Monday, September 30, 2013

The Charter of Quebec Values Defiles Human Rights

Canada is a nation built by people who came here from all four corners of the world. Some came in search of prosperity, others to escape tyranny, persecution or war. Each and every one had shared the commonality of a dream for a new life. Even today this dream is seen in the eyes of the thousands of immigrants who come to our shores. As each of these individuals stand with pride to become Canadian citizens they do so in security of a belief that their basic human rights are protected by law and legislation. Have they been misled in this belief?

We did not have to endure a revolutionary war to bring together the varying provinces. Those we call the Fathers of Confederation met in mutual acknowledgement of each others' individuality yet understood the need to work together for a common goal. As the voice for cultural identity grew in Quebec, we did not see a need for civil war, where friend would be facing friend in violence and death. Once again as Canadians we saw the value in reason and the acceptance of each others' individuality rather than anger and violence.

Finally in 1982 the Constitution Act became law. It took us over a hundred years to devise a document which set out the fundamental freedoms we as Canadians expect to have protected. One of those fundamental freedoms that the Constitution, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms of Canada guarantees is the “freedom of conscience and religion.”

Today Pauline Marois as the Premier of Quebec and supporter of the separatist movement, has decided to assault the very basic heart of humanity. Premier Pauline Marois has devised an 'ideal' where those employed in any state run job will have to make a devastating choice. Each individual of faith will have to choose whether they adhere to their religious beliefs or continue to hold the job they have. People in Quebec will have to decide if they continue to feed their families, keep a roof over their heads and provide a service to the community over their faith.

Premier Marois is quoted in Montreal's Le Devoir saying, “in England they're knocking each other over the head and throwing bombs because of multiculturalism and nobody knowing anymore who they are in that society.” She has in her own words identified religious signs as cultural signs, and sees the two as some obstacle that needs to be attacked.

No religion whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or any other teaches violence. Humanity has taken religion as an excuse to commit horrendous atrocities. In Salem, Massachusetts women were burned alive labelled as witches, sometimes simply because they refused the advances of a prominent man. A Catholic Pope formed an army to conquer and convert in the name of God. The Spanish Inquisition sought out to identify heresy by torture and murder. Adolf Hitler did his best to stamp out the Jewish faith. Stalin jailed and intimidated believers of the Russian Orthodox faith. In Northern Ireland the Catholics and the Protestants still haven't figured out what that was all about. Finally, how do we forget the mighty empire of Rome, before the Vatican got its lifetime lease in the capital city, and the entertaining coliseum playtime between Christians and lions.

All of this only scratches the surface of humanity's evolution. Still no God has asked their followers to commit any of these acts. Often it was faith that provided strength to conquer the conquerors. Now Premier Pauline Marois has decided she and her minority government will attack religion in our modern society, a society which guarantees freedom of conscience and religion. Can it be that Pauline Marois sees herself mightier than the Pharaoh, Caesar, Fuhrer, or Chairman by labelling her stand as a desire to subdue divisive multiculturalism?

The Parti Quebecois government's Charter of Quebec Values according to Pauline Marois will be a uniting force for the province. Premier Marois said, “We are moving forward in the name of all the women, all the men, who choose Quebec for our culture, for our freedom, and for our diversity.” (Canadian Press August 25, 2013). A proposed ban on the wearing of conspicuous religious symbols and headwear by state employees is claimed to be done so in the name of all men and women and proving the diversity that exists in Quebec? It appears that the Church of High Hypocrisy has found a new high priest in Quebec.

State employees such as judges, prosecutors, police officers, correctional agents, public and private daycare workers, school board personnel in elementary and high school, CEGEP's and universities as well as public health and social services, will all have to face the ban on religious freedom. Government documents permit certain board of directors such as those in CEGEP's and universities or municipal councils to adopt a resolution which will allow its personnel to wear religious symbols. This authorization will be valid for a period of five years and renewable according to government documents.

Bernard Drainville, Democratic Institutions Minister said “the time has come for us to rally around clear rules and common values which will put an end to tensions and misunderstandings.” Thousands of people have taken to the street in demonstrations against this Charter of Quebec Values. Quebec Muslims for Rights and Freedoms (QMDL) had been formed to represent some 50 civil and religious Muslim organisations in protest to the charter. This group states it is against all restrictions relating to wearing all religious symbols in the workplace. Though this group fully agrees that government employees should at all times have their faces uncovered whilst performing their duties, and that everyone should remove their face veil in order to be identified.

Internationally renowned philosopher Charles Taylor, who co-presided over Quebec's 2007 commission on the accommodation of minorities and other civil-rights experts have been outraged by these proposals. Taylor said, “I challenge you to find another country in the hemisphere where we have this kind of exclusion.” (Canadian Press August 25, 2013). Charles Taylor compared Quebec's proposals to that of Russia, “In Russia, if you believe that homosexuals should have the same rights as others you cannot be open about it. It would be considered propaganda, it's a type of crime of conscience. If we look at what is proposed here, for sure it does not go as far, but it says that if you have certain convictions you are a second-class citizen because those who have such convictions cannot apply for a job in the public sector.”

Justin Trudeau was the first prominent federal politician to voice his condemnation of the Quebec proposals, and has not changed his public stand on the issue since. At times Justin Trudeau had stirred angry responses from Pauline Marois and Minister Bernard Drainville who blame Trudeau on deepening divisions.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper told a press conference that the PQ separatist government looks to pick fights with Ottawa. Harper said, “But that's not our business, our business is the economy. Our business is job creation for Canadians – all Canadians, including Quebecors.” (Alexander Panettta, Canadian Press August 29 2013).

A month later the Conservative government had responded in a different tone to the Quebec proposal. Employment Minister Jason Kenney said, “We are very concerned by any proposal that would limit the ability of Canadians to participate in our society and that would affect the practice of their faith.” He further said that the federal government would have lawyers review the bill if it becomes law.

Federal NDP leader Tom Mulcair had brushed off any comment in regards to the Marois proposals with the charter, though his tone changed also in the following weeks. It appears both Prime Minister Harper and the NDP leader Mulcair have bowed under the growing public opinion against the Quebec Charter of Values.

Minister Drainville, who is responsible for the Quebec Charter of Values may attempt to point to France for his inspiration. France banned the wearing of religious symbols in publicly funded primary and high schools in 2004, though the ban in France was never as wide as the proposed charter by the PQ. European countries have faced heated debate over religious symbols but often it has been on security levels as with the issue of face veils. Today the world has a genuine need to seriously look at security issues to protect its people. Kenya and the massacre of innocents is a horrific reminder of how terrorists disregard human life, only wishing to inflict fear in the name of their own sick and twisted cause.

Quebec's Charter of Values has no basis on security issues and its desire to create a division in Quebec's society is frightening. The Quebec Soccer Federation had to lift its ban on the wearing of turbans on Quebec soccer fields. World headlines ridiculed Quebec and outside pressure was loud and clear, even though Pauline Marois accused all in opposition as Quebec bashers.

Minister Bernard Drainville, the architect and lead on the proposed charter has said, “The proposals we are going to table are very balanced proposals. I think they find an appropriate balance between the respect of human rights and the respect of Quebecers' common values.” It is becoming increasingly difficult to understand what is the motivation behind the proposed charter. Pauline Marois claims it will be a uniting force in the province, Minister Drainville claims it is in respect of human rights, and the world sits back in shock at the absurdity of it all.

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