Intolerance Masquarading as Social Justice – the PQ’s “Values Charter”

Intolerance Masquarading as Social Justice – the PQ’s “Values Charter”

by Farnell Morisset

My meme is bad and I should feel bad.

My meme is bad and I should feel bad.

Remember when the Parti Québécois was the “civil liberties” party?  How they banged pots alongside the Printemps Érable to protest tuition hikes in the name of universal access to education, then fought tooth and nail against the PLQ’s liberty-crushing Bill 78 in an ardent defense of freedom of association?  How they proudly wore the Red Square in the National Assembly to support and protect the right to free expression of students and government officials?

I liked that PQ.  What happened to that PQ?  I very nearly voted for that PQ… were it not for a blunder on the part of leader Pauline Marois, who let it slip just days before the election she thought non-Francophones should not be allowed to hold public office.

I should have paid more attention to that.

Exactly one year later, it’s amazing how quickly and easily the PQ seems to have abandoned its interest in protecting and preserving civil liberties and wholeheartedly embraced a much different ideal, as evidence by their proposed “charter of values”.  The “civil liberties” PQ disappeared about the same time as it unilaterally decreed the very tuition hikes it had promised to oppose.  Last year’s PQ was about protecting diversity of opinion, this year’s PQ is all about restricting it.   Last year’s PQ was about inclusive nationalism, this year’s PQ is about enforced monoculturalism.  Hard to believe it’s been only a year.

I’ve already made it clear that I think this is a crass electoral strategy, and not an actual xenophobic binge.  The proposed “charter of values”, which PQ ministers seem to be defending in a game of “hide and seek” by defending its points without making them public, stipulates among other things that all public-sector employees would no longer be allowed to display “ostentatious” religious symbols, including crosses, skullcaps, turbans, and head scarves.  Or at least, it probably says that, since that’s what PQ ministers are defending, but any time someone questions it they deftly sidestep criticism by claiming the actual bill isn’t public yet.  However, this morning minister Bernard Drainville announced that the bill would maintain the crucifix at the National Assembly, reiterating the PQ’s position that it’s a symbol of our heritage, not of our religion.

Does the Christian cross on this flag offend our secular sensibilities?

Does the Christian cross on this flag imply the state is impartial with regards to religion?

It’s plainly hypocritical for the PQ to explain away its intolerance of “other” religions by saying “yours are religious, ours are cultural”.  The crucifix at the National Assembly was installed in 1936 by Maurice Duplessis – a Prime Minister himself not exactly known for his love of civil liberty – a full 60 years after the National Assembly’s construction, and was clearly intended to show his support and preference for the Catholic Church, which he used as a powerful tool to keep Québec’s monoculturalist ideals intact and maintain his regime in power.  The PQ can claim whatever it wants, this move is clearly following that direction.

The PQ can claim its enforced visible secularism treats all religions equally – that’s simply completely untrue.  Fundamentalist Christians are only milidly inconvenienced by keeping their crosses inside their shirts, while equally fundamentalist Sikhs, Muslims, and Jews are functionally barred from working for the government.  Furthermore, Christian symbolism remains ubiquitous throughout Québec.  Quick – name the main streets of the Vieux Québec, or better yet, it’s hospital.  How hypocritical would it be for us to tell immigrants of different religions that they can’t work for the government wearing a head scarf, but we can still give directions down Rue Saint-Jean for treatment at the Hôtel-Dieu, and then put on top of the building a flag which prominently features a symbol of submission to Jesus Christ?

The government also opens a huge Pandora’s Box of constitutional challenges.  What defines a “religious symbol” – is a wedding ring?  What about a depiction of the mythical hammer Mjolnir, which belonged to the Norse god Thor and is also a commonly-worn fashion accessory?  If it’s windy out, can I put a scarf around my head to keep my hair in place?  Can I only do that if I’m not a Muslim woman?  What’s the line between a symbol freely expressing a political opinion, like the Red Square so proudly worn by PQ members last year, and an unacceptable religious symbol… would a supporter of Israel be asked to remove a flag of that country because it features a prominent Jewish symbol?  Common sense can’t be counted on, but with such a contentious issue we can be sure it will be legally challenged.  This law can only lead to a complete mess.

I don’t know how the PQ managed to go from the forward-leaning protectors of civil liberties to rehashing 1930s-style Duplessis policy in less than a year… but it’s something we should be very, very worried about.  We Québécois can sometimes be tempted by culturally-supremacist nationalism, but that’s just not the reality of who we are.

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Related opinion pieces from LifeinQuebec.com:
It’s Not A Distraction: It’s a New Strategy – The PQ’s hardline “identity” stance is framing the next election by Farnell Morisset
Proposed Quebec “Charter of Values” – Can It Get Any Sillier? by Frank Verpaelst
What Education Summit? by Farnell Morisset

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About the author:

Farnell-Morisset_BiogFarnell Morisset is passionate about discussing (among other things) the issues of modern social identity for many Québécois who, like him, feel deeply connected to the Québécois nation and culture yet do not identify with the traditional francophone non-practicing Catholic nationalist image.

It is with this in mind that he contributes to LifeinQuebec.com as a valued member of our in-house writing team.

See other articles by Farnell Morisset

Categories: News

About Author

Farnell Morisset

Farnell Morisset is passionate about discussing (among other things) the issues of modern social identity for many Québécois who, like him, feel deeply connected to the Québécois nation and culture yet do not identify with the traditional francophone non-practicing Catholic nationalist image. He has an engineering degree from Université Laval and is currently a law student at McGill University.

Comments

  1. davender
    davender 4 September, 2013, 22:36

    I am tempted to join the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster so that my next RAMQ card will be of me in my colander hat.

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