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

Lise Ravary: Multiculturalism, interculturalism and Quebec

Yet another example of a comementator who does not understand the intent, history and practice of multiculturalism in Canada, which is based upon integration with accommodation where warranted, all within the context of Canada’s constitutional, legal and regulatory frameworks.

And generally, with some exceptions, Canadian multiculturalism is working well, whether in terms of linguistic, social or economic integration:

Tricky words like nationalism, patriotism and multiculturalism dominate today’s public discourse in much of the developed world. These are essential topics of debate in these days of migration, but there is one problem: these words have different definitions, meanings and populist undertones.

An official research document from the Library of Parliament suggests that multiculturalism can be interpreted in three different ways, as a sociological fact, ideology or policy.

As a sociological fact refers to a society made up of people of different origins. The ideology is that found in the 1971 Multiculturalism Policy established Canada as a mosaic as opposed to the American melting pot, one key objective of which was to assist cultural groups to retain and foster their identity. And teaching immigrant children their heritage language, culture and history in public schools, something Quebec has done since 1979, is an example of a good multicultural policy, because it facilitates integration.

So how do we know we’re all on the same page?

If I say I’m against multiculturalism, you may think I am saying that I am opposed to diversity, when what I am doing is stating that I prefer to see immigrants integrate and become non-hyphenated Canadians who do not bring conflicts in their native lands to their new home. This should not be mistaken for a call for assimilation, the aim of Canada’s residential schools for Indigenous people.

Let’s be clear, Quebec has never been opposed to being a pluralistic society, starting with Samuel de Champlain, who forged brotherly relationships with Indigenous peoples of eastern North America whom he saw as “nations indiennes.” (Read Champlain’s Dream by American historian and Pulitzer Prize-winner David Hackett Fischer. It is an eye-opener on how this country began.)

Every Quebec government since 1971 has officially rejected multiculturalism, an ideology devised by Trudeau père that serious nationalist thinkers believe was meant to destroy Quebec nationalism. Later, Gérard Bouchard promoted Quebec’s own “interculturalism” as an alternative that recognizes the existence of a majority culture, something multiculturalism does not.

I have travelled all over Canada and lived in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto. Canadian identity exists, regardless of people’s origin. I don’t understand why Canadians did not condemn Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s ignorant and truncated view of Canada as a post-national country.

Canadian multiculturalism, whose 2011 redefinition by the federal government includes “improving the responsiveness of institutions to meet the needs of a diverse population,” has far-reaching consequences. For example, judges have been known to consider an accused’s culture of origin as a mitigating factor at sentencing time.

Similar debates go on elsewhere. Boris Johnson’s recent demand that immigrants learn English to feel British was condemned by some as “imperialistic” and “racist.”

But without a common language, or two — and such shared fundamental values as gender equality, the separation of Church and State and loyalty to Canadian institutions — it’s hard to imagine a harmonious future.

Neil Bissoondath raised some important concerns in his 1994 book Selling illusions: The Cult of Multiculturalism in Canada, concerns that remain pertinent. His message: “Canada has sought to order its population into a cultural mosaic of diversity and tolerance. Seeking to preserve the heritage of Canada’s many peoples, the policy nevertheless creates unease on many levels, transforming people into political tools and turning historical distinctions into stereotyped commodities … highlighting the differences that divide Canadians rather than the similarities that unite them.”

Speaking a different language helped Quebecers sidestep this cultural tug-of-war. Quebecers know who they are: it’s the rest of Canada that struggles with Quebec’s identity as a nation 400 years-plus in the making, with the help of immigrants along the way.

The Coalition Avenir Québec government has just announced it will invest massively in the integration of newcomers: I can’t think of a more generous gesture to people who seek to join us. And telling proof that immigration is not an dirty word for most Quebecers. Unlike multiculturalism as ideology.

Source: Lise Ravary: Multiculturalism, interculturalism and Quebec

Ravary: Bill 21 a lucid choice by a mature society after long debate


Including this piece by Ravary as the title and thinking reveal a deep misunderstanding of multiculturalism and integration, the former being a means to the latter.

Quebec public services (healthcare, education and public administration are reasonably representative of visible minorities but as 2011 NHS data shows, religious minority representation is relatively small for most groups (Muslims formed 2.6 percent of the population in 2011)

And of course, while it may be a minority of Quebec public servants affected, it will further accentuate the overall under-representation of religious minorities. “sanctions-light” will not be light to those affected:

Flags and floats have been put away until next year’s Fête nationale. I was never a great partaker — I dislike the combination of big crowds and flag waving — but I have lovely memories of my childhood’s innocent Saint-Jean-Baptiste celebrations in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve.

The June French-Canadian liturgical calendar included two big street parties, each with its own procession: the Saint-Jean parade along Sherbrooke Street with its closing tableau of a curly-haired blond boy, dressed up as Jewish preacher John the Baptist, with a lamb at his side. (Children loved it. Beats the more recent puppets.)

The other street party, la Fête-Dieu, held on June 20, also known as the Corpus Christi procession, no longer draws crowds to the streets of Quebec, but 50 years ago, as man was about to conquer the moon, la Fête-Dieu was a still a big deal in Quebec — though it wouldn’t be for much longer.

I am writing this ahead of the Fête nationale, but I suspect the passage of Bill 21 will add pep to the steps of many revellers. I know the new law is not popular with many Montreal Gazette readers, but let’s never forget that many secular Muslims support it.

This having been said, now is not the time for supporters of Bill 21 to gloat. It is also wrong to call for civil disobedience, especially if you are a public official.

The rule of law is the bedrock of democracy.

Many feel that the “moderate way” chosen by the government to signify the separation of church and state in Quebec is a grave attack on individual liberties, but the majority of Quebecers do not share that sentiment, and they cannot be ignored. Unless we want populist leaders à la Orban or Salvini to come along.

Bill 21 is a lucid choice made by a mature society after a 10-year-plus debate, a balancing act between individual rights and the legitimate aspirations of a distinct people to choose how they want to live in their historical homeland.

Francophone Quebecers’ only home on Earth is a piece of land, most of it barren, in the northeast corner of North America. Full-blown multiculturalism, which encourages newcomers to keep their own cultures and does too little to promote integration, would mean the end of an extraordinary experiment that started in 1608, when Samuel de Champlain founded a settlement that would become Quebec City.

In these times of renewed enthusiasm for fundamentalist religious beliefs that go against the grain of Canadian and Québécois values, including those about women and LGBTQ folks held by fundamentalist Christians, Jews and Muslims, Bill 21 aims to formally limit the influence of religion to the private sphere. This is a society that has been working hard to keep all organized religions at bay for more than 50 years.

Even if it meant getting rid of the beloved petit Saint-Jean-Baptiste and his pet lamb.

Bill 21 is the third stage of The Quiet Revolution. In the 1960s, Quebec Catholic priests and nuns stopped wearing traditional religious garb meant to signify penitence and humility, to continue working as teachers or nurses in modernized public education and hospital systems. The second phase was the laicization of Quebec’s school system in 1998 when religious school boards were replaced by linguistic ones. Bill 21 is the third phase of this transformation.

Can it be called unfair? Of course. Only a fool would deny the reality on the ground: some people feel discriminated against. Hence the “no gloating” advice. But let’s also beware of those who will use Bill 21 to further hidden politico-religious agendas.

Many like to cite French political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville, who described in his 1835 opus Democracy in America the main danger posed by democracy, something he called the “tyranny of the majority.”

But to describe as tyrannical a sanctions-light piece of legislation that restricts the wearing of religious symbols at work by a minority of state representatives seems to me to be at best disingenuous.

Source: Ravary: Bill 21 a lucid choice by a mature society after long debate

Lise Ravary: It took a massacre in a mosque, but Quebecers now see the darkest side of their identity crisis

It should not have taken this incident or this long for commentators like Ravary to become more mindful and self-aware, but better late than never.

But yet she still uses the language “at war” rather than strongly opposed, unacceptable or other words.

Words matter:

The killing and maiming of Muslim men in prayer in Québec City Sunday night raises many questions. Some of those questions are extremely uncomfortable for Quebecers.

Over time, we will find out more about the motives of the alleged killer, Alexandre Bissonnette, but such tragedies do not occur in a vacuum. Knowing why it happened is as important as finding out why the first deadly terrorist attack against Muslims by a non-Muslim in the West happened in Quebec.

My gut reaction to the news was “That’s not us!” I tweeted it. Replies from other commenters came fast and furious. “Oh yes, it is. Quebec is a racist society. Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are rampant.”

It’s sad that many Canadians genuinely believe this; I won’t even begin to try and change their minds here. Uniquely racist Quebec is an alternative fact. Even so, in the aftermath of this tragedy, not asking what role, if any, Quebec society played a role in this tragedy would be doing Quebecers a great disservice.

It may be too soon to start laying the cultural blame for this crime but already, politicians such as Parti Québécois leader Jean-François Lisée, have admitted that they may have gone too far in their criticism of Muslims in Quebec. Premier Couillard is asking for a change of tone. He’s right.

As a conservative columnist at war with religious extremism and political Islam in particular, I will keep myself in check. When denouncing Islamism, I always insist that my comments do not apply to Muslims as a people or to Islam as a faith.

I realized last Sunday that many readers don’t see the difference, some because they can’t. Others because they won’t. Media must take this into consideration. Some are blinded by racism and other by fear. Not so much fear of Muslims the quintessential fear that Quebecers have of disappearing as a nation.

Source: Lise Ravary: It took a massacre in a mosque, but Quebecers now see the darkest side of their identity crisis | National Post