How Canadian is Quebec?
by Nicole Halseth
Canada’s eastern provinces have engaged in a political tug-of-war over the proposed Quebec Values Charter.
On Thursday, Liberal MPP Monte Kwinter proposed a motion that promises Ontario will never place restrictions on people expressing their religious beliefs publicly. This is a direct response to the Quebec Values Charter. According to an article published on the Globe and Mail website, this legislative resolution “implicitly condemns the Parti Québécois’ proposed secular charter.” The motion passed in legislative assembly with unanimous support by all parties, with 82 votes to 0.
The Quebec Values Charter raised heads recently, with its focus on restricting public forms of religious expression. This includes forbidding the use of turbans, hijabs or large crosses in public. Currently, under a five-year clause, Montreal would be exempted from the Parti Québécois’ proposed Charter of Quebec Values. This compromise comes after several prominent institutions and all city and suburban mayors in Montreal came out publicly against the Charter, stating they wish to extend the exemption clause permanently. However, the PQ has made it clear that Montreal will not be exempt forever, and that it is willing to fight to bring Montreal into the fold.
It seems that Montreal is not the only one to raise objections to the proposed Charter within Quebec. Several key individuals, institutions, and religious organizations, such as Quebec’s Catholic bishops and the Jewish General Hospital, have expressed their disapproval for the Charter and state that it is simply unfeasible.
According to Mr. Kwinter, it was necessary to create his Ontario bill because new immigrants to Canada may not always know the distinction between Ontario and Quebec. As such, this new reactionary motion clarifies the right to openly practice one’s religion in Ontario and may help dispel doubts otherwise.
In a statement, Mr. Kwinter expands on this belief, saying “When they hear that one province is doing something, they assume that Canada is doing it and it sends a negative image.” He continues with “there is a reaction of people who are saying, ‘Is that going to happen in Ontario?’ And all we’re trying to do is reassure them that we would not support anything that would in any way put our ethnic communities, our cultural communities at risk in the way they’re being put at risk in Quebec.”
As many citizens of Quebec already do not support the Quebec Values Charter, Mr. Kwinter does not believe his rebuttal will spur negative relations between the two eastern provinces. In the statement, he explains “it doesn’t worry me, because I don’t think it will be an issue province to province…it’s an issue between a particular government that has a policy that is under severe examination right across the country and within Quebec.”
The proposed Charter of Quebec Values will have important ramifications, not just for Quebec but for Canada as a whole. Should the Charter pass, it will set a precedent for potential future motions, both in Canada and around the world. It will also demonstrate to the international community exactly how ‘multicultural’ Canada has become.
In many ways, Mr. Kwinter may be right in that regard. Exactly how much about Canada does the rest of the world really know? Will they be able to distinguish between Quebec, and Canada as a whole? Though Quebec may not always wish it, they are a part of Canada and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. As such, they are ambassadors of Canada to the international community. This proposed Charter is not representative of Canadian values (as they have traditionally and legally been presented). It is not even representative of the values of the people of Quebec. It is representative of the values of a minority government; a small fraction of the population. It will, however, hurt many people, and that is not very ‘Canadian’ at all.