Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Separating The Parties

Quebec is a French island in an English ocean. That's undeniable. The question has always been, "How should Quebecers react to that fact?" There have always been those who have argued that, to survive, Quebecers must look inward and erect political and cultural bunkers. Others have argued that Quebec must look outward and embrace the world.

The Parti Quebecois has opened the isolationist argument again with its proposed Charter of Quebec Values. That charter is not only separating Quebecers; it's also separating each of the three federal political parties. Tom Walkom writes:

Federal reaction to Quebec’s proposed ban on religious symbols speaks volumes. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau is firmly but politely opposed. Tom Mulcair’s New Democrats hope the whole issue will miraculously go away. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are vigorously trying to say nothing.

Harper lost Quebec a long time ago. His silence is cowardly. But he has nothing to lose. It's Tom Mulcair who is caught in a bind. Fifty-seven of his one hundred seats come from Quebec. Those seats are filled by a number of soft nationalists, who believe they can best defend Quebec's interests as members of the New Democratic Party. So Mulcair must walk a political tightrope.

Only Justin Trudeau is categorically opposed to the new charter. But, Walkom writes, his opposition is couched in interesting terms:

Moreover, the Liberal leader has been careful in his language. He doesn’t call the proposed ban racist (although, arguably, it is). Rather he says that it is unnecessary and counterproductive — that it would tarnish Quebec’s image across the world.

Like Mulcair, Trudeau is a native son. He can voice his opposition as a Quebecer. He will be lambasted by hardcore nationalists. On the other hand, there is significant opposition to the PQ's Charter both inside and outside Quebec.

Justin has a long way to go before he can overcome the Liberals' reputation for political convenience. But his stand on the Quebec Charter of Values is a start.

We await further developments.


Lorne said...

The paucity of comment from our national 'leaders,' Owen, reminds me once more of the expedience that dominates our politics. While I am well-aware of the minefield that Quebec politics is, to remain silent in what can only be seen as a curtailment of a reasonable expression of religious freedom is cowardly at best, immoral at worst.

While I know that many will claim it is not discriminatory in that it applies to all religions, such measures have no place in a democracy that embraces pluralism.

Owen Gray said...

Blind intolerance has always been present in Quebec politics, Lorne. It's present in all politics at all times.

That's why it's important to speak out when this kind of bigotry rears its ugly head.

CK said...

I am going to play Devil's Advocate here.

First things first, Harper is saying nothing because he more than likely agrees with banning religious symbols--at the very least, banning hijabs and face coverings and kirpans and turbans. Jason Kenney is likely mad because he didn't think of it first. His red meat base supports that. Don't kid yourselves. If they're crying bigotry, it's fake. It's only because it's french Quebec, something else the rabid CPC base hates.

And isn't a secular society something we should all strive for? Separation of church and state? Personally, I have always believed that religion should be kept at home. It's the only way to have peace.

I do, however, find it interesting that the Quebec Gov't. doesn't put an end to subsidizing these parochial private schools with our tax dollars. I think that's the first thing that must go.

Ban religious symbols? They should start and lead by example and remove the cross from the National Assembly and Mount-Royal.

As for bigotry, well, I seem to remember those crying bigotry in this instance, all for racial profiling at airports and by the police along with being gung ho for the killing of Trayvon Martin and Sammy Yatim, not to mention referring to all Muslims as terrorists. Or how about not caring about what our first nations people in Attawapiskat are going through? Or not caring about those missing Aboriginal women? Now, those examples are clear cut bigotry, not striving for a secular society.

Those folks crying bigotry regarding Quebec? As I've mentioned in the past, I hate hypocrisy more. Those folks are only crying out because they hate French Quebecers, pure and simple. Yet, another example of bigotry.

As for being a laughing stock in the world over this? Not necessarily. Much of Europe which is arguably far more progressive than we are in many ways have already made such moves.

Owen Gray said...

Certainly France has adopted this kind of legislation, CK. The real question, though, is whether a truly secular society can tolerate such symbols.

It seems to me that a secure society shouldn't be threatened by them. To insist that church and state be separate, one does not have to ban religious symbols.

And, if the PQ is willing to let the cross on Mont Royal stand, they should be willing to let other symbols stand, too.

Kirby Evans said...

For years I have had arguments with my fellow lefties concerning Quebec politics. While many leftists have been apologists for the language laws in Quebec, such laws are, I contend, either motivated by racism or, at the very least, make an accepted space for racism to flourish. For years the apologists seemed to think that they had the moral high-ground. Recent events, however, demonstrate my position in spectacular fashion. I would not support language laws or religiously discriminatory laws from English legislators, why would I support such legislation from a French one??

One of the issues that many seem to be forgetting here is that if you really restricted public displays of religion than you would also have to outlaw, for example, dog-collars and nuns' habits, and you can bet that no such restrictions would apply. Can you imagine a nun showing up to the emergency room in a Quebec hospital and the staff kicking her out because of her habit?

The PQ is steeped in racism and it is about time that the left stop defending that racism.

Owen Gray said...

I will not argue that these kinds of laws can give rise to bigotry, Kirby.

On the other hand, we need to understand the history which has given rise to Quebec's insecurity.

The fallacy behind the PQ charter is the same fallacy behind the Harper Conservatives. Both are stuck in the 19th century.

Turning back the clock one hundred and fifty years is not an answer to the challenges we face in the 21st century.