Pauline Marois blames multiculturalism for bombings and violence in England.

“They are punching each other and throwing bombs because it’s multiculturalism,” she said while promoting her government’s proposed Charter of Quebec Values on Friday, “and no one there sees themselves in that society.”

After Quebec politicians and citizens put pressure on Marois, she clarified her statement. By bombing she meant attacking different models of social integration.

While she admitted that France’s model of secularism, responsible for ghettos, racial profiling and riots, “isn’t perfect,” she ignored the Global Migrant Integration Policy Index findings that the UK is only narrowly better than France at integrating immigrants. Canada, by contrast, is ranked third in the world, vastly higher than both countries.

This came a few days after former PQ leader and Quebec Premier Bernard Landry praised France’s state secularism but also failed to mention the brutal xenophobia it fostered. He was announcing that the government would forgo passing Bill 14, which would have stripped bilingual status from municipalities where a majority of the population’s mother tongue is not French among other things, and focus instead on their Charter which would ban public sector workers from wearing religious clothing or symbols.

It’s no surprise the bill didn’t fly with the public. Even the terms anglophone and francophone are becoming archaic and Quebecers don’t want to be confined by such narrow constructs.

The PQ decided to leave English speakers alone and set their sights on an easier target: immigrants and their religion. Unfortunately the Charter has been a bigger hit with the public, but not everyone is happy. Montreal recently voted unanimously to reject the proposal and quite a few media outlets, most of them in English Canada criticized the plan. At the press conference, Landry found himself on the defensive.

Maka Kotto
Quebec Culture Minister Maka Kotto

“I take pity on some of Canada’s English newspapers,” he blasted back, calling to Anglo media coverage of the secular charter an exercise in “Quebec bashing.” He went on to warn that Canada will “deeply regret” embracing multiculturalism:

“Multiculturalism will lead to more and more problems,” he said, adding that “immigrants themselves are the first victims of multiculturalism.”

Landry continued by attempting to dispel accusations, which were never raised, that the PQ was a party of bigots:

“Do they think our culture minister was born on Ile d’Orleans? It’s (Cameroonian native) Maka Kotto. We (the PQ) elected the first black person in the Quebec national assembly. The Bloc Quebecois elected the first Latino to the Parliament of Canada. They should open their eyes.”

Landry’s message is inconsistent. He dismissed accusations of péquiste bigotry by praising the PQ’s multiculturalism credentials and in the same breath vilified multiculturalism as a national plague. Landry may truly believe he is not a bigot, but he could also be unaware of what being racist, ironic, or disingenuous means.

 

SikhsinUSUniforms

Landry also claimed that “in the US, you never see a police officer with a turban.” In reality, there are American police and even US Army soldiers who can and do wear them on duty.

Maybe Landry and Marois should just look in their own backyard instead of pulling examples from the states and Europe. Sikhs in the RCMP and the government of Canada can wear turbans, the Supreme Court of Canada overturned Quebec’s ban on kirpas and recently the Canadian Soccer Federation forced their Quebec counterpart to get rid of their ban on religious headwear.

Despite the Charter’s popularity with some people, cracks are showing in the PQ’s cultural shield.

Yesterday, Le Journal de Montreal revealed that Pauline Marois’ Parti Québécois government allegedly plans to outlaw religious clothing, symbols and jewelry in all Quebec public spaces later this fall. The unconfirmed proposal would be inserted into the Québécois Charter of Quebec Values and ban civil servants from wearing hijabs, burkas, turbans, kippas, crucifixes and other religious attire. It would also be imposed in courts, police stations, hospitals, government offices and even publicly funded institutions such as daycare.

pauline marois pointing

The rules would not apply to the crucifix hanging in Quebec’s National Assembly as it represents an “icon of Quebec history.” However, any “ostentatious crucifix” displayed around the necks of public servants would not be allowed.

Unlike the Quebec Soccer Federation’s failed attempt to pass a turban ban in July, there is no citation of religious clothing endangering oneself or others. Indeed, a dress code deemed appropriate for Franco-Canadian tastes by the PQ would appear draconian compared to the rest of Canada where religious accommodation has empowered Sikhs to wear turbans, ceremonial daggers in the RCMP and Muslim teachers to wear hijabs in classrooms.

Quebec’s minorities, who already find employment and career advancement hard enough as it is, are outraged. Some are even comparing Marois to Vladimir Putin for his restriction on the LGBT community. Meanwhile, some Jewish-Quebecers who were witness to the Nuremberg Laws in 1935 Nazi Germany have alluded to parallels between them and these restrictions.

The ban would target, discourage and exclude certain members of society from participating in Quebec public life. In essence, it would create a set of second-class citizens.

Such a ban would send a chilling message to those that do not fit a mold of Quebec identity. Minorities must conceal their personal identity, lifestyle and beliefs.

Quebec should look to its elder brother, France, for lessons in excessive secularism. France’s ban of religious iconography disenfranchised and created sous-bois ghettos. This has incited employment discrimination, police racial profiling, arbitrary stop-and-frisks and bloody riots in Paris.

turban soccer

If passed, the PQ proposal would incite not only racism and religious intolerance but also reinforce colonialism. For example, Aboriginal spiritual feathers invoke the spirits of ancestors and the earth, they are symbols of respect of their heritage and nature. Chinese jade pendants channel Feng Shui, providing healing and purification. While neither is religious in the traditional sense, both celebrate cultural veneration and could fall under this ban.

What about products with religious slogans and retailer philosophy, like Lululemon’s  yogi philosophy? Would they fall under the ban as well?

It’s unlikely this plan would pass the Charter test at the Supreme Court of Canada, so it may be a stillborn proposal. One possible rationale for such a stunt is that it may distract from the PQ government’s economic mismanagement while bolstering support from their base.

It is likely Marois hopes this proposal will rally sovereigntist hardliners (both secular and Christian) for the next provincial election with a public face portraying an ideal “pure laine” Quebec society, rather than its multicultural/lingual reality.

This nationalist myth ultimately breaks down when cracks develop in the facade until it collapses.

The minority PQ government is in full damage control mode this morning after a sex tape staring none other than premier Pauline Marois was leaked on the internet late last night. While Marois herself could not be reached for comment, Jean-François Lisée, minister of international relations, addressed the issue in an early morning press conference at the National Assembly.

“We find it imperative to confront this head-on. Premier Marois is deeply embarassed about the video” Lisée admitted, then, in what can only be described as a flailing attempt at spin, he went on: “while we are shocked that such a personal moment has been released to the public, the important thing for all Quebecers to remember is that, throughout the course of the video, the premier is on message and on track for a yes victory in the next referendum, saying ‘oui, oui, oui’ whenever she could.”

While most of the 25 minute video is considered rather conventional by pornographic standards, there is a section near the end that is raising some eyebrows.

“It’s all your basic Paris Hilton stuff at first,” says Quebec Adult Film Commission chairman Real Dumont, “but then Mme Marois puts on a strapon and starts double-teaming someone wearing a giant panda costume with (now Quebec Liberal leader Phillippe) Couillard. That’s not something you see every day in the industry, especially when you’re talking about celebrity vids.”

The choice of a panda has some thinking the furry companion was supposed to represent the much loved and frequently arrested Anarchopanda of Maple Spring fame. When one journalist questioned Lisée about whether or not Marois was living out a fantasty of what she wanted to do to student protesters by sodomizing someone wearing a panda costume, the Minister was quick to respond:

“Absolutely not. Stephen Harper loves pandas, maybe it’s a statement about federalism,” an increasingly irritated Lisée replied. “Think about it, while taking it up the ass from the PQ the panda is clearly blowing Couillard, an avowed federalist.”

François Legault was quick to deny any invovlement in the video. However, the CAQ leader didn’t rule out the possibility of releasing his own sex tape before the next election, assuring reporters that it would be tasteful and “hotter than you think.”

Despite maintaining a public attitude of indifference, we have received reports that the government is trying to have the video removed. The Office Québécois de la Langue Française is already looking it over and paying particular attention to the bottle of oil Couillard squirts on the premier’s bare chest at roughly the five minute mark.

If the French writing on the label is not significantly larger than the English, the vid could disappear altogether. If you want to see it before it’s gone, you can here, but be warned, it’s NSFW and definitely not something we want to embed on this site.

“The social crisis is behind us.”

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois made that statement yesterday, concluding her party’s Summit on Higher Education at the Arsenal in Griffintown. Later that same afternoon, as teargass reigned down on peaceful protesters at St-Denis near des Pins, it looked more like the social crisis was a few blocks north and a number of blocks east of where she was speaking.

Did Marois really not see this coming? Did she think she could raise tuition and no one would hit the streets?

Well, protesters did take to the streets of Montreal. Estimates had the crowd anywhere between five and twenty thousand.

montreal march feb 26 arial shotThe red squares were back. Anarchopanda was back. This was a festive protest boasting the kind of numbers seen late May 2012 as the Maple Spring was really starting to heat up, only it was a few months earlier and there was snow on the ground. The perfect kind of snow for snowballs.

Turns out snowballs and riot cops aren’t a good mix. When a few protesters, whether intentionally or not, threw their soggy projectiles in the direction of the police, things turned ugly: teargass, noise cannons, billyclubs, arrests and claims that the protest was illegal from the get-go because protesters didn’t provide a route. Now, another well-known element of last year’s Maple Spring was back as well: police repression.

But wait, wasn’t Marois personally offended by Bill 78? Didn’t she promise to repeal it? Well, yes, Bill 78 is no longer on the books, but then again, technically, it was never even enforced. All those arrests last year in Montreal for being at an illegal protest because no route was provided, well, they were officially made under a municipal bylaw that mirrored some of the more egregious elements of 78, not the infamous bill itself (in Quebec City, arrests were made under the highway code).

So Marois was offended by Bill 78 but has no problem using a bylaw that does exactly the same offensive things? Makes sense. After all, she repealed Charest’s tuition hikes on her first day in office as she had promised, then brought in her own tuition hikes a few months later.

But wait, these increases only amount to $70 a year or at least that’s what right-wing media outlets keep reminding us. Really, who cares how much it is, it’s an increase and that’s the point. While the much larger amount Charest wanted to impose all in one shot may have made it easier to mobilize such a massive student base in the early stages, the Maple Spring was, at it’s core, a protest against the very idea of a tuition increase and by extension, austerity.

To put it bluntly, for a politician to give the student protesters what they want, they would have to lower tuition with the ultimate goal being free education. To merely avoid more protests, they would have to, at the very least, maintain the freeze. Just one penny in the wrong direction and people will take to the streets.

That much is clear to me and most casual observers and it should have been clear to Pauline Marois, too. I think it was. I think she knew all too well that people didn’t vote for her so she could pay lip service to what students and their allies were demanding; in fact, they didn’t vote for her at all, but rather against Jean Charest and it looked like the PQ had the best chance of replacing the Liberals.

She might have figured that it would be easy to distract people later on, make them think the PQ came to power because of sovereignty, language or some other issue that Quebec politicians have used to distract the discourse for decades. The problem is that with a game changer protest like the Maple Spring, people aren’t as easily fooled or silenced. To paraphrase one of the signs held up yesterday, people didn’t stay the course and stay in the streets for six months just to accept another hike.

marois charestSure, not all student groups were at the protest yesterday, just ASSE (the largest and most radical group which formed the CLASSE last year). The other groups were at the conference itself, fighting for a freeze. Now that they were denied, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them don their red squares again, despite former colleague Leo Bureau Blouin now sitting as a PQ MNA.

Even if they don’t, the student protesters have the support of unions, teachers and others. Who knows how many more will join?

Hell, maybe even anglo rights activists will realize that the goal of free post-secondary education is a better place to put money than the Office Quebecois de la Langue Francais, wash out the pots they just used to cook pasta and start banging on them in the streets. It probably won’t happen, but hey, a progressive anglo boy can dream.

Now that the old tricks don’t seem to work anymore and the new boss is protested just as quickly as the old boss was, the future possibilities are wide open. Maybe Marois was right and the social crisis is indeed almost behind us, but the social revolution is right ahead.

* Top photo by Iana Kazakova, other images courtesy movementetudiant.info