans, especially in some neighborhoods, so I’m not suggesting anti-Islamic prejudice doesn’t exist, nor that it can’t be exploited.

  7. For the PQ this is debate is purely a means to an electoral end. For those in the wider population who support the proposed law, the main reason is the same one that have motivated such people for a long time: a fear of assimilation and of losing the old Quebec. Remember that the main goal of Bill 101 was to force immigrants to speak French, with the assumption that if such immigrants became francophone they would also assimilate into (rather than modify) French Quebec. A generation ago the perceived solution to the twin dangers of a decreasing birth rate and increasing immigration was to target immigration from francophone countries. The result has been greatly increased immigration from Muslim North African countries and, to the horror of supporters of the law, some of these immigrants turned out to speak French but were not interested in completely adopting all of the other cultural aspects of old Quebec. Thus, the old perceived fear of assimilation is again being expressed. The target is not religious neutrality but insuring assimilation or, alternatively, sending the message to immigrants that don’t want to assimilate to say away.

  8. What does ‘evidence of religion’ mean? Your average atheist knows more about religion than the average religious person. Do some research.

    • Mr. Wells was clearly meaning that some people would rather not be confronted with evidence that other people are religious or religiously observant.

    • I’m not convinced that your statement that ” [the] average atheist knows more about religion than the average religious person.” is true. But I’m sure you believe it.

  9. Just so I’m straight on this: a bunch of you are critical of Wells on the basis that trying to understand an abhorrent sociopolitical phenomenon it the same thing as defending it? By the same logic, that’s he’s written books on Harper makes him a dedicated neocon. Heck, the undergrad course I took on the Holocaust must have been taught by a Nazi…

    • I just looked, and only a single poster objected to Wells for the reasons you’re pointing to.
      er, perhaps your own frenzy for Mr Wells’s feelings should be explained. Am I on his Enemy List?

      • And four people up-voted it.

        • well, we are cutting a very fine line in defense of the original article.

          The poster said he/she detected a willingness to understand the sentiment behind quebec xenophobia in Mr Well’s piece. Ipso fact, that’s a cause for concern, so you can’t hold it against the commenter.
          I myself detected an ambivalence in the article, which is not as effective as a working-through of argumentations on both side. I can understand that poster’s concerns; however, he/she was probably wrong in condemning the article, which has many useful points to make and doesn’t really want the racist Charter to pass.

        • lol. I see the ‘moderator’ is filtering every word I post now. Lol.

  10. You missed the best part: the leader of the red square movement declaring that Islam has declared a war on the western world.

    • I missed that! Was that a declaration by Nadeau-Dubois?

  11. Also interesting was Michel David’s column in Le Devoir yesterday giving more details on the same poll. In the francophone voted, the PQ received most of its support from voters 45 to 64 years old. However, amongst the 18 to 44, the Liberal Party is ahead. Support for the charter is clearly related to age: 53% of the 18-24 and 48% of 25-34 years old are opposed to the charter while nearly sixty percent in the older group approve.

    • This does not surprise me at all. In my experience, our youth have an attitude of live and let live.

      • there may be hope after all…

        just need to find the catalyst to get youth to vote.

  12. “By telling a license clerk to show her ears”? Of course that’s really it. We want to see ears. It’s that simple. It has nothing to do with dhimmitude, or the experience in France where entire areas are being subject to effective Islamic rule due to the fact that assimilation simply isn’t occurring, but rather Islamification of conclaves.
    Quebec is the next locale on such front lines where “multiculturalism” in the face of a radicalized Muslim culture with values totally at odds from ours (women can’t “show their ears” btw, because it is believed such is an invitation to rape – nice eh?) where such cultures have no desire to assimilate in any manner, but often show contempt for the host country. (Radicalized by sects out of Saudi Arabia and Egypt spreading around the world – take a look at pictures from Ridya university in the 70’s – no burkas – and now – almost all burkas).
    Quebec isn’t saying no to dhimmitude, it’s just wanting to see ears. Of course, of course. Mr. Wells. Such flippancy is warranted.
    As for those on this thread crying racism or bigotry: we should never judge individuals by the color of their skin, their race, ect. but we sure as heck may judge other cultures and the beliefs they espouse. We are very much “allowed” to think the notion of a woman having to totally cover herself lest she’s asking to be raped, the notion that a woman must be subservient, gays are subhuman (and all of the other barbaric misogynistic aspects therein) is vulgar and has no place in our society. All humans are created equal. That doesn’t translate to belief systems. Some belief systems are worse. Much, much worse.

    • I doubt that many people who oppose the charter want to live under an Islamic Theocracy. Can you explain how the proposed legislation ensures that this will never happen or why everyone’s liberty of conscious must be curtailed?

      • The question should rather be: can you explain how an Islamic theocracy was practically guaranteed without this legislation?

        • Indeed

        • Take a gander of the multitude of horror stories coming out of France and England, the enclaves, little old ladies afraid to go out in their neighborhoods they’ve lived in all their lives, their homes now shadowed by minarets and Muslim street enforcers, (hey fun fact: the most common baby boy name in London since 2009: Mohammad).
          Perhaps the better question is: can you explain how sticking our head in the sand will avoid a replication in Canada or Quebec of what is occurring in Europe?

          • A revolution is nothing without symbolic garb.

          • According to the PQ, the UK and France have quite different approaches to immigration and cultural matters, The British have a laissez-faire multiculturalism with oodles of “accommodations” while the French are pursuing an altogether tougher line (as favoured by the PQ). Yet both nations (if the Daily Mail and various chain power-point presentations are to believed) face the same type of horror stories (fundamentalist enclaves, home grown terrorism, etc.,). If we wish to avoid such a fate,, perhaps we should be .looking elsewhere for solutions, For example by reducing social exclusion and improving employment opportunities among immigrant communities. Two goals the proposed charter will actually work against.

          • Europe, including Britain, is the homeland of ex-colonial powers, with ex-colonial populations (allowed in by preference). The history of ghettoization, resentment, marginalization, and victimization is entirely European. There is simply no comparision between Europe and America when it comes to social tensions.

          • Sorry but you chose to comment on something i do know a little about first hand, being a Brit.
            The last time i was in England[95] i can clearly remember having a similar conversation with family and friends. Not about Islam back then, rather about how unsafe the streets had become for older folks. The general feeling was this had become pervasive – old people being afraid of the young. Much different than in my days growing up there. I’m not the first to note there’s been a general break down of social order in the UK in recent decades. There are a number of theories as to why this is. But pinning this on Muslim immigrants is an excuse that is late to the party. At that time i think there was some other ethnic group seen as the cause of al their woes. You’re even dated my friend. They’ve moved on to blaming lax immigration for all the eastern Europeans and gypsies flooding in to take all their jobs.
            Not that people haven’t bought into it there. My aunt, a perfectly reasonable and intelligent women in most respects would probably sign on to your rationalization – i don’t.
            As for it happening here, i give it just about as much credence – none.

          • Well, if there’s one thing that will cut down on the rise of marginalized religious enclaves of radicalized youth it’s telling people what they can and can’t wear, and what is, and what is not an appropriate and acceptable display of their religion.

          • Hey, fun fact – Mohammad is the most common name on the planet! In Canada, U.S.A, even China! Not just London! AND it’s also the most DIVERSE. Your “fun fact” is irrelevant in this conversation. Naming your child Mohammad doesn’t make you any more religious than naming your son Adam.

      • I don’t propose to know the answers, just as France does not yet have the answer to it’s Islamic “no go” zones (and parts of England for that matter). But I am prepared to recognize reality, unfiltered by “political correctness” which is nothing more than a tool to ignore reality.
        We will be nowhere near finding a solution if we fail to even recognize reality. Flippancy about “hiding ears” gets us no-where fast (though I suspect it may get one accepted into the appropriately politically correct social circles).

    • But i thought it wasn’t just all about Islam?[sarc]

      I just knew it was bad karma to mention Steyn on the thread.

  13. If this charter is indeed backed by those who read Christopher Hitchens then I am disappointed in them. I thought those atheists would be intelligent enough to realize that one does not have to wearing a religious symbol to preach the word. In fact, in healthcare the ones wearing the symbols are NOT the ones preaching it in my experience. Think about it, do you see Tom Cruise and John Travolta wearing any religious symbols?

    • There’s certainly a Hitchens cult of athiests who are antagonistic toward religions in generally unhelpful way. I’d certainly need to see more evidence from Wells to back the claim that the appeal of such an approach has causality (of any meaningful sort) in the case of the Quebec values charters, so much as incidental correlation.

      • A trip to the comment section to any Radio-Canada article on the Charter should suffice. “Anti-all-religion” sentiments are as plentiful as the “anti-Islam and anti-immigrant strains of intolerance,

  14. “The moral collapse of the Quebec Liberal Party”

    Nothing really new about this. For as long as i can remember they have chosen leaders who favour a form of appeasement in QC’s tribal political wars. At least the LPC seems to have returned to its traditional role as a bridge to the RoC and pan Canadian values under the new Trudeau.[ at least i hope it has. Not having read anything from JT in the Anglo press since he took a stand against this odious charter]

    It sure looks from the outside as if Islam has become a weird kind of stand in for nuns and priests who liked to wield authority well beyond the pulpit. I’m puzzled how this could still have such a hold on Francophone society. The older generation i can see still have flash backs to the “Great Darkness”. But what of the youngster? Is it possible that a new generation can be so easily led by the nose by a demogogic PQ leader? What can you say about that leadership that chooses to pander to old[ and new] fears, rather than soothe or heal them?

    Where is the old head chopper Steyn on this anyway? I somehow imagine he would rather stick pins in his eyes then to cheer on the PQ.

    • I’m pretty sure Steyn would find a way to castigate both the PQ and Muslms with some clever story about pornography, Kissinger and recipes for meatloaf.

      • And he’d explain to you how selective use of demographics proved his point.

        I tried a Steyn meat loaf recipe once. But i got tired of picking all the contentious bones out of it.

    • Steyn is first and foremost a civil-libertarian. Goes without saying that such a man can’t support the Collectivist-Identity Charter.

      • It goes without saying that he isn’t saying much is he? Some libertarian. A libertarian of some convenience is my feeling.

        • Come to think of it, you’re right. Can it be his connections to Sun Media-Ezra Levant?
          Ezra has been virtually silent on the Charter issue… Ezra, who will comment on the hair styles of campus protesters.
          Sun Media is owned by Quebecor, which is owned by the Peladeau family, who are PQ militants.

          • Lost me i’m afraid. I guess your sarcasm was a little too subtle. Remaining silent in the face of demagoguery is somehow a good thing now!

          • i meant no sarcasm at all. I regret it, if that’s the way it came across.

          • No problem.

    • What of the youngster? The majority of them, according to the same poll, are against, and would support the QLP

      • I read you post after i had posted. That is good news.

  15. The QC charter…a sledge hammer in search of a needle to pound. One way to get a majority i guess.

  16. Paul, your second-last paragraph, re: the role of the Quebec Liberal Party in all this, was brilliant. Also depressing and kind of scary even, but brilliant. “What oft was thought, but ne’er to well expressed.” There are few things more pathetic and despicable than a politician hiding under the coffee table like that. Reminds me of Obama and Kerry hiding under the coffee table over Keystone XL (see Krauthammer’s article on that today in the Washington Post).

    • sorry “to” should read “so”

  17. Religion is inevitably backward and retrograde, by definition (authoritarian dictated belief, justified on faith, with insufficient evidence). But legislating religious conviction as something ugly that should be hidden away is itself a religious act in every sense of the word that makes religion backward and retrograde.

    The Quebec charter is dogmatic secularism. Actually, no, I don’t believe for a minute this has anything to do with secularism. But it is certainly dogmatic. And it is certainly authoritarian. And it its motivation and benefit claims are certainly supported by insufficient evidence.

    I, too, like some of Paul Wells’ friends, would sooner everyone got over religion altogether. But—and one big, fat, qualifying but—not for the sake of an expedited extermination of religion. For the sake that society is better off when we maximize the number of people who fully embrace our best tools of thought (scientific reasoning, intellectual honesty, awareness and correction of heuristics, etc). In fully embracing reason, religion—or more accurately, faith (belief on insufficient evidence)—goes away organically. To legislate out innocuous bits or displays of religion is needlessly divisive, counterproductive and disrespectful. And far more offensive that that, with the Quebec charter, the Quebec government is demanding citizens accept this law on authority and faith (and by exploiting prejudices), because there is glaringly insufficient evidence to support the claimed motivation for this terrible idea.

  18. Ex-Catholic countries and provinces aren’t anti-religion because of collective memory of the power of the Church in the bad old days. Ex-Catholic countries and provinces believe in their bones, like the Church itself, that there is only one way to do things because there is only one true God.

  19. Compared to the Netherlands who now require all new immigrants to be fluent in the country’s native tongue to get residency and citizenship. And considering they also require them to watch soft-core gay porn as part of the admission process, because, hey, being queer is normal an ordinary over there. I would say that the PQ’s position is actually kind of moderate.




  20. Quite frankly I love this. Pump her up and maybe she will call an election. Just great. But with the construction thing we will then drive nails into that overstuffed baloon. That will pop when she is fired. Put out . Laid to rest. Finished as a politician from her own lies. Crooked as they come. Just another theif our tax dollars.

  21. Marois is the same as Hitler and I can’t understand why Canada a a nation puts up with it. She is a fascist racial pig. The FLQ is her Gestapo and pretty much its internal terrorism. She incites contraversy

    • Godwin’s Law alert.

    • You are clearly a deranged ignorant idiot. But this being Canada, or in any province, I am obligated to put up with you and breath the same air……

  22. Did it ever occur to people that maybe Marois is not afraid to express a desire to hang on to what is essentially Canadian values? What? You say? Canadian values? Yes, I am all for multiculturalism, but there is something about the Muslim faith that makes me uneasy, especially when it comes to the freedom of equality for women. The Muslim faith itself is very demanding and intolerant and I think the point Quebecers are making is that this kind of dogmatic religion can easily get out of hand. A case in point, the request by a male that he be allowed to be excused from a Sociology class because women are present. Just really thing about this before judging.

    • Just as the Muslim religion is demanding and intolerant, so too is the evangelical churches that follow our PM.

      • Everybody is intolerant. Even the so-called “tolerant progressive left” is being shown to be incredibly intolerant.

  23. I am a Quebecker and I am all for the Charter and for the first time will vote PQ so that they may implement it. I also think that if there were a referendum in Canada as to whether or not to adopt such a Charter for the entire country, the majority would vote for it.

  24. People came to our Country and demanded things to be changed because of their religions and their traditions. As a result, we in Canada we made changes to accommodate. Then more and more was being demanded on Canadians. Now, Quebec is passing a law that will treat everybody the same and I do not see anything wrong with that. It is only a matter of time before other provinces follow their steps.

    • “Someone” help us if you’re right :(…..
      And correct me if I’m wrong but this law won’t exactly “treat everybody the same” will it? Please explain what you mean by this?

    • Treat everybody the same? It’s treating everybody differently depending on what they wear.
      If it were about treating everyone the same it would be forcing everyone to wear the same uniform at work (and we know that Quebecers would not like such a law).

  25. “A secular imperative. I have friends who disagree with the PQ on just about everything—but who applaud the notion that it should be impossible to tell a person’s religion by looking at him or her.”

    This is just as bad as those typical Quebecois xenophobes (the ones who go on about how people in Montreal make them uneasy). People should be able to show whatever they like about themselves, whether they like plaid or whether they like a religious symbol.

    “The notion that we can win a clash of civilizations by asking a licence-bureau clerk to show her ears makes no sense”

    It’s somewhat like thinking we can win a clash of cultures by forcing a restauranteur to change the language on his signage.

    “The results are predictable. The PQ sets the debate’s terms, the Liberals hide under the coffee table.”

    Yep. I can’t disagree with this one. I’ve been thinking and saying this for years about the federalist francophones, the anglophones, the allophones, and the rest of the Liberal party in Quebec. Gutless, all of them (almost all). Unwilling to stand up for themselves.

    “State-endorsed recrimination isn’t easy to stop.”
    I also agree 100%. I’ve said that in a society that believes it can dictate what you write on your signs, or what language you converse in at work, or what language your kids can learn in, it’s not much of a stretch for them to start telling you what you can wear.

    Good article.

  26. Hey Paul, I didn’t know you thought we were in “a clash of civilizations”! Just how do you propose to “win that clash of civilizations”?

    Just what is it that you merry band of secularists stand for? Betchya ya can’t tell me!

  27. I gotta say Paul, I completely agree with you about the Quebec Charter. The notion that people ought to be forced to hide their religious affiliations because the Quebeckers find them uncomfortable to look at is, frankly, repugnant to me.

  28. I would be very keen to hear the author expand on the statement that atheists are somehow not willing to consider ‘evidence of religion’? Rather than throwing in a complete non sequitur in the apparent assumption that he has made a point perhaps he can enlighten the readers by presenting even a shred of supporting ‘evidence of religion’