Victoria Brewster, MSW

Victoria Brewster, MSW

Social Justice Solutions | Staff Writer
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Charter of Quebec Values for Who?

The more I read on the issue of the Charter of Quebec Values, I wonder whose values are these? Not mine. I agree with separation of ‘church and state,’ but this is so much more than that. ‘It was originally billed as a “Charter of Secularism,” but the government changed the label. In its revised form, the PQ said the charter will focus on Quebec values such as equality of men and women before the law regardless origin, religion, or mother tongue.’  Even further, the PQ government, the province, wants to protect state secularism by prohibiting public-sector workers from wearing religious symbols in workplaces such as schools, hospitals and daycares.

How can an individual wearing a cross or star of david around their neck be seen as a threat to the Quebec public? How does a teacher wearing a kippah, turban or scarf detract the students from learning? Why is it seen by the minority Quebec government in power, the PQ, that in order for its provincial residents to be a part of Quebec society, we must all be the same and not show outward signs of religion or culture?

I’ve written before on issues regarding the PQ’s suggested legislation, Bill 14 which is a whole separate topic, but the Charter of Quebec Values goes against the very purpose of a free, just, equal, and fair society.

The recent ban on turbans on the soccer pitch — which was lifted by the Quebec Soccer Federation after external pressure — offers a glimpse.’ The ban triggered a political uproar and made headlines around the world as it should have. How does a turban interfere with the game of soccer? ‘Premier Pauline Marois defended the soccer federation and fired back at its detractors whom she accused of Quebec-bashing.’  Really? Does she want to be known for positive improvements or only negative legislation?

The Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, Justin Trudeau, has led the opposition among federal parties up to this point, going as far as raising an analogy to segregation in the United States in the 1960s. Mr. Trudeau attacked those who ‘believe that we have to choose between our religion and our Quebec identity, stating the charter would force some people to make irresponsible and inconceivable choices.’  Think back in history for similar discriminatory practices like, slavery, lack of Women’s Rights, Civil Rights, Women’s Lib, where has this led our society? Think of all the wars, pogroms and genocides that have occurred in the worlds history and then see that they all came from a place of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of the different. Different is not a bad thing; different is what makes us unique and appreciate the other.

The PQ has defended its plan in the face of an outcry in English Canada, where some analysts and columnists have raised fears of racism, xenophobia and even fascism. The PQ has also used Mr. Trudeau’s attacks against the charter to bolster its case in Quebec, saying it will be up to Quebeckers to choose between two different visions of society.

Last I knew, Quebec was part of Canada. A free, just and open country which values fairness, justice, acceptance re: different religions and cultures. Has something changed that I have not read or heard about? Quebec seems to struggle with being part of an amazing country which offers so much to its citizens. The country itself is bilingual and yet this is something else that Quebec wants to change forcing its residents  to learn, speak and interact on a daily basis in the French language. Personally, I think the more languages one knows the better, but force is not the way to do it. Choice, options, and suggestions tend to work better.

People are speaking up, groups are speaking up and this is one of the great things about social media-is it is right out there for all to see. I hope more Quebec residents speak up and share their thoughts whether positive or negative on this subject-dialogue is certainly needed along with education of the positives and negatives of such legislation, along with perhaps a trip down memory lane where rules and regulations similar to this have been enforced before.

An organization of Quebec teachers is calling the Parti Quebecois’ so-called “Quebec Values” charter extremist, warning it could hinder some teachers’ right to work if they aren’t permitted to wear such religious garb as hijabs, kippas, turbans or crosses.

Regroupement provincial des comités des usagers (RPCU), has a number of concerns about the Charter of Quebec Values proposed by the government of Quebec. The RPCU feels that the secular nature of the State should be evident through the neutrality of its actions, not through a prohibition on the wearing of religious symbols either by the individuals who provide services or by those who receive them. Does the wearing of religious symbols by government employees really prevent the neutrality of the State?

The RPCU is also concerned that religious practices will be banned from residential and long-term care centres (CHSLD). A majority of the elderly in-patients are practicing Catholics, and Sunday mass is anxiously awaited. The same is true for in-patients of other faiths, Jews or Muslims, for example.

What right do I have to bring up these issues? I live in Quebec and I am part of the minority as an Anglophone (English speaking). I do not believe force and discriminatory legislation is needed or in the best interest of the residents of Quebec. Acceptance, compassion, empathy and building bridges seems to me a better direction to go.

By Victoria Brewster, MSW
Staff Writer

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