Québec at its best is an open minded, tolerant and vivacious society, one that embraces and celebrates its diversity. Protective of its European distinctiveness but confident in its rightful place in North America, Quebec at its best enriches the world with its joie-de-vivre, its cultural wealth and its unique position as a French province in a predominantly English continent. At its worst, it is petty, insular, xenophobic and all too easily held in the thrall of small-minded politicians.
This week we have seen the worst of Québec manifest itself with news that the Parti Quebecois’ proposed “Charter of Quebec Values” will prohibit public employees from donning Sikh, Jewish and Muslim headwear in the workplace as well as highly visible crucifixes. Some see this as the continuing legacy of the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s whereby Québec unshackled itself from the prior domination of the Catholic Church over many matters in civil society and established secularism as the dominant force of society. Others however see this as a cheap ploy by the minority Parti Québecois government to rile up the electorate over an irrelevant and divisive “problem” rather than deal with more difficult but far more important issues – like health care and the economy. I mean, who gets riled up about health care and the economy?
Better to find convenient scapegoats and manufacture problems where none existed before. Good one Québec. You’re SO awesome. The self appointed leaders of the Quebec Jewish Community offered strong words in opposition to the Charter when they met with Bernard Drainville, Minister responsible for Democratic Institutions and Active Citizenship. Strong words but a decidedly Milquetoast-ish conclusion:
“By the meeting’s end, Minister Drainville expressed the wish to keep channels of communication open with the organized Jewish community’s representatives and agreed to meet again with CIJA-Quebec and Federation CJA after the government officially unveils the general outline of its Charter early next month… CIJA-Quebec and Federation CJA officials will continue to meet with the government and the opposition parties to present the Jewish community’s position on the place of religion in the public sphere.”
Listen here Québec. Nothing prevents religious people from performing secular duties at work. In fact, religious people do that all the time. The only response to this cheap political posturing is the hope that the Québecois will see through it. That and the absolute contempt and derision that this Charter deserves. Fuck your open channels of communication.