Progressive Views Column: Charter Troubles

Tristan cropBy Tristan Turner

On September 10th Bernard Drainville, the Quebec Minister of Democratic Institutions and Active Citizenship revealed the Parti Québécois plan to enact a new Charter of Values in Quebec.

This new Charter is primarily concerned with religious symbols and public sector employees. Effectively, this document would remove the right for Quebec government employees to wear any “clearly noticeable” religious symbols.

Mr. Drainville was unclear on some of the details of how this oppressive and unjust new law would be applied, saying that it was “okay” for government employees to wear small religious items that “weren’t very noticeable” such as small concealed crucifixes or earrings with the Islamic star and crescent or the Jewish Star of David would be acceptable, but he said larger or clearer symbols (such as a turban or hijab) would be unacceptable under these new rules.

Minister Drainville defended his government’s policy when reporters challenged it by saying that “this is about a secular state protecting the neutrality of the state.”

The ignorance present in both that statement, and on a much greater scale, in the proposed legislation itself, is absolutely shocking.

This legislation clearly encroaches on Canadians’ Charter Rights and shows blatant disregard for basic religious freedoms that are afforded to all Canadians in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Just as disturbingly, this legislation is clearly an example of – as Thomas Mulcair put it on Tuesday – “state-sponsored discrimination” against religious minorities that require religious symbols to be worn constantly.

These new laws are a significant step in the wrong direction, particularly in a province where a very large section of the population is employed in the public sector. Bernard Drainville’s argument of “protecting the neutrality of the state” would be laughable, if it weren’t so nauseating. You don’t create a secular government by instilling fear in citizens who hold religious beliefs, you create one by taking religion out of the process of making and applying laws, something that for the most part has been accomplished in all provincial and federal legislative bodies in this country.

The reality is, taking the freedom of wearing religious symbols away from Quebecers will only serve to hurt many dedicated Quebec public servants by removing a fundamental part of their identity. If these new laws were passed, it would force many Quebecers to choose between the province they love, and the religion that is at the core of their identity.

Its clear that this new Charter is a political play by Primer Pauline Marois in an attempt to appeal to her Parti Québécois base who largely support this new legislation. Its unfortunate to see that such objectively ignorant and poor legislation would be purposed simply for political traction.

Although it is unsurprising, it is comforting to see a consistent and clear response from all three major federal political parties in opposition to this troubling new charter. Jason Kenny. Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair all clearly stated on Tuesday that they fundamentally believe this legislation is not in the interest of Quebecers and infringes on some of their most basic rights.

Minister Kenny also said on Tuesday that if this legislation were to be passed, the federal government would challenge it legally based on its innumerable conflicts with Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

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  1. This new charter is a ridiculous attempt to appease her political base and a not so subtle attempt to force out those who don’t agree with their point of view. It’s incredibly stupid and SO VERY WRONG and I hope they get shot down fast. Whether I agree with another’s religious views or not I WILL stand up and defend their right to wear their symbols and practice their religion as long as it brings no harm to anyone. Last time I checked wearing a hijab wasn’t harmful to anyone or anything.

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