for the last week Quebec has been consumed by the PQ’s proposed Charter of Values. The charter has five proposals which meant to respond to, according to the PQ’s new values website , the “profound discomfort” caused by high profile religious accommodation cases in Quebec since 2006. They are: amend the Quebec Charter of Rights and Values, establish a duty of neutrality and reserve for all state personnel, limit the wearing of conspicuous religious symbols,make it mandatory to have one’s face uncovered when providing or receiving services from the state and establish an implementation policy for provincial organizations. The third and fourth proposals are the ones that have been making the most waves, and with good reason.
The proposals suggested would unnecessarily limit individual rights and freedoms all the while forcing citizens to make impossible choices: my religion or my health? my religion or my employment? my religion or my mobility? Quebec as a province within the Canadian state has no right to ignore the rights and freedoms of its citizens as established by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and this fact has been affirmed by every Canadian federal party, as well as the thousands of citizens who marched through Montreal’s downtown core yesterday.
Thousands of citizens, men, women and children, young and old, English and French speaking, wearing religious symbols and not, carried banners proclaiming not only their right to their religion, but their pride in being Quebecois. Quebec is a province that relies heavily on an immigrant population, many of whom are French-speaking Muslims who would be grossly affected by this proposed charter. They chanted primarily in French; “Ce charte des valeurs, on ne veut pas!” “On veut travailler, pas se devoiler!” wearing hijabs adorned by or fashioned with Quebec flags. Although it was Yom Kippur, Montreal’s Jewish population was also represented, as well as some religious officials alongside citizens who bore no obvious religious affiliation. The supposed support for this charter is to be found primarily in rural areas, but the bulk of Quebec’s religious and cultural diversity is found here in Montreal.
Though I myself do not believe that this Charter will be allowed to be made into law, if not only because of its questionable legal footing but also public outrage, the mere proposal of this Charter has done profound damage to the province of Quebec. This charter, and the notion that it represents the point of view of Quebecers, has and will continue to exacerbate Quebecers and other Canadians and damage the international opinion of Quebec, a reality that will hurt both our economy and our national pride.
For a look at how this issue might just end up playing right into Marois’s hand, Contrived Controversy: Why the Secular Charter Furthers the Goals of the PQ by Concordia senior editor Eli Vincent Zivot. For anyone outside of Quebec, media coverage has been focused on the Syrian civil war. The big question over the last couple of weeks has been American intervention yay or nay, for a look at this question and other ones read The Civil War in Syria by Adam Templer. Freedom of the press is an important marker of freedom generally within a country, and a cause that hits close to home at the Bouillon. Despite their noteworthy elections this year Malaysia has lost its footing according to World Press Freedom Index, and media control is an issue. Get the full story by Catherine Ador in Freedom of the press and Independent media in Malaysia.
That’s all for now readers,
featured image Meagan Potier / in-text image John McMullan