Values charter slammed as a diversion, a solution to a problem that doesn't exist
Published Tuesday, September 10, 2013 3:03PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, September 10, 2013 6:54PM EDT
The official unveiling of the PQ's proposed Charter of Quebec Values brought swift criticism from many quarters, including those affected by it and other provincial parties saying they cannot support the measures being proposed.
CAQ, Liberals, Quebec Solidaire opposed
As the proposed charter was unveiled Tuesday, the Coalition Avenir Quebec stood by its statement last week that agrees with some measures put forward by the PQ and disagreed with others.
CAQ MNA Nathalie Roy said the party still felt it was not appropriate for those in the legal system to wear religious symbols.
She added, however, the approach the PQ was taking was guaranteed to create more problems, saying Quebec would need to create religious police to determine the appropriate size for acceptable jewelry.
"It will be an ordeal to apply this law. This is not a Quebec in which we want to live," said Roy. "We need to regulate problems but not exploit them, which the PQ is doing… Their public relations campaign will cost $2 million... which is diverting people from the real issue. The real issue is the economy," said Roy.
"Forget about religious accommodations. We need to focus on a serious problem.”
The Quebec Liberal Party said religious accommodation is an area it is willing to negotiate on, but believes the PQ is going too far with its bans on symbols.
“It means people will have a tough choice. They will have to face a choice -- either you're going to rid of these signs or you're going to lose your job,” said Liberal MNA Marc Tanguay, arguing that the government to stick to the basic issues of the economy and job creation.
Quebec Solidaire spokesperson Francoise David also spoke against the proposed charter, saying it legislated religious discrimination and would divide Quebecers.
Marois doesn’t understand: Muslim Women’s Council
Some Muslim women who wear hijabs argue that Premier Pauline Marois is confused about the significance of a veil.
Shaheen Ashraf of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women said it is evident that the PQ has misinterpreted the Islamic veil as a symbol of male dominance and female subjugation, when it reality it is a symbol of devotion.
Regardless, Ashraf says what people wear, and whatever god they worship, should not matter.
"It shouldn't make a difference how we dress as long as we are law-abiding citizens, we pay our taxes, as long as we're good people being good neighbours," said Ashraf.
"I have Quebec neighbours and we get along fine. That all this is happening, they are upset we're being antagonized and they're being targeted."
She said it is clear that the PQ and supporters of its proposed charter have not been exposed to other cultural communities, and worried the province could face an exodus of young professionals who will choose religion over so-called PQ values.
Doctors may leave
The new rules would mean doctors at the Montreal General Hospital could be asked to remove their kippas and turbans, a notion that appalls E.R. doctor Sanjeet Singh Saluja.
“I especially find interesting the little quote where they say I can apply for a permit to wear my turban in the hospital,” he said. “It's almost as if they're giving me a dog licence.”
Dr. Saluja said if the charter were ever adopted, he would likely leave, and he thinks many other doctors would too.
“For our government to ask us to take away this part of our life, it's almost as if they’re asking us to take away our hands, our arms. This is who we are,” he said.
Legal troubles predicted
In Ottawa, federal ministers argued that the Parti Quebecois is looking to pick a fight with Ottawa, and its charter is primed to do just that.
Jason Kenney, the Minister for multiculturalism said the Department of Justice will examine the proposed charter of values, especially the sections that prevent public employees from wearing religious symbols.
He said the federal government's role is to ensure that everyone who lives in Canada can feel at home regardless of religion or of ethnicity.
Law professor Daniel Weinstock said the PQ's bill is pointless.
"The basic problem with the proposed list is still there. First off, there isn't a problem," said Weinstock. "This is a solution without a problem."
He also said it has done nothing but muddy the waters while claiming to present clear rules.
"Why is a large cross not acceptable when a small cross is, when according to the minister the problem is religious expression?" demanded Weinstock.
The McGill professor said the best way for any religious accommodations to work is the way they have already been working in Quebec.
"The best way is just let people of good faith - pardon the pun - of handling with creativity any problems of religious accommodation," Weinstock.
He pointed out that one issue, of a high school student who wanted to carry a kirpan, which sparked the religious accommodation debate in Quebec, was resolved using common sense without any input from higher government.
"A compromise was arrived at with the parents and the school if he wore it in a tight sheath that would prevent other children from touching it."
With files from The Canadian Press