Surely you're not comparing Pauline Marois to Vladimir Putin? -

Surely you’re not comparing Pauline Marois to Vladimir Putin?

Well, yes. Quebec correspondent Martin Patriquin explains why


A certain government bedevilled by an underperforming economy and an unpopular leader enacts legislation that targets a historically persecuted minority in hopes of raising its lagging fortunes with voters.

Vladimir Putin’s Russia, or Pauline Marois’s Quebec? Both, actually.

Misère, I hear many saying. Surely you’re not comparing Russia’s gay-baiting kleptocrat with the leader of the cheery, lefty, gay-friendly sovereignist leader of Quebec?

Well, yes. The stakes aren’t anywhere near the same, and the legislation is couched in vastly different language, but the politics of Putin’s article 6.21 that bans so-called “gay propaganda” and the Marois government’s “Quebec values charter” are practically identical. That is to say, both seek to gain electorally by scapegoating the “other.”

In Russia, it’s homosexuals—those adherents of “nontraditional sexual relations,” in the words of the law’s weirdly genteel legalese. For the Quebec government, the scapegoats of choice are anyone who dares wear a kippa, hijab, cross, turban or any other religious decoration. As the Journal de Montréal notes, “The Marois government not only wants to ban the Islamic headscarf and other religious signs from the public service and the courts, but from daycares, schools and hospitals as well.”

This is all maddeningly familiar. You’ll recall how in 2007, a wee village named Hérouxville wrote out a “code of conduct” for prospective immigrants. It was facile stuff— Christmas trees and voting women: IN! Public prayer and genital mutilation: OUT!—that touched off a collective public spleen venting known as the Bouchard-Taylor commission.

More worryingly for the PQ, the kerfuffle allowed the rightist ADQ to champion “Quebec values” —which is traditional PQ territory. The “Quebec values charter,” which the government will introduce in the coming parliamentary session, is the Parti Québécois’s attempt to be champion once again. In this case, it seems the goal is to make religious accoutrements as offensive in Quebec as “gay propaganda” is in Russia: something to be shunned by government and, by extension, society as a whole.

It’s also exactly the distraction the PQ desperately needs. The party has been woefully, almost chronically unpopular since its election last September. Today’s CROP poll has the party at 63 per cent dissatisfaction rate. The government’s flip-flops on the health tax, mining royalties, taxation, low-income housing subsidies, electricity rates, language laws and private school funding have made Jean Charest look steadfast by comparison. Last month, Quebec was responsible for more than 30,000 of the 39,400 net jobs lost in the country.

These measures, should they become law, will only exacerbate the serious problem of immigrant employment in Quebec. Already, at 11.9 per cent, Quebec has the highest immigrant unemployment rate in the country—more than double the rate of Canadian-born Quebecers, according to Statistics Canada.

Given the nature of Quebec’s immigration policy, the PQ is targeting immigrant women. According to a Statistics Canada study, immigration from Islamic countries has doubled since 2001, and represents nearly 10 per cent of Montreal’s population. Oddly enough, this has meant a boon to the French language, as the bulk of the immigration is from French-speaking North Africa. Language hawks should rejoice: The number of unilingual English-speaking immigrants has decreased by three percentage points between 2006 and 2011.

Yet by virtue of a thin piece of cloth covering one’s head, these identity measures will effectively bar a significant percentage of this population from the workforce. Not only is it overkill—Quebec already has a law against covered faces when giving or receiving government services—it’s counterintuitive. How exactly does keeping a significant portion of an already-vulnerable group artificially unemployed foster Quebec values?

The answer doesn’t matter, because the PQ has never asked the question. The party is doing as Putin does: concentrate on knee-jerk identity matters to rally the base—a bit of flash powder to keep attention away from a rather abysmal record. And because it is plainly in contravention with the Charter, the proposed Quebec values charter sets the table for a constitutional conflict, for which the PQ has been pining since Meech Lake.

Yet while marginalizing gays in Russia worked like hell, scapegoating religious minorities in Quebec won’t likely have the same effect. As this summer’s turban soccer ban proved, identity measures make a lot of noise but don’t have much effect on poll numbers. Despite Marois’ post-Mégantic bump, Philippe Couillard remains the most popular leader in the province. The PQ’s last bit of minority-baiting distraction, Bill 14, landed with a dull thud before the opposition effectively gutted it in the National Assembly.

It seems Quebecers aren’t nearly as preoccupied with the supposed Kippa threat as Russians are with practitioners of “nontraditional sexual relations.” Thank God (and Allah, Yahweh, Vishnu and Onkar) for small blessings.


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Surely you’re not comparing Pauline Marois to Vladimir Putin?

  1. It’s tried and true…..distraction works.

    The US does it with both abortion and gays, although gays aren’t the biggie they used to be….the Saudis are currently doing it with witchcraft….why shouldn’t Marois try it with religious symbols? It worked in France. Well for awhile anyway.

    Meanwhile we’re hearing all the old stories again….anyone near the Ontario or New Brunswick border is buying or renting in those 2 provinces and commuting to work in Quebec…..just in case.

  2. Mr. Patriquin has a problem with comparisons. He should take a Comparison 101 class.

    Example 1: Quebec is the MOST corrupt province, as he said. One tiny word makes a whole difference: MOST. Most, means, after comparing all the other provinces, that one is #1. That there is corruption, or a lot of corruption, is not enough to say THE MOST. WIthout evidence about the ‘amount’ of corruption in other provinces, you simply cannot say ‘THE MOST’. And don’t tell me that since you have not heard about corruption in ON or BC it means there is none or little. You do NO know because we’re still waiting the kind of journalistic + police investigations that were done in Quebec (it’s not because in 1955 you did not hear about Priest abuse that it did not exist). Quebec may be the MOST corrupt province, but we won’t know UNTIL we know exactly how much corruption there is in the other provinces. Still waiting for that…

    Example 2: Marois can be compared to Putin. What is PAtriquin comparing…again? What does the PQ want to ban? “dares wear a kippa, hijab, cross, turban or any other religious decoration”, as PAtriquin says? No. Is it wearing these things in public space? No, wrong again. It is the wearing of these things in public space BY agents of the state. If you don’t specify this, your argument falls apart. Négligence de la part de l’auteur? I doubt it. IF you want to compare, you need to compare properly. Rule #1: you must specify to in details and with all accuracy what it is you are comparing; you must detail everything about A and about B before comparing them. Otherwise, your argument is flawed.

    And by the way: I would oppose any law that forbids agents of the state from wearing religious symbols (i.e. I would vote against this PQ bill). But I hate les arguments de mauvaise foi (sans vouloir faire de jeu de mots).

    • Since according to the proposal agents of the state would include politicians, nurses, teachers, defence lawyers, employees at the local liquor store etc.. and ad nauseum I think that pretty much covers just about everything in the public sphere.

      PS Granting an exception for the cross under the grounds that a gift from the catholic church is ‘cultural’ stinks to high heaven.

      • I understand your point. But again, you’re making the same mistake as the author does: you have to be clear and specific. The public sphere includes both the millions of its users, and the thousands of its employees. In your sentence, you write AS IF the PQ bill included BOTH. Which is just not true. What would be forbidden is for employees to wear a religious symbol, not the users. That distinction is huge. You can be a user with a “ostentatious” cross on your nose and that would be legal; but you cannot do it if you’re an agent of the state. Again, the difference is huge: banning ALL citizens from wearing a cross on their noses or a kipa on their head is one thing; banning agents of state from doing so is a very different thing. You may oppose both, and I would actually. And for the author not to be very clear about this is a problem I think.
        I would still oppose this PQ bill (IF it becomes one); I think agents of the state should have the right to wear a cross on their nose (hey, I can put my cross where I want ;) or a kipa or whatever, but I still wish people would argue about the terms of the debate, not about a ‘déformation de la réalité’.

        • No, the distinction was pretty clear.

        • The terms of the debate are the distraction: the réalité is the demonization of the “other” to whip up the nationalist base.

          Which is the thing Marois and Putin have in common; hence, the point of the article.

      • Exactly. Religious minorities are already at double unemployment, and this effectively bars them from all the middle-class and upper-middle-class civil service in Quebec, which is a LOT.

    • Good grief. OK Herbe Verte,

      Quebec is the MOST expensive province in Canada to build a road or sidewalk. Or an olympic stadium.

      There, is that better?

      • Dio, you are probably right about the price of a road or sidewalk. I said it, there is a lot of corruption in Qc, thanks to journalists and the C. Commission for shedding light on this.
        But corruption and organized crime goes well beyond that. Here’s what the CBC and ToStar investigation revealed: Ontarians may soon realize they’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. Corruption in Ontario may be less conspicuous (like Pauline’s cross), but who knows if it’s LESS present and overwhleming? So…again, nobody gets the ‘most’ label without proper evidence.

        “Some Canadians admit that police in Ontario dragged their feet more than authorities in Quebec [HOW CAN THAT BE? NOT OUR BELOVED ONTARION??]…Ontario boasts many of the hallmark
        Mob industries — smuggling, drug trafficking and bookmaking. Then there are more modern ones such as stock manipulation…What’s noticeable about Ontario, Amato says, is a lack of the same level
        of visible violence as has been seen in recent years in Quebec and witnesses who are willing to testify about it. “If there is numerous murders, a lot of violence, if there are a lot of bombings, it attracts attention from politicians, from the community, from police,” Amato said. “You cannot build a successful criminal enterprise if you’re continually being investigated by the police.” CBC 20 sept2012

        Ontario is a burgeoning headquarters for a powerful Mafia faction called the ’Ndrangheta, which has flourished under the police radar in recent years and quietly risen to what the RCMP now calls a “Tier 1” threat in the GTA. “For 10 years, we have been telling Canadians
        to pay attention because the ’Ndrangheta is very strong, especially in the Toronto region,” said Nicola Gratteri, one of the most famed and respected anti-Mafia prosecutors in Calabria, whose life has been threatened many times because of his relentless pursuit of organized crime. ToStar, 3 oct2012

      • I dunno if it’s better. You tell me:

        Police officer testifies that Mob just as ubiquitous in Ontario as in Quebec (natpost 12sept2012)

        A New Mafia: Crime families ruling Toronto, Italy alleges
        ( 24sept2012)


        “We went to Italy to investigate the importance of the Italian Mafia in the world and especially Montreal, and anti-Mafia investigators there told us, ‘Forget Montreal. It’s about Toronto now, with the most powerful Mafia in the world, the Calabrian Mafia,'” Enquête host Alain Gravel told CBC News.

        So…unlike Patriquin, I’d be very cautious before acribing the ‘MOST’ label unto something or someone, and before making any easy comparison…

      • Do you have tables that report the average cost of a kilometre of road and/or of sidewalk and/or other public works ? E.g. I’d like to see something with one row per province, one column per typical kind of work, ideally for 2008 (that is, a bit before corruption made big news).

    • @ Herbe Verte, I did a word search for the word “corrupt” and the main article has no such word. Only your post does.

    • @ Herbe Verte, The author is quoting the journal de montreal… “As the Journal de Montréal notes, “The Marois government not only wants to ban the Islamic headscarf and other religious signs from the public service and the courts, but from daycares, schools and hospitals as well.”

    • By your logic no one can compare anything unless they tell you every detail. This is just preposterous, no one can know everything about anything. You provide the relevant details for the comparison. If you cannot understand this then you are making this an personal-emotional debate about an idea that you dislike. You are entitled to that, but don’t hide your emotion behind logic.

  3. That minorities are being targeted for political gain (As kenney did with attacking women who wear a veil for citizenship oaths) is certainly a similarity. To try to equate them like the author does shows poor judgement.

    Also note that the Quebec legislation (like Kenney’s veil pronouncement) is unconstitutional under Canada’s law, while the Russian plan becomes the law, (and i will bet with much harsher penalties).

    • Although, in the case of Québec, it is not clear that ‘minorities’ are targetted. It depends if the author considers Christians to be a ‘minority’, because this proposal (this balloon, to be precise), actually includes ALL religious signs which agents of the state wear, INCLUDING the signs of Christians (i.e. the cross).

      • They are and will be the de facto targets.

      • An “ostentatious cross” is unlikely, a cross on the neck like most Catholics wear is given a pass — both are also removable, whereas a turban is a central tenet of the Sikh faith — it can not be removed.

        If you think it is unclear that minorities are being targeted, you’re obtuse. I live here: as Patriquin indicates, despite the linguistic boon of French-speaking immigrants, the employment racism here is of almost apartheid levels: ask any brown or Muslim cab driver who used to be a doctor or chemist or engineer.

        I have been here 25 years and in 25 years have seen ONE non-white construction worker, Metro worker, or city maintenance worker. ONE.

        • A turban is not a tenet of the Sikh faith. The 5 K’s are Kesh (uncut long hair), a Kangha (small wooden comb), a Kara (steel or iron bracelet), a Kacchera (piece of undergarment) and a Kirpan (short dagger). The Five Ks are not just symbols, but articles of faith that collectively form the external identity and the Khalsa devotee’s commitment to the Sikh rehni “Sikh way of life.

          • Thank you for the clarification, that was informative. And given that Quebec’s PQ has whipped its xenophobic base into a froth over the kirpan once before, you get my point.

          • The PQ has been its whipping it’s xenophobic base into a froth over one inane thing or another for the last 45 years. It’s their only way to stay in the news and somewhat relevant. They are a one trick pony who’s one major policy is the thing that’s holding them back. I grew up in Quebec as a child of both worlds. I was there for the October Crisis. The sad thing is, we used to all get along just fine.

  4. Why bother talking about Putin? If there was some evidence that Marois had publicly criticized Putin and then engaged in similar behaviour, or was seeking to host the winter Olympics it might make sense, but it’s just weird to bring him up.

    Maybe I’ll make a strange comparison to help you understand why it was silly to do this instead of just criticizing the bill: It’s kind of like draping a naked picture over the hood of a Mustang to sell cars instead of just telling us about the car.

    • I’m not sure how vigorously i want to defend MP’s piece, but this seems to be the crux of it…

      “Well, yes. The stakes aren’t anywhere near the same, and the legislation
      is couched in vastly different language, but the politics of Putin’s article 6.21
      that bans so-called “gay propaganda” and the Marois government’s
      “Quebec values charter” are practically identical. That is to say, both
      seek to gain electorally by scapegoating the “other.”

      It’s his opinion that it is the political goal that is the same. I think that’s fair comment. Although one can certainly argue as you have that the larger context of Putin makes the comparison perhaps unwise and perhaps even invidious.

      • …and since Patriquin has a difficult time with sound comparisons, we are here talking about a State, Russia, that is authoritarian, where one party and one man are both guaranteed 100% to win at every single legislative and presidential election and where the opposition is non-existent and opposition leaders jailed…with a province (not a state) that is democratic in which elections are free, where ruling parties lose elections (and the current one is actually a minority government), where government legislation can be contested in courts, etc. BUT, hey, we did not invent the “ceteris paribus” for nothing ; who cares about sound and valid comparisons when you can make none and still enjoy the ride?

        • Point taken and just saying the stakes aren’t anywhere near the same probably is inadequate; but as i said his main point seems to be the political goal is the same…trolling for support when things aren’t going well…appealing to dumb populism, and on purpose. I can’t say i like that. Nevertheless i’d rather be a minority in QC where i could get things changed then in Putin’s madhouse. I still think it’s fair comment.

      • I’m sure Russian gay rights activists are all comparing Putin to Pauline Marois as we speak. ;-)

        • Ouch. I guess i would be inclined to say we should demand/expect better of her or her govt…i don’t think we can say the same of Putin. Which is i suppose an argument for not comparing them. Still, i think MP’s comparison was more narrowly political.

      • At what point does “they are the same except for x and x and x and x and x” become “they have some underlying traits in common?”

        Oddly, I remember when this author wrote about the soccer turban ban I also remember writing I thought his conclusion was unobjectionable but his thinking on the matter sloppy and presentation wanting. I wonder if it’s a matter of taking subject matter he has strong feelings about and politicians he doesn’t like and trying too hard to score points with it.

        You know, EXACTLY like Vladimir Putin does.

        • I honestly thought he was making a legitimate, if narrow political point, not an across the board comparison. As in they’re both hoping populist moves improve their public popularity.But after that the comparison falls flat. Maybe there was/is a better comparison to be made elsewhere?

    • He explained he comparison, and there is something to it. Did you even read the article? Paragraph 4.

      • Thanks for the annotated M. Patriquin. So far we have a regional bumbler with a dumb idea proposing to ban religious symbols from public institutions in a country where that will certainly be checked by a legal challenge.

        How is that in anyway analogous to legislation in a kleptocracy with less than a passing acquaintance of the rule of law? The actual law matters little in Russia where the context is official persecution including beatings and arrest of homosexuals?

        Did you even think while you counted paragraphs?

        • Congratulations. You’ve noted some differences.

          So if person X says that a lemon is similar to an orange, because they are both citrus fruits, and you come along and say, “you fool, there is no similarity at all, one is yellow and one is orange, one is sweet and one is sour! How the heck can you even compare?”,

          Does that make you feel proud of yourself?

          Just because you can point out differences, that does not mean the comparison is pointless. He pointed out similarities. The similarities exist.

          And one point: Marois is not a regional bumbler. Quebec was inches away from becoming a separate country in 1995. Hundreds of thousands of people left Quebec since the 80s because of people like her, and many more may be leaving because of this new policy that she intends to implement (if not now, whenever she can get it passed). Bill 101 was passed. Two referendums happened. Peoples’ rights are restricted in Quebec. The article has talked about people that may feel forced to flee the province because they can no longer express their religion in their daily lives. This is not a joke.

        • “A regional bumbler…” You are talking about the leader who received enough votes from the populace to become Premier of the province. If she is a “bumbler”, she is one with much popular support behind her. I cannot help but wonder how much outrage there would be if this was issue was playing out in a province in Canada farther to the west of where it is.

          • She only has a minority, but even with a majority a premier doesn’t necessarily have overwhelming popular support due to our FPTP system.

          • Well if you read the article from the Canadian Press (also on Macleans) you will have been reminded that her predecessor who championed the rights of immigrants almost caused the complete downfall of the PQ party. Obviously Ms. Marois and her bigoted plans were a big selling feature in the province. I didn’t say she had “overwhelming support” but she had enough support to get elected, first as party leader and then as premier. It is a sad day when bigotry becomes a big seller in a country such as Canada. It is even sadder when people are splitting hairs about whether bigotry toward religion is different than bigotry toward people of certain sexual orientation. It is all the same. It doesn’t matter what province it occurs in. It is unacceptable and thank goodness we have writers like the author that care enough about their own province to take it on.

  5. “And because it is plainly in contravention with the Charter, the
    proposed Quebec values charter sets the table for a constitutional
    conflict, for which the PQ has been pining since Meech Lake.”

    Now that’d make for interesting and ironic politics, SH manfully defending Canadian values by brandishing the very charter he despises.

    • National Post – PMO says this is a provincial matter, NDP same. Only Justin Trudeau has openly condemned it. He happened to be in Quebec City yesterday and met and discussed this with ‘his’ premier.

      • Yes, Justin Trudeau is outraged as many from Quebec should be. After all, he did point out this isn’t who “we” are. Sadly, the federal politicians won’t have any sway over this ridiculous policy. After his meeting with the premier, all Mr. Trudeau could say is that he and the premier had to “agree to disagree”.

        • . . . . and perhaps share a toke?

        • Why the “we” in quotation marks? For sure Mr. Trudeau had a lot more to say than his federal party leaders colleagues who said nothing at all.

          • The actual quote is “this isn’t who we Quebecers are”. I put the we in quotations to indicate that Mr. Trudeau was talking about himself as a person from Quebec. I cannot imagine after the incident with children wearing turbans that this is not very disturbing for him.

  6. Just wondering . . . would dreadlocks be banned if one was Rastafarian? But if one was not and just wears them for cultural affinity, how would that be checked?

  7. Comparing Marois to Putin is an insult to Putin.

    • You might want to rethink that one.

      • Nope.

        • Then you’re a first class ignorant idiot.

  8. Up until the 18th century, the only women who went bareheaded in Christendom were . . . well, “loose.”

    It’s about culture, not religion.

    To use the tradition of French secularism to attack the hijab is downright fascist. French secularism was about resistance on the part of the revolutionaries to vast secular power on the part of the Church — a power which French royalists remained keen on restoring until WWII. Secularism was about defending the individual.

    THIS version of secularism — let’s call it “Le Pen secularism” — is a tool in the hands of xenophobic nationalism to impose culture on the individual; it’s actually the political descendant of anti-secularist French monarchism.

  9. A justifiable reason for banning the expression of religious symbols by government instititions and employees is that the government should neither promote or denigrate any religion – it should be secular. “Secular” does not mean “against” any particular religion, it means “independent” of any particular religion. Individuals, or groups of individual citizens, are free to promote their beliefs but not the state. Placing a religious symbol in a government building (or on a government employee) can reasonably be viewed as promoting that religion; after all, that is part of the purpose of a religious symbol.
    The fact that certain symbols are expempted from the proposed law – most especially the crucifix in the National Assembly! – puts the lie to this rationale for the proposed law. The extention of the proposed law beyond government institutions and representatives (i.e. daycar workers etc simply because the daycare recieves government subsidies) is also not justified because a daycare worker does not represent the state.

    • “Placing a religious symbol in a government building (or on a government employee) can reasonably be viewed as promoting that religion; after all, that is part of the purpose of a religious symbol.”

      This reminds me of the Salafist idea that miniskirts on women should be band because they promote impure thoughts in men.

      • I said “religious symbol”. The symbolic nature is determined by the religion itself, not how someone else chooses to interpret it. A Star of David is a symbol of Judaism because Jews say it is not because I do. A cross is a symbol of Christianity because Christians say it is not because I do. A statue of the Budda is a symbol of Buddism because Buddists say it does not because I do. A hijab is a symbol of Islamic faith because Muslums say it is (although in this case some muslums accept that it is simply a cultural norm, not one representing a religious group).

  10. Pathetic the going on in some places of Canada today. Not only pathetic but unjust and disturbing as well:-(

  11. @ Herbe Verte, I did a word search for the word “corrupt” and the main article has no such word. Only your post does.

  12. @ Herbe Verte, The author is quoting the journal de montreal… “As the Journal de Montréal notes, “The Marois government not only wants to ban the Islamic headscarf and other religious signs from the public service and the courts, but from daycares, schools and hospitals as well.”

  13. The silence of the NDP and Mr. Mulcair our great socialist leader is very loud on this issue. What does Thomas think in his home province and federal political base.
    It does speak volumes on his political agenda.

  14. I agree, beware of Nationalism