A Counter-Argument to Quebec’s Alleged “Xenophobia”

A Counter-Argument to Quebec’s Alleged “Xenophobia”

by Jacquelyn Smith

“Quebecois are xenophobic.” That is the only opinion I have heard coming out of the English media surrounding the debate around the Charter of Quebec Values.

I understand this point of view, because I used to share it. I came to Quebec City in 2006, when the flint of the public debate about reasonable accommodation took to flame. Being a native to Canada’s third most multicultural city, I immediately deemed any questioning of ethnic diversity as racism. Minorities had rights and any attack on their rights to religion or culture was opening the door to identity based politics and eventual ethnic cleansing and-or genocide. Canadian multiculturalism was a triumph of human rights and it was not to be challenged. Quebecois, according to this mentality, were clearly backward if they did not see the virtue of this diversity.

I vehemently defended that belief until I entered law school and did my first case study: Syndicat Northcrest vs. Amselem a Supreme Court case that involved several Jewish residents wanting to construct a shelter on their balconies to celebrate the souccah holiday. The condo agreement prohibited any constructions on balconies. The Court ruled that the contractual agreements violated the freedom of religion of the plaintiffs, even though this practice was not mandatory according to the religious authorities that testified. The court established if a person wanted to invoke freedom of religion, a person has to demonstrate a personal religious belief (that does not have to adhere to any previously established religious practice) and that they sincerely believe that they have a religious duty to fulfill a practice.  What this means in simple terms, is that any person can break almost any law and use freedom of religion as a defence without having to provide any proof of that religious practice.

Basically the Supreme Court ruled that religion trumps law.

There now exists a hierarchy of human rights in Canada with freedom of religion at the top and other rights, such as gender and racial equality, freedom of speech and prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation, are beneath.

That is where multiculturalism has brought us.

Quebec, the province that revolted against an oppressive religious government, the province that adopted its Charter of human rights and freedoms seven years before Canada did, the province that makes regular accommodations to its English linguistic minorities, the first province to recognise homosexual marriage and the first province to elect a female premier, is also the only province that will not be silenced by the political correctness of multiculturalism and is having this debate about the rights of religious minorities and the status of freedom of religion in Canadian human rights law while the rest of Canada and the English media are calling Quebec fascists.

Identity politics are sensitive, complex and nuanced; it is no wonder that the Liberals shelved the Bouchard-Taylor Report because, quite frankly, entering into this terrain was political suicide. The PQ is stirring the debate, despite the ugliness it provokes, because it needs to be had. The sanctity of multiculturalism has gone on for too long and it is time that we look at its weaknesses and strengths to find a better way to live together.

Categories: News, Opinion

About Author

Jacquelyn Smith

Jacquelyn Smith was born and raised in Hamilton. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Developement from the University of Guelph and is currently studying Law at Université Laval. Jacquelyn Smith lives in Quebec City.


  1. peter
    peter 12 September, 2013, 11:15

    ” The sanctity of multiculturalism has gone on for too long and its time that we look at its weaknesses and strengths to find a better way to live together . ”

    We are part of a global village , in this village we live side by side with neighbors who come from foreign lands and who bring with them their culture and beliefs .
    As did the French Colonists who set foot in Nouvelle France and who’s arrival created a culture clash which history showed us how well it turned out for the First Nations people , one aspect being the forced conversion to Christianity .

    Multiculturalism’s aim and its acceptance is to eliminate prejudice created by such differences . When there is a difference of opinion on the rights and privileges within the realm of multiculturalism then the courts are to be petitioned to resolve the argument , which your article demonstrated .

    Canada is known and recognized on the world stage for its cultural diversity
    and its harmonious quality of life .
    To debate this issue with the will of becoming law in the context which the PQ are promoting clearly demonstrates a bias towards the diversity of its citizens . The end result will be the PQ goose stepping off the political cliff .

    View from the trenches is ” If it ain’t broke don’t fix it “

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