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bill 94

So Louise Beaudoin says out loud what most of the PQ has been saying – openly or not-so-openly – for years: We only care about one culture, and that’s pure laine quebecois, and everyone else can shape up or get out.

Okay, not in so many words, but that was the gist of the Pequiste leader’s remarks to the press after a group of Sikhs were denied entrance to the National Assembly. They were there to speak out against Bill 94, a racist piece of claptrap that would deny services to Muslim women wearing face coverings, for instance, and is supported by an overwhelming 95% of Quebecers. This law as written won’t impact the Sikh community specifically, but the people who came out to speak up were there to represent the 5% of people who disapprove of the Quebec government’s attempt to further infringe on religious freedom for xenophobic reasons.

Now, there is a very legitimate question about the kirpan, and whether any kind of weapon – ceremonial or otherwise – should be permitted past security screening at the National Assembly. Beaudoin could have taken the high road, saying “we would like to hear from all Quebecers, and we invite the views of the Sikh community on this issue, and we regret that security concerns did not allow us to admit them” or something to that effect. It wouldn’t have solved the tricky kirpan debate, but it would have signalled an openness to at least discuss it.

But Beaudoin chose the low road. Specifically, she said that:

“Religious freedom exists, but there are other values,” she added. “Multiculturalism may be a Canadian value. But it is not a Quebec one.

“And we haven’t signed the constitution of Canada because it contains this notion of multiculturalism.

“I think we can be different.”

If by “different”, she means “more xenophobic”, then she’s hit the nail on the head. At least there’s no hypocricy in Beaudoin’s position. It’s getting harder to call racism one of Quebec’s “dirty little secrets” when it’s being promoted so openly. Quebec has never wanted to be pluralistic, accepting or tolerant. If the disastrous reasonable accommodation debates showed us anything, it’s that most people in Quebec would prefer us to turn into France and do away with religious freedom altogether.

Meanwhile, the Liberals missed an opportunity to take a strong position against Beaudoin and company. Charest’s team waffled on the issue, staying quiet and basically stumbling through an attempt to walk the fine line between not pissing anyone off and not pissing anyone off. All of that to cover the dirty little secret that, if it weren’t for the fact that the Liberals rely on the “ethnic vote” to get elected, most of them would be as opposed to multicultural values as their Pequiste compatriots. That’s some strong leadership we’ve got in Quebec City, folks.

My logical follow-up question to Louise Beaudoin is therefore this: If multiculturalism isn’t a Quebec value, how can we change that and turn it into one?