Mulcair: A sneak attack on language rights

Of note for those who remember these “battles” and those who do not:

Quebec and the Constitution are back in the headlines and anyone who remembers Meech and Charlottetown will understandably want to duck and cover. This time around though,  no one is asking for consent from other provinces or from Canadians via a referendum.

Quebec has included what it claims to be unilateral amendments to the Constitution Act 1867 (the B.N.A. Act) in a sweeping proposal  (Bill 96) that seeks to reinforce the status of French there. Many of those changes are indeed provincial in nature and deal with things like labour and consumer rights. The scope and effect of those types of changes will be the object of a good debate in Quebec’s legislature, the National Assembly, and given Legault’s majority most will pass into law.

Because it also affects rights concerning the language of legislation and the courts, Bill 96 deserves a much more thorough review than the nodding approval party leaders in Ottawa have quickly given to that part of it that seeks to amend the constitution unilaterally.

This is a subject I’ve spent much of my career working on. My first job in the Legislative branch of the Quebec Justice Ministry included a memorable mad dash as everyone scrambled, in December of 1979, to react  to a Supreme Court decision that had just been rendered in the Blaikie case. We had to quickly prepare, for re-enactment, all of the Québec laws adopted since the original Charter of the French Language (Bill 101) went into force in August of 1977. Bill 101 removed the obligation that had existed since 1867, in that same B.N.A. Act,  to simultaneously enact all laws in English and in French.

The Blaikie case, as it is called, was important for several reasons. First, the judges unanimously ruled that section 133 of the B.N.A . Act, that requires English and French in laws and in the courts, was not part of Quebec’s constitution and therefore could not be amended unilaterally by the province. Second, the Supreme Court simultaneously corrected a much older illegal Act, the Manitoba Official Language Act of 1890, that removed the French-language rights that had been promised in the Manitoba Act of 1870.

Language rights go to the core of our nation because they deal with the promises we made as this great country of ours came together. It’s been a rocky road at times but the Official Languages Act provided, over 50 years ago, a fresh boost to those promises. Pierre Trudeau even lost one of his prominent Western ministers over the issue. That minister, James Richardson, was from one of the most prominent Winnipeg families and he stood firmly against official bilingualism.

I wound up working in Manitoba after the Supreme Court ruled, a second time,  that all the laws there had to be translated and French and English had equal standing in the courts. That second ruling, in 1985, had become necessary because the Manitoba  government had ignored the first one, arguing (without much of a straight face) that the prior ruling was directive and not mandatory. Keen observers will note that it took over 95 years for Manitoba francophones to have their rights restored and and barely two years for anglophones in Quebec to get theirs.

It was of course mandatory and right after that second Supreme Court ruling, I’d been hired to help oversee and revise the translation of some 10,000 pages of laws and regulations. It was a Herculean task and the Supreme Court was there to monitor and ensure compliance with its definitive ruling.

It’s that history that makes Justin Trudeau’s acquiescence so surprising. He appears to sincerely believe that section 45  of the 1982 Constitution applies to Quebec’s unilateral changes to the B.N.A. Act and that the proposal is legitimate because it only affects the province’s own constitution.

But there’s another section, 43, that says that if the changes affect the right to use English or French, then you need a debate and a motion from both the House of Commons  and the Senate before the change can take place.

Section 43 was ably used by former premier Lucien Bouchard to change Quebec’s constitutionally guaranteed Catholic and Protestant school boards into a French and English system. The House of Commons and the Senate had had to discuss and vote and the English-speaking community of Quebec was consulted and widely agreed. That’s how you change a constitution: you discuss, debate and vote.

Legault’s proposed changes to the B.N.A. Act do indeed affect language rights. Trudeau, Erin O’Toole and Jagmeet Singh with their “move along, nothing to see here” attitude are trying to convince themselves and us that this is simply about Quebec amending its own constitution. That’s the argument Quebec had unsuccessfully argued before the Supreme Court in the Blaikie case back in the 1970’s. With these changes, it could win that case today.

What is and what is not part of the province’s constitution? To begin with, a few paragraphs above, I committed the unpardonable by referring to Quebec’s legislature as…a legislature! The Quebec National Assembly is called that because Quebec decided it preferred the terminology from France and it unilaterally changed the name of its legislature to l’Assemblée Nationale. Pas de problème.

So too when Quebec decided  (like every other province that had one) to deep-six its ‘Legislative Council’ decades ago. It had every right to axe its provincial senate. It was Quebec’s call as it was, indeed, purely the jurisdiction of the province.  Not so with the changes being proposed now by Quebec.

Here they are in detail: “Quebecers form a nation” and  “French shall be the only official language of Quebec. It is also the common language of the Quebec nation”.

When you go through Bill 96, you see proposals to change a series of laws including the Civil Code and the Code of Civil Procedure, to remove the right to produce certain official documents if they’re written in English. An English-language birth certificate from B.C. will henceforth have to be officially translated as if it were from some obscure corner of the world with a little-known language. This is not just the Quebec constitution. This is the right to use English and French as contemplated by section 43. It is impossible that the lawyers at the Justice Department in Ottawa didn’t see this.

Bill 96 has to be read as a whole. Sections have to be construed in context, one with regards to the other in order to understand the overall effect. The context includes changes to existing language rights. The legislator is never presumed to be talking for no reason, the unilateral  changes to the B.N.À. Act are intended to produce and shield the desired overall result: less English in Justice, legislation and the courts.

Québec Justice minister Simon Jolin-Barrette was recently in a knock-down, drag-out fight with the Chief Justice of Quebec Court, Mme Justice Lucie Rondeau. Jolin-Barrette didn’t like the fact that the postings for new judicial appointments required a knowledge of English. She patiently pointed out that there is a constitutional right to a trial in English and that it’s up to the courts to ensure respect of that obligation. Jolin-Barrette didn’t agree and he’s using Bill 96 to remove  bilingualism as a systematic requirement for future judicial appointments even in areas with large anglophone populations. The right to a trial in English will rapidly become theoretical.

Years before Bill 101, Robert Bourassa’s Bill 22 had already proclaimed French to be the official language of Quebec. Stephen Harper had championed a motion in the House of Commons proclaiming Quebecers to be a nation. So what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that Bill 96 does indeed remove existing rights. Professionals, including lawyers, will lose their right to practise law if they fail to maintain what will become a new continuing requirement for a mandatory knowledge of French. Tests or other qualification at the beginning of their career (I had to take one to join the Bar) used to remain valid througout. They would henceforth be deemed to be subject to review and revocation of licensure in case of insufficient knowledge of French.

The big deal is that once those unilateral constitutional amendments are in place, the Quebec attorney general might succeed where their predecessors had failed in 1979. They could point to the new sections as proof that Quebec can indeed adopt its legislation in French only and provide an English translation later on. That could negatively effect everyone’s language rights across Canada as other provinces such as Manitoba and New Brunswick could take note and follow suit.

In 2019, the Quebec and Montréal Bar Associations settled lawsuits that sought to ensure that Quebec respect its constitutional obligation to produce an English version of statutes had equal footing with the French, especially in terms of preparation of amendments. The “Mulcair precedent” referred to in those proceedings was mine. Having worked in Manitoba and been part of the debates there, I knew what the Supreme Court required and I raised it repeatedly when I was a member of the National Assembly. That constitutionally guaranteed equivalent of the English and French versions is in peril with these changes being endorsed by Trudeau and his pliant justice minister David Lametti.

There is a constant whittling away of the status of French and of French-language institutions throughout Canada and all Canadians should  be aware of it and demand their governments help to right that wrong. The most recent heartbreaking example is the scuppering of key French-language programs at Laurentian University in Sudbury leaving many francophone Masters and PhD students high and dry. There is money in the most recent federal budget to come to the aid of minority francophone education in just such a case but so far language minister Melanie Joly has done nothing.

That type of continuing tragedy for the French minority in Canada is correctly pointed to as deux poids deux mesures when comparing the institutions of the English in Quebec and the French outside Quebec.

The essential question for our country’s future is this: do we want to aspire to greater rights for all Canadians or are we going to simply level things downwards, to the lowest common denominator?

Trudeau seems to have veered away from his often espoused vision of a bilingual multicultural Canada towards one where linguistic and religious minorities are on their own. When he and Lametti refused to lift their little fingers to help hard-pressed religious minorities fighting in court against Quebec’s discriminatory Bill 21, the writing was on the wall.

Rights are essential. Failure to defend those rights comes at a cost to our strength, unity and well-being as a country, long term. Short term electoral priorities are no substitute for thoughtful defence of fundamental values and rights.

It’s clear that neither Trudeau nor O’Toole nor Singh has given a great deal of thought to the substantive sections Bill 96. The great irony is that even if they went the route of the more demanding section 43, there’s absolutely no doubt that the House would pass a motion approving it. Trudeau has claimed that he has a legal opinion stating that Québec can indeed proceed on its own to amend the Canadian constitution without even bringing the issue before Parliament. When Lametti was asked on an English Montréal radio station if he was willing to share that legal opinion with Canadians, he skated.

Legault has a clear plan for pulling Québec away from, if not out of, Canada. That plan, as revealed by Legault himself, has three components: language, immigration and culture. He is running circles around our current crop of leaders in Ottawa.

Despite the historical long odds, if done right, there really is reason to hope that this could be turned into a rare opportunity for a deeper understanding of the real differences that exist between the two solitudes. But it can’t be done in a sneaky, backhanded way, without a proper debate as required by the Constitution.

Trudeau is wrong to say the constitution of Canada can be amended unilaterally by Québec. It is not wrong to follow the constitution to bring about change that can close a tough chapter in our history. After all, the much maligned 1982 Constitution, that Quebec never signed, could wind up being used by Québec to try to improve things for the future, as long as rights are guaranteed and respected from coast to coast to coast.

Source: A sneak attack on language rights

Mulcair: Jagmeet Singh calls MP ‘racist’, but has he forgotten about Bill 21?

Valid question:

In 2016, when I first prepared a House of Commons motion condemning islamophobia, we couldn’t get it past a handful of Conservatives who’d denied unanimous consent. We worked hard for all-party agreement, drew a big chalk circle around the stain of Conservative opposition and were able to present the motion again. This time it was accepted and passed unanimously.

Those events in Parliament immediately came to mind when Jagmeet Singh chose to call Bloc House Leader Alain Thérrien a racist. Thérrien had communicated the Bloc’s refusal of unanimous consent for the introduction of Singh’s motion, which called for the recognition of systemic racism within the RCMP. Singh confirmed that he had indeed called Thérrien a racist, but refused to withdraw the word when asked to do so by the Speaker. The Speaker, Anthony Rota, proceeded to expel Singh for refusing to respect his decision.

In subsequent interviews, Singh affirmed that Thérrien had to be a racist because of the subject matter. He also said that he would not apologize for the personal insult, explaining that doing so would be like apologizing for being against systemic racism. As of Jun. 30, Bloc Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet was threatening a robust reaction when the House returns July 8, if Rota maintains the decision of expelling Singh for just one day. Blanchet went so far as to call Singh’s reaction “orchestrated.”

Rota has had to defend his credentials in his home riding of Nipissing—Timiskaming, after a local group called on the MP to demonstrate “stronger anti-racism leadership”. There is now little hope that the grave and urgent issue of systemic racism in the RCMP will ever be the object of the unanimous denunciation of the House of Commons.

In the case of that vote against Islamophobia, it had also been no small feat to get the Bloc Québécois onside. Beginning with my 2007 by-election for the NDP in Outremont, the Bloc rode anti-Muslim sentiment hard. I recall a thoughtful, soul-searching meeting with Alexa McDonough, Ed Broadbent, Jack Layton and our key organizers in the basement of our campaign headquarters where we struggled to find the right words to push back. In that particular by-election, the Bloc was decrying Muslim women’s right to vote with a face covering. We came out four square against the Bloc’s toxic position but personal name-calling wasn’t part of the game plan. We won handily and the Bloc lost two-thirds of it’s vote, finishing third.

In the 2015 general election, of course, the issue came to a head. My support for a woman’s right to wear a niqab at a citizenship ceremony cost us dearly. I remember my campaign director, who’d flown in from Ottawa, imploring me to change my position because it was causing a precipitous drop in Quebec that was playing into our national numbers. Many voters, she said, were just waiting to see whether the NDP or the Liberals, could defeat Harper to make their final choice. She was concerned it could cost us the election. A publication forthcoming in the prestigious Journal of Politics, has confirmed that the NDP got clobbered over the issue of niqabs in Quebec; it was pivotal in deciding the outcome of the election.

In France, even socialist governments have banned certain outward expressions of the Muslim faith. Other religions, such as Sikhism and Judaism have not been spared. Under the guise of separation of church and state, Muslim moms have even been denied the right to accompany their kids on school field trips, because of their headscarves. Outside every school in France is a poster explaining the rules against religious symbols.

Astonishingly, even the European Court of Human Rights has upheld the ban. Public French intellectuals like Michel Houellebecq and Élisabeth Badinter write openly about the threat religious symbols pose to French society.

For those of us who support Canada’s multicultural traditions, such views are an anathema. From our perspective, it’s easy to view them as racist, which I do. In Europe, they are widely shared and accepted as being part of public debate and have gained some currency here amongst those who find fault with multiculturalism.

When Quebec Premier François Legault is asked about systemic racism in Quebec, he too restates the question: “Ah, you’re saying all Quebecers are racist, and I’m saying some Quebecers are racist but that Quebecers are not systematically racist.” It’s a rhetorical trick where politicians repeat the issue in terms that suit their purpose while answering their own question.

Systemic racism doesn’t mean everyone is systematically racist. It means the dice are loaded against some members of our society because of their ethnic, religious or cultural origin. The result of that racism within the system can be proven by looking at results, measuring and comparing outcomes. Legault is too well-informed not to know that, but he also knows his base. Like the crafty populist politician he is, he’s talking to that base bysaying, “I won’t let them call you a racist!”

Legault seems to have in part, at least, won his point. In the aftermath of the dispute between Singh and the Bloc a “premiers’ statement” issued by Justin Trudeau and all of the provincial premiers, on Jun. 26, talks several times of racism and discrimination but never uses the word “systemic”.

I made my first appearance in a parliamentary commission in Quebec City on the subject in the mid-80s and it’s an issue I’ve felt passionately about since. Government reports showed a huge, systemic under-representation of minorities in the Quebec civil service back then. We worked hard to change that. It began by making people understand the problem. The situation has indeed improved considerably, but just this month, the Quebec Human Rights Commission released a study showing that there are fewer than half the number of visible minorities in the Quebec civil service than their proportion of the overall population. Historically, this situation is also a reflection of another old divide: there was much discrimination against French-Canadians in the business sector in the past and good civil service jobs were seen as a way of levelling the economic playing field.

These issues are complex and Jagmeet Singh knows that. He has proven it in the past, notably when confrontedby a voter who told him to remove his turban in order to “look more Canadian”. Singh was almost spiritual in his calm reaction. He knew he was dealing with someone who just didn’t get it and it became a teachable moment. Many people called that man a racist, but Singh never did.

Right now Québec has a law on the books, Bill 21, which openly discriminates against religious minorities, in particular against observant Muslims, Sikhs and Jews. Thus far, no opposition party in Parliament, including the NDP, has dared challenge that law for what it is. They all, including Mr. Singh, say Quebec has a right to adopt it. Trudeau is still refusing to refer the case to the Supreme Court and instead, the victims of Bill 21 who  are being denied the right to teach, become cops or government lawyers, will have to fight for years as the issue slowly wends its way through the courts.

Singh could choose to use all of his credibility and deep personal experience with this issue to persuade Trudeau to finally do the right thing and challenge the discriminatory Bill 21 immediately by referring it without delay to the Supreme Court. That would be helpful.

Source: Jagmeet Singh calls MP ‘racist’, but has he forgotten about Bill 21?

Diversity Votes — February By-elections: Matching Census Data with Ethnic Media Coverage (31 January to 8 February 2019)

For background data on the riding demographic, economic, social and political characteristics, see: February By-elections: Matching Census Data with Ethnic Media Coverage (1-18 January 2019). 

Note: While Chinese in the chart of ethnic media coverage refers to written media, Cantonese and Mandarin to broadcast oral media, I generally summarize all three as Chinese media except where indicated. 

Ethnic Media Coverage

The ongoing focus on Burnaby South continued, with more articles commenting on the risks to  Jagmeet Singh’s leadership of the NDP should he not win the by-election in both Punjabi and Chinese (Chinese, Cantonese and Mandarin) media. Overall, coverage increased slightly to 25 articles compared to 18 the previous week (earlier weeks had 41 and 97 articles) .

Media coverage was roughly evenly split between Punjabi (44 percent) and 40 percent in Chinese media. 

In addition to the risks to Jagmeet Singh’s leadership, NDP fund-raising difficulties were covered as well as the Party’s poor prospects in Outremont based on polling data in Punjabi media. Singh’s universal pharmacare plan received coverage but was largely drowned out by stories concerning the risks to his leadership.

Stories covered in Chinese media included the risks to Singh’s leadership, that former Liberal candidate Karen Wang would not run as an independent (and noting her pregnancy), the visit of Andrew Scheer and his criticism of how the Liberals have handled the dispute with China over the requested extradition of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, and that NDP leader Singh appeared to be in the dark regarding the change in his caucus’s position on the legitimacy of Venezualan leader Maduro. 

The all candidates meeting for Burnaby South was covered in both Punjabi and Chinese media, with the latter noting the “fiery debate.”

Korean media coverage focussed on the visit to Burnaby South of Conservative leader Scheer and the formal launch of Conservative candidate Jay Shin, who is of Korean descent. Scheer’s visit was also covered in Chinese media but curiously not in Punjabi or South Asian English media. An article in Arabic media focussed on the importance of Outremont to both Liberals and the NDP, as well as Quebec ridings overall to the Liberal re-election plans.

Five commentary pieces in Punjabi media appeared this past week. Three of these focussed on the electoral prospects of Singh and the NDP, with two highlighting the risks to his leadership and the generally poor prospects of the NDP. One noted that Singh’s prospects had improved given the controversial remarks of former Liberal candidate Karen Wang while another one criticized those who circulate fake news and rumours regarding Singh. Tarek Fatah’s previously published critique of ethnic voting (The Bankruptcy of Ethnic Vote Banks) was reprinted in English in the Punjabi media.

In general election coverage, the government’s announcement of measures to reduce foreign interference in the federal election continued to receive considerable coverage. Other stories of interest included former NDP leader Mulcair’s comments regarding the possible shift of NDP voters to the Green Party, and questions surrounding the controversial $300,000 fundraiser by Brampton area MP Raj Grewal in both Punjabi and Chinese media. Cantonese media covered the Conservative plans to assist candidates in their communication skills.

See the MIREMS blog for some of the stories being covered: MIREMS blog.

Mulcair, the niqab and ‘a dangerous game’ – Patriquin

Patriquin gets it right:

It’s gross stuff, reminiscent of the Parti Québécois identity campaign of 2014, and it deserves to be shouted down. Tonight, finally, one of the leaders did just this. Tom Mulcair’s statement during the fifth and final election debate on those few square inches of face-covering cloth deserves to be quoted in its entirety.

“The way Mr. Harper says it, it’s like there are people here that are pro-niqab. 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. If a journalist says something that is uncomfortable to me, I still support his right to say it. Mr. Harper, you are playing a dangerous game of the kind I’ve never seen in my life.”

Since the outset of the campaign, the NDP leader has been dogged with accusations of political pandering—of changing his message depending on the audience. Yet here he was in Quebec, the NDP’s power base and the place where anti-niqab sentiment is at its highest, saying exactly what much of his electorate doesn’t want to hear.

….But back to Mulcair. In the throes of the 2014 Quebec election, when the Parti Québécois introduced a bill that would ban religious head coverings of all sorts from Quebec’s civil service, it was Trudeau who denounced it as an unseemly electoral gambit. Mulcair remained largely silent. “We don’t want to give ammunition to the separatists,” his aide told me at the time.

The PQ ended up losing the election. As it turned out, the scapegoating of religious minorities wasn’t boffo electoral fodder after all. Quiet then, Mulcair was anything but tonight, giving Conservative and Bloc attempt to capitalize on fear the full-throated condemnation it deserves. Mulcair is nothing if not calculating, and perhaps he has calculated that the niqab isn’t nearly the electoral millstone some of his opponents hope. That is a hell of a gamble. It is also an honourable one.

Source: Mulcair, the niqab and ‘a dangerous game’ –

Behind the Komagata Maru’s fight to open Canada’s border and the Question of an Apology

Fascinating account of the legal battles and the lawyer, J. Edward Bird, regarding the passengers of the Komagata Maru. Well worth reading:

The government’s strategy became clear the very day the Komagata Maru arrived in Vancouver. Health screening, a process normally completed within an hour, followed by immigration board interviews of all passengers, dragged on for days. The ship became a prison – no one was allowed off or on; food and water began to run low. The passengers’ lawyer, J. Edward Bird, was denied the right of access to his clients for weeks.

“I can only surmise that the instructions from the department at Ottawa to the immigration authorities here was to delay matters and delay matters and procrastinate and delay until such time as these people were starved back to their original port from whence they came,” he told a meeting hall packed with both South Asians and whites on June 21. “They talk about socialists and anarchists. There are no set of anarchists in Canada like the immigration officials who defy all law and order.”

Behind the Komagata Maru’s fight to open Canada’s border – The Globe and Mail

Interesting that Leader of the Opposition Tom Mulcair has called for a formal apology in Parliament.

I witnessed PM Harper’s “drive-by” apology in 2008 at the Surrey community picnic and it was not pretty. I quickly came to the conclusion that if governments wished to apologize (without legal liability for events which occurred in the past), the only acceptable way to do so was in Parliament, as was the case for Indian Residential Schools, the Chinese Head Tax, and Japanese WW2 Internment:

As we celebrate Asian Heritage Month this May, we cannot ignore the mistakes of our past — we must remember the history of the Komagata Maru Tragedy.

We must condemn these acts, respectfully, officially, and with sincerity, no matter when they occurred.

That is why New Democrats stand with members of the Indo-Canadian community in their call for an official apology from the Parliament of Canada for the Komagata Maru Tragedy.

In 2012, Canada’s New Democrats presented an Opposition Day Motion calling on Stephen Harper and the Conservatives to deliver an apology long overdue — they refused.

While successive Liberal and Conservative governments have failed to do the right thing, the NDP has always advocated for an apology.

Today, we renew our call.

Let’s not wait another 100 years to do the right thing — it’s time for the government to act now.

Mulcair: 100 years after Komagata Maru tragedy, Parliament’s apology is overdue | Toronto Star.

Le ministre Kenney appuie le projet de charte de Couillard | Charte de la laïcité

Federal reactions to Premier-elect Couillard’s proposed Chartre de laicité. Minister Kenney focussing on the proposed ban on receiving government services for women wearing the niqab/burqa, other federal leaders expressing general confidence that a reasonable approach will be taken without commenting on the specifics:

«J’ai toujours dit que ce serait inadmissible pour un fonctionnaire fédéral de traiter un client, un citoyen à visage couvert», a déclaré le ministre fédéral du Multiculturalisme.

M. Kenney dit n’avoir jamais entendu parler d’un tel cas au fédéral, mais qu’on lui avait rapporté que des personnes avaient prêté serment de citoyenneté canadienne le visage caché. Il affirme avoir ensuite publié une règle pour interdire cette pratique.

Le ministre de Stephen Harper avait dans le passé été cinglant envers le projet de charte des valeurs québécoises du gouvernement péquiste. Il avait même dit que le fédéral irait devant les tribunaux pour protéger les droits des minorités religieuses si la charte ne respectait pas les droits et libertés des citoyens.

Quant à savoir pourquoi l’interdiction du voile le choquait et non pas celle d’interdire le visage couvert, il a expliqué que l’usage pour les femmes musulmanes de cacher leur visage n’est pas une pratique religieuse, mais bien une «coutume culturelle».

Minister Kenney’s position evolved over time; initially, he appeared to give more weight to religious freedom when the niqab issue was first raised in the 2007-08 Quebec debates on reasonable accommodation (I cover this in chapter 5 of my book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism).

Le ministre Kenney appuie le projet de charte de Couillard | Stéphanie Marin | Charte de la laïcité.

Within the PQ, the start of some reflection regarding the Charter, and it will be interesting to see how they position themselves with respect to the upcoming Liberal version, and whether they use that to turn the page on what was a cynical and divisive election strategy:

Le problème qu’a posé la Charte des valeurs en campagne électorale est abordé de front dans un texte rendu public hier par Jean-François Lisée sur son blogue. Hier, le ministre sortant refusait de préciser sa pensée en entrevue; le texte suffit, a-t-il expliqué. Dans son texte, Lisée relève que les stratèges péquistes auraient pu centrer davantage la campagne sur les questions identitaires comme la Charte et la langue. Le projet de charte aurait été mieux accueilli avec un bouquet de mesures favorables à l’immigration. Surtout, la proposition aurait nécessité «un ensemble cohérent et plus attractif».

Accessoirement, comme l’ex-ministre Joseph Facal, Lisée estime aussi qu’il aurait fallu encadrer étroitement la sortie de Janette Bertrand en fin de campagne. Mme Marois, qui a louvoyé et dit que des femmes congédiées pour leur voile obtiendraient de l’aide du gouvernement pour se recaser dans le secteur privé, n’a pas aidé. «Une meilleure gestion, en amont, de la question des congédiements n’aurait certes pas nui non plus», observe Lisée.

Dans l’analyse la plus fine jusqu’ici des causes de la déroute péquiste de lundi, Lisée explique que les stratèges de la campagne péquiste, dont il ne faisait pas partie, prend-il soin de préciser, étaient convaincus que l’entrée en scène de Pierre Karl Péladeau allait attirer des sympathisants caquistes au PQ. Une «présomption raisonnable», observe Lisée.

Les langues se délient au PQ

PQ leader Pauline Marois losing her feminist allies: Hébert | Toronto Star

One of the ironies of the debate over the proposed Charter.

PQ leader Pauline Marois losing her feminist allies: Hébert | Toronto Star.

And in other Charter-related news, Tom Mulcair, Leader of the Official Opposition and NDP, maintains his position against the proposed Charter but will not provide any funding for a legal challenge, trimming his sails somewhat:

Charte des valeurs québécoises – Thomas Mulcair modère ses intentions

And no surprise, the hijab is largely accepted, the niqab is not. Previous polls in English Canada are similar; covering the face is rejection and separation, not integration:

Pour certaines personnes, c’est le concept de la domination homme-femme. D’autres ont tout simplement un sentiment anti-islam. Mais il y a aussi le fait que le niqab crée une distance entre les gens qui est en dehors des normes sociales. Des gens vivent un inconfort par rapport à ça.

Sondage sur la tolérance des Québécois: le hijab oui, le niqab non

Charte des valeurs québécoises – Round-up

Starting with some political analysis on how this is playing out on the national and provincial stage. Some good insights on the leadership styles – strengths and weakness – of both federal leaders in Quebec. My own take is that while both ended up in the same place, first mover advantage Trudeau.

On PQ charter, Trudeau and Mulcair take different paths to condemnation – The Globe and Mail.

John Ibbitson of The Globe notes the political challenges and calculations for the government, and why they have hewed to a more cautious approach while being clear on their fundamental opposition:

Can Tories put the heat on Quebec over its secular charter without getting burned?

Andrew Coyne argues that the PQ may have over-reached, and may have as much support in the end as it counted on. And bang on implications and implementation:

But not to worry, the minister responsible, Bernard Drainville, assures us: “It will be done humanely.” But of course. They will not be told to get out in a cruel way, but with care, compassion, or what the minister calls “good old common sense.” It will simply be made clear to these people, as kindly as the occasion permits, that, notwithstanding their years of blameless service, their continued employment is incompatible with Quebec’s common values — that their insistence on wearing the yarmulke or the turban, in accordance with the deepest teachings of their faith, has become a source of “tension” and “division,” and that for that reason they will have to find other work.

Far from certain Quebecers will side with PQ on values charter

Tabatha Southey does a funny yet serious take on the approach, citing her mother, following hair loss due to chemo, reached out to the Muslim Canadian community for help in wearing a scarf elegantly.

The Quebec charter: Maman, qu’est-ce qu’un turban?

 And Maria Mourani, former Bloc MP, who left the party and questions her faith in sovereignty given the divisiveness of the Charte and the implications for her vision of an open, inclusive and independent Quebec. Her action, and criticism of other indépendentistes like her of the Charte, may help Quebec get past the identity politics. One can aim for rural Quebec; one can’t ignore Montréal.

Mourani remet en question sa foi en la souveraineté

And a good summary in The Globe about Quebec’s francophone press reaction, largely negative:

What Quebec’s francophone media thinks of the secular charter 

Lastly, some general opinion pieces. Starting with Conrad Black reminding us of the role the Catholic Church played for most of Quebec’s history in preserving Quebec’s francophone culture and society (he glosses over the less savoury aspects):

Spurning Quebec’s proud Catholic roots

And a couple of opinion pieces (Brian Lee Crowley, André Schutten) that blur the lines between what people wear and performing their job. It is one thing to express one’s faith; it is another thing to expect that one’s duties on the job should accommodate those beliefs.

As public servants, we have an obligation to serve all citizens, and provide the required services of the government. We cannot pick and choose; we can likely however find alternative work within government without such matter of conscience issues. And if we can’t, we should work elsewhere.

Quebec charter wrong in execution, not principle

Who is calling the kettle black over Quebec values?

Charte des valeurs québécoises: Articles

Another series of articles on the proposed Charte des valeurs québécoises.

First, confirmation that the government plans to go ahead, and leak is likely more than trial balloon:

Charte des valeurs québécoises: Drainville dit unir les Québécois | Paul Journet | Politique québécoise.

Quatre conditions pour un accommodement raisonnable

Secondly, a piece by Jocelyn Maclure, quoted in a CBC interview earlier, speaks strongly of the risks and dangers of such a rigid, exclusionary approach, and notes the false assumption that the Canadian and Quebec charters of rights allow every form of accommodation, where the reality is different:

Charte des valeurs québécoises – Le jeu dangereux du Parti québécois

And from the English media, Farzana Hassan, former president of the secular Muslim Canadian Congress, a harsh critique, particularly interesting how consistently strong the MCC has been on secularism:

More xenophobia from PQ’s Marois

And a few pieces on some of the broader ethical and rights issues involved from professors of religion and ethics: Ian Henderson and Margaret Somerville:

 The state cannot decide what is a religious symbol

Op-Ed: Quebec bans religion from the public square (I do disagree with her definition of ‘freedom from religion’; religious freedom applies to all, whether they are believers or non-believers, the issue is whether or not the government allows people this freedom.

On the federal political level, interesting to see how this plays out. One leader has been clear and categorical against it (Trudeau, the same week as his marijuana revelations), the Prime Minister has ducked the issue but the real Minister for multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, issued a strong tweet, and the NDP and official opposition leader has also ducked, saying he will await the actual bill before commenting. Not inspiring leadership that.