Remember that movie “Groundhog Day“? An arrogant weatherman, played by Bill Murray finds himself living through groundhog day over and over, until he finally mends his ways? I kind of feel like that with Quebec.
About this time last year, I had a post about the Party Québécois’ (the “PQ“) proposal to prohibit Quebec civil servants from displaying religious symbols at work, well, other than crucifixes (see Secularism – Iran Style). Well, here we are, a year later, and guess what, we have a post about a new PQ proposal to ban all religious headwear and dress by public sector workers in Quebec (which, given that Quebec’s public sectors is massively bloated is half the work force). Sigh.
I don’t know where to begin. This isn’t about secularism. Secularism doesn’t mean that all aspects of religious life have to be banned from the public sphere – that’s atheism. Secularism means that the government doesn’t favour any one religion over others (or over the non-religious) in the public sphere. Far from promoting “secularism”, this proposal promotes the exact opposite, it explicitly discriminates against people of faith (other, it seems, than Christians) in favour of the non-religious. It also violates the constitutional protections against freedom of religion and expression (and god know what other international norms and conventions), but hey…
Moreover, the arguments in favour of this proposal are embarrassingly weak. Take Michel Lincourt of the Mouvement laïque québécois, a group supporting this proposal, who see religious symbols are a form of religious propaganda that have no place in the public sphere. Propaganda? Really?
Apart from the fact Lincourt is – as Martin Patriquin points out – parroting the Russian law banning homosexual “propaganda” (i.e., being openly gay) which, funny, everyone in the civilized world thinks is outrageous (Quebec is still part of the civilized world, right?), how flabby an argument is that. I wonder if anyone has ever looked at a yarmulke/hijab/turban and said “mmm, you know, I really should convert to Judaism/Islam/Sikhism”. I don’t know what kind of ass-clown Mr. Lincourt is (well, actually, I think I do), but does he really believe that people choose their religions for their clothing? (For the jokes, sure…) Is he so insecure about his atheism that he’s worried about items of clothing as a threat to Quebec’s purported secularism?
Don’t get me wrong. If someone were handing out “Jesus saves” stickers in class or Korans at the DMV, I might have some problems (just, I might add, if the same person were handing out humanist literature at their office). But there’s a world of difference between just living your life according to the tenets of your faith and trying to convert others.
Of course, the argument is really gutted by the exception for the crucifixes, including the MASSIVE FUCKING CRUCIFIX in Quebec’s National Assembly. But then the PQ and its fellow travelers have never been that strong on intellectual honesty.
In any event, if the purported goal of this law is to promote a “civic community”, how does excluding people of faith from the public sphere achieve that? Sikh doctors, Jewish teachers, Muslim tax collectors will be given a choice between their jobs and their faith. That’s not a choice they should have to make. Wouldn’t you be further ahead to invite them into your “civic community” in spite of their religious attire? Or is Quebec to intolerant for that?
Hey, don’t get me wrong, this law would be great for Ontario, as we’d get another influx of talented Quebecers leaving persecution in their home province (seriously, the PQ is largely responsible for making Toronto the business capital of Canada – it used to be Montreal). However, since both the Quebec Liberals and the CAQ have indicated that they intend to deep-six this proposal, it’s likely that this is just another instance of the PQ bating English Canada (at which they are masters) by attacking the fundamental rights that Canadians (seemingly, other than the PQ faithful) hold dear.
Unfortunately, unlike in Groundhog Day, there’s no sign that the PQ is learning the error of its ways.
- PQ will introduce ‘Quebec Values’ Charter in September (montreal.ctvnews.ca)
- Religious symbol ban risks alienating health care workers: doctor (globalnews.ca)