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charter of values

As white supremacists march in the streets in the US, we can’t feel too smug here. Racism is, sadly, alive and well right in our home province, as the Liberal government chooses this moment to revive the debate about religious headgear.

Bill 62, the so-called anti-niqab bill, is being touted by the Liberals as a “compromise” that will allow for “social peace” — just a code word for a majority curtailing the rights of minorities … because any visual evidence of people different from them offends their fragile sensibilities so much that they can’t possibly survive. Or something. It’s akin to suggesting that the way to stamp out sexual assault is by telling women not to wear short skirts. It blames the victim of racism instead of the perpetrator. It assumes that the rights of a majority to not see something that offends them is more important than the rights of a minority to dress or practice their religion as they choose.

And, worst of all, Couillard’s approach is actually the most moderate of the three major parties, with both the PQ and the CAQ calling for even more stringent restrictions on religious headgear. It’s as if we’ve learned nothing from the mosque shooting in Quebec City earlier this year, from the Charter of Values debacle, or from what’s currently happening in the US and elsewhere.

Don Macpherson gets it exactly right in this case:

Bill 62 stigmatizes the tiny number of Muslim women in Quebec who wear facial veils. It encourages their persecution, like the harassment of women wearing Muslim head scarves during the debate on the former Parti Québécois government’s ill-fated “charter of values.”

It would enshrine in legislation the hypocrisy of Quebec’s “Catho-laïcité,” or Catho-secularism. One of Vallée’s amendments pretends that Quebec’s public institutions are founded on the separation of church and state, while the bill would preserve the crucifix placed in the Assembly to symbolize an alliance between the two.

The government pretends that the ban on face coverings in general does not discriminate on religious grounds. But its intent is given away by the fact that the ban is contained in a bill to restrict religious accommodations.

It’s a nasty little secret of politics that targeting vulnerable minorities gets candidates elected. Sadly that isn’t so much of a secret anymore, in the era of Trump. But we have our own demons to grapple with here.

It’s telling that so many quasi-Liberal, left-leaning people in Quebec support this nonsense. They believe, falsely, that because forced religion is bad, the answer to it is forced secularism. They want to hide any visual evidence of differences, in order to protect their “patrimoine”, or perceived superiority over everyone else. There’s honestly not much difference between the pro-laicite crowd and the neo-Nazis people marching in Charlottesville this week… except at least the latter are honest about their racist beliefs.

Bill 62 is a bad bill, scapegoating religious minorities in order to pacify racists. It should not become law. Call your MNA.

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Charles Taylor admits he erred when he authored the Bouchard-Taylor recommendation to restrict religious symbols among public servants in positions of authority, saying that “times have changed”:

In 2008, Taylor, along with sociologist Gérard Bouchard, signed a report that called for a ban on religious symbols worn by public servants in positions of coercive authority — police, judges and prison guards.

Opposition parties quickly demanded the ban extend to teachers and daycare workers, “something we had not at all envisioned,” Taylor wrote in an open letter published Tuesday in La Presse.

He cited the controversy over the Parti Québécois’ 2013 Charter of Quebec Values as having created the “stigmatization” of certain sectors of Quebec society, particularly the province’s Muslim community, and blamed the controversy for attacks ranging from hateful comments to physical assault on Muslims wearing a veil.

Taylor said times have changed and he no longer endorses the recommendation.

Admitting that is the first step. But it will take more than an open letter to undo the damage. People still clinging to the idea that we need to find a “consensus” misunderstand that, in a democracy, minorities should never be compelled to conform to the tyranny of a majority.

Don’t like hijabs, kippahs or turbans? Fine, nobody’s forcing you to wear them. You are free to wear what you want and believe what you want. But stop telling other people what they can wear or what they can believe.

Bill 62 is bad legislation and must be scrapped.

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