The news here in Quebec – and in many other parts of Canada – has been flooded in the past few weeks with stories about the newly-proposed Charter of Quebec Values. Formally announced on Tuesday, September 10 (although some details had been leaked a couple weeks prior), the charter, if eventually passed as law, would prevent people working in the public sector from wearing “conspicuous religious symbols,” including headscarves, face veils, kippas, turbans, and large crosses. Framed as a way of ensuring a secular and religiously neutral state, the charter would apply to jobs including civil servants, teachers, professors, judges, police officers, daycare workers, healthcare workers, and many others. For those wanting to know more, this article gives a good overview of what the charter would and wouldn’t do, and this translation of a Manifesto for an Inclusive Quebec is a good summary of the main things with the current proposed charter. It is currently open for “consultations” (defined in a pretty flaky way; you can call them or leave a message on their website), and the government has announced that it will be formally proposed as a bill in Quebec’s provincial parliament sometime this fall.
It took me a few days to think through this enough to write anything at all that wasn’t full of ranting and raving. I have a bunch of thoughts about this, but to be honest, my main reactions are anger and frustration. This policy, if it becomes law, will have huge material impacts for a number of minority groups in Quebec, while reinforcing narratives that privilege only one group as the “we” of Québécois identity, and increase suspicion and marginalisation of Muslims and other minority religious communities. By some accounts, this has already started; one woman was recently verbally harassed for wearing hijab, and her son was spat on and hit. This is not to say that Quebec – or anywhere else in the rest of Canada – was perfect before this charter was proposed, but the news is nonetheless infuriating and incredibly discouraging to those of us living here.
But here’s my attempt at an actual analysis – with pictures, because apparently we’re all about visible symbols in Quebec these days. [Read more...]