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Religious Tolerance logo

Religious intolerance in Canada

2013-SEP: Some responses to the
proposed "Charter of Quebec Values:"

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This essay is a continuation of a previous essay

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Responses to the proposed "Charter of Quebec Values:"

  • 2013-SEP-03: Amira Elghawaby is the Human Rights Coordinator at the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM). In her op-ed piece in the Toronto Star newspaper, she views the proposed Charter as a document to unify the "pure laine" in Quebec. This term is French for "pure wool" and a common phrase that refers to people in Quebec whose ancestry is purely French-Canadian. A similar term is "de souche" which means "old stock."

    The proposed Charter may act as a unifying document to the pure laine, but it would draw a dividing line between them and English people who have settled in Quebec over many centuries, Aboriginal people who pre-dated the pure laine, as well as immigrants who have largely come from French speaking countries. She wrote that the proposed Charter is:

    "... actually more than just a jab at the religious minorities who helped build the province. It is, in fact, a jab at our entire Canadian identity (an added boon for the Parti Québécois).

    As authors and historians have pointed out over the years, our evolution into a multicultural and generally welcoming space has a lot to do with aboriginal values. In his 2008 book, A Fair Country, 1 philosopher and author John Ralston Saul argues that First Nations culture permeated relationships, despite some concerted efforts to stamp it out. Concepts around shared governance, community and inclusiveness managed to infiltrate the highest echelons of power in this country, perhaps even leading indirectly to the embrace of an official multicultural policy in 1971, a policy that became and remains admired around the world and which has attracted the best and brightest minds to our shores.

    'We are a people of aboriginal inspiration organized around a concept of peace, fairness and good government,' he writes. 'That is what lies at the heart of our story, at the heart of Canadian mythology, whether francophone or anglophone.'

    Further, Saul recognized a phenomenon that once again appears to be rearing its head, with Quebecers at the forefront of this unfortunate turn.

    'Throughout the western world in the second half of the nineteenth century, middle-class, pew-chained and empire-obsessed civilizations gradually slipped toward the paranoid fears of the twentieth century. Fear of what? Fear of the loss of purity — pure blood, pure race, pure national traits and values and ties.'

    He might as well be writing about today’s Quebec. Polls favouring the proposed charter indicate that [Premier] Marois has tapped into a visceral paranoia of the 'other' that sometimes haunts communities to tragic effect.

    In Quebec, we have a minority afraid of its own minorities." 2

  • 2013-SEP-10: Some responses from the public: An article in the Montreal Gazette included postings of some interesting comments by readers: 3

    • Allan Tanny commented:

      "The whole notion of reasonable accommodation is a violation of normal democratic values. By its very nature it gives a majority more rights than a minority. It puts minorities in a position of having to act in a way that the majority finds acceptable. Aside from head coverings let's remember the row crated by Muslims not eating pork in a cabane a sucre. It created quite a fuss because it was not in accord with Quebecois values.
      This law which seems to have a lot of support in parts of Quebec is something to be deeply ashamed of. It certainly will confirm Quebec's unique status: anti-democratic, racist, discriminatory. Not something to be proud of, but as Marois said upon being chosen as leader of the PQ, "we should not be afraid of what others think of us."

    • Anne Dunn responded:

      " 'We should not be afraid of what others think of us...' Really ! Most of the human race do care what others think of them. if we have a 'Moral compass' and we step over the line I hope that civilisation does step up and tell us: 'We have crossed the line' on civilised behavior ! it [is] not only necessary, it the right thing to do."

    • Ind Mange:

      "First of all is this topic really exists . Can PQ change the person's religion.This party knows that it does not have support from any other sect than only some narrow minded people."

    • Bruce Robinson (Coordinator of this web site, writing as an individual):

      "I feel that if a government is to display true neutrality, it should allow free expression by believers in diverse religions as well as free expression by secularists. It should not ban free expression -- including elements of clothing -- from anyone. 3

  • 2013-SEP-13: Lakeridge Hospital in Ontario recruits medical professionals from Quebec: A hospital in the Toronto, ON area took advantage of the pending restriction on religious clothing to raid Quebec hospitals for doctors and nursing staff.

Recruitment ad 4

Kevin Empey, president and CEO of Lakeridge Health, commented:

"Organizations hire doctors from different provinces all the time. A lot of Ontario doctors have left and gone to Alberta. Are we trying to specifically take advantage of the (Quebec debate)? I’d say we’re wording it as we’re trying to create awareness that there is a really good (health) organization if you want to make a change." 5

The Jewish General Hospital was the first health-care institution to publicly oppose the proposed charter. Dr. Michael Malus, chief of family medicine at the hospital said:

"The prospect of physicians, nurses and other health-care workers having to leave their institutions to ensure these basic freedoms is unthinkable and devastating." 5

  • 2013-SEP-15: A poll of the Quebec public was conducted by CROP -- a Montreal-based polling company -- between 2013-SEP-12 and 15. Results indicate a four-way division concerning the proposed Charter:

    • 50% favor the proposed Charter:
      • 29% are "old-stock Catholics" who are concerned about what they perceive as the negative effects of immigration.

      • 21% are "closed secularists" who oppose any display of religion in the public space.

    • 50% are opposed to the proposed Charter:
      • 29% are "tolerant believers" who have no problem with religious diversity in Quebec.

      • 21% are "open secularists" who are not personally religious but are tolerant of religious expression by religious believers. 4

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This topic continues in the next essay.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. book cover image Joyn Ralston Saul, "A Fair Country," Penguin Canada (2009). Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store
  2. Amira Elghawaby, "The ‘other’ has no place in PQ’s charter of values," The Toronto Star, 2013-SEP-03, at:
  3. "Quebec values: Christmas and crucifixes are in; Hijabs? Not so much," The Montreal Gazette, 2013-SEP-10, at:
  4. "PQ stiffens on charter," Winnipeg Free Press, 2013-SEP-19, at:
  5. Aaron Derfel, "Quebec doctors already being recruited," The Montreal Gazette, 2013-SEP-13, at:

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Copyright © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2013-OCT-03
Latest update: 2013-OCT-23
Author: B.A. Robinson

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