My Take: Couillard Pitches Charter Lite

My speculation on what will and will not be included in Premier Couillard’s proposed Charte de laicité:

Will the new premier be able to develop an approach that responds to the concerns of many Quebeckers, while respecting the fundamental rights of each Quebecker, regardless of their religion? Former PQ Premier Pauline Marois, ironically, paved the way by showing the limits to identity-based politics in Quebec.

By moving early in his mandate, while the PQ is occupied in its post-election reflections, and the CAQ is trying to position itself as the main opposition party, Couillard has a unique opportunity to help Quebec to move past the divisive debate over the previous Charter.

Couillard Pitches Charter Lite – New Canadian Media – NCM

The Globe, on the other hand, takes a similar position to Haroon Siddiqui of the Star (Philippe Couillard is in a secular charter mess of his own). Globe’s editorial board wants Couillard to drop his idea of a Quebec Charte de laicité. Never sure how helpful or relevant such editorials are when, as one of the first commitments of a newly-elected Premier, Couillard will press ahead. Likely more productive to note one’s opposition but recognize the reality, and focus more on the form and content:

Mr. Couillard should leave it there. If he truly feels that the combined force of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Quebec Bill of Human Rights and Freedoms, the courts and the ongoing maturation of modern Quebec society are not enough to manage the reasonable accommodation of minority religious rights in Quebec, then perhaps his government can make itself feel better (and keep the PQ quiet) by adopting an anodyne motion restating that Quebec’s government is secular and that men and woman are equals. But the smarter play is to just wait. After six months go by, and then another six, and then a few years, and Quebeckers realize the supposedly imminent threats that the Charter of Values was purported to be a bulwark against never existed in the first place, they will lose interest in the subject and develop even more of a distaste for politicians who play the identity card.

Couillard should bury the Charter of Values – The Globe and Mail.

Quebec Election – Initial Reactions

Quite an evening last night, watching the QC election results. Apart from the famous Peladeau raised fist for independence miscalculation, this election hopefully marks the end of divisive identity politics as exemplified in the QC Charter of Values. The gambit clearly did not work in combination with the referendum uncertainty and even Premier Marois’ overall gracious concession speech still played to les Québécois de souche, rather than the more inclusive messages of Couillard and Legault.

Clearly, the PQ needs a period of serious internal reflection and introspection. The leading candidates to replace former Premier Marois will need to get over their Kubler-Ross denial phase quickly (Drainville, Lisée and Peladeau were awful last night preaching to the shrunken PQ base) and it will be interesting to see the how the relative positions of the PQ and the CAQ evolved over the next few years.

I would not go so far as Andrew Coyne or Chantal Hébert as saying the PQ’s raison d’être of independence is completely dead, but it certainly would appear to be on life support.

From Le Devoir, a few articles on the magnitude of the PQ defeat:

À son premier test électoral, le chef libéral a fait des gains dans presque toutes les régions du Québec. Il a peint en rouge toute la ville de Laval et a arraché deux circonscriptions au PQ sur l’île de Montréal, en plus de remporter des sièges dans le Centre-du-Québec et dans la région de Québec, notamment. Le Dr Gaétan Barrette, candidat vedette parachuté contre l’indépendante Fatima Houda-Pepin, a facilement remporté la circonscription de La Pinière, sur la Rive-Sud.

Philippe Couillard met le PQ K.-O.

Avant même que ne commence le dévoilement des votes dans les circonscriptions, plusieurs membres du personnel péquiste concédaient la victoire au Parti libéral. Un consensus se dégageait : la campagne menée par Pauline Marois avait été désastreuse et on se promettait un bilan aussi exhaustif que sévère. Une majorité d’entre eux espéraient à tout le moins une défaite honorable, mais jamais les stratèges, appuyés par des sondages quotidiens faits selon les règles de l’art, n’avaient prévu pareille dégelée.

Catastrophe au Parti québécois

More commentary on the significance of the elections will come in the next few days but for some of the initial commentary:

Au Parti québécois, cette défaite provoquera de douloureux questionnements. La formation fondée par René Lévesque devra remettre en question le virage identitaire pris au cours des dernières années, virage qui, pour des raisons strictement partisanes, a fait un tort considérable au Québec.

Encore plus difficile sera la réflexion sur la raison d’être du PQ, l’indépendance. Quel que soit l’aboutissement de cette introspection, les résultats d’hier devraient inciter les péquistes à abandonner la stratégie de l’équivoque au profit de celle de la clarté.

Les Québécois ont dit NON (André Pratte, La Presse)

And finally, who leads this decimated party? Because the knives are already out. Drainville, Lisée and Péladeau prefixed Marois’s farewell speech with what amounted to stump speeches. This pack of restless egos all come with their own baggage: Péladeau is a capitalist boogeyman who derailed the whole campaign by declaring his sovereignist credentials. Drainville designed and executed the whole charter gambit, then thoroughly bellyflopped. Lisée went along with both, because he thought Péladeau and the charter was the one-two punch that, to paraphrase the title of his own book, would deliver a K.O. to the opposition.

Macleans. (Martin Patriquin)

It is impossible to overstate what a watershed this is. For thirty years after the Quiet Revolution, Quebecers were told the choice before them was either special status, under whatever name, or separation. At times the two were so blurred in definition that each could be made out to be the other. But what was clear was that they weren’t the status quo. They were better, in all sorts of fantastic ways….

But in the years since then, and in particular since the Secession Reference and the Clarity Act, it has slowly been dawning on Quebecers: neither of these choices is actually available. The choice is the status quo or the status quo. The rest of Canada is simply unwilling to make any more constitutional concessions, and wouldn’t be able to deliver them if it did, so tied up in knots has the constitutional amending formula become. Ditto separation: even if the rest of Canada tried to be helpful, the negotiations would go nowhere.

And as that realization has begun to sunk in, another, equally startling, has begun to take hold: The status quo is not so bad. We are not oppressed. We are not impoverished. We are not miserable. As Mr. Couillard said during the campaign, “we are happy in Canada.” What a revelation!

Quebecers have not only just said no to separation, but yes to the 1982 Constitution (Andrew Coyne)

Over the past month, that self-imposed tone-deafness has led to a campaign of false notes, from the second-coming atmosphere that attended the recruitment of media mogul Pierre Karl Péladeau as a star candidate, to Marois’s end-of-campaign mea culpa that she spent too much time entertaining the twin notions of sovereignty and a winning referendum.

One of the PQ’s worst fears has long been that it would turn out to be the party of a single generation.

Over their short time in office, Marois and her team have done much to turn that fear into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It has long been apparent that the so-called secularism charter that has been the signature initiative of the outgoing government repelled more young Quebecers than it attracted to the secessionist cause.

For the first time in its history, the PQ is more popular among older voters aged 55 and over than among any other age group.

Parti Québécois could be party of a single generation:  Chantal Hébert

Liberals’ Quebec charter would combat religious extremism, Couillard says

The Liberal Party of Quebec response to the Charter are unspecified initiatives to combat religious extremism. Will be interesting to see the details:

“To those who come here and take advantage of our freedoms and democracy to then attack them and ultimately destroy them, we are saying loud and clear: ‘You are not welcome here, we will fight you, we will go after you,’ ” Mr. Couillard said …

« À ceux qui viennent chez nous pour profiter de nos libertés et de notre démocratie pour ensuite s’y attaquer et ultimement les détruire, nous disons haut et fort : vous n’êtes pas les bienvenus chez nous, nous vous combattrons, nous vous poursuivrons sans relâche. »

Liberals’ Quebec charter would combat religious extremism, Couillard says – The Globe and Mail.

Couillard veut débarrasser le Québec des intégristes religieux | Le Devoir

Quebec Liberals open to religious-symbols ban for judges, police

Back to the Bouchard-Taylor approach of limiting the ban to officials in positions of authority. And this compromise allows Fatima Houda-Pepin to remain in the Liberal caucus. This makes the Liberal Party of Quebec and CAQ positions very similar and it will be interesting to see what reaction, if any, of the federal political parties.

Quebec Liberals open to religious-symbols ban for judges, police – The Globe and Mail.

Fatima Houda-Pepin demeure dans le caucus libéral | PAUL JOURNET | Politique québécoise

Charte des valeurs québécoises – Round-up

ON recruitmentThe big news is the division among the sovereigntists. The Bloc has lost its one woman member, Maria Mourani with a strong position in favour of gender and religious rights. And her riding is very multicultural. Good for the Quebec debate.

Charte des valeurs québécoises – L’inconfort des forces souverainistes explose | Le Devoir.

And some articles about the impact of Quebec’s international reputation (let alone within Canada). Couillard is particularly eloquent describing his experience as a doctor in Saudi Arabia (I lived in Saudi 1986-88):

« J’ai connu, moi, c’est quoi, un régime autoritaire. J’ai connu, moi, c’est quoi, un régime qui exclut », a-t-il dit. « Je sais c’est quoi, être l’étranger qui n’a pas la religion de la majorité. Je sais c’est quoi, être celui qui n’a pas la même couleur de peau que les autres. Je sais c’est quoi, être celui qui se fait arracher ses lumières de Noël devant chez eux. C’est arrivé chez nous quand j’étais là-bas. »

Charte des valeurs québécoises – Le Québec pourrait en payer le prix, dit Couillard

The contrary view is expressed by Lise Payette, former PQ Cabinet Minister, in the 70s, who puts the proposed Charter in a liberation context – but liberation from what and from who:

Le pas que nous désirons faire aujourd’hui est la suite logique de notre libération. Nous souhaitons de tout coeur que vous en fassiez partie.

Le Québec qui renaît de ses cendres

Premier Marois continues to praise the French model of integration. France has a terrible record here with its Muslim population – just take a tour of the suburbs if you dare – and look at employment and other statistics. Me thinks broader life experience would have been helpful for her and other members of her Cabinet:

Charte des valeurs québécoises: Marois vante l’intégration à la française

And a nice reminder that Ontario hospital recruiters are looking forward to hiring new talent:

Un hôpital ontarien en recrutement

‘We don’t care what’s on your head ’: Ontario hospital launches ad aimed at Quebec medical students, values charter

Some general analysis on Quebec dynamics and “chronic anxiety”, understandable given Quebec’s history and identity, but by no means justifying the proposed Charter, as well as the possible longer-term political impact:

PQ’s controversial new secular values charter preys on Quebec’s chronic ‘identity-related anxiety’

Quebec values charter: Is it a political game changer for the PQ? 

As always, some general commentary. Again, part of the uniqueness of Canada is that even many commentators on the right strongly oppose such bans and approaches, as individual rights, including religious, are paramount. Ironic that those who once condemned the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms are now among its strongest defenders:

Freedom under fire: Parti Quebecois values charter an outright attack on indidual rights

And in closing, a good opinion piece by Christian Rioux of Le Devoir contrasting the Anglo-Saxon approach, based more on inclusion and ensuring different faith groups are treated equally, and the French and Latin approach, which tends towards banning religion in the public sphere.

The reality is more complex; in practice French and Latin countries provide lots of public support to religion, whether school, maintenance of cathedrals and the like, but nevertheless a good piece to reflect upon.

He misses that the Canadian and Anglo-Saxon approach is based on individual rights, not community rights, unlike some European countries where communitarianism is more common, reflecting their history of managing Protestant and Catholic communities:

Laïcité ou communautarisme

Marois urged to apologize over ‘terrible’ remarks – Round up

A whole series of articles on Quebec Premier Marois’ ongoing effort to fan the flames and, in the process, making her look more ignorant on multiculturalism, interculturalisme, and common sense approaches to diversity. Will not comment on each – too painful. Fortunately, lots of highly critical comment and debate in Quebec press.

Pauline Marois au Devoir – L’étapisme pour la Charte des valeurs (the interview that started it all)

Marois urged to apologize over ‘terrible’ remarks linking multiculturalism and violence | National Post.

 Marois blasts multiculturalism in defence of ‘values’ charter

Marois blames multiculturalism for violence in England – Montreal |

Multiculturalisme: Marois dit qu’elle ne voulait pas choquer | Politique québécoise


Paul Wells of Macleans remarking on just how limited her experience outside the Quebec bubble is, and how  ‘drinking the Kool-aid’ makes such comments possible:

Pauline Marois: Protecting Quebec against the fate of England

And the ever sensible Chantal Hébert:

PQ debate on values bringing irreconcilable differences to the surface: Hébert

And beyond the silly, some serious discussion, starting with PLQ leader Couillard:

Multiculturalisme: Marois doit s’excuser, croit Philippe Couillard

​Philippe Couillard prône la neutralité religieuse de l’État, mais pas celle des individus | Le Devoir

Quebec Liberals would enshrine religious neutrality of the state in charter

And from LSE professor Grégoire Webber:

Charte des valeurs québécoises – Où sont les bombes, Madame Marois?

And some analysis by Philippe Authier to round-up the round-up:

Why PQ has us on a values roller-coaster

Probably more that what my readers want, but given the details should come out this week, good to capture the tenor of the comments and debate.

Daily round-up on Charte des valeurs québécoises

Usual daily round-up, starting with expression of concern from Prime Minister Harper:

Charte des valeurs: «le gouvernement souverainiste cherche la chicane avec Ottawa», dit Harper | Stéphanie Marin | Politique.

Followed by a nice contrast piece between PM Harper’s caution and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s forthright and clear position, and where he drew parallels between MLK’s I have a dream speech and the implied segregation of the proposed Charter. This of course inflamed some of the Quebec intelligentsia and politicians, but Trudeau has a point:

A tale of two politicians: Harper and Trudeau wade into controversial Quebec issue

And the réplique (and ongoing sensitivity about the Trudeau legacy and family) in Quebec:

Charte des valeurs: Lisée lance un appel au calme

The Quebec Liberal Party seems to be holding to its position against the proposed Charter:

Signes religieux: Couillard réaffirme la position traditionnelle du PLQ

And lastly – if you have lasted this long – short commentary by Charles Taylor, one of the leading philosophers and thinkers on multiculturalism, and how he despairs of the political class and its limited world view:

La question est de savoir qui va rédiger cette charte. Si c’est rédigé par l’Assemblée nationale actuelle, je n’en veux pas. [gras] Ce sont des gens qui ont des idées tellement bornées…dans la plupart des cas. Ça me fait pleurer comme Québécois d’entendre ce qu’eux entendent par laïcité.

Les fines nuances de Charles Taylor