Charte: le PQ indigné d’un rapprochement avec Marine Le Pen

If the shoe fits ….

Lors d’un débat musclé entre le candidat du PQ dans Marie-Victorin, Bernard Drainville et Andrés Fontecilla, l’animateur, Paul Arcand, a demandé à ses invités s’ils faisaient un lien entre les législations sur les symboles ostentatoires en France et la montée du racisme dans ce pays.

«J’aimerais seulement faire remarquer que la France est loin d’être un exemple d’intégration. Les problèmes entre les communautés sont exacerbés par ces législations là et je voudrais faire remarquer à M. Drainville que le thème de la laïcité a été approprié par la droite française et même l’extrême droite, M. Sarkozy et Mme Marine Le Pen», a répondu M. Fontecilla.

«Si je vous comprends bien, vous êtes en train de comparer le PQ au Front national et à l’extrême droite. Vous devriez avoir honte et vous excusez sur le champ», a rétorqué M. Drainville, piqué au vif.

«Si vous m’avez bien écouté, j’ai dit que le thème de la laïcité a été approprié par la droite française», a renchérit le candidat solidaire. «On n’est pas la droite française, on est le PQ», a ensuite balancé le responsable du projet de loi.

Charte: le PQ indigné d’un rapprochement avec Marine Le Pen | Annie Mathieu | Élections québécoises.

York U Accommodation: Quebec and Other Commentary

More on the York University accommodation case.

No surprise, but Minister Drainville tries to portray Quebec as ahead of the curve, and that similar debates over approaches will occur in English Canada. He misses the point: debate over what is reasonable will always occur, the question is whether, and how far, one can codify this or handle issues on a case-by-case basis, subject to laws, regulations, and values. Ontario rejected sharia (and other faith-based) religious tribunals and funding for faith-based schools. While the risk of ad hoc case-by-case approaches is that sometimes administrators will get it wrong (as did York), government charters will likely get it more wrong, impacting more people, as the QC charter indicates.

Religious rights controversy will spread across Canada, PQ minister warns – The Globe and Mail.

Drainville also has an interview stating that the Charter is an indispensable tool to against fundamentalism. But why such a broad approach if it is really the small percentage of fundamentalists in all religions?

Charte de la laïcité: «Indispensable» contre l’intégrisme

Andrew Coyne reminds us that judgement, not trying to codify everything, is a better approach. Professor Grayson exercised good judgement, York U administration did not, particularly given that part of their mission statement includes:

A community of faculty, students, staff, alumni and volunteers committed to academic freedom, social justice, accessible education, and collegial self-governance, York University makes innovation its tradition.

York accommodation and Quebec values charter aren’t opposites, in fact they are the same

The Globe editorial, while raising some valid points (the sky is not falling over this request) and ends up on the correct note, nevertheless views this as a complex case, in addition to slamming Justice Minister MacKay for his jingoistic – but correct – response:

What has been overlooked to some degree is the fact that, when the student was initially turned down, he accepted the decision and agreed to attend the online course’s group session. York officials were right to reconsider the student’s request after the professor’s refusal. Their decision to accommodate him, on the grounds that the course is online, is not something we support, but it’s not inherently objectionable – especially because the school implied it would not have made the same decision if the request had come from a student taking a regular, in-class course. This is a hard case, on which reasonable people can and do disagree. What cannot be in dispute is this: York’s decision is not a slippery slope leading to segregated classrooms.

Reasonable accommodation at York is not a slippery slope 

Thomas Jefferson versus the Parti Québécois

Globe editorial poking fun at the PQ’s invocation of Thomas Jefferson to defend the Charter, while nevertheless making serious points:

Jefferson’s statute gave birth to the U.S. First Amendment, enacted in 1791: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Were he alive today, he would be railing against a proposal to force people to choose between working in the civil service and professing their faith. The PQ ministers’ evocation of Jefferson’s name shines a light not only on their poor grasp of history, but also on the twisted thinking behind the Quebec Charter of Values. As Jefferson put it in the Statute of Religious Freedom, imposing “punishments or burdens” on a free mind’s religious opinions or practices tends “to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness.” Exactly.

Thomas Jefferson versus the Parti Québécois – The Globe and Mail.

And Minister Drainville indicated that he does not intend to table legislation for private unsubsidized daycare that does not allow the niqab to be worn but that he would encourage them to not allow the niqab (following the publication of a photo of the daycare centre with niqab-wearing staff):

Drainville n’entend pas légiférer | Le Devoir

Quebec’s Tea Party Moment – NYTimes.com

While their is ongoing debate within Quebec and Canada about the degree to which criticism of the Charter within Canada is helpful or not to Quebec debates (conventional wisdom is that it falls into the PQ strategy of increasing the contrast and polarization between Quebec and Canada), an article in the New York Times, by Maclean’s analyst Martin Patriquin, (Patriquin has been consistent in his views for a long time), raises the stakes somewhat:

In catering to this white, populist rural vote, the left-of-center Parti Québécois has seemingly ventured into Tea Party territory. Janette Bertrand, the 88-year-old leader of a pro-charter group, recently told a newspaper that she would be “scared” to be served by a veiled doctor, because Muslims let women “die faster.” She wasn’t joking.

Anti-immigrant sentiment exists across Canada. Yet Quebec is the only province with a political party willing to exploit that sentiment for political gain. Will it work? Probably not, if only because winning any future referendum on Quebec’s separation from Canada would mean putting the question to each and every Quebecer — including the very people the Parti Québécois is scaring and scapegoating today.

Quebec’s Tea Party Moment – NYTimes.com.

Sure enough, the Quebec Minister responsible for the Bill felt compelled to respond to the critique , reverting to the time-honoured technique of attacking the messenger:

«Or ce n’est pas du journalisme, a commenté Bernard Drainville. C’est de l’opinion. D’ailleurs, M. Patriquin n’en est pas à ses premières frasques. Il a déjà dit que la corruption faisait partie de l’ADN des Québécois», a-t-il rappelé au sujet de ce qu’avait publié le magazine anglophone Maclean’s, en 2010. (an ironic reference, given the current hearings on corruption in Quebec’s construction industry)

La Charte des valeurs, digne du Tea Party? Bof! répond Drainville | Michel Corbeil | Politique

And in minor Charter news, François Legault, the leader of the CAQ distances itself from the comments mentioned yesterday by the former leader of its predecessor, the ADQ, cited yesterday («L’islam, une religion de violence», selon le fondateur de l’ADQ), reflecting how Quebec discussions on multiculturalism and interculturalism have evolved over the years:

Charte: François Legault se distancie de Jean Allaire | Denis Lessard | Politique québécoise

And the Liberal Party of Quebec, while considering legislation limiting the wearing of the niqab or burqa (Le PLQ prépare un projet de loi contre l’intégrisme religious), nevertheless is open – at least in theory – to potential LPQ candidates wearing the chador (in practice, hard to see how any candidate wearing a chador would be nominated a candidate, let alone win, but the party is being consistent that the dividing line is being able to see the face):

PLQ: les candidates portant le tchador seront bienvenues | Jocelyne Richer | Politique québécoise

And lastly, Lysiane Gagnon on the PQ political strategy:

If it wins a majority, Premier Pauline Marois’s government will unfold the second part of the strategy, hoping that its identity legislation will inflame the political climate, provoke an angry backlash in the rest of Canada and eventually push a majority of francophones to react by voting Yes to another sovereignty referendum. The sovereigntists will argue that “English Canada” and the federal government are imposing values alien to Quebec (multiculturalism, for instance) and depriving Quebec of the right to adopt the policies it needs for its cultural survival.

 PQ’s charter madness has a method 

Charte des valeurs: Drainville défend le titre du projet de loi

Although the official reason for the 28 word title is to blame the lawyers, strikes me some focus group targeted messaging at play.

Charte des valeurs: Drainville défend le titre du projet de loi | Jocelyne Richer | Politique québécoise.

PQ values charter gets a new, 28-word name – Canada, Need to know – Macleans.ca

And the actual tabling of the bill shows few surprises, with only the healthcare sector getting a renewable exemption:

La Charte des «valeurs de laïcité» est déposée

The actual text:

Le projet de loi sur la Charte des valeurs (PDF)

Quebec Values Charter Round-Up

Third-party leader François Legault tries to create some space for his party between the PQ and the Liberals in the ongoing Quebec Charter debate, noting the ugly tone and focus on Quebec Muslims, and wanting to find a compromise approach working with the other party leaders. His proposal was quickly rejected by PQ Premier given their wedge-issue electoral strategy.

Legault dénonce le «procès contre la religion musulmane»

Lysiane Gagnon criticizes Quebec Liberal Leader Philippe Coulliard for his recent silence on the Charter.

Liberal values, but no Liberals

A further illustration of the PQ political strategy can be seen in Minister Drainville’s release of the public consultations on the Charter. Like so many governments these days, the consultation process was designed to generate a more favourable result for the government, rather than a more objective reading. Interestingly, lots of support for the removal of the crucifix in the Assemblée nationale, and opposition to cities and sectors having an exemption.

Charte des valeurs: Drainville évoque des changements

Charter of Values Round-Up

And then there were three – three former premiers joined in their critique of the proposed Charter (and Landry has changed from his initial support), in addition to former Prime Minister Chrétien, and another federal minister, Christian Paradis, unlike Denis Lebel, reinforces the government’s line against the Charter:

Bernard Landry joins Bouchard, Parizeau in charter critique – Montreal – CBC News.

Jean Chrétien weighs in on Charter of Quebec Values

La charte est un message hostile aux immigrants, selon Paradis

Mixed signals from the PQ government on how they will, if they will, respond to this strong political signal to back down, starting with Premier Marois who signals an opening but her Minister, Bernard Drainville, does not:

Charte des valeurs: Marois attentive à l’appel de Bouchard et Parizeau

Drainville garde le cap sur la Charte en dépit des dissensions

Some commentary advising the PQ government to follow the advice of the former premiers and go for the Bouchard-Tayor model of laïcité ouverte, and other commentary arguing for a broader debate, situated outside political and electoral considerations:

La voie de la raison

Charte des valeurs québécoises – Alors, que fait-on?

La Charte de l’inconfort collectif

And a piece by Stéphane Dion, former Liberal Cabinet Minister and Leader, on the difference between showing political allegiance and religious faith for public servants:

Signes politiques, signes religieux : une dangereuse analogie

A reminder from a former professor of Egyptian origin, Nadia Alexan, who has experience with fundamentalists, that our openness creates space for fundamentalists. One of the risks in an open, democratic society, but one that applies to all religions, not just Islam. Singling out one religion without acknowledging integration-related issues for the fundamentalist strains of all religions, and recognizing the balance between religious and other freedoms, is not tenable:

Arrêtons de dorloter l’intégrisme

And lastly, while I think Andrew Coyne goes too far in his portrayal of the internal contradictions of the PQ (and the Bloc), he does have a point of the challenge for a society like Quebec to define what “nous” means without it being reduced to Québécois de pure laine, or ethnicity.

There were significant efforts to enlarge the definition of “nous” to include the “cultural communities” and interculturalisme, the Quebec subtle variant of multiculturalism, does have an inclusive element:

There is a basic, unresolvable incompatibility between a pluralist, open, civic nationalism and a nationalism devoted to the interests of a particular ethnocultural group. No amount of careful obsequies can paper this over. Once you have freed yourself from the obligation, incumbent on governments in every other liberal state, to govern on behalf of all your citizens equally — once you have decided, frankly and unashamedly, to speak of and for “nous” — you have made your choice. If the province’s ethnic minorities have failed to respond to the PQ’s entreaties, that may explain why. If, after all, it were really about an inclusive nationalism, with equality for all, if that were the society you were trying to create, what need would there be to separate?

Péquistes, then, can be divided into two groups. Those who have persuaded themselves there is no contradiction, that they can be both inclusive and exclusive at the same time. And those who have shed the illusion.

Don’t be fooled, the Parti Québécois has never been inclusive

PQ asked to release public input on values charter

As always, governments are less transparent about public input than desired, maintaining the power of the summary or synthesis to shape the debate.

PQ asked to release public input on values charter – Need to know – Macleans.ca.

Consultation sur la Charte – Drainville dévoilera une synthèse des opinions

And a good opinion piece by Diane Lamoureux, of Université de Laval, arguing against the approach of the proposed Charter from both a rights and values perspective:

Le premier est celui de l’égalité des citoyennes et citoyens. Celle-ci est assurée, entre autres, par la neutralité religieuse de l’État, mais aussi par l’ouverture des emplois et des charges publics à toutes et à tous, sans distinction autre que le fait de posséder les qualifications professionnelles nécessaires à l’exercice d’un emploi. Faire porter uniquement aux personnes qui travaillent dans l’appareil d’État (défini de manière très extensive puisqu’il inclut les CPE privés subventionnés) le poids de la neutralité religieuse de l’État représente un fardeau indu pour l’ensemble des citoyennes et citoyens, pas seulement pour ceux et celles qui arborent des signes religieux visibles. Dans les sociétés contemporaines, l’égalité implique également l’inclusion et non l’isolement de certaines ou certains dans des ghettos religieux ou «communautaires».

Le deuxième est celui de la liberté. C’est un grand acquis des sociétés modernes que la façon dont les gens se vêtent ne soit pas fixée par la législation. N’oublions pas qu’il n’y a pas si longtemps, on interdisait aux femmes le pantalon. Certaines et certains peuvent être choqués par la façon dont d’autres s’habillent, mais il ne devrait pas relever de l’État de dicter la tenue vestimentaire à adopter. Seules quelques fonctions requièrent un uniforme et le port de celui-ci devrait se limiter au temps de travail. La liberté ne donne aucun droit à opprimer les minorités et le degré de liberté d’une société se mesure à la liberté dont jouissent ceux et celles qui diffèrent de l’opinion majoritaire.

Le troisième principe est celui de la solidarité. Nous ne sommes pas une communauté, nous sommes une société, traversée par une multiplicité d’intérêts et de sujets d’accord et de désaccord. Faire société implique des modes de civilité, un respect mutuel et une volonté d’inclusion. Dans un territoire où l’apport de l’immigration est si important, ce n’est pas tant le passé que nous partageons que l’avenir que nous pouvons construire ensemble. C’est en se côtoyant et non en s’excluant que nous pourrons déterminer ensemble cet avenir.

La Charte ou le triomphe de l’ersatz

And a reminder, from Norman Paradis, in Le Devoir, that all religions, have their fundamentalist streams, which tend to focus on family law, personal status, sexual and reproductive rights, with a disproportionate impact on women:

La montée des fondamentalismes, enjeu oublié du présent débat