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Faisal Kamal

Quebec’s Charter: A Dissonant form of Secularism

The recent controversy around Quebec’s Charter of Values has opened up a perennial debate, which has divided Canada since its very birth. Is Quebec a distinct society? To what extent should Quebec be allowed to pursue its own course? The former concern, to a certain degree, has been laid to rest with the acknowledgement of the first government of Stephen Harper that Quebec is a “distinct” society through parliamentary legislation. The latter, however, seems to be a recurrent sticking point for both Quebec and the rest of Canada. If Quebec is different, then it seems absurd to criticize Quebec for failing to conform to the norms and cultural expectations of English Canada. Since Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, the federal government has been wedded to the ideology of multiculturalism. Many French Quebeckers do not accept multiculturalism and have been wedded to their idiosyncratic understanding of secularism and immigrant integration. Seen in the larger context, the Charter of Values is one of many manifestations of how Quebec sees itself as a distinct society. This is not to say, of course, that there are no ulterior motives behind this recent move of the Parti Québécois. It may very well be the case that the PQ is resorting to plain political opportunism to stir up debates regarding the role of religion in Quebec. But that should not deter us from understanding how Quebec has traditionally viewed itself vis-à-vis the rest of Canada. Simply because the bill has a decent amount of support from Quebeckers does not mean that it is an indication of Quebec’s “inherent intolerance”. Many in Quebec would disagree with the inopportune timing of introducing a controversial bill like the Charter of Values, or may not like PQ’s political tactics, or even the details of the bill, but many support the essence… Read More