Monday, 20 August 2012

Quebec's special status is no invitation to depose of Canadian values

After having talked about some stuff far from home in my last two posts, I want to take the time to talk about a issue closer to home.  Well, MY home that is. :)

I was reading a National Post article about the elections in Quebec, specifically about a mayor who took offense to a PQ candidate's suggestion that the crucifix displayed in legislature didn't fit in with the Parti Quebecois' vision of a secular Quebec.  There is so many things wrong with what politicians of every stripe in this election are saying that is mind numbing, and I will list all I can think of, but after the story.  This mayor, an ultra conservative, who held prayers before every council meeting, took this remark as an invitation to question her trust worthiness because she was "from Africa" and "I can hardly pronounce her name.". He concluded by ruefully saying "These people think they can come here and tell us what to do.  They will destroy our culture!" (A note of irony here, because the French seemed to have destroyed plenty of cultures shortly after arriving here themselves.) Now, apart from being complete misinformation (She was born in Europe, although her father is Algerian.) this blatant and public display of xenophobia, from an elected official nonetheless is shocking and completely wrong.  But the sheer ridiculousness of these elections doesn't stop there.  In response to the tirade, Pauline Marois called for an apology, calling Quebecers "Open, tolerant and respectful of all cultures.  I think she forgot the "when its politically convenient" part.  The aforementioned PQ candidate, not so surprisingly, isn't exactly a tolerant embracer of all faiths like Marois painted her.  She's a hardcore anti-islamist, and the public face of the PQ's pledge to make Quebec "secular" (Catholics notwithstanding).  This takes a page from French law in which objects expressing religion are banned from the public realm, and this encompasses anything from crucifixes to prayer hats worn my Muslims and Jews.  In departing from French law, however, what really is a two tier system emerges.  The only objects that have been confirmed as banned are hijabs, head scarves worn by Muslim women as a sign of modesty.  Nothing has been said about other faiths, but it has been confirmed that crucifixes have been excepted, as they supposedly a part of Quebec's culture because one has been hanging in Quebec Legislature.  A little history lesson: in the mid thirties, Maurice Duplessis, upon arrival in the chambers, hung a cross in the room to show his government's commitment to Catholicism, understandable since the majority of Quebec at the time was church-going, God fearing Catholics.  But times have changed and while I feel religion, especially Catholicism, has played a major role in the history and culture of the province, but if the PQ is so eager to banish religion from the public realm, it should do it across the board, and not with this flimsy legislation that is essentially thinly veiled racism.  And do I need not mention the muted response to these travesties from the public?  In the rest of the country, such open denouncements of minorities would quickly be followed by public outcry to the point where its almost overreacting.  But this mayor's unfair denouncement was met with little resistance and even a few "hear hear!"s from nationalists.  The only statement that seemed to elicit any emotion from pretty much anyone was one where Francois Legault said that Quebec teens generally were lazy and unmotivated, and that they should "work harder, like Asians."  Firstly I don't know what is it with people, but "Asian" seems almost like a dirty word in this country, with that mess with the $100 bill, but it's no secret that Asians, and by this definition I think he means Asia as a whole, work very hard.  Look at China, India, Japan.  School is a drudgery that I would be horrified to have to participate in, but they take it with no qualms.  I attribute this outcry to Quebec's surprising unwillingness to address it's shortcomings if it involves drastic change, hence the animosity to multiculturalism, English instruction in school and futile programs to "breed" more Francophone children.  Regardless, blatant xenophobia and intolerance is rife in Quebec, something that for the most part would be met with denouncement in the rest of the nation.  I don't know if it's Quebec's "Nation within a Nation", but it is no excuse to go ahead and peddle values many would view as "Uncanadian."