PQ looks to online community for Values support
Published Tuesday, October 22, 2013 11:51AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, October 23, 2013 7:00AM EDT
The Parti Quebecois is using comments from the public to bolster its case for its much-discussed Charter of Quebec Values.
Bernard Drainville said he was very glad to see so many comments from average citizens who supported the ban on religion among civil servants, and especially since many of them suggested changes which will be taken into account.
According to the Minister for Democratic Institutions more than 160,000 people visited the web site on its proposed ban on religious symbols in the workplace.
The government classified many of those comments as being fully in favour of its yet-to-be-written legislation, while others supported the measure but want certain modifications.
The most requested among the changes people asked for were to remove the crucifix from the National Assembly, and to eliminate the opt-out clause for municipalities and institutions.
About 1,000 people said they would support a Charter of secular values as long as public servants were allowed to continue wearing religious symbols at work.
Drainville said the suggested changes would be taken into account as the legislation is being written, and promised it would be tabled in the National Assembly in the weeks to come.
The government provided a numerical breakdown about how many people wrote in and what they said, but those numbers should not be taken as any measure of how many Quebecers support the government's proposed legislation.
Statistician and Université de Montreal professor Claire Durand took to Twitter to say that at most, the comments solicited by the government can provide some idea as to why people like the Charter, and why others oppose it.
Drainville agreed the comments are not a scientific survey of the opinions of Quebecers, but was happy to see so many people commenting so passionately.
"In my history as a journalist, I can tell you that very often when we ask people to speak about a subject, it's the opponents who speak out.
"Here we can see that most of the people who contacted us were in favour. I find this impressive," said Drainville.
"In many cases people had extensive, developed comments and I think this is a good thing for democracy in Quebec."
He added that he felt the comments he read reflected what he has been hearing from the general public, as the debate over the Charter dominated public discussion over the past two months.
"This reflects what I heard during the debate from people who were in favour of the Charter," Drainville said.
Drainville said four law students were hired to handle the emails objectively.
The analysis provided by the government did not include a regional breakdown.
Scientific polls taken by reputable companies show the charter has more support in regions where the population overwhelmingly consists of white francophones. Anglophones, allophones, immigrants and francophones in urban areas are less likely to support the charter.
Drainville also said that he would not release any of the comments that had been submitted.
"Telling people who sent in these comments in full confidentially that we are going to publish the comments now, we cannot do that. It would be a betrayal."
Meantime CAQ leader Francois Legault said the charter debate has led to incidents of intolerance toward Muslim women, adding that he wants the premier to call a meeting with the opposition to hammer out a compromise and temper the debate.
The Liberal Party, however, said Quebecers can't compromise on basic rights.
"To see a government being guided or apparently guided by opinion polls, homemade opinion polls on a subject that touches our rights and freedoms of all Quebecers -- I repeat, of all Quebecers -- I don't think is a very responsible way to govern," he said.
The PQ is rejecting the idea of working out a compromise now with the opposition.
Premier Marois said a bill on the charter will be presented in the next few weeks.