10 September 2013

La Charte des peurs québécoises

So now we get a peek at the broad strokes of what our minority government wants to enact. A Charter of Québec Values, they say, and some of those things are Québec values: equality of the sexes (at least in theory…I don’t think anyone can pretend we have that), neutrality of the state (well, at least from the 1960s when the Catholic Church began its decline until now, when it seems to get the heritage protection that no one else will get). Where are l’ouverture, l’accueil, la joie de vivre that I always thought were part of the Québec that drew me here? I see them in the streets, but not in this proposed legislation.

How about the rational decision-making that we see on other fronts? The federal government might abandon its references to research and scientific facts when it comes to health and the environment, but I continue to count on the professionalism of our government structures here to go with what is right, not which way the wind happens to be blowing. We all paid for the Bouchard-Taylor Commission on reasonable accommodation a few years ago and its recommendations were the result of a great deal of thoughtful reflection. What happened to those? First off, an immediate resolution to keep the crucifix in the National Assembly, symbol not of the founding of Québec, but of an unholy pact between the Church and the State in the 1930s that succeeded in repressing the majority population for decades. Now this, an affirmation of intolerance with large exceptions for the folkloric status of the once-powerful church.

I wonder how the Catholic Church feels about its relegation to cutesy historical status. I suppose that it will make do with it as long as its extensive urban real estate holdings — a part of our heritage — are not threatened. Personally, I’m not against preserving the relics of our history, but we put those things in museums, not in the room where we make our laws. Our government and all of its various levers ought to look like our society, and not just like the parts of it with which the majority identifies. Yes, it matters to maintain standards of equality in how we are treated by those who deliver our government, but it really doesn’t matter what the person delivering the service is wearing.

A couple of quizzes maybe?

Which of these head coverings symbolizes the greatest danger to our democratic values? (Hint: it’s the one that is worn by the lady who thinks that her lineage makes her better than the rest of us, bottom right.)

It’s kind of difficult for many of the other choices to determine what might be fashion and what the expression of religious belief. I am about as threatened by the transparent rain bonnet as I am by the hijab — no, scratch that: the rain bonnet is scarier in its tackiness!

I’d ask to pick out the facial hair that most strikes fear into xenophobic hearts everywhere, but it seems that we can’t really go by facial hair, since a broad variety of styles and degrees of it have penetrated all parts of our society, despite the fact that sometimes it is the result of religious belief, too. But then again, it’s way easier to regulate the women and exclude them from the employment and mixing with others that might make them really feel at home here, right?

Bouchard and Taylor called for the neutrality of institutions and the freedom of individuals. Let’s go with that instead.

1 comment:

K said...

Great post, Ken. I find it interesting, the assumption that clients of the system will only feel they have fair treatment when religious symbols are suppressed. After all, can you get real justice from someone wearing a hijab?
However, what about gender or sexual orientation? Can women get justice from someone dressed in an obtrustively masculine style? Obtrusively gay? Obtrustively red haired?
Ridiculous. Secularism must rest on the expectation that all can carry their personal beliefs, but in their role as legislators, judges, teachers etc, they carry out their duties in ways that conform to standards of fair treatment. - Charles