Are there still NDP voters in a province that just passed a religious symbols law? Singh looks to find out

Hard to see him squaring the circle on this one.

Will see during the campaign how much time he spends in Quebec compared to other provinces as possible barometer of prospects:

Quebec’s new law on religious symbols makes minorities feel like they don’t belong in the province, says Jagmeet Singh, and he wants to be the one to lead opposition to the legislation in Ottawa.

The leader of the federal New Democrats says this as he is standing in the food court of a mall in Drummondville, Que., surrounded by locals who support the law and think it’s about time immigrants adapted to Quebec’s culture.

If Singh is to hold on to his party’s 15 seats in Quebec, it will mean connecting with voters in places like Drummondville. That won’t be easy.

“Why do you wear that?” one elderly woman asks, pointing to Singh’s yellow turban. She asks him if he’s been in Canada for a long time.

Another man, Réal Lamott, admits it bothered him to see a politician wearing such a visible religious symbol.

“No, I definitely won’t vote for him,” says Lamott, who backed the Liberals in 2015.

Of the NDP’s 15 seats in Quebec, only three are in Montreal. The bulk of them are in the province’s manufacturing heartland, which stretches between Montreal and Quebec City. Drummondville is right in the middle.

The NDP swept the heartland during the Orange Wave of 2011, when the party won 58 of Quebec’s 75 ridings, but since then political affiliations have drifted toward the right, at least at the provincial level.

This region, its economy driven by mid-sized businesses, was critical to the Coalition Avenir Québec’s sweeping victory in October.

The CAQ’s so-called secularism law, which bars public schoolteachers and other authority figures from wearing religious symbols while at work, hasn’t dented its popularity here. Quite the opposite: According to some polls, the party’s popularity has grown since October’s provincial election.

Striding into these headwinds, Singh campaigned this week, visiting ridings in and around Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivières and Drummondville.

He’s tried to tailor the party’s message to local concerns on this tour.

The NDP’s immigration policy, Singh said, will help businesses deal with the labour shortage, which is particularly acute in Drummondville. Its mass transit plan will bring upgrades to the local train service.

And its proposals for the environment will help smaller municipalities prepare for the more variable weather brought on by climate change.

“That’s what people are talking about,” said Drummondville MP François Choquette, who hung onto his seat for the NDP after he was first elected in 2011.

The religious symbols law is a provincial issue, said Choquette: “I’m concentrating on federal issues.”

Critics of the law, known as Bill 21, have been hoping for more vocal opposition from the federal parties.

The NDP, like the Liberals and the Conservatives, has avoided making any commitments to directly back legal challenges of the law.

Singh, though, went one step further this week, pitching himself as the spokesperson for those Quebecers angered by Bill 21.

“There are a lot of people in Quebec who don’t feel this is the right way to go, and I can be their champion,” he said.

The law, he says, is telling young people from religious minorities that the province where they grew up “is now rejecting you.”

Talk of turban ‘an opportunity’

Political observers are skeptical of Singh’s ability to reconcile that aspiration to lead the anti-Bill 21 vote while holding onto seats in the heartland.

The conventional wisdom among pollsters is that the federal leaders have little to gain in Quebec by being vocal about the issue.

But it would be nigh impossible for Singh to avoid addressing the law head on. Aside from his boldly coloured turban, his kirpan — the small dagger that religious Sikhs carry at all times — was visible as he shook hands in the Drummondville mall.

“Instead of a challenge, I find it’s an opportunity,” he said. “I find it’s the opening of a conversation.”

He offers the woman who was wondering about his turban a quick overview of Sikh history, focusing on the turban’s egalitarian symbolism.

“Well, I think you look quite nice,” she said.

Singh responded by giving her a high-five.

Source: Are there still NDP voters in a province that just passed a religious symbols law? Singh looks to find out

Laïcité: le Manitoba veut recruter des employés du secteur public québécois

Not surprising. Premier Pallister has been the most outspoken premier against Bill 21:

Le gouvernement du Manitoba veut recruter des employés du secteur public québécois préoccupés par la Loi sur la laïcité de l’État, qui interdit les signes religieux dans l’exercice de certaines fonctions.

Alors même que la Cour supérieure du Québec rejetait, jeudi, la requête de groupes de défense des libertés civiles et religieuses, qui réclamaient la suspension de la loi, le premier ministre Brian Pallister indiquait que le Manitoba avait besoin de fonctionnaires bilingues.

M. Pallister a promis de s’adresser aux employés de l’État québécois pour les assurer que sa province n’avait pas, elle, de « police du vêtement ». Il a indiqué que des lettres seraient bientôt envoyées aux associations professionnelles du Québec ainsi qu’aux cégeps et autres institutions d’enseignement afin de recruter des Québécois.

La Loi sur la laïcité de l’État, adoptée en juin à l’Assemblée nationale, interdit aux employés de l’État en position d’autorité coercitive, comme les juges, les policiers et les gardiens de prison, de porter des signes religieux dans l’exercice de leurs fonctions ; cette interdiction s’étend aussi aux enseignants du réseau public. Les opposants à la loi affirment qu’elle cible injustement les musulmanes, les sikhs et les autres minorités religieuses.

Le premier ministre Pallister, qui cherche à se faire réélire au Manitoba le 10 septembre, avait déjà affirmé son opposition à la loi québécoise lors de la rencontre estivale des premiers ministres des provinces et territoires, le 11 juillet. Le premier ministre François Legault a rappelé au Conseil de la fédération que la loi est appuyée par une majorité de Québécois et que son parti respectait une promesse électorale.

Jeudi, le juge Michel Yergeau, de la Cour supérieure du Québec, a déclaré que la loi continuerait de s’appliquer jusqu’à ce qu’un tribunal se prononce sur le fond de l’affaire.

En avril, le maire d’Edmundston, Cyrille Simard, invitait dans sa municipalité du nord-ouest du Nouveau-Brunswick les Québécois « qui pourraient rencontrer des obstacles » dans certaines catégories d’emplois. Alex LeBlanc, directeur général du Conseil multiculturel du Nouveau-Brunswick, rappelait alors que le Nouveau-Brunswick vivait notamment une pénurie d’enseignants francophones et bilingues qualifiés, et que de nombreux Québécois pourraient pourvoir ces postes.

Source: Laïcité: le Manitoba veut recruter des employés du secteur public québécois

Immigration: les étudiants étrangers diplômés au Québec expulsés de la voie rapide

Not a great way to communicate the change, nor explain it:

Sans faire de bruit, le gouvernement de François Legault vient de suspendre un programme qui permettait aux étudiants étrangers diplômés d’une université québécoise d’immigrer par la voie rapide.

L’annonce a été faite par le truchement de la Gazette officielle du Québec, publiée hier. On apprend dans ce document hautement technique la suspension temporaire immédiate du programme qui permet depuis 2010 aux nouveaux diplômés d’obtenir en quelques semaines seulement un certificat de sélection du Québec, premier pas vers l’obtention de la résidence permanente au pays.

Interrogée par La Presse, l’attachée du ministre de l’Immigration, de la Diversité et de l’Inclusion a expliqué que la suspension se terminera le 1er novembre et fait partie de la refonte du système d’immigration par le gouvernement de la Coalition avenir Québec.

Un autre volet du Programme de l’expérience québécoise (PEQ) – nom donné au processus d’immigration accéléré -, qui vise les travailleurs étrangers occupant un emploi au Québec depuis plus d’un an, est maintenu.

« Étant donné la pénurie de main-d’oeuvre, le gouvernement a décidé de donner la priorité aux travailleurs qui occupent déjà un emploi au Québec. Ils répondent rapidement à nos besoins », affirme Élisabeth Gosselin.

Lorsque La Presse a demandé comment des travailleurs déjà embauchés pouvaient avoir un plus grand impact sur les 120 000 postes à pourvoir au Québec que des étudiants fraîchement diplômés, l’attachée de presse de Simon Jolin-Barrette a affirmé que la pénurie de main-d’oeuvre serait « pire si ces travailleurs [déjà en poste] quittent » le Québec.

Mme Gosselin ajoute que malgré la suspension, ceux qui ont obtenu un diplôme récemment n’ont pas nécessairement à déménager hors du Québec. Ces derniers peuvent demander un permis de travail temporaire, fait-elle valoir.

« En catimini »

L’annonce de la suspension du programme a fait bondir l’opposition officielle à Québec. « Le gouvernement a fait ça en catimini. Il y a eu des annonces la semaine dernière sur l’immigration : pourquoi ne pas avoir parlé de la suspension d’une partie du Programme de l’expérience québécoise, un programme qui fonctionne très bien ? », tonnait hier Dominique Anglade, députée de Saint-Henri-Sainte-Anne et candidate à la direction du Parti libéral. « C’est un gouvernement qui pense à court terme, sans vision. Cette annonce va être dommageable pour l’image du Québec à l’international à long terme », dit celle qui a été présidente et directrice générale de Montréal international avant de faire le saut en politique.

Président de l’Association québécoise des avocats et avocates en droit de l’immigration (AQAADI), Guillaume Cliche-Rivard était incrédule hier. « Tout ça est une conséquence des seuils d’immigration revus à la baisse par le gouvernement. Couper dans le programme destiné aux étudiants étrangers avec un diplôme du Québec et qui parlent français n’a aucun sens, se désolait hier l’avocat. Toutes les sociétés occidentales veulent que les étudiants formés chez eux restent. On envoie vraiment le mauvais message à ceux qui veulent venir étudier au Québec. »

Selon lui, la suspension du programme rendra les universités québécoises – qui recherchent sans cesse de nouveaux étudiants étrangers – moins attrayantes.

À Montréal international, l’une des organisations mises à profit par le gouvernement précédent pour convaincre un plus grand nombre d’étudiants étrangers de rester et de travailler au Québec après leurs études, on disait ne pas s’inquiéter de l’annonce gouvernementale. « Ce qui a été annoncé nous réjouit. Les étudiants étrangers peuvent toujours obtenir un visa de travail. Ce qui est important pour nous, c’est que les travailleurs et les étudiants étrangers qui viennent au Québec ne soient pas freinés lorsqu’il est temps d’obtenir un permis temporaire », a dit hier Christian Bernard, vice-président aux affaires économiques et aux communications.

Un programme populaire

C’est le gouvernement de Jean Charest qui avait mis sur pied le Programme de l’expérience québécoise en 2010 afin de donner rapidement un statut d’immigration permanent aux travailleurs qualifiés temporaires et aux étudiants étrangers qui ont terminé leurs études dans la province. Pour y être admissibles, les demandeurs doivent avoir une bonne connaissance du français.

Depuis 2015, le gouvernement du Québec a déployé des programmes spéciaux pour convaincre davantage d’étudiants étrangers de s’installer au Québec après leurs études, notant un retard important sur la rétention des diplômés par rapport à d’autres provinces, dont l’Ontario, ou encore en se comparant à d’autres pays d’immigration, dont l’Australie et les États-Unis.

En 2018, 10 711 personnes ont été sélectionnées pour l’immigration par le Québec grâce au PEQ, soit près du cinquième des 55 000 immigrants reçus dans la province l’an dernier. De ce nombre, la moitié – soit 5146 – était composée de récents diplômés. En 2019, 8052 personnes ont déjà reçu le feu vert du Québec par le truchement du PEQ, dont 3226 diplômés. Or, le gouvernement de la CAQ a abaissé à 40 000 le seuil d’immigration du Québec pour 2019.

***

Deux fois plus d’étudiants étrangers

De 2009 à 2018, le nombre de permis d’études délivrés à des étrangers a doublé au Québec. En 2018, ils étaient 70 060. De ce nombre, 5146 ont fait une demande d’immigration auprès du gouvernement du Québec. En général, le Québec retient environ 20 % des étudiants étrangers après l’obtention d’un diplôme. Le gouvernement libéral voulait doubler ce pourcentage.

« Par leur expérience préalable au Québec, [les diplômés et les travailleurs qualifiés temporaires] ont déjà amorcé leur processus d’intégration au marché du travail et à la société québécoise, ce qui en fait des candidats de choix à l’immigration permanente. »

– Extrait du document Planification de l’immigration au Québec pour la période 2020-2022 produit en 2019 par le ministère de l’Immigration, de la Diversité et de l’Inclusion

Francisation «obligatoire» des immigrants: Legault souffle le chaud et le froid

More ambiguity than in the case of Malala not being able to teach in Quebec:

Les immigrants qui débarquent au Québec seront-ils bientôt forcés d’apprendre le français ? Les paris sont ouverts.

Posée au premier ministre François Legault lundi, cette question demeure sans réponse claire.

En mêlée de presse, M. Legault a soufflé le chaud et le froid, paraissant dire une chose et son contraire.

Chose certaine, forcés ou non, les nouveaux arrivants auront intérêt à maîtriser le français s’ils veulent obtenir leurs papiers pour demeurer au Québec.

Le premier ministre réagissait lundi à une entrevue de La Presse canadienne, diffusée la veille, avec la députée caquiste Claire Samson, qui rappelait que le programme de la CAQ prévoyait la francisation « obligatoire » des immigrants ne maîtrisant pas le français à leur arrivée au Québec.

Elle disait que le gouvernement devrait aller en ce sens, pour s’assurer que le Québec de demain demeure un État où la langue française domine.

Or, le ministre de l’Immigration, Simon Jolin-Barrette, a annoncé vendredi des mesures visant à étendre l’accès aux cours de francisation, mais sur une base volontaire.

Lundi, le premier ministre a convenu que le caractère obligatoire des cours de francisation pour les immigrants figurait parmi les engagements de son parti, mais qu’il voulait procéder « graduellement ». Il semble donc vouloir procéder par étapes.

« Cela fait partie de nos propositions », a reconnu M. Legault, rappelant qu’il avait un mandat de quatre ans et qu’il comptait « y aller graduellement ».

Une « priorité nationale »

En 2016, dans un rapport visant à définir la position de son parti sur cette question, la députée Claire Samson avait préconisé la francisation obligatoire des immigrants.

Lundi, le premier ministre a réitéré qu’il était « d’accord avec ce rapport-là ».

Il a ajouté que, de toute façon, les immigrants seront forcés de passer un test de français et un test de valeurs pour obtenir le certificat de résident permanent au pays.

Et il a ajouté que la réussite de ces tests sera elle aussi « obligatoire » pour rester au Québec.

Pour l’instant, « ce qu’on s’engage à faire, c’est de rendre les cours de français obligatoires… pas obligatoires, à rendre les cours de français disponibles », a dit le premier ministre.

« Les cours vont être disponibles, les tests de français vont être obligatoires. Je vois pas pourquoi les nouveaux arrivants ne suivraient pas les cours de français », a-t-il ajouté.

Avant d’aller de l’avant, le Québec devra cependant négocier avec le gouvernement fédéral les conditions qu’il souhaite imposer aux nouveaux arrivants pour obtenir le statut de résident permanent, une compétence fédérale.

M. Legault s’est engagé lundi à « convaincre le gouvernement fédéral » de lui accorder les pouvoirs réclamés, qui figurent dans la nouvelle loi 9 adoptée en juin.

Dans son rapport de 2016, assorti de nombreuses recommandations, Mme Samson proposait notamment qu’un gouvernement de la CAQ fasse de la francisation des immigrants une « véritable priorité nationale ».

D’où l’importance d’obliger les immigrants à suivre des cours de français, grâce à une formation d’une durée variant de 30 à 72 semaines, à temps complet.

Cette formation, rémunérée, serait nécessaire pour obtenir un certificat de sélection du Québec.

Tous les nouveaux arrivants ne maîtrisant pas le français devraient s’y soumettre, qu’ils soient immigrants économiques, réfugiés ou faisant partie d’un regroupement familial.

Ce programme devrait également être suivi le plus tôt possible suivant l’arrivée au Québec.

On prévoyait inclure un volet d’initiation aux réalités du Québec, sa culture, ses institutions sociales et politiques, ses valeurs, etc.

Un soutien financier devait être prévu pour les parents de jeunes enfants, en vue d’assumer les frais de garde.

Mme Samson proposait également dans son rapport de créer un guichet unique pour la francisation des immigrants adultes.

Tous les programmes de francisation — actuellement éparpillés entre le ministère de l’Éducation et celui de l’Immigration — seraient rapatriés à l’intérieur d’un nouveau ministère : le ministère de l’Immigration et de la Francisation.

Source: Francisation «obligatoire» des immigrants: Legault souffle le chaud et le froid

Quebec MNA wants French classes to be mandatory for immigrants

An illustration of the range of views in the CAQ caucus, this one on the more hardline side:

The more MNA Claire Samson is calling on the Quebec government to make French language courses mandatory for immigrants.

Samson, a member of the governing Coalition Avenir Québec who represents Iberville riding, was her party’s culture critic when in the opposition.

In 2016, she produced a report on language and immigration calling for compulsory French classes for immigrants and to make their immigration status conditional on passing a language test.

In an interview with Presse canadienne, Samson said her party campaigned on the report and now it needs to follow up.

Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette announced Friday that the government would spend an additional $70 million on French classes for immigrants.

But Samson said the government has not gone far enough, and she intends to lobby for more aggressive measures to force newcomers to learn French when the National Assembly resumes in the fall.

French in Quebec is threatened in the very short term and the situation could become irreversible within 15 years, she said.

“It would be difficult to turn it around if there is too much laxity and there is no follow-up,” she said.

Quebec needs to impose the French language on immigrants to counterbalance to the powerful attraction of English, she said.

“It must be done now, because eventually it may be too late,” she warned.

Samson said she has recovered from the health problems that had prevented her from attending the National Assembly regularly since November.

Samson considered quitting politics last fall after she was bypassed for a cabinet post. At the time, she attributed her health problems partly to being left out of cabinet. In March, she attended a meeting in a daycare centre, where constituents complained that she was rude and arrogant. She later apologized.

Source: MNA wants French classes to be mandatory for immigrants

Québec élargit l’accès à la francisation pour les immigrants

Noteworthy in the background of Bill 21 discrimination and the reduction in immigration levels:

Davantage d’immigrants auront accès à la francisation et ils seront mieux compensés pour se présenter en classe, a annoncé cet avant-midi le ministre de l’Immigration.

Cet élargissement du programme est permis par un investissement supplémentaire de 70 millions décidé par le gouvernement.

« Au Québec, les personnes immigrantes doivent évoluer en français, a dit le ministre Simon Jolin-Barrette en conférence de presse au centre-ville de Montréal. C’est pourquoi nous devons mettre en place le meilleur système possible pour favoriser la francisation. »

Parmi les mesures annoncées :

• L’allocation pour les étudiants en francisation à temps plein passera à 185 $ par semaine (contre 141 $ actuellement)

• Les étudiants en francisation à temps partiel recevront une allocation de 15 $ par jour (contre 0 $ actuellement)

• Les frais de garde de ces derniers seront remboursés à hauteur de 9 $ par jour (contre 7 $ actuellement).

• Les étudiants étrangers et les travailleurs temporaires auront aussi accès à la francisation.

Par ailleurs, tous les Québécois d’adoption auront accès à la francisation, peu importe depuis combien de temps ils sont installés dans la province. Jusqu’à maintenant, seuls les immigrants arrivés depuis moins de cinq ans y avaient droit.

« En donnant la possibilité à toutes les personnes immigrantes de se franciser, nous améliorons leurs chances de se trouver un emploi correspondant à leurs compétences et à répondre aux besoins du marché du travail », a dit le ministre Jolin-Barrette. « L’immigration est l’une des solutions à la pénurie de main-d’oeuvre. »

Accueil positif

Des organismes actifs dans le domaine de la francisation se sont dits satisfaits des annonces du ministre, cet avant-midi.

« C’étaient des revendications qu’on faisait depuis de nombreuses années, a fait valoir Pablo Altamirano, directeur de l’Alliance pour l’accueil et l’intégration des immigrations. L’allocation pour les étudiants à temps partiel va aider énormément pour l’assiduité des étudiants : les gens ne pouvaient pas toujours se déplacer à cause du coût des transports. »

Anait Aleksanin, du Centre d’appui aux communautés immigrantes, s’est aussi réjouie de l’annonce. « C’est une très bonne nouvelle. Il y a beaucoup de mesures qu’on attendait depuis longtemps », a-t-elle dit.

La Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec a accueilli positivement l’annonce, particulièrement en ce qui a trait aux cours de francisation à temps partiel. « Les nouveaux arrivants pourront mettre leurs compétences à contribution plus rapidement, en plus de mettre en pratique leur apprentissage du français au quotidien, avec leurs collègues de travail », a déclaré le grand patron de l’organisation, Stéphane Forget, via communiqué.

La Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ) s’est montrée plus ambivalente : elle a salué les améliorations annoncées, mais aimerait voir davantage de francisation dans les milieux de travail.

« Il faut que les travailleurs et travailleuses puissent être libérés de leurs tâches pendant les heures de travail afin de pouvoir assister à des cours de francisation tout en étant rémunérés », a indiqué la centrale syndicale dans un communiqué. « C’est un gros pari que de penser qu’après leur journée de travail, ces travailleurs […] vont être prédisposés à se déplacer pour aller suivre une formation en français. »

Source: Québec élargit l’accès à la francisation pour les immigrants

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

Quebec religious symbols law ‘dangerous and un-Canadian,’ says Manitoba premier

Can’t get much stronger than that:

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister says he will be seeking a joint response to Quebec’s new religious symbols law when western and northern premiers meet on Thursday in Edmonton.

“That is, certainly to my mind, dangerous and un-Canadian and deserves to be opposed,” Pallister said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“We are not a two-tier-rights country.

“We’re not a country that celebrates sameness. We celebrate diversity, and we need to make sure that we don’t restrict people’s freedoms, whether it’s speech or movement or religion.”

The Quebec law prohibits teachers, police officers and other public servants in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols, and critics say it unfairly targets Muslims, Sikhs and other religious minorities.

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it’s not government’s responsibility, or in its interest, to legislate on what people should be wearing. But he did not specify what action his government would take to protect minority rights.

Pallister said response from federal politicians has probably been muted in part because of the looming national election in October.

“They don’t wish to irritate the province of Quebec, but Quebec is one province in a beautiful country,” he said.

“Canada is a beacon around the world for supporting freedoms, not suppressing them.”

Source: Quebec religious symbols law ‘dangerous and un-Canadian,’ says Manitoba premier

And Jack Jedwab’s called for stronger messaging from federal leaders:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the leaders of the federal opposition parties were cautious in their reaction to Quebec’s legislative ban on religious symbols, Bill 21. That’s probably because of the popularity of the ban amongst Quebec francophone voters who may have an important impact on each party’s political fortunes.

With the exception of the Bloc Québécois, it seems that the preferred approach of the federal party leaders is to reaffirm their respective disagreement with the ban while staying silent about taking action. This stand will not work as we near the start of the federal election campaign in September.

Some party leaders will be tempted to voice their disapproval of the ban while allowing their candidates in Quebec to insist that the provincial government was perfectly within its rights to adopt the legislation. But many Canadians will see this ambiguous line of reasoning for what it is: a cynical excuse for inaction. Voters in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada deserve to know what, if anything, the political parties plan to do about Bill 21. Whatever choice(s) the parties make will certainly have political ramifications both within and outside Quebec.

What should the parties do? It is safe to assume that none of the party leaders will consider recourse to the federal power to disallow the legislation. They would be wise to hold back, as disallowance would delegitimize the democratically elected government of Quebec. The much better alternative is to support court challenge(s) to the law. All federalist parties should take this position regardless of the electoral cost for them in Quebec. Thus far, the Canadian Council of Muslims and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association have launched a judicial challenge to Bill 21. They deserve support from the federal government.

Despite considerable support for the bill amongst Quebec francophones, a May Leger Marketing survey revealed that a majority of Quebecers weren’t automatically opposed to the idea of submitting it to the courts for an opinion (specifically, 46 per cent of Quebecers didn’t approve of a court reference; 41 per cent were in favour of securing an opinion; and the rest didn’t know or refused to respond). The same survey revealed that important majorities in Quebec and Canada greatly valued the Charter of Rights – which is the basis on which the bill would be challenged.

Quebec Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette will likely describe federal intervention as an unacceptable encroachment on an exclusively Quebec matter. But Bill 21 states that the ban on religious symbols applies “despite certain provisions of the (Canadian) Charter of human rights and freedoms and the Constitution Act, 1982.” This provision justifies intervention on the part of the federal government so as to ensure that constitutional commitments enshrined in the Charter are upheld, regardless of the province in which a citizen resides. To act otherwise would not only weaken freedom of religion but also commitments to other key freedoms in the Charter. If a provincial government outside of Quebec decided to suspend certain rights and freedoms for minority francophones, there would rightly be multiple calls on the federal government to act. The same principle should apply to Bill 21.

Quebecers have been given the impression that the use of the “notwithstanding clause” in Bill 21 means that the issue of fundamental rights is no longer in question. But the clause seeks to dismiss recourse to rights protection, and in no way dismisses the idea that rights are being violated. Minister Jolin-Barrette and Premier François Legault have insisted that the bill does not violate the Quebec or Canadian Charter of Rights. There is good reason to be skeptical. But if they truly believe that, they should have nothing to fear from a court challenge.

Who knows? Maybe the court decision will vindicate them. Either way, the government of Canada and the opposition should give Quebecers and other Canadians an opportunity to find out and make clear their intention to support a court challenge sooner rather than later.

Source: Jedwab: Canadians deserve to know what federal parties will do about Quebec’s Bill 21

After Quebec’s secularism law, Muslim women gather to figure out, ‘What can we do now?’

Interesting vignettes:

The women hold one hand to their chest and the other to their stomach as they’re told to breathe in and then out.

The workshop started with a guided meditation and a short discussion about how to cope emotionally with Quebec’s new secularism law, which bars them from wearing religious symbols at certain jobs. But it’s clear the 20 or so Muslim women here aren’t ready to relax.

A short time later, they’re at the edge of their seats shooting questions at lawyer William Korbatly about the law’s ins and outs.

What they really want to know is how to fight it.

“What is this law? What can we do now?” one woman lets out, shaking her head. “It’s ridiculous. I want us to end this law. It’s unjust.”

Considering social media campaigns — or self-defence

The women begin pitching ideas. Can they go around the law? Are there different ways they can hide their hair, perhaps?

“You put a wig on top of your hijab,” says Mejda Mouaffak, an elementary school teacher, with a laugh.

A social media campaign uniting different faiths (Judaism, Islam, Sikhism, Christianity) in solidarity against the law is pitched. Another campaign, to make fun of the law, is suggested. Self-defence workshops are another idea, ones that also touch on verbal attacks and how to react.

The workshop in an empty community centre in a northwestern Montreal neighbourhood ends up lasting nearly two hours longer than planned. The discussions are as nuanced and diverse as its participants, who hail from different backgrounds and ages and practice a range of professions.

Most of them wear a hijab.

‘We can be Muslim and feminist’

The gathering was organized for Muslim women to regroup after Quebec’s new CAQ government pushed through two key pieces of legislation, both affecting people of colour in the province, during a marathon weekend in the National Assembly the week before.

The new secularism law forbids certain groups of public servants — including teachers, police officers and government lawyers — from wearing religious symbols on the job. Critics say it impedes people’s right to practice their religion, and disproportionately targets Muslim women who wear a headscarf.

Participant Sara Hassanien wants to connect with Quebec feminists, a group that has been vocal in favour of the law, particularly in French media.

“I’m trying to tell them that unlike what you’ve always thought … we can be Muslim and feminist,” she said, noting there are about as many reasons women wear the hijab as there are women who do.

‘I totally understand what Quebec has been through’

Hassanien says, on the other hand, it’s important for her community to know the history of Quebec’s difficult relationship with the Catholic church.

“I totally empathize with you,” Hassanien told CBC later, as if addressing Quebec feminists.

“I totally understand what Quebec has been through. I understand that your mothers, your grandmothers, fought so hard for women’s liberation and I support that. I am here to comfort them, to reassure them that we are not ever going to call for going back.”

At the same time, Hassanien says she is tired of feeling like she has to speak for her entire community in spaces where it is under-represented.

‘The consquences can only be absurd’

Korbatly agreed with the women pointing out contradictions they see in the law: that the definition of “religious symbol” is vague and applies more to the Christian cross than the hijab, which they say is more of a practice.

He explained how disrespecting the law could lead to people being fired.

“When you have an absurd law, the consequences can only be absurd,” Korbatly told the group.

He hopes the legal challenge to the law launched last week, which argues Quebec can’t bypass Canadians’ right to religious freedom, will be successful.

Law effectively prevents a teacher’s promotion

Afterward, he told CBC News though the law does not affect him directly — he is Muslim, but does not wear religious garb — he felt it was his duty “to be there, present and give moral and legal support to the community.”

During the discussion he called himself a feminist “through and through.”

Amina B., who wished to withhold her last name because of fear it would affect her employment, is a substitute teacher.

The law effectively prevents her from being promoted to any other public education role in the province. It includes a grandfather clause that protects people hired before March 28, but as soon as they are promoted or access another position covered by the law, it applies.

‘This is shaking me to the core’

Amina had signed up for a two-year online teacher program at the University of Ottawa, but she’s not sure she’ll complete it now.

“If that means I will always have to be a substitute teacher, and that I can’t evolve, what’s the point?”

She came to the workshop because “when you get involved, maybe, you can make things change.”

Hassanien is an ESL teacher for a private company. She says it was important for her to join, too, because “I started to feel helpless about what’s happening on a daily basis to me as a veiled woman in Montreal.”

She says her trips on public transit now fill her with anxiety and fear that she will be harassed. Even strange looks are a cause of stress.

“This is shaking me to the core,” she said.

Spike in public harassment

The event was organized by Hanadi Saad, who founded Justice Femme after the first attempt by a Quebec government to legislate religious garb, when it was led by the Parti Québécois in 2013, to offer legal and psychological support to Muslim women who face harassment.

Since Bill 21, the current law, was introduced in May, her group has seen a spike in the public harassment of Muslim women in Quebec.

“It’s like we opened the door: ‘Now, you can go ahead and discriminate,'” Saad said, calling the law “violent.”‘I feel like they are taking a part of me’

Saad immigrated to Canada with her family 30 years ago during the Lebanese Civil War and has lived in Quebec for 18 years. She says Quebec has been her true home ever since.

But she’ll be visiting Lebanon for the second time in those years this summer and wonders if it’ll feel more like home this time.

“I feel like they are taking a part of me, of my existence,” said Saad, who no longer wears a headscarf. She said it was a decision that took her months.

“To ask these women to take their hijab off, it’s like asking you to take your T-shirt off.”

Saad sees a silver lining, though.

“Now what has to be done, it’s to stand up for our rights as women. We are appropriating our cause; it’s women’s cause. So I will thank this government for what he’s creating, because he’s forcing us to come together.”

Source: After Quebec’s secularism law, Muslim women gather to figure out, ‘What can we do now?’

Singh in a bind as NDP must win over Quebecers that support new secularism law

Good column by Patriquin on Singh’s Quebec dilemna:

Were he a teacher in Quebec and not a politician based in Ottawa, Jagmeet Singh would find it difficult to work.

Thanks to Quebec’s “laicity bill,” which became law Sunday, Singh wouldn’t today be able to secure a teaching position with a turban on his head. Had he held this position prior to March 28, the law’s retroactive date of enforcement, he’d be stuck in grandfather-clause purgatory, allowed to wear his turban and kirpan—but lose this right should he be promoted, demoted or transferred to another position. It’s a cruel and confounding position for Singh. As leader of the NDP, he has significant support in Canada’s second-largest province. Yet he couldn’t so much as teach a Grade 4 class in the province, much less join a Quebec police force, guard prisoners in a Quebec jail or be a judge in a Quebec court. He couldn’t even serve as a liquor inspector.

Oddly, the NDP has been remarkably quiet about the demonstrable impingement of its leader’s fundamental rights. The party issued no press release following the judgment. NDP MPs, Quebec and otherwise, were largely and conspicuously silent on the issue. In 2013, the Parti Québécois of the day introduced its “Quebec values charter,” which would have had a similar negative effect on Singh’s ability to work in Quebec. At the time, the NDP called it “state-mandated discrimination,” with then-NDP leader Tom Mulcair vowing to “fight it all the way.” Yet the current incarnation of the NDP met the newly-minted Quebec law with a volley of crickets. There were no promises from the NDP to mount a challenge of the law should it form a government in October. Dissent was limited to Singh himself, who tweeted and otherwise expressed his “sadness” at its passing.

Unfortunately, there is method to the NDP’s silence. Quebec’s new secularism law is an onerous and cynical piece of legislation that tramples on rights secured by both the Canadian and Quebec charter. As a particularly mean-spirited solution for a non-existent problem—that of creeping religiosity in Quebec society—it serves no other purpose than to prop up the nationalist bona fides of Premier François Legault and his Coalition Avenir Québec government. And yet as grievous as it is, the law is remarkably popular amongst the very people Singh and the NDP must court if they wish to have any chance in the looming October election. In short, denouncing Quebec’s law is tantamount to political suicide, for all parties. That silence you hear from the NDP is the noise of political expediency.

How popular is the new law? Nearly three quarters of Quebecers polled believe judges, prosecutors, police and prison guards shouldn’t be allowed to wear religious symbols, according to a Léger Marketing poll for the CAQ government. (Other polls, notably Angus Reid and CROP, reflect similar levels of support.) In fact, according to the Léger poll, nearly 70 per cent of respondents believed the restriction should go even further to include preschool and kindergarten teachers as well. Here, we must acknowledge a bit of political brilliance, however cynical, on the part of Legault. By not including preschool and kindergarten teachers in the religious symbols ban, the premier has sold the law as a demonstration of restraint and compromise. The law “could have gone further,” he said the other day. “There are people who are a little racist and don’t want to see religious symbols anywhere in public.”

The NDP’s relative silence extends to the Conservative Party. While Conservative leader Andrew Scheer gave Quebec’s secularism bill a light spanking last March, the party made no similar overture upon the bill’s passing into law this week. If anything, the Conservative situation in Quebec is even more fraught than that of the NDP: Scheer is courting voters in the province’s exurbs and hinterland, where support for the law is highest (and, not coincidentally, the presence of actual religious minorities is at its lowest.) Scheer is further hampered by another political reality: laws such as the one passed in Quebec have remarkable support in the rest of the country. It is of no coincidence that former prime minister Stephen Harper, with his campaign-era “barbaric cultural practices” snitch line, wasn’t below a bit of Legault-style demagoguery.

And this silence has infected the Liberals as well, albeit to a lesser extent. In 2013, the mere hint of the PQ’s Quebec values charter provoked Justin Trudeau into writing 600 angry words in the Globe and Mail. This time around, it took being asked by a reporter for Justin Trudeau to denounce Quebec’s law.

In keeping relatively quiet on the political excesses of the current Quebec government, perhaps the NDP and others are simply learning from history. At a French-language debate during the 2015 election campaign, NDP leader Mulcair offered by far the loudest critique of Harper’s anti-niqab stance—and the PQ’s values charter by extension. “No one here is pro-niqab. We realize that we live in a society where we must have confidence in the authority of the tribunals, even if the practice is uncomfortable to us,” Mulcair said.

Mulcair’s was a righteous, nuanced and altogether sensible critique of the very type of identity-based politics practised by Harper then and Legault now. It also doomed the NDP, with Mulcair’s support diving at almost the exact moment he uttered the words. No wonder the current crop of federal leaders are so scared to say anything.

Source: Singh in a bind as NDP must win over Quebecers that support new secularism law