A Public Obscenity: How the Charter of Quebec Values hearings are at the core disrespectful

bernard drainville charter hearings

Provincial Democratic Institutions Minister Bernard Drainville commenced public hearings into the proposed Charter of Quebec Values by asking that the impending debate remain respectful.

Respectful?

The charter is disrespectful in and of itself. That the separatists are wasting precious public funds to have a public debate only adds insult to injury. It reminds of me of when Ahmadinejad would convene conferences denying the existence of the Holocaust. It’s the premise that’s fucked.

The problem the charter intends to solve doesn’t really exist. The culture of Québec is not threatened, never was, least of all by a few members of various religious minorities with public-sector jobs.

That this charter will result in people, citizens, taxpayers, having to choose between their faith and their jobs, all the while entrenching ‘overt public displays’ of Catholicism as an apparently crucial component of Québec’s cultural identity is incredibly hypocritical. It’s obscene.

Quebec Values Charter,

Moreover, it’s unnecessary. All Canadians are already protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the Charter specifically states we have the right to be free of religious persecution.

Telling civil servants they can’t keep their jobs if they continue to wear a hijab, a turban or a yarmulke is religious persecution. Telling the people their culture is more-or-less doomed to extinction unless everyone blindly goes along with a plan to institutionalize racism is damn near fascistic. Suffice it to say I can’t imagine the charter in its current form would survive a Supreme Court challenge…

But therein lies the rub.

After it’s ruled as unconstitutional, the péquistes in government can invoke the notwithstanding clause and go ahead with it anyways. That or the PQ will simply say that because Lévesque stubbornly refused to sign the Constitution Act they’re not bound by it anyways and can do as they please.

Meanwhile, unemployment continues to rise, Northern economic development is stillborn, infrastructure crumbles and the people of Québec are asked, as we’ve grown accustomed, to do more with less and settle into a lower standard of living. The charter hearings serve merely to distract the public from the PQ’s consistently reprehensible economic and social records. Not to say the Quebec Liberals are much of a better option, but at least they generally have the sense not to stir up trouble for short-term political gains. In any event, an election is expected this year, and you better believe the PQ is going to do just about everything they can to keep attention focused on the problems they’ve created or invented.

marois press conference

It’s gutter politics really – a party acts as spokesperson for a vaguely defined ‘silent majority’ whose core values are threatened simply because they say so. This majority for whom the party speaks is silent for a reason. It is ultimately the illusion of an exclusive club and the message is always party, not people, driven. The message is always the same: the minorities are a threat to the sanctity of the majority’s identity and something in turn must be done.

In Israel, far-right anti-immigrant parties hold rallies where hysterical women wail at the microphone about how they fear being raped ‘by packs of wild Africans,’ or relate completely groundless anecdotes to the same point. Members of this party, if you can believe it, actually favour rounding up all African immigrants in Israel and sticking them in concentration camps.

In Eastern Europe, far-right ultra-nationalist parties preaching even more violent means of eliminating undesirable ethnic minorities (notably the Roma) use much the same rhetoric as their Israeli counterparts to justify their own hate and prejudice.

Granted, Bill 60 isn’t as bad as all that, but the it’s rooted in the same kind of hate, ignorance and shitty populism.

The PQ defines who is and who isn’t Québécois and they only ever represent the Québécois who fit their narrow description. Anyone who questions the legitimacy of the party or its purpose, anyone who criticizes the leadership, anyone who refuses to support needlessly divisive legislation such as Bill 60 – these people are not Québécois in the PQ’s eyes, they are obstacles on the road to independence.

When ethno-nationalist governments run out of any kind of political legitimacy they create social panics concerning a potential loss of cultural identity, typically resulting in punitive social policy that aims to further marginalize minorities while claiming they represent a clear and present public danger.

Québec, in this particular case, is very much like a host of small, impotent nations driven pointlessly into national (but not economic) sovereignty as a consequence of invented ethno-nationalist panics. As a proud Québécois, I want my ‘nation’ to aspire to be greater than Serbia, Croatia or Uzbekistan.

charter of quebec values protestWhat’s particularly onerous is that the bill, ostensibly designed in part to protect women from various abuses (real and imagined) in conservative, male-dominated religiously observant households, will in fact put working women out of their jobs: nurses, doctors, teachers, social workers, early childhood educators, government employees of all kinds, these are precisely the kinds of jobs that can help entrench a family in the local middle class.

It’s hard enough to integrate into Québécois society and culture. What does it say of the PQ when they’re proposing we ‘respectfully’ discuss throwing religious minorities out of their rightfully earned jobs?

I’ll have none of it.

I want out of this discussion because I fail to see any reason to have it in the first place. The proposal is flawed, politically expedient by appealing to base populism and motivated by a desire to define the forthcoming election in terms of whose better suited to protect Québécois against the threats dreamt up by the PQ.

I can’t respectfully abide any of this. I don’t think we’ve seen obscenely manipulative politics like this in our province since the Duplessis Era.

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