PQ Government proposes Charter of Quebec Values

The PQ announced their Charter of Quebec Values today with the aims of banning all religious symbols from public space.

"The crisis of religious accommodation which has circled Quebec for the past five years has created strife among Quebecers," said Democratic Institutions Minister Bernard Drainville.

"The Bouchard-Taylor Commission did nothing to solve this."

With the aim of uniting Quebecers, the PQ have created a widely divisive law which does nothing more than unite its opposition.

"What unites is a desire for rules... for harmony, for cohesion. What guides is a profound attachment to Quebec values," Drainville said.

"It is up to Quebecers to contact their MPs to say whether or not they agree with this," he said.

Last September, student unrest led to an election which brought the PQ into power with a minority mandate winning less than 1% more support than the opposition Liberals. Today, the PQ have made a bold acclamation, that with their slim minority, they represent the majority of Quebecers and that the state dictates a dynamic culture.

The new charter, if passed, will ban public sector employees, including doctors, teachers, and police officers from wearing religious symbols. 

While Drainville is calling for the creation of a secular state, the implementation of the law is fairly loose and includes a number of exceptions. The National Assembly, for example, would be able to keep the large crucifix - irony couldn't have hit any harder.

Speaking of size, a small religious symbol is fine, large ones aren't. For instance, a ring with a Star of David is fine, a small necklace with a cross is fine, but get any larger, or more obvious, and there is a problem. Headscarves and turbans are fair game, but in the National Assembly, everything goes! While the rest of Quebec society has to conform to the charter, no one in the National Assembly has to. The cross on Mount Royal will also stay on cultural grounds.

While the bill isn't yet ready to be tabled, Drainville said, noting the following would be its 5 major pillars.
  • It will alter Quebec's Charter of Rights to strictly define religious accommodation.
  • All public servants will have to present the secular face of the state during working hours.
  • It will ban all obvious religious paraphernalia among public employees.
  • Citizens will have to uncover their face to provide or receive service from public employees.
  • It will create a bureaucracy to work out problems and disagreements.
The last pillar means the likely creation of an Office of Quebec Values which, will likely include an enforcement arm, and no one needs to look further than the OQLF and the language police to predict the consequences - or the cost on taxpayers. 

The PQ is also going to give employers a guideline to define the scope of religious accommodation.
  • Does making the request discriminate or give someone an unequal right?
  • Does the request respect the equality of the sexes?
  • Will the request cost too much for the employer?
  • Will the request affect someone's safety?
As a result, an employer can now state that due to the cost of replacing an employee, a religious employee can no longer take a day off on a religious holiday.

The opposition parties have come out to denounce it. While the Liberals categorically denounced it from day one, the CAQ backtracked on their promise to use the notwithstanding clause to get it through.

The Liberals defined it as an unfair choice between work and culture.

“It means people will have a tough choice. They will have to face a choice -- either you're going to rid of these signs or you're going to lose your job,” said Liberal MNA Marc Tanguay, arguing that the government to stick to the basic issues of the economy and job creation.

The CAQ said that while it agrees with some of the principles of the charter, it disagrees with others. The CAQ would have applied the law to MNAs as well.

"It will be an ordeal to apply this law. This is not a Quebec in which we want to live," said CAQ MNA Nathalie Roy. "We need to regulate problems but not exploit them, which the PQ is doing… Their public relations campaign will cost $2 million... which is diverting people from the real issue. The real issue is the economy."

"Forget about religious accommodations. We need to focus on a serious problem.”

The other separatist party, Quebec Solidaire, also opposed the charter. QS leader Francoise David said it would divide Quebecers and legislate religious discrimination.

Recent polls, however, have shown some support for the PQ initiative, but it depends where you are.

A poll by SOM conducted August 30 to September 5 showed Quebecors with an education and living in Montreal were more likely to oppose the Charter. It also found that those in favor of the charter were more likely to have a french mother-tongue, live outside of Montreal, not have a High school degree and have a dis-favorable view of immigrants in general.

The poll had a 2.6% margin of error 19 times out of 20 over its 1937 participants.

The poll found:
  • 66% of Quebecers supported the Charter
  • 68% agreed that immigrants try hard to find work
  • 67% said it is good for Quebec to have multiple ethnic and cultural groups
  • 66% said nurses, bureaucrats, teachers etc. should not be allowed to wear religious symbols
  • 53% feel comfortable in a neighbourhood with a high number of immigrants
  • 33% thought it is good for immigrants to preserve their culture
  • 33% thought immigrants knew enough about Quebec culture
  • 76% disagreed with a statement about feeling unsafe on a bus with many people who were not of Quebecois origin
  • 57% disagreed with the statement "Immigrant weakens Quebec unity"
  • 57% said they were not worried when immigrants held discussions in a foreign language
  • 58% said there are not enough immigrants in Quebec
  • 60% disagreed with the statement "Immigrant neighbourhoods are less safe"
Recently, Premier Pauline Marois had to backtrack on the claim that multiculturalism was the cause of terrorist attacks in England. She told Le Devoir Newspaper last Friday, "in England, they are punching each other and throwing bombs because its multiculturalism, and no one there sees themselves in that society." She then backtracked and said she was comparing different methods of integration.

The Charter would lead to an exodus of immigrant workers who currently hold spots in our dwindling healthcare system. It wouldn't pass without a fight from Ottawa - one Marois would likely use to convince her separatist base to give her a majority government and referendum.

Given the reaction to the Charter, it will likely be defeated once presented in the National Assembly as long as the CAQ hold firm to their new stance on it. What do you think of the Charter of Quebec Values and those who support it? Share this article, join the discussion and let us know what you think: Facebook, Twitter, Google+