Not our Canada

Tariq Sohail

The Quebec government’s shocking initiative to marginalize a small population of minorities comes at a time when Quebec’s public debt currently is, as of Mar. 31, 2013, $193.6 billion and growing. Instead of focusing on methods to reduce public debt and grow Quebec’s economy, the Parti Quebecois (PQ) will end up strengthening the bigots and further dividing Quebec. Their proposed charter of values aims to separate church and state by restricting religious garb worn by public servants. The garb restricted under the charter would include hijabs, niqabs, turbans, kippahs, and other outwardly prominent religious symbols.

Day care workers, doctors, and other public servants who serve a vital purpose in Quebec society would have to choose between these forms of religious expression, and working as public servants for the Quebec provincial government.

This is not what Canada is about – this is not the tolerant Canada most Canadians envision. What exactly it means to be Canadian isn’t agreed upon, but I have come to realize that there is something that makes us Canadians: we are a nation of immigrants who came to this country for prosperity and freedom from far-off lands where famine, violence, corruption, and tyranny were widespread.

Many Canadians firmly believe in the values enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Bill of Rights: the rule of law, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech. The idea of secularism resulted from repression by unjust rulers in Europe who used religion as an instrument of law to govern.

The PQ’s reasoning to leave the crucifix in the national assembly because it represents Quebec heritage is downright hypocrisy. If the Quebec government were not targeting Muslims and Sikhs, it would have ordered the removal of that crucifix and had it placed in a heritage museum.
Secularism is a noble idea, but this kind of fearmongering and disrespect for minorities, while hiding behind secular ideals, does a great disservice to the philosophy.

Only bigots will be empowered by this legislative proposal. For instance, a mosque in Saguenay, Quebec was recently smeared with pig blood and a hateful letter was left behind. This legislation does nothing but disrupt the communal harmony of Quebec society.

This charter risks polarizing Canadians and it would be the right move for it to be struck down in Quebec’s national assembly. If passed, the charter would be damaging not just to our society but to our foreign policy when we promote human rights in other nations. When we have a province that prohibits religious freedom we will no longer have the moral superiority to criticize other governments that commit grave human rights atrocities. We will be setting a dangerous precedent for other governments to follow.