2014-JAN-14: Skeptical response to the Charter by Richard Bourhis:
Richard Bourhis is a professor in the Department of Psychology at the Université du Québec à Montréal. He is also a member of the Society for Experimental Social Psychology and is fellow of the Canadian Psychological Association and the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues.
He regards the proposed Charter as a solution in search of a problem. In an article in the Globe and Mail -- Canada's national newspaper -- he notes:
The Parti Quebecois (PQ) refuses to reveal:
How many of the civil servants are Muslims.
How many are female Muslims wearing the hijab or niqab
How many are Jews wearing a kippa.
How many are Sikhs wearing a turban.
In spite of a intense six month search, the PQ was unable to find a single francophone citizen in Quebec who complained about being served by a civil servant wearing religious clothing.
He speculates that the PQ is promoting the Charter in order to pick up votes among Québécois Francophone ethnic nationalists, and gain seats from the other nationalist party -- the CAQ -- with the eventual goal of forming an majority government after the next election.
"The debate on the Charter of Secular Values has already polarized intergroup relations in Quebec. The damage is done and vulnerable minorities such as Muslims, Jews and Sikhs suffer accrued stigmatization and segregation."
He quoted Valérie Létourneau of the Regroupement des centres de femmes du Québec as saying:
"There is a dramatic increase in cases of insults and violence against veiled Muslim women. For us, this is clearly linked to the debate on the Charter."
He also quoted Jacques Parizeau, the previous Parti Québécois premier, who stated:
"Recent immigrants, who by the way speak excellent French, are starting to be afraid. Here they had peace. Now we step in with our big boots. And we don’t target Muslim men but Muslim women. ... To adopt such a law targeting a certain number of Muslim women is embarrassing." 2
The PQ has called an election for 2014-APR-14. 3
2014-MAR-09: The Nebraska connection:
The Parti Québécois (PQ) cited a 1919 Nebraska law as a precedent to the Charter of Quebec Values. It is still on the books there, as statute numbers 79-898 and 79-899. It targeted nuns wearing religious clothing. The law specified one-year suspension, a fine of $100 -- which would be equivalent of many thousands of dollars today -- and/or 30 days in jail. One of the politicians at the time was unhappy with the bill. He said:
"I think that this bill does not go far enough. I think we should require some of our teachers to add a little bit to the top of their dress and a ruffle or two at the bottom." 4
However, the law has not been enforced for many decades and very few of the Nebraska public have ever heard of it. A Canadian Press reporter interviewed a long-time politician, a legal analyst at the state legislature, a legislative historian, a political activist, multiple school-board officials, representatives of a teachers’ union, two research assistants at the Omaha public library, and people at a local Islamic centre. None had heard of the law.
Samyr El-Refaie at the Islamic Center of Omaha said it is wrong to cite his state's law as a precedent. He said:
They’re being deceptive. They’re using an example of a law that’s not being ... [enforced.] It’s like a kangaroo law. Some states have these crazy, outlandish laws that were passed in the 1800s -- like ... having a kangaroo is a federal crime, or staying up past midnight could get you in trouble. It’s just a law that doesn’t apply." 4
Researchers have uncovered two more states in the U.S. that had restrictions on teachers' religious clothing: Illinois, and Pennsylvania.
"Grandpa" posted a comment on the article about Nebraska in the Toronto Star. He predicted the future of the Charter of Quebec Values:
"What will happen is that the Quebec Charter will become law, it will be challenged all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, it will be ruled unconstitutional, and Quebec will invoke the 'notwithstanding' clause, just as they did with Bill 101. Only in Canada, eh?" 4
2014-APR-07: The proposed charter may have died, along with the Parti Quebecois' hope for power:
Quebec Premier Pauline Marois who leads the Parti Québécois, called a snap provincial election on MAR-05 in a bid to attain a majority government. The polls looked encouraging at the time. However, on election day, her bid failed miserably. When the votes were counted, the Liberal Party was returned in a majority position.
She based her re-election bid on two topics: separating Quebec from the rest of Canada, and the Quebec Charter of Values. Neither resonated with the public, who were primarily concerned with economic problems. Referring to the Charter as the dominant theme during the election, David Olive -- writing for the Toronto Star -- said:
"She spent the first weeks of the campaign determined to make Quebec sovereignty and her controversial, so-called secular charter, or Quebec charter of values, the election’s dominant theme.
That was, well, idiotic, since the charter has been deeply divisive since it was first unveiled. ..."
"Actually, there is nothing remotely secular about this quasi-racist initiative. Catholics would be only marginally affected by it, thereby establishing Catholicism as something of a state religion — precisely the opposite of secularism. (Cue George Orwell’s Politics and the English Language for how this kind of doublespeak is a curse on humanity.) ..."
Dalton Camp, the late and longtime Tory strategist, once said that governments ousted from power are such a rarity — or should be, given the advantages of incumbency — that they must grab themselves by the lapels and hurl themselves from office.
That appears to be what Marois has done." 5
The Liberal Party, whose members are divided on the topic of the Charter of Values, are now in power. The Charter may be dead. If so, that would be seen by many Canadians as a major victory for religious tolerance, freedom, and respect.
This may be the last news on the Quebec Charter.
It may now reside in the dustbin of history.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Réhal Séguin, "Quebec values charter takes a beating at opening day of public hearings," The Globe and Mail, 2014-JAN-14, at: