Kurl: Quebec’s – and Canada’s – tolerance for religious symbols remains selective

Useful reminder:

As battle lines are drawn over the Coalition Avenir Quebec’s promised ban on public servants wearing religious garments or articles at work, it’s instructive to separate generalities from specifics.

When Quebecers are asked general questions such as “do you support a ban” on public employees in positions of authority wearing religious symbols at work, two-thirds say yes. But when asked specifically which symbols would be unacceptable for said public employees at work, it appears what they’re really saying is they support a ban on non-Judeo-Christian symbols.

This is a key distinction, because some observers take this majority support on the general question as a sign the province – and the rest of the country – is becoming more secular. Indeed, Quebec Premier François Legault himself wraps his plans in words such as “secularism” and “neutrality.” Public sentiment, however, is anything but “neutral.”

While most Quebec residents support the provincial government’s proposal overall, our polling data also show that majorities believe public employees should be allowed to wear a crucifix or a Star of David on the job (73 per cent and 68 per cent, respectively). Indeed, polling further indicates Quebecers are nearly twice as likely to want to see the crucifix in Quebec’s National Assembly stay put as to see it removed.

Quebecers aren’t alone in this thinking. Majorities in all other provinces are also more amenable to the display of Judeo-Christian symbols in the workplace. But where the province differs from the rest of the country is that while more than half say “non” to public servants wearing the Muslim hijab (57 per cent) and the Sikh turban (55 per cent), majorities in the rest of the country (between 70 and 80 per cent, depending on the province) have little issue with it.

These general opinion trends aren’t new. But Legault now represents the fourth premier (the CAQ the third governing political party) to try such a moratorium. Beyond legal challenges, there’s a reason his predecessors, while never explicitly abandoning the idea, also never quite got around to making it happen.

In a province where Catholic nuns have a centuries-old tradition in health care, is any political party in Quebec willing to apply its own ban evenly and tell them they can no longer provide comfort to hospital patients while in habit? In a province where the first Jewish synagogue was established in the 1760s, will this government politically survive telling a public school teacher to remove his kippah?

Meanwhile, it’s not like the rest of the country is completely tolerant of minority religious symbols. If there is something that “unifies” people across Canada, it is opposition to and discomfort with three specific articles of faith identified with the Sikh and Muslim religions. Regardless of where people live, most don’t think the burqa and the niqab – worn by some Muslim women – or the kirpan, the ceremonial dagger worn by some Orthodox Sikhs, should be worn by public servants in their own provinces.

Many would use these general opinions towards a religious symbol ban as evidence Canada is becoming more hostile to religion. But in fact, more people are inclined to see the general role and contributions of religious and faith groups to Canadian society as good than bad. Instead, the sobering reality is this hostility is reserved for some garments and symbols associated with specific religions.

In a country that often prides itself on acceptance of different cultures and ways of life, this can seem depressing. But a silver lining could exist in the views of the next generation. Times change. Nearly three decades ago, this country was gripped by a divisive debate over whether turbaned Sikhs should be able to serve in the RCMP and armed forces. Today that debate is over. And today, it is younger people – both in and outside Quebec – who are more permissive towards all articles of faith being worn in public workplaces. For more than a decade, a province and a country has exhausted itself talking about these issues. Maybe, a generation from now, the debate will be over.

Source: Kurl: Quebec’s – and Canada’s – tolerance for religious symbols remains selective

As Quebec cuts immigration, statistics foreshadow demographic crunch

Good overview of the numbers:

As Premier François Legault prepares to cut immigrationby about 20 per cent, new statistics indicate Quebec has the oldest inhabitants in Canada and its overall population is growing at a slower pace than most other provinces.

The figures may lend credence to critics of the Coalition Avenir Québec plan, including the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal and Quebec’s largest employer group, who say cutting immigration could exacerbate a demographic and labour crunch.

Quebec will cut the number of new arrivals by more than 10,000 a year — from 53,300 in 2018 to between 38,000 and 42,000 in 2019. There is no indication when or if the number will be raised in the future.

On Thursday, the Institut de la statistique du Québec published its annual demographic update — a snapshot of Quebec as of Jan. 1, 2018. Here’s some of what it revealed:

8.3 million

Quebec’s population in 2017. It grew by 85,700, or one per cent. That’s a growth rate of 10.3 per 1,000 people, which is lower than the provincial average (13 per 1,000). Only New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia had lower growth rates than Quebec. Ontario registered the biggest increase: 15.6 per 1,000.


Percentage of Canadians who live in Quebec. That figure has remained steady in recent years. But since the early 1970s, Quebec’s proportion of Canada’s population has fallen by more than five percentage points (from 27.9 per cent in 1971). Meanwhile, Alberta’s has increased by four points and Ontario’s has jumped by three points. The Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal has urged Quebec to increase immigration to 60,000 per year in part to maintain the province’s demographic weight. A further drop in Quebec’s weight could mean less political clout within Canada when new seats are added to the House of Commons.


Percentage of Quebec’s population 65 or older. Across Canada, the average is lower – 17 per cent. In addition to having more older inhabitants, Quebec also has fewer residents 20 or younger (20.6 per cent, compared to 21.6 per cent across Canada).


Number of babies born in Quebec in 2017. That’s 2,400 fewer than in 2016. Quebec’s fertility rate was 1.54 children per woman, slightly more than the Canadian average of 1.49. Quebec was in the middle of the pack — five provinces had lower rates and four have higher rates.


Percentage of babies born in Quebec last year who have at least one parent born outside Canada. In most of these cases, both parents were born elsewhere. This trend has grown steadily in recent years. In 1980, 13 per cent of babies had at least one foreign-born parent. By 2000, the figure had jumped to 21 per cent.


Number of immigrants who arrived in Quebec in 2017. That’s a decrease of 850 compared to the previous year. Quebec welcomed 18 per cent of the immigrants who came to Canada, less than its demographic weight (it has just under 23 per cent of Canada’s population). Quebec took in 6.3 immigrants for every 1,000 current residents. That’s lower than the Canadian average (8.3 per 1,000) but higher than the United States (3.5 per 1,000). Almost 60 per cent of Quebec’s new immigrants were in the 20-to-44 age group. Seventy-three per cent of immigrants who arrived in Quebec in 2015 still lived in the province in 2017.


Number of immigrants who came to Quebec from China, the single biggest source of newcomers in 2017. They represented 10 per cent of new immigrants. In second and third spot: France (8.6 per cent) and Syria (seven per cent). The previous year, the order was: Syria, France, China.


Number of Canadians from other provinces who moved to Quebec. That’s the highest number in more than a decade. The surge helped reduce the net outflow of residents to other provinces. In total, 6,500 more people left Quebec for other parts of Canada last year than arrived in Quebec from other provinces. That’s the smallest interprovincial population loss since 2011. Most between-province moves involve the 401. In 2017, 12,500 Ontario residents moved to Quebec, while almost 19,000 Quebecers relocated to Ontario.

Source: As Quebec cuts immigration, statistics foreshadow demographic crunch

MP’s bid to boost French requirements for citizenship could spark House battle

Citizenship is solely federal jurisdiction:

Heads up, House staff: It may be time to dust off those ballot boxes.

Another battle over backbench business may be brewing after the Commons procedure committee backed a recommendation to bar Bloc Québécois interim leader Mario Beaulieu’s bid to impose new French-language requirements on Quebec residents applying for Canadian citizenship from going to a full House vote.

Introduced on Nov. 1, Beaulieu’s bill would require permanent residents living in Quebec to have an “adequate knowledge of French” in order to obtain Canadian citizenship.

Under the current laws, they only need an “adequate knowledge” of one of Canada’s two official language, a standard that applies across the country — prompting concerns that Beaulieu’s proposal could violate the Constitution.

Last month, the all-party subcommittee charged with vetting private members’ bills and motions in advance of their addition to the House priority list recommended that the proposal be designated non-votable — while Beaulieu would remain free to bring it to the floor for debate. But when the two hours automatically allocated for second-reading consideration ran out, it would be dropped from the order paper.

During the subcommittee meeting, Library of Parliament analyst David Groves told MPs it raised “complex constitutional issues” — but could nevertheless be permitted to go forward without being designed as non-votable, since Quebec has “a great deal more control over immigration than other provinces,” and, as a result, “has some unique powers in that regard.”

The three subcommittee members weren’t so sure.

“My wife speaks five languages. French is not one of them,” Liberal MP David de Burgh Graham said. “When she got her Canadian citizenship, we had just moved to Quebec” — where, he noted, he already lived. “She would have had to return to Ontario or stay in Ontario to get her citizenship, and I think that’s against the values of our Constitution, our charter.”

New Democrat MP Rachel Blaney agreed.

“As a person who ran an organization that served newcomers to Canada for many years, I remember helping people in our very anglophone part of the world, in B.C., who spoke only French, and they would still be able to get their citizenship by using the French language,” she observed.

“I am not going to vote in support of moving forward with this, because it simply is not … well, I don’t think it’s constitutional, and it totally undermines the fact that Canada is a multilingual country. That’s something we should all be proud of.”

Eventually, the subcommittee voted unanimously to recommend the bill be designated non-votable — a decision that prompted Beaulieu to exercise his right to appeal, which he did during a special appearance before the full committee last week.

But despite garnering support from the opposition side of the table for his pitch to let his bill proceed to a vote, Liberal MPs used their majority to side with the subcommittee and approve the recommended course of action, although Liberal MP Scott Simms noted that his vote was cast “with reservations.”

Beaulieu does have one remaining avenue of appeal: If he can secure the support of at least five fellow MPs representing at least two recognized parties, he can ask the Speaker to convene a secret ballot vote on the committee ruling.

That’s exactly what New Democrat MP Sheila Malcolmson did last year when the same subcommittee concluded that her proposal to establish a federal strategy on cleaning up shipwrecks and abandoned vessels was simply too similar to a government-backed bill introduced after her proposal was tabled.

The House ultimately rejected her call, which she blamed on the Liberal government for telling its MPs to block her attempt to revive the bill.

Even if Beaulieu succeeds in getting his bill back on the main House docket, he’ll still face an uphill battle in convincing his Commons colleagues to actually vote for his proposed new rules for hopeful citizens. That’s because the opposition members who supported his right to bring it forward at committee made it very clear they’d be unlikely to support it in the House.

Source: MP’s bid to boost French requirements for citizenship could spark House battle

Quebec announces reduced immigration targets, fuelling tensions with Ottawa

To watch.

Any reopening of the agreement to provide Quebec a role in family reunification and refugees would need to be accompanied by reopening the block grant of $490 million provided to Quebec (2017-18) for selection and integration (see Chantal Hébert’s earlier column By campaigning to cut immigration, Quebec’s opposition parties are playing politics with their province’s future):

Quebec plans to slash the number of immigrants it accepts next year, delivering on an election promise by Premier François Legault and setting the province on a collision course with Ottawa.

The Quebec government announced targets on Tuesday to reduce the number of newcomers to 40,000 in 2019, 24 per cent fewer than the 53,300 anticipated this year.

The plan is turning into the first major source of tension between the federal Liberals and the new Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government, just three days before a federal-provincial meeting in Montreal.

While the biggest drop in numbers would occur among qualified workers and other economic immigrants, which are under provincial control, Quebec also wants to cut into two streams of newcomers that fall under federal control: family reunifications involving spouses, children and parents, which would see 2,800 fewer immigrants, and refugees and asylum seekers, which would be cut by 2,450 people.

Groups working with immigrants and refugees called the CAQ plan “cruel” and said it is already stirring panic among families in Quebec who fear they will not be reunited with loved ones abroad.

The CAQ is also facing criticism for the cuts because Quebec is struggling with a chronic manpower shortage.

In Ottawa on Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised questions about the timing of the plan.

“What I hear from business people across Quebec is that companies are worried about a labour shortage. I’m not sure that this is the best moment to reduce the intake of newcomers,” he told reporters.

Mr. Legault campaigned on a pledge to reduce immigration, arguing that one in five immigrants ends up leaving Quebec. He has framed the cuts not just in terms of better matching newcomers to the needs of the labour market, but as a way of safeguarding Quebec’s identity, values and French language.

The federal government said it will continue to hold discussions with the Quebec government on the issue, including defending the integrity of the family reunification program.

“We are disappointed,” Dominic LeBlanc, the federal Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, told reporters in Ottawa on Tuesday. “We don’t want a two-tier system in which families in Quebec need more time to bring in their spouses and parents than those in New Brunswick or Ontario. That’s not an ideal situation.”

Mr. LeBlanc added that both the Quebec and Canadian governments should make sure they meet their international obligations in terms of taking in refugees.

Mr. Legault said his government was elected after campaigning on lower immigration levels.

“We have a clear mandate from the population,” he said outside the National Assembly. “The population clearly understood that a CAQ government will reduce the number of immigrants to 40,000. … I trust the good judgment of the federal government.”

Quebec says the reduction will be temporary, with Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette calling it a “transition.”

“Faced with the difficulties of integration for a large number of immigrants, we had to act and have the courage to take the means to favour their long-term settlement in Quebec,” he said at a news conference.

In the legislature, he said: “What we want to do is deploy the resources to ensure each person who chooses Quebec succeeds.”

The government’s plan was denounced by an umbrella organization for groups working with immigrants and refugees in Quebec. The Table de concertation des organismes au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrantes called the plan “cruel” and unprecedented in Quebec’s history of immigration policy.

“This decision of the government is creating a wind of panic among numerous families that we are meeting in our organization,” said Lida Ahgasi, co-president of the Table, in a statement. “It’s a totally counterproductive decision, since we know that successful integration can only be accomplished within the family. If we want to take care of newcomers, we especially have to respect and protect the integrity of their family unit.”

At their first meeting after the Oct. 1 Quebec election, Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Legault tried to negotiate a deal on immigration. However, Quebec decided on numbers without informing the federal government of its intentions ahead of time. Under the 1991 Canada-Quebec immigration deal, federal funding to facilitate the integration of immigrants in Quebec will still go up next year, even though the intake numbers will go down.

Source: Quebec announces reduced immigration targets, fuelling tensions with Ottawa

Nearly two-thirds of Quebecers support public-sector ban on religious symbols, poll finds

Not much new here:
Most Quebecers are in favour of banning public-sector workers from wearing religious symbols, according to a CROP poll released ahead of the first legislative session under a Coalition Avenir Québec government.

But a separate survey by Vox Pop Labs, conducted following the Oct. 1 election, suggests Quebecers may be more divided when it comes to the details of how such proposals should be implemented.

Premier François Legault indicated after last month’s election that he will seek to bar civil servants in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols such as the kippa and hijab.

Not only would this apply to police officers, judges and Crown prosecutors, but also to school teachers, Legault said.

He justified his decision by saying it was the “position of a majority of Quebecers.”

The CROP poll, taken between Nov. 14 and 19, estimated that 72 per cent of Quebecers supported banning visible religious symbols for judges, 71 per cent supported banning them for prosecutors and police officers and 65 per cent backed extending the ban to public-school teachers.

CROP also found widespread support (55 per cent) for leaving the crucifix in the National Assembly, another of Legault’s promises. Twenty-eight per cent wanted to see it removed.

More divided on specifics

Alain Giguère, CROP’s president, said the results indicated unprecedentedly high levels of support for banning religious symbols.

“I think we can conclude that the average Quebecer really wants to remove religion from the public sphere, especially for people who hold positions of authority,” Giguère said.

“The numbers are high but they are the product of a public discussion that has lasted since Bouchard-Taylor,” he said, referring to the public commission into reasonable accommodation that wrapped up in 2008.

One of the commission’s key recommendations was that civil servants in positions of authority shouldn’t be allowed to wear visible religious symbols. That, however, did not include teachers.

CROP’s findings are based on an internet panel of 1,000 people. They were asked which government professions should be subject to a ban on religious symbols. The questionnaire did not specify which symbols would be at issue.

When data science firm Vox Pop Labs recently asked Quebecers more detailed questions by about the specific religious symbols they object to, and in which professions, the answers varied widely.

More divided on specifics

Vox Pop, which operates Vote Compass for CBC and Radio-Canada, surveyed 4,000 people about identity issues in the month after the election.

Respondents were shown images of various types of religious clothing and symbols and asked to choose different situations where they should be banned.

The results suggested high levels of support — 87 per cent — for preventing police officers and judges from wearing the burka, a full body covering with only a mesh screen for the eyes.

But that number dropped to around 65 per cent for the turban and kippa.

The Vox Pop findings also suggested Quebecers are, in fact, divided about what religious symbols teachers should be allowed to wear in the classroom.

The kippa was opposed by 49 per cent, the turban by 51 per cent, the hijab by 52 per cent and a large cross by 53 per cent.

Vox Pop summarized its findings by noting a majority of survey participants — 55 per cent — backed the so-called Bouchard-Taylor consensus.

The research firm, though, also concluded that there is little support — only 41 per cent — for extending those limits to teachers, which the CAQ is proposing to do.

Moreover, the Vox Pop findings found higher levels of support for removing the crucifix from the National Assembly than CROP.

They recorded 50 per cent of respondents saying they opposed its presence in the legislature, compared to 45 per cent who were OK with it there.

A Mainstreet poll published two weeks ago, meanwhile, found 42 per cent support for removing the crucifix, compared to the 50 per cent who preferred that it remain.

The National Assembly will begin a two-week session on Tuesday that will be the first opportunity for the CAQ to advance its legislative agenda since it was elected in October with a decisive majority.

Legault said recently his government will likely wait until next year to table legislation on religious symbols.

CROP poll. Results published by CBC Nov. 26, 2018. (Roberto Rocha/CBC)

Source: Nearly two-thirds of Quebecers support public-sector ban on religious symbols, poll finds

Québec ne pourra limiter le nombre de réfugiés reçus, affirme Hussen

Reality intrudes:

Le gouvernement du Québec ne pourra pas limiter le nombre de réfugiés qu’il reçoit chaque année, contrairement à ce qu’avait promis François Legault en campagne électorale.

Dans une entrevue à La Presse canadienne, le ministre fédéral de l’Immigration, Ahmed Hussen, a précisé que l’Accord Canada-Québec permet au gouvernement québécois de choisir le nombre d’immigrants économiques qu’il reçoit annuellement, mais que c’est Ottawa qui détermine combien de réfugiés sont accueillis au pays. Ceux-ci peuvent ensuite s’installer dans la province de leur choix et le Québec doit en accueillir 20 % en 2018.

Le gouvernement fédéral détermine également le nombre d’immigrants issus du programme de réunification familiale.

Le ministre a déposé à la Chambre des communes, mercredi un plan échelonné sur trois ans qui prévoit une augmentation graduelle du nombre d’immigrants chaque année. Ce nombre atteindrait 350 000 en 2021 pour l’ensemble du pays, ce qui correspond à près de 1 % de la population canadienne.

Le ministre a insisté sur le fait qu’une très large proportion de ces immigrants seront admis par l’entremise des programmes économiques existants.

Il s’est toutefois abstenu de se prononcer sur la contradiction entre ce nouveau plan et la promesse du gouvernement caquiste de réduire le nombre d’immigrants accueillis au total au Québec de 50 000 à 40 000 par année, avec des baisses dans les trois catégories, soit les immigrants économiques, les réfugiés et ceux issus du programme de réunification familiale.

« Nous n’avons reçu aucune communication officielle à ce sujet, donc, en ce qui nous concerne, rien ne change jusqu’à ce que nous ayons un autre son de cloche », a affirmé M. Hussen tout en précisant qu’il était prêt à travailler de près avec le Québec.

Source: Québec ne pourra limiter le nombre de réfugiés reçus, affirme Hussen

Signes religieux: le feu sous la cendre

Good commentary:

La mairesse Valérie Plante et le chef de l’opposition à l’Hôtel de Ville de Montréal, Lionel Perez, ont eu la sagesse de refuser de se lancer prématurément dans un débat sur les signes religieux, mais ce n’est que partie remise.

La motion du conseiller indépendant de Snowdon, Marvin Rotrand, qui semble se complaire dans le rôle du boutefeu, était d’ailleurs sans objet. La CAQ n’a jamais évoqué la possibilité d’interdire le port de signes religieux aux élus, que ce soit à l’Assemblée nationale ou au niveau municipal. La charte de la laïcité du gouvernement Marois ne le prévoyait pas non plus.

M. Rotrand soutient avoir obtenu l’assurance que les élus de Projet Montréal et d’Ensemble Montréal auraient appuyé sa motion si celle-ci avait été mise aux voix. Cela est en effet probable, mais quel aurait été l’intérêt d’enfoncer une porte ouverte, sinon d’envenimer un débat qui est déjà suffisamment explosif ?

M. Rotrand n’en est pas à sa première intervention du genre. Au printemps dernier, il avait demandé au Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) d’autoriser ses agents à porter le hidjab ou le turban, comme c’est le cas dans de nombreux corps policiers municipaux ailleurs au Canada, que ce soit à Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary ou Edmonton, ou encore dans la GRC.

Aucun policier en service au Québec n’avait manifesté l’intention d’en porter, mais une jeune étudiante en techniques policières du collège Ahuntsic, Sandos Lamrhari, qui souhaite faire carrière au SPVM ou au Service de police de la Ville de Laval tout en portant le hidjab, avait été érigée en symbole par le premier ministre Couillard, qui voyait en elle l’incarnation d’un Québec confiant dans l’avenir, où tout le monde peut participer.

Là encore, il était permis de s’interroger sur l’opportunité de provoquer ce débat, puisque le gouvernement libéral refusait d’interdire à qui que ce soit de porter des signes religieux, pour autant que le visage soit découvert, contrairement à la recommandation de la commission Bouchard-Taylor. Il entendait plutôt laisser à chaque corps policier le soin d’établir son propre code vestimentaire. Or, la direction du SPVM se disait ouverte à toute demande, tout comme la mairesse Plante.

Le changement de gouvernement rend cependant le débat inévitable. Si le premier ministre Legault n’exclut pas que les enseignants puissent échapper au projet de loi que présentera éventuellement le ministre de l’Immigration, de la Diversité et de l’Inclusion, Simon Jolin-Barrette, il n’y aura pas de recul dans le cas des agents de l’État exerçant un « pouvoir de coercition », notamment les policiers.

La constitutionnalité du projet sera contestée à coup sûr. M. Jolin-Barrette se dit convaincu que son projet passera le test des tribunaux. Sinon, M. Legault a réitéré dès le lendemain de l’élection qu’il était prêt à invoquer la disposition dérogatoire (« clause nonobstant ») prévue dans les chartes des droits. D’une manière ou d’une autre, l’interdiction du port de signes religieux finira donc par avoir force de loi.

Ce débat risque d’accentuer encore davantage le clivage entre l’île de Montréal et le reste du Québec, dont la dernière élection a donné une illustration spectaculaire. Le feu couve sous la cendre et il ne faut pas sous-estimer le risque de dérapage. Il y a à peine deux semaines, le maire de l’arrondissement de Pierrefonds-Roxboro, Dimitrios Jim Beis, s’en est pris férocement à la CAQ, dont il dénonçait les « politiques perçues comme racistes ».

« La CAQ instrumentalise la laïcité comme un cheval de Troie pour la mise en oeuvre de politiques d’exclusion et de division. Aucun Québécois ne devrait avoir à choisir entre sa carrière et sa foi », écrivait-il sur Facebook. Des propos qui avaient un désagréable accent de déjà entendu.

On peut légitimement plaider que, dans une ville aussi multiethnique que Montréal, la population fera davantage confiance à son corps policier si sa composition reflète la diversité ambiante. La commission Bouchard-Taylor avait pris cet argument en compte, mais avait néanmoins conclu que la nécessité d’incarner pleinement la neutralité de l’État l’emportait dans le cas des policiers.

À l’Hôtel de Ville de Montréal, on trouvera sans doute cette interdiction excessive, même si le projet de loi de M. Jolin-Barrette sera nettement moins contraignant que l’était celui de Bernard Drainville, qui visait, au terme d’une période de transition, l’ensemble des employés d’une municipalité.

Le gouvernement Couillard accordait aux divers corps policiers, donc aux municipalités, le droit de définir leurs propres règles. On ne parle cependant pas ici d’aménagement urbain, mais d’un principe directeur applicable à toute la société québécoise. L’expression de la neutralité de l’État ne peut pas être à géométrie variable. Que cela leur plaise ou non, il n’appartient pas aux municipalités d’en fixer les paramètres, mais au gouvernement élu par l’ensemble de la population du Québec.

Source: Signes religieux: le feu sous la cendre

Quebec wants to expand religious symbol ban, blocking Muslim garments in civil service

The 2011 National Household Survey, indicated a very small number of Muslim Quebecois in the public service (along with other religious minorities):

Quebec’s new government is planning to block Muslim women who work in the civil service from wearing the chador, a shawl-like piece of clothing that covers the head and body, and the niqab, which also covers the face.

Coalition Avenir Québec ​Premier François Legault has already made clear his intention to prohibit those who hold positions of authority including teachers from wearing religious symbols, such as the hijab, a Muslim headscarf.

The ban on the chador and niqab, however, would extend to all employees in the public sector. A representative from the CAQ couldn’t say how many people such a ban would affect.

Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette, the government’s point person when it comes to ensuring the secularism of the state, said Wednesday the government plans to “move quickly” to introduce a law.

“It was always our position to prohibit the chador in the public service,” said Jolin-Barrette, in response to questions following a report in the Journal de Montréal about the government’s stance.

There is no mention of banning the garments in the CAQ’s online platform, but the party has played up its commitment to such a policy in the past.

In 2016, the CAQ said on Twitter that it would “defend Quebec values” by banning the chador, unlike its rivals, the Liberals and the Parti Québécois.

Jolin-Barrette said it was too early to provide details on exactly how and when the law would be implemented.

Later on Wednesday, Legault said a law prohibiting religious symbols isn’t “a priority” for the CAQ, which created some confusion about the issue.

“One important value is equality between men and women, so we want to protect that. Now, is this a priority? No,” he said.

‘Surreal’ debate

Montreal lawyer Shahad Salman, who wears a hijab, said she is discouraged the new government — and the media —  continues to focus on identity issues “rather than talking about real issues.”

“It’s so surreal that we’re talking about this again, honestly,” she said. Salman said such debates are counterproductive if politicians want minorities to become more integrated into Quebec society.

As it stands, when it comes to minorities in Quebec’s civil service, the percentage doesn’t reflect the overall population.

Visible minorities made up 9.4 per cent of the province’s public workforce in 2017, although they constitute 13 per cent of the overall population, according to a study by the Institut de recherche et d’informations socio-économiques,

The chador, which covers the head and body but leaves the face exposed, is a garment commonly worn in Iran, where this photograph was taken. (Hasan Sarbakhshian/Associated Press)

The CAQ’s planned ban on religious symbols has been criticized by civil rights advocates who contend the policy will further marginalize vulnerable minorities.

Charles Taylor, author of a landmark 2008 report on the accommodation of religious minorities in the province, called the proposal “either very ignorant or very intellectually dishonest.”

In a recent interview, he pointed out that his report explicitly recommended against including teachers in a ban on the wearing of religious garb.

“We meant it to apply only to people with functions that we called ‘coercive authority’ — police and judges. Functions that can put you in jail,” Taylor said.

Lacking ‘coherent plan,’ Liberals say

The CAQ won a decisive majority in the Quebec election earlier this month, beating out Philippe Couillard’s Liberals.

Pierre Arcand, the interim leader for the Liberals, said the CAQ doesn’t appear to have a “coherent plan” when it comes to religious symbols.

The new government appears to be floating a new trial balloon every day, he said.

Arcand said he would reserve comment until a bill is tabled.

Source: Quebec wants to expand religious symbol ban, blocking Muslim garments in civil service

The CAQ wants to create two tiers of Quebeckers: Sheema Khan

Khan looks at the individual impact. Will be interesting to see the actual legislation and whether some of the initial backtracking – existing employees would be grandfathered – continues or not:

Imagine having a job that you love. You believe you can make a positive difference to society through your chosen career. You have invested heavily in education to arrive at your current position. You can’t imagine yourself elsewhere. Then one day, you are threatened with dismissal.

Not due to a bad performance review – in fact, quite the contrary. Not because of downsizing. Not for lack of qualifications. No, the reason is your expression of faith – although you have never proselytized at work. In fact, you have contributed towards a respectful, inclusive workplace. Your co-workers are like family; you’re closer to some than others. Along the way, you’ve collectively shared life’s burdens and joys, as you try to build a stable life for you and your family.

But your new employer has decided that you are no longer welcome. Is it a foreign multinational, eager to impose its own vision at the expense of local workers?

No. It’s a new provincial government making good on its promise to impose an exclusionary brand of laïcité. And it is willing to fire individuals from certain professions whose attire falls outside its definition of state “neutrality.” Unfortunately, through no fault of your own, your chosen career is a central target. The government is even eager to trample on your individual Charter rights. And there is nothing that you – a law-abiding, tax-paying, individual – can do about it. What’s more vexing is that some of your co-workers and neighbours have voted for this government and its policies that are harmful for you.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a recent immigrant or if you’ve lived here for generations. It doesn’t matter that you believe in the future of this province, having made the conscious decision to build roots here. It is either your faith or your job.

Welcome to Quebec, where the preceding scenario is a distinct reality. The recently elected Coalition Avenir Québec announced that it would invoke the notwithstanding clause to ban religious symbols for employees in “positions of authority” – including teachers, police officers and prison guards. Examples of offending attire include kippahs, turbans and hijabs.

Following a huge outcry against its plan to fire teachers who wear religious symbols, the CAQ backtracked, offering a kinder, gentler version of discrimination: It will only ban new hires from any expression of faith. Imagine putting yourself through teacher’s college or a police training program, preparing to dedicate yourself to a profession you hold in high esteem – only to be told to discard an integral part of your identity, or choose a different career path.

The CAQ is the third consecutive governing party to threaten a ban of religious attire in the public service. The PQ proposed its infamous Values Charter in 2013, while the Liberal Party’s restrictions on face-coverings were suspended by a provincial court in June.

These efforts reflect the wider debate of defining laïcité, which is distinct from secularism – partly due to the different philosophies of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Locke. According to Rousseau, the individual gains freedom through the state, which has the right to regulate the public sphere of religion. Locke, on the other hand, placed freedom of conscience as the cornerstone of individual rights, which guarantees freedom from the state. These opposing views have permeated societies with French and British roots.

The CAQ’s approach will create two unequal classes of citizens. An overwhelming majority will be free to choose any field of employment, while a minority will have its choices restricted. There was a time not too long ago when women were barred or discouraged from certain professions. Why is the government repeating the folly of denying employment based on an individual’s identity, while ignoring a worker’s abilities and qualifications?

Furthermore, employment restriction is a slippery slope. What’s next? Use of the notwithstanding clause to override the suspension of Bill 62, thus denying niqab-wearing women access to library privileges, public transportation and health-care clinics?

However, the larger question is: Why create two tiers of Quebeckers in the first place? It sends a dangerous message of fundamental inequality enshrined as government policy. No wonder the CAQ has been lauded by European xenophobic parties.

The people of Quebec have an opportunity to forge a distinct version of laïcité, shaped by cultural heritage, linguistic identity and the contemporary reality of living in a fully anglicized North American milieu shaped by Lockean roots. The question is whether it will be inclusive or exclusionary.

Opinion The CAQ wants to create two tiers of Quebeckers: Sheema Khan

Seuils d’immigration: le Québec aura moins de poids, prévient Ottawa

While I don’t advocate for more immigration for immigration’s sake, the overall demographic and eventual political impact of the Legault government’s reduced immigration levels is clear:

Le gouvernement Legault risque d’accélérer la chute du poids démographique du Québec au sein de la fédération canadienne – et, par ricochet, son poids politique – en voulant réduire le nombre d’immigrants qui s’installent au Québec.

Telle est la mise en garde qu’a poliment lancée le gouvernement Trudeau à de proches collaborateurs du nouveau premier ministre du Québec, François Legault, au cours des derniers jours, alors que le gouvernement de la Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) a officiellement pris les commandes de l’État jeudi.

Selon des informations obtenues par La Presse, le gouvernement Trudeau a entrepris de sensibiliser le gouvernement caquiste aux répercussions possibles de son intention de réduire le nombre d’immigrants qui élisent domicile au Québec sur le poids démographique de la province au sein de la fédération. Au lendemain des élections québécoises, qui ont vu la CAQ remporter 74 des 125 sièges à l’Assemblée nationale, François Legault a réitéré la promesse électorale de son parti de faire passer le nombre d’immigrants de quelque 50 000 à 40 000 dès 2019.

Le nouveau ministre de l’Immigration du gouvernement caquiste, Simon Jolin-Barrette, a obtenu le mandat de réaliser cette promesse qui a suscité de vifs débats durant la campagne électorale, d’autant plus que le gouvernement fédéral a son mot à dire en matière d’immigration et que les entreprises doivent composer avec une pénurie de main-d’oeuvre au Québec.

Rappelons que le gouvernement fédéral, quant à lui, s’est donné pour objectif d’accueillir 310 000 immigrants en 2018, 330 000 en 2019 et 340 000 en 2020.

Durant les trois premiers mois de 2018, l’Ontario a accueilli presque autant d’immigrants que la cible annuelle que propose François Legault dès l’an prochain, soit 35 222 personnes, selon des données du ministère des Finances de l’Ontario obtenues par La Presse. L’Ontario comptait 14 374 084 habitants au 1er avril 2018 (contre 8,4 millions au Québec) et avait aussi accueilli 44,1 % de tous les nouveaux arrivants au Canada durant le premier trimestre de l’année. En 2017, pas moins de 121 915 immigrants ont installé leurs pénates dans la province la plus populeuse.

Les nouveaux sièges en fonction du poids

Dans les coulisses, on a tenu à rappeler que c’est à partir du poids démographique d’une province que l’on distribue de nouveaux sièges à la Chambre des communes – de plus en plus dominée par l’Ontario, qui détient 121 des 338 sièges. À titre de comparaison, le Québec détient 78 sièges, alors que la Colombie-Britannique (42) et l’Alberta (34), mis ensemble, en ont presque autant (76) depuis la réforme de la carte électorale de 2011.

« Quand on décide de réduire le nombre d’immigrants qui s’installent au Québec, cela va avoir un impact sur le poids démographique du Québec par rapport au reste du pays. Et cela pourrait aussi avoir un impact sur son poids politique à long terme », a-t-on fait valoir dans les rangs libéraux à Ottawa.

Au cours du dernier siècle et plus, le poids démographique du Québec est passé de 30,7 % de la population canadienne en 1901 à 22,6 % en 2018.

Le poids démographique de l’Ontario, lui, s’établit à 38,7 % aujourd’hui. Le gouvernement ontarien prévoit qu’il atteindra 39,8 % en 2026 et qu’il franchira le cap des 40,3 % en 2031 si la tendance actuelle se maintient.

Au cours des dernières années, la population de l’Ontario a donc crû fortement, ce qui lui a permis d’obtenir davantage de sièges à la Chambre des communes et d’augmenter du même coup son influence sur les décisions qui sont prises dans la capitale fédérale.

Des inquiétudes

Dans les coulisses, des députés libéraux fédéraux du Québec ont aussi exprimé leurs inquiétudes quant aux répercussions de la politique du gouvernement caquiste en matière d’immigration. « Je suis un député du Québec et je ne veux pas que le Québec en vienne à perdre de son influence politique à Ottawa au profit de l’Ontario », a résumé un député libéral, qui a requis l’anonymat pour s’exprimer plus candidement sur cette question qui pourrait devenir une pomme de discorde entre les deux capitales.

En 2011, l’ancien gouvernement conservateur de Stephen Harper avait annoncé l’attribution de nouveaux sièges à l’Ontario, à l’Alberta et à la Colombie-Britannique afin de tenir compte de la forte croissance démographique dans ces trois provinces. La Chambre des communes est passée, aux élections de 2015, de 308 à 338 sièges. L’Ontario a obtenu 15 de ces 30 nouveaux sièges, tandis que l’Alberta et la Colombie-Britannique se sont vu donner six nouveaux sièges chacun. Le gouvernement du Québec et le Bloc québécois sont montés au créneau pour décrier la baisse du poids politique du Québec à la Chambre des communes. De proches collaborateurs québécois de Stephen Harper l’ont alors convaincu d’accorder trois nouveaux sièges au Québec, même si la croissance de sa population ne justifiait pas une telle mesure.

Le Québec détient aujourd’hui l’équivalent de 23 % des sièges à la Chambre des communes, soit une proportion plus élevée que son poids démographique (22,6 %).