Quebec students feel there’s ‘no future’ for them due to religious symbols law, study suggests

Of note. Interviews, not a poll, selection bias likely at play, but nevertheless of note (article in Le Devoir below):

A new study looking into how university students feel about Quebec’s religious symbols law is painting a bleak picture, with many saying they’ve lost faith in the province and plan to leave.

The study, completed by researchers from two Montreal-based universities, asked post-secondary students, recent graduates and prospective students about their feelings on Bill 21.

The bill, also known as Quebec’s Laicity Act, became law in June 2019. It banned some civil servants, including teachers, police officers and government prosecutors, from wearing religious symbols at work within the province.

The study acknowledged the sample size is “relatively small” — 629 respondents, polled from Oct. 2020 through to Nov. 2021 — and has a “strong possibility of selection bias,” as those who feel more strongly about Bill 21 are more likely to have responded to the survey.

However, the authors noted that respondents were “relatively diverse” and attended both French and English institutions from across the province.

Only about 28 per cent of respondents said they wore some form of religious symbol.

“We were expecting a more balanced diversity of responses. We thought we would get more people in favour of the law,” said Elizabeth Elbourne, an associate professor of history at McGill and one of the researchers behind the study.

“There’s a really interesting generational gap. We were quite struck.”‘I have no future in Quebec’

Respondents in Elbourne’s study were invited to write-in additional comments. Many said they experienced increased racism since the law was introduced.

“I think that the bill — despite the fact that many people don’t mean it this way — in practice, can give permission to discriminate,” she said.

Over 34 per cent of respondents — including those who did not wear a religious symbol — reported experiencing increased discrimination since the law was passed. That number jumps to 56.5 per cent for those who do wear religious symbols.

“It used to happen to me occasionally. Now it happens almost every time I go out,” said one Université de Montréal student who wears a hijab.

One McGill education student described seeing Bill 21 invoked in the classroom while on a work placement during their studies.

“[I] watched students and the teacher ridicule a Muslim girl for wearing a hijab. The teacher said with Bill 21, you can’t dress like that,” the respondent wrote. “The girl was mortified and silent and just 11 years old.”

Even those outside of law and education, the fields most impacted by the law, reported feeling its effects.

“I have had some job interviews where I could immediately tell that the person lost interest in my application as soon as they saw me with my headscarf,” said a Concordia engineering student.

Moving provinces seen as ‘only solution’

As a result, 69.5 per cent of the students polled who wear a religious symbol said they were likely to leave the province for work.

“I didn’t even get a chance to start my career properly,” lamented one McGill education student who wears a hijab.

“The only solution I am strongly considering is to move to another province.”

Weeam Ben Rejeb is one of those considering the move. The McGill law student hoped to become a prosecutor, but would be banned due to her hijab.

“Even though I could practice in the private sector, it’s more about what this law is saying about me,” she said.

Ben Rejeb described Bill 21 as an “insult,” saying it suggested that she wouldn’t be able to do her job because of what she chose to wear.

“It’s extremely offensive,” she said. “We are essentially saying we’re not intelligent enough or impartial enough to be able to be neutral judges or teachers.”

Can’t work with ‘clean conscience’

They’re not the only ones considering leaving.

Forty-six per cent of the students who don’t wear religious symbols said they were also planning to leave Quebec due to Bill 21, saying they don’t want to participate in a system that discriminates against their colleagues.

“I refuse to work in a place where my peers cannot or will be punished for expressing themselves,” said one education student.

“I don’t feel that I can be a teacher here in Quebec and have a clean conscience while doing so,” wrote another.

“I chose Canada because I believed their laws aligned with my liberal beliefs,” wrote a Concordia law student who does not wear a religious symbol. “Now I am very disappointed and rethinking everything.”

Elbourne, the researcher who worked on the study, said she sees the potential exodus of students having a “serious impact” on the province’s education system.

“I think it’s going to make it harder to recruit teachers. And I also think, if we’re looking at the people leaving — are people from the outside going to want to come to Quebec?” Elbourne said.

As for how they feel about Quebec, 70.3 per cent of all respondents said they had a worse perception of the province since the law passed.

“I despise Quebec now,” wrote one McGill education student who wears a hijab. “A province which has absolutely no respect for me or my people to the point that they’d like to take my livelihood away deserves no love.”

“We’re racist af (as f–k),” wrote another.

Some support for Bill 21, survey shows

Not everyone was against the law, however. While the study notes that the “vast majority of people … were critical or divided” on Bill 21, there were also those who supported the measure.

One McGill education student hoped the bill would “encourage all faiths to embrace secular civic life” in Quebec.

“Hopefully we will see a new era in which students are able to attend school without being subjected to symbols of patriarchal religious oppression on their teachers,” they wrote.

One McGill law student said their family “escaped” a country that forced women to wear the hjiab. “We are free here,” they wrote.

A PhD student in education at McGill said they came from a conservative and religious part of the United States and would like to see something similar there.

“[Bill 21] is a wonderful step towards women’s liberation and freedom,” they wrote. “I wish my state would pass a similar bill.”

Ben Rejeb, the law student, acknowledged that Bill 21 does have widespread support in the province — especially in more rural regions — but questioned why that was.

“If all that you know about Muslims is what you see on TV … then it makes sense why you might have these fears,” she said.

Ben Rejeb said that with more education, she believes that most Quebecers would change their minds about supporting the law, though she fears many have already moved on.

“I feel like most of my peers, and Quebec society in general, has kind of forgotten about this and is going on with their lives and not really thinking about it because it doesn’t affect them personally,” she said.

“All of us who are living in Quebec right now are complicit in allowing this bill to continue to exist.”

Source: Quebec students feel there’s ‘no future’ for them due to religious symbols law, study suggests

Un grand nombre d’étudiants en enseignement et en droit projettent de faire leur vie hors de portée de la Loi sur la laïcité de l’État québécois — en commençant par ceux portant un signe religieux, mais pas seulement eux.

Près de trois ans après l’adoption de la loi 21, 73,9 % des futurs, actuels ou anciens étudiants en enseignement qui portent un signe religieux et 54 % des futurs, actuels ou anciens étudiants en droit qui portent un signe religieux réfléchissent à l’idée de quitter le Québec, peut-on lire dans un rapport de recherche signée par les professeures Elizabeth Elbourne (Université McGill) et Kimberley Manning (Université Concordia).

Celles-ci se sont employées à mesurer l’incidence de la loi 21 sur les projets de vie d’étudiants et de diplômés en enseignement et en droit. Pour y arriver, elles ont notamment distribué un questionnaire sur les campus des collèges et des universités, que 629 personnes ont rempli entre le 13 octobre 2020 et le 9 novembre 2021. « L’échantillonnage est relativement petit et pas nécessairement représentatif de l’ensemble des étudiants du Québec en droit et en éducation », précisent-elles.

L’idée de tourner le dos au Québec trotte aussi dans la tête de plusieurs étudiants et diplômés qui ne portent pas de signe religieux. En effet, 46 % des personnes interrogées se disent être « très ou assez susceptibles de chercher du travail ailleurs qu’au Québec à cause de la loi 21 ».

« Ce ne sont pas seulement les gens qui portent un symbole religieux, mais ce sont les membres de leur famille, ce sont leurs amis, ce sont leurs camarades de classe qui repensent leur carrière, se demandent s’ils vont rester au Québec, et cela se répercute sur leur impression générale du Québec », soutient Kimberley Manning.

D’autres, moins nombreux, se résigneraient plutôt à revoir leurs plans de carrière, croyant — parfois à tort — ne pas pouvoir aller au bout de leurs ambitions professionnelles en raison de la loi 21.

« Au lieu d’aller en droit, je vais essayer de rentrer en psychologie. Je voulais être enseignante de droit au niveau universitaire », a souligné une collégienne portant le hidjab.

« Je comptais terminer mes études en droit ou enseigner à l’université, mais j’ai changé mes plans parce que je n’ai pas d’avenir au Québec dans ces domaines », a affirmé une étudiante inscrite au programme Droit et société de l’Université Concordia. La femme, qui porte aussi le voile islamique couvrant les cheveux, les oreilles et le cou, dit ne pas pouvoir se résoudre à demander à son mari de renoncer à son emploi et à déraciner leurs trois enfants de Montréal, « une ville que nous aimons et dans laquelle nous avons vécu la majeure partie de notre vie ».

La loi 21 interdit à certains employés de l’État québécois, dont les policiers, les procureurs, les gardiens de prison, les enseignants et les directeurs d’école primaire ou secondaire publique de porter un signe religieux dans l’exercice de leurs fonctions. Les avocats de pratique privée et les professeurs de cégep ou d’université ne sont pas assujettis à l’interdiction du port de signe religieux.

Épisodes de discrimination

Par ailleurs, les chercheuses notent une montée de l’islamophobie et de l’antisémitisme depuis l’adoption de la Loi sur la laïcité de l’État par l’Assemblée nationale, en juin 2019.

Pas moins de 76,2 % des femmes portant le hidjab ou un foulard interrogées dans le cadre du projet de recherche ont rapporté avoir subi de la discrimination. Elizabeth Elbourne dit avoir été « surprise par les expériences de discrimination vécue — harcèlement dans la rue, etc. » relatées par les étudiants au fil de ses travaux.

Les autrices prennent soin de signaler « une forte possibilité [de] biais de sélection en faveur de ceux opposés à la Loi » dans les résultats du sondage, qui serait causé par le « haut taux de réponse dans la région de Montréal, où se concentrent les minorités religieuses plus que partout ailleurs au Québec, et des personnes portant des signes religieux visibles ».

Cela dit, « le fait que peu de personnes aient répondu afin d’exprimer un fort soutien à la Loi est un élément significatif en lui-même », estiment-elles.

Source: La loi 21, source de craintes pour des étudiants en droit et en enseignement

Lise Ravary: Disparaging laïcité is Canada’s new national sport [disparaging multiculturalism is Quebec’s national sport]

Far too many Quebec commentators (and some English commentators) mischaracterize multiculturalism as an “anything goes” type policy, when fundamentally it is about civic integration and full participation of minorities in social, economic and political spheres. Multiculturalism takes place within the context of integration into either English or French communities:
A teacher who wears a hijab was hired by an English public school in Chelsea, in Western Quebec, despite the fact that the law forbids teachers to wear religious symbols at work. As expected, the school board had no choice but to apply the law. But why was she hired in the first place?

Many think it was a set-up job to embarrass Quebec and pressure Ottawa to act.

Source: Lise Ravary: Disparaging laïcité is Canada’s new national sport

Raj: Quebec is using the Constitution to take away the rights of minorities. What if that becomes the norm?

Good question although the solution of opening the constitution to provide “guardrails” for use of the notwithstanding clause would be opening a Pandora’s box given that other issues would emerge, not to mention garnering sufficient provincial support:

Fatemeh Anvari has started a national conversation.

The school teacher in Chelsea, Que., removed from her classroom this month because of her hijab, has put a face to Bill 21, the Quebec law that prevents those wearing religious symbols from holding certain public-sector jobs.

The law is popular in Quebec, where Premier François Legault defended it again Monday as reasonable and important to ensure secularism and the appearance of neutrality.

“People can teach if they take off their religious symbol while they teach, and when they are in the streets, at home, they can wear a religious symbol,” Legault told reporters.

The shocked parents of students at Chelsea Elementary School want to use their outrage to cast a light on Bill 21’s injustice.

But a Quebec Liberal MP hopes Anvari’s case prompts broader thinking. Anthony Housefather wants a national discussion on the use of the notwithstanding clause, and how to prevent the majority from using its position to curb the rights of minorities.

Anvari lost her ability to teach because Legault pre-emptively used the Charter of Rights and Freedoms’ notwithstanding clause, section 33, giving the Quebec government the ability to trample on fundamental rights and shield its action from the courts. (It is doing so again with language Bill 96.)

“I’m not naïve about it,” the Mount Royal MP told me. Amending the Constitution to add parameters around the clause or eliminate it completely requires the approval of at least seven provinces representing 50 per cent of the Canadian population. The only other direct option would be Ottawa’s power of disallowance, last used to invalidate provincial law in 1943.

Source: Quebec is using the Constitution to take away the rights of minorities. What if that becomes the norm?

Wells: And now, the inevitable Bill 21 fight

Usual insightful column by Paul Wells:

Here’s one measure of how little Building Back Better we’re getting done here in the nation’s capital: MPs from different parties and perspectives are having an interesting conversation about important matters. But it’s entirely off-book. It’s spontaneous, the leaders of the various parties didn’t ask for it, and it’s pretty clear they desperately wish it weren’t happening. In Ottawa, saying what you think is an act of rebellion.

The week’s topic is, of course, Quebec’s Bill 21, which forbids hiring public servants, including teachers, who dress incorrectly (“The persons listed in Schedule II are prohibited from wearing religious symbols in the exercise of their functions.”) The bill was introduced in March of 2019 and passed into law soon after. Federal party leaders fielded questions about it in debates during the 2019 and 2021 elections. Each time, Quebec’s premier François Legault got angry at the people who asked the questions. So did federal party leaders, who pay ever-growing hordes of witless staffers to tell them how to move and talk and who cannot for the life of them understand that the rest of us aren’t also conscripts in that effort.

Anyway the inevitable happened. This week news broke that a Grade 3 teacher in the bucolic Quebec town of Chelsea, a stone’s throw from Ottawa, was pulled from class for wearing a hijab. Here’s how it played in one early story: nameless teacher reassigned to “another function” outside the class, school officials shtum on details, shocked community hanging green ribbons.

A chain reaction ensued. Kyle Seeback, a Brampton Conservative MP, kicked it off by tweeting, “I cannot in good conscience keep silent on this anymore… Bill 21 has to be opposed. In court, in the house of commons and in the streets.” Jamie Schmale, Chris Warkentin and Mark Strahl tweeted their agreement.

Seeback’s conscience seems to have gnawed at him after he retweeted a Wednesday-night tweet from the Globe’s Robyn Urback wondering why Catherine McKenna, the former Liberal environment minister, now calls Law 21’s application “appalling” but didn’t, at the time, contradict Justin Trudeau’s milder language in the 2019 and ’21 campaigns. Good for Seeback, actually, for amplifying some snark aimed at a Liberal and then realizing it applied to him too. Soon McKenna and the Conservative MPs had company among Liberals still in caucus: Alexandra Mendes, Salma Zahid, Iqra Khalid, Marc Garneau. Finally a sitting cabinet minister, Marc Miller, called the law’s application “cowardly.” There is also a clip of Chrystia Freeland, the federal Minister of Careful What You Wish For, saying as close to nothing as she can possibly say, a recurring highlight of many recent debates.

I don’t like Bill 21 either. It’s based on silly reasoning—“the state” must have no religion, so nobody who works for the state may be seen to have any religion. This is like saying the state has no particular height, so public servants must be required to hover above the ground. Somewhere around here there’s an old column I wrote patiently explaining this logic and its heritage in the receding role of the Catholic church in Quebec society, a column some of my Toronto colleagues still enjoy mocking, but there’s a difference between understanding the argument and buying it. On a list of the top, say, thousand problems facing modern Quebec, “teachers in head scarves” would not appear. And one of the most obvious things we can say about this law is that the costs it imposes—in personal freedom, economic opportunity, social ostracism—is essentially never borne by people named Tremblay or Côté or Wells. Somehow the burden seems to land reliably on people named—well, in the current instance, on Fatemeh Anvari. About whom more in a moment.

I have also never felt that Bill 21 reveals some universal moral failing of “Quebec.” Every criticism I can level against this law has been levelled, many times, by Quebecers, including several of the Liberal MPs who ran out of patience yesterday; the Quebec Liberal and Québec Solidaire parties, which between them won more votes than Legault’s party did in 2018; an impressive selection of municipal politicians and commentators in, mostly, Montreal; and Judge Marc-André Blanchard of Quebec Superior Court, whose ruling struck down parts of Bill 21 and exclaimed his helplessness with regard to the rest: he plainly doesn’t like the thing, but Legault’s use of the constitution’s “notwithstanding” clause protects most of the law from legal challenge or judicial invalidation. Solid majorities in Quebec have supported the law in polls, but I’m not sure how long that will last, and since the law’s Charter-proofing provisions must be renewed every five years in the National Assembly, I’m not sure the law itself will last long either. I reject the notion that only Quebecers may have an opinion on the thing, because of course everyone can have an opinion on anything. But the conversation among Quebecers is plenty multifaceted already.

A few points of context. First, the provisions of the law, as they apply to the Western Quebec School Board which employs Fatemeh Anvari, have already been struck down. Minority-language education rights are notwithstanding-proof, and Judge Blanchard did to the provisions regarding English school boards what he plainly wished he could do to the whole law. Legault’s government appealed the ruling, and under Quebec law the provisions remain in place pending appeal, but Legault will lose the appeal and by next year, there may be no remaining barrier to teachers in hijabs teaching in Quebec’s English-language schools. This doesn’t help the rest of the province, at least not immediately, but it sets up two cases that parents will be able to observe and compare. Which is a ball that can bounce in many different ways over time.

Second, in interviews Anvari is plainly rattled by a situation she should not be in. But neither is she fired nor banished to the furthest reaches of her school’s steam-pipe trunk distribution venue. As the Lowdown’s excellent story notes, she’s been assigned to lead “a literacy project for all students [that] will target inclusion and awareness of diversity.” This is not as good as simply letting her teach the curriculum would have been, if the law had permitted it, but it shows considerable wit. Again, in a complex society, citizens respond in ways governments often don’t intend and wouldn’t prefer. Governments often don’t take that news well.

Third: those calling on governments to do something, now including members of the federal governing caucus, are sometimes short of ideas about what, precisely, to do. Federal lawyers in a court challenge could make no argument that hasn’t already been made—and, largely, rejected by the frustrated Judge Blanchard. Short of reviving the obsolete powers of reservation and disallowance, a step even Pierre Trudeau declined to take against even Bill 101, there’s not much a federal intervention could add.

Is there therefore no point in simply talking, or simply sending federal lawyers to say what lawyers for civil-society groups have already said? No, I think there’s a point, in that it brings government’s actions more closely in line with what are obviously the opinions of the people who compose the government. (Note that there isn’t a single Liberal MP tweeting, “Guys, Bill 21 is great!”) A reduction in the amount of hypocrisy in a system is always welcome and lately well overdue. But as a practical matter, the feds can’t do much to change the situation.

Finally, less important but still worth mentioning: When four Conservative MPs tweeted within minutes about their renewed love of freedom, it was hard to escape the suspicion that there’s something else going on. Perhaps this: those Conservatives are not, by and large, conspicuous Erin O’Toole fans, and many come from ridings where much of the Conservative voter base is spitting mad at O’Toole for perceived softness on vaccine mandates. When Seeback talks about opposing Bill 21 “in the street,” that sure sounds like an echo of the way a lot of people opposed vaccine mandates. MPs who can’t give their voters much satisfaction on the latter are probably grateful for a chance to blow off some steam on the former. That’s not to dismiss or rebut the Bill 21 Freedom Four; it’s just to note that motives are often mixed or additive.

Here’s the thing: in a liberal democracy you can’t keep a cork in everyone’s mouth forever. You shouldn’t try. It’s been fun watching the leaderships of three federal political parties try to deny simple human feelings over an inherently emotional issue. But the fun’s over. Now citizens are going to act like citizens. Always a scary moment for communications professionals.

Quebec teacher removed from classroom because she wears a hijab

Hopefully, personal stories like this can shift public discussion in Quebec although doesn’t seem likely:

A teacher in Chelsea, Que., has been removed from her Grade 3 classroom because the hijab she wears contravenes the province’s law on state secularism, sparking an outcry among local families and a range of Canadian politicians who have denounced the legislation as “discriminatory.”

Fatemeh Anvari had been teaching language arts at Chelsea Elementary School since late October. She was reassigned to another role focusing on literacy and inclusion in early December, when the Western Quebec School Board became aware that her presence in class violated provincial law, interim chair Wayne Daly said.

Quebec’s Bill 21 has been in place since June, 2019. It bars a range of public servants in authority roles, including teachers, from wearing visible religious symbols.

Although Ms. Anvari has become a focal point in a long-running debate about religion in Quebec’s public sphere, she said she has been heartened by the response from community members and wants to use this moment to raise awareness about the need to express oneself in the workplace.

“I was sad, but at the same time I find it empowering to get so much support,” she said in an interview. “This isn’t about me so much. It’s a human issue.”

The 27-year-old has worn the hijab since she was young. She previously taught English in Iran and began supply-teaching at the Western Quebec School Board in March. She believed Bill 21 didn’t apply to English schools, and no one raised possible legal issues with her until recently, she said.

“There were no comments, there were no issues, there was no hostility.”

In her new role with the school, she will still be interacting with students, speaking to them about the value of diversity and inclusion. She feels it’s a testament to the board’s support that they offered her the job.

“I think the board is doing this initiative to spread awareness,” she said.

Parents and students have been protesting the decision to remove Ms. Anvari by tying green ribbons to a fence outside the school. Nicole Redvers said her eight-year-old daughter was deeply upset when she learned she would be losing a teacher she loved.

“She said, ‘Mum, she’s only wearing a scarf!’” Ms. Redvers recalled.

It remains unclear how Ms. Anvari was hired with the secularism law in place. Mr. Daly said it “may have been an oversight.”

In April, the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) won a court ruling exempting it from Bill 21 because the law violated the English-language community’s rights. But the provincial government appealed, and the restrictions remained in place. In November, the EMSB was denied a stay of the law while the appeal proceeds.

Federal parties have generally been cautious about denouncing the law, which is popular in Quebec, but Ms. Anvari’s removal caused outrage across the political spectrum. In a statement, the Prime Minister’s Office said “nobody in Canada should ever lose their job because of what they wear or their religious beliefs,” adding that “Quebeckers are defending their rights through the courts.”

“I think it’s cowardly,” said Marc Miller, a Liberal MP and the Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister. “It’s disheartening and it’s picking on someone vulnerable.“

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole offered a milder response, calling it “an issue that is best left for Quebeckers to decide.” But one member of his caucus, Ontario MP Kyle Seeback, lashed out at the law on Twitter.

“I cannot in good conscience keep silent on this anymore,” he wrote. “This is an absolute disgrace. It’s time politicians stood up for what’s right.”

The Western Quebec School Board, which serves anglophones and opposes Bill 21, has said it had no choice but to comply with the law when it realized Ms. Anvari was teaching in a hijab.

“It was the correct ruling under Bill 21, we cannot have this teacher in our school board if they will not comply with Bill 21,” Mr. Daly said. “She had decided that she would not comply with Bill 21, and in not complying that is justification for termination of a contract.”

The interim chair added that Bill 21 hurts the school board by denying it teachers during a labour shortage, and that the need to apply the law has left the community “outraged.”

“It doesn’t matter what nation you’re from or what race they belong to. If you’re part of that community, you’re part of that community.”

In Quebec City, several politicians put the responsibility for the situation on Ms. Anvari herself. Parti Québécois secularism critic Pascal Bérubé said that she “tried to make a statement wearing a hijab.”

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-quebec-teacher-removed-from-classroom-because-she-wears-a-hijab/

Yakabuski: Quebec and France join forces against cancel culture

Yakabuski points out the irony given the cancel culture aspects of their policies and the intolerance of Bill 21:

When France’s education minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, learned that a francophone Ontario school board had held a book-burning ceremony involving titles banned because of their negative portrayal of Indigenous people, he contacted his Quebec counterpart to commiserate.

Mr. Blanquer, who has been on a mission to turn back the tide of “cancel culture” on French university campuses, was incredulous at the news – which made the pages of the prestigious Paris-based Le Monde – of the Providence school board’s “flame purification” ceremony.

Included among the books incinerated during the ceremony – held in 2019, but which only came to light last month in a Radio-Canada report – were titles from the cartoon collections Tintin, Lucky Luke and Asterix, beloved by generations of young francophones on both sides of the Atlantic.

The result of Mr. Blanquer’s commiserating with Quebec Education Minister Jean-François Roberge was a joint op-ed, published last week in Quebec and France, denouncing the “pernicious influence of a culture of intolerance and erasure” embodied by the book-burning.

“We have a duty to prepare our youth to exercise active, respectful and enlightened citizenship. A citizenship that allows for debate, the opinions of others, the confrontation of ideas and the questioning of all our beliefs,” Mr. Blanquer and Mr. Roberge wrote. “That is why we affirm with force and conviction that public schools, the first line of defence against ignorance and darkness, must be the preferred location for the construction of a common civic project.”

The op-ed was just Mr. Roberge’s opening salvo in his own crusade against wokeism in Quebec public schools. Two days later, the Coalition Avenir Québec minister announced his government would introduce a new “Quebec culture and citizenship” (QCC) course to replace the “ethics and religious culture” (ERC) curriculum now taught in public schools.

The current ERC course was adopted by former premier Jean Charest’s Liberal government in 2008, a decade after Quebec replaced its Catholic and Protestant school boards with linguistic ones. The ERC, which replaced the catechism courses that had long been taught in French Catholic schools, aimed to familiarize primary and secondary school students with the panoply of religions practised in Quebec. But critics have long argued that the course is an affront to modern Quebec’s secularist values.

That is an exaggeration. Even the children of non-believers should understand the influence of religion in the lives of most people, and the role the Catholic faith played in shaping modern Quebec. But the anti-clericalism espoused by francophone intellectuals since the Quiet Revolution has hardened attitudes toward the separation of church and state in Quebec.

The Mouvement laïque québécois (MLQ), an organization dedicated to the “total secularization of the state and public institutions in Quebec,” called the abolition of the ERC course “a breath of fresh air.” The ERC, the MLQ said, has been “an aberration and a disaster on the social level.”

Given its populist leanings, the CAQ government to which Mr. Roberge belongs is not particularly popular in Quebec intellectual circles. But Quebec nationalists and intellectuals have found common ground when it comes to secularism.

Both support Bill 21, though for different reasons. Nationalists see the law that prohibits some public-sector employees from wearing religious symbols as an assertion of Quebeckers’ distinct identity in the face of the multicultural ethos that prevails elsewhere in Canada. Intellectuals see it as protection against the incursion of religion in the public square, which they argue should be a faith-free zone.

The CAQ government’s move to replace the ERC with a new Quebec culture and citizenship course is similarly welcomed by nationalists as a blow to multiculturalism and an affirmation of Quebec’s dominant francophone identity. In a video promoting the new curriculum, Premier François Legault says the new course will lead to “a prouder Quebec.”

Mr. Legault’s re-election in 2022 is about as close as you can get to a sure thing in Canadian politics. And his plan to push ahead with the new course will certainly not hurt his chances.

Still, there is something deeply disturbing about the CAQ’s exploitation of Quebeckers’ cultural insecurity for political gain. It is one thing to express concern about the pernicious effects of cancel culture on democratic debate or the excesses of a multiculturalism that denies the existence of a core national identity. But it is quite another to depict critics of Bill 21 and the new citizenship course as an existential threat to the survival of the Quebec way of life, as Mr. Legault and his ministers do.

It almost makes you wonder whether Mr. Roberge even read his own op-ed.

Source: Opinion: Quebec and France join forces against cancel culture

EDITORIAL: The question you can’t ask in Canada

Good editorial in the Toronto Sun:

It says a lot that the most talked about moment in the leaders’ debate since Brian Mulroney nailed John Turner in 1984 for not rescinding Pierre Trudeau’s patronage appointments, had nothing to do with anything the leaders said.

Instead, it was the controversy over a question asked by debate moderator Shachi Kurl, president of the Angus Reid Institute, to BQ leader Yves-Francois Blanchet about Quebec’s controversial language and secularism laws.

The essence of their exchange was this:

Kurl: “You deny that Quebec has problems with racism. Yet you defend legislation such as Bills 96 and 21, which marginalize religious minorities, anglophones, and allophones. For those outside the province, please help them understand why your party also supports these discriminatory laws.”

Blanchet: “The question seems to imply the answer you want. Those laws are not about discrimination, they are about the values of Quebec … we are saying that those are legitimate laws that apply on Quebec territory … which is again, by itself, for Quebec.”

So, asked and answered. Except in Canada.

The post debate reaction — the criticism being that by even asking the question Kurl was falsely suggesting Quebecers are racists — was a sight to behold.

Everybody was upset. Blanchet was upset. Quebec Premier François Legault was upset. Pundits were upset. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Conservative leader Erin O’Toole and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh were upset — albeit belatedly since they didn’t raise any concerns when the exchange occurred.

Never mind that a Quebec judge had previously ruled Bill 21 is discriminatory, cruel and dehumanizing to Muslim women and others, but constitutionally valid due to the province’s use of the Charter’s notwithstanding clause.

Recently in the Globe and Mail Kurl wrote a column sensibly refusing to apologize.

But the most interesting part was Kurl explaining that, “every question was reviewed by the debate’s editorial team, which included representatives from all the networks that organized and produced it — CBC, CTV, Global and APTN. More than a dozen senior journalists and news executives had seen and vetted the questions I asked …”

Knowing that makes the spectacle of everyone running for the hills after the question was asked downright hilarious.

Source: EDITORIAL: The question you can’t ask in Canada

Canada’s federal leaders show cowardice by denying the racist premise of Bill 21

Hard to disagree.

The other question that few seem to be raising is why participation in the English language debate is limited to national parties that run candidates in 60 percent or more of all ridings. Hard to see any value in Bloc participation in the English debate, unlike in the French debate:

The only thing offensive about Shachi Kurl’s question in Canada’s English-language debate regarding Bill 21 is the cowardly reaction from our federal leaders.

On debate night, Kurl, the president of the Angus Reid Insitute, asked a question about a law that bans wearing religious symbols for some public-sector workers in Quebec. Even though she never implied all Quebecers are racist, many threw her under the bus for suggesting that she did.

While the reactions of the Bloc Québécois’ Yves-François Blanchet and Quebec’s Premier François Legault were predictable, regardless of how the question would have been framed, many religious minorities are disappointed by the deflection by our other federal leaders postdebate — from condemning the premise of the question to demanding an apology from the debate consortium.

Rather than using the moment to take a stand and talk about how problematic Bill 21 is for Canadians, federal leaders have opted for expediency and protecting votes in Quebec by adopting the language of apologists, manipulating the question and largely avoiding what should be a moment for a serious conversation.

While Justin Trudeau said he wouldn’t rule out “intervening” against Bill 21, he also claimed he had a hard time “processing” Kurl’s question and that it implied all “Quebecers are racist.” Erin O’Toole, in response stated that “Quebecers are not racist and it’s unfair to make that sweeping categorization.” Jagmeet Singh, who called the Bill discriminatory also said that “It’s a mistake to imply that only one province has a problem with systemic racism.” Despite this, many saw these responses as serious levels of deflection from the actual question put by Kurl.

As much as supporters for Bill 21 like to suggest that it is a product of Quebec’s unique culture and relationship with laïcité (secularism) that isn’t the complete story and it only works to mask some of the disturbing realities and motivations for the law.

Bill 21 is also a product of Islamophobia, bigotry, and, yes, racism. The sentiments driving support for Bill 21 also exist elsewhere in the country and impacted religious communities want us all to fight back. Canadians need to stop pretending this is a localized issue, and our leaders need to know that their positions concerning fighting hate and racism in all its forms appear hypocritical in light of their reactions postdebate.

The research on Bill 21 is incredibly clear. It results in greater racism against religious minorities. It creates second-class citizens. It disproportionately targets minority communities. And it drives people out of Quebec, including my friend Amrit Kaur who as an Amritdhari Sikh teacher is now working in British Columbia instead of in her home province due to that law.

What is upsetting is that it took a question from a racialized woman to ignite a conversation on Bill 21 that our federal leaders had been trying to avoid. What is even more upsetting is that instead of confronting the issue for what it is, many commentators and politicians took the moment to instead chastise Kurl for suggesting the bill is discriminatory, as well as express dismay that challenging the issue head on has, amongst other things, disrupted partisan campaigns in the province.

It is as if calling a piece of legislation discriminatory or racist is worse than the piece of legislation actually being discriminatory and racist.

Some have even suggested that making this a topic only plays into the hands of Blanchet and the Bloc Québécois, as if that means we should just ignore the problem and pretend that it will somehow solve itself. It has been years of political tiptoeing and appeasement around Bill 21, and as someone who has helped in the fight against it, enough is enough.

What happens in Quebec is also not operating in a vacuum. Fears of similar legislation and sentiments creeping into other parts of Canada are very real.

For the Sikh community, a community I have worked in as the Executive Director for the World Sikh Organization of Canada, we have fought turban and Kirpan accommodation battles across Canada. The fights never end as we maintain a precarious relationship with religious accommodation.

Bill 21 just legitimizes the racism and discrimination our people face every day everywhere, not just Quebec. Seeking an apology from the debate consortium and Kurl for a perfectly appropriate question, rather from the law makers disproportionately impacting racialized Canadians, aids and abets the othering our people face coast to coast to coast.

Leaders claiming to understand the fears of minorities and the magnitude of hate in Canada comes up hollow when held up against their reactions to what was one of the most honest descriptions of the Bill 21 in the political arena to date.

Source: Canada’s federal leaders show cowardice by denying the racist premise of Bill 21

Erna Paris: The leaders’ sycophantic acceptance of Quebec’s Bill 21 is dangerous for all of Canada

Sad but true:

In his famous 14th-century work The Inferno, the Italian poet Dante Alighieri created a special abode in hell for wily flatterers. He considered sycophancy a wrongdoing against the entire community – a deceit with the potential to alter society for the worse.

Dante might have nodded knowingly had he observed Canada’s leader-courtiers line up to pay obeisance to Bloc Quebec leader Yves-François Blanchet’s defense of the indefensible during last week’s federal election debates. The quid pro quo was each leader’s personal support for Bill 21, the Quebec legislation that prohibits the display of religious symbols by public-sector workers in the workplace, in return for potential electoral support in the province.

Although Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh have previously implied that as prime minister they might challenge Bill 21, they and Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole have confirmed their support for a noxious law that discriminates against the rights of religious minorities. To back such legislation is not only hypocrisy on the part of Canadian leaders, but an affront to the fundamental commitments we espouse in this country. During the debate, it was striking to note that in the same breath as the main party leaders refused to challenge Quebec’s right to discriminate, they simultaneously mouthed their support for the Canadian shibboleths of human rights and equality.

Bill 21 is not innocuous. Some religions require a dress code as an element of orthodox worship. Think the Jewish kippathe Sikh turban and the Muslim headscarf, to name just three. This is frequently a religious obligation – which, if rejected, places the individual in contravention of his or her faith. While it is likely that everyone on the debate stage understood the true nature of the law, they succumbed to Mr. Blanchet’s assertation that they agreed, although sheepishly. Given that he would presumably be denied the right to work in Quebec’s public sector because he wears a turban, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s long-time acquiescence seems particularly ingratiating. “Quebec has the right to make its own determinations,” he has repeatedly said.

We are inured to degrees of pandering during election campaigns, but the collective compliance of our leaders with legal discrimination against minorities is galling. Because, as Dante understood centuries ago, there are larger consequences at play.

To understand this, let us consider that from the time of Confederation, nation-building has been the job description of Canadian governments. To keep this unlikely country from fracturing, Canadian leaders have practiced compromise, especially with Quebec, while our courts balanced civil rights using case-law precedents. This hasn’t been easy; for the first half of our history our policies were overtly racist, as the uncovering of residential school realities has laid bare. In the 1920s and 1930s, Canada’s immigration policies favoured British arrivals while denying entry to other “lesser” peoples.

These attitudes slowly changed in the years following the Second World War – culminating, in my view, with official multiculturalism, which confirmed that no group of Canadians was superior to another, and with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Like all social transformations, these remain controversial in many quarters, but they have become the foundation of contemporary Canada.

It is for this reason that the sycophantic acceptance of discriminatory legislation in Quebec is dangerous for Canada as a whole. When our leaders trade foundational principles for electoral purposes, they undermine the country at large.

The pushback has been so weak that the most egregious distortions of language have gone unremarked upon. During the debates, Mr. Blanchet said that Bill 21 cannot be described as discriminatory because it reflects the values of Quebec – perhaps the most specious argument for discrimination that we have heard since the pre-war years. When Catholics and Italians were undermined in an earlier Canada, was this acceptable because the “values” of Canadians were in favour? Was it acceptable for Indigenous children to be maltreated in Canada because those were the “values” of the day?

In 1995, three generations of my family travelled to Montreal to appeal to our Québécois co-citizens not to separate from our shared country, but what is even more harmful today is that Quebec no longer has to leave. By consenting to an injurious law, our federal leaders have joined the rest of Canada to that province. In doing so, they separate usfrom the underlying vision of equality of opportunity and the protection of minorities that today characterizes this country.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-the-leaders-sycophantic-acceptance-of-quebecs-bill-21-is-dangerous-for/

Milloy: Where is the outrage over Quebec’s discriminatory law?

Of note, including comment about spending the same amount of energy on current discrimination as on our first prime minister:

Want to see outrage these days? Mention any issue that even smacks of racism or prejudice and you will see Canadians respond with anger and passion.

Why has this energy not extended to Quebec’s Bill 21?

If there ever was a law that flies in the face of everything that social justice activists claim they stand for, it’s Quebec’s “Act Respecting the Laicity of the State.” This law, which prohibits entire categories of public servants, including teachers, judges or police officers, from wearing religious symbols such as hijabs or turbans is an affront to anyone concerned about discrimination. Not only does it close the door to certain professions for many practicing Muslims and Sikhs, but it sends a clear signal that they are second-class citizens.

Don’t just take my word for it.

In his ruling on the law, Quebec Superior Court Justice Marc-André Blanchard outlined how the law “dehumanized those targeted.” As he explained: “these people feel ostracized and partially excluded from the Quebec public service … Bill 21 also sends the message to minority students wearing religious symbols that they must occupy a different place in society and that obviously the way of public education, at the level of preschool, primary and secondary does not exist for them.”

Quebec’s use of the notwithstanding clause, however, meant that there was little the judge could do beyond ruling on a few of the provisions around the edges.

Why has Bill 21 not brought Canadians to the streets? Why has it not been given the same attention as debates over the removal of the statues, the renaming of schools or the defunding of police?

I am not suggesting that these issues be abandoned, but why has a current provincial law which effectively allows state-sponsored discrimination not become one of the primary targets in our fight for a society free of prejudice?

Source: Where is the outrage over Quebec’s discriminatory law?