Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Quebec's Secular Charter: Too Far.

It's not often that the federal Conservatives and I agree on anything important, but I fully endorse Jason Kenney's vow to fight the so-called 'Quebec Secular Charter.
The ignorance and wilful intolerance is breathtaking, and you can see it for yourself simply by clicking the link.
The opening message on the website, from Bernard Drainville, the "Minister Responsible for Democratic Institutions and Active Citizenship", is in French only, under the Franglais 'Governement Proposals'.  I'll attempt a translation; please bear in mind I just started the second of six French courses last night...

"The guidelines proposed by the Government have as their objective to continue the process of separation of church and State, which began more than fifty years ago in the wake of the Quiet Revolution. The Quebec Government believes that this is the best way to respond to religious pluralism in a modern State, concerned with equality for all, and for us to weave together a strong civic bond above and beyond anyone's religious, moral or cultural differences."

Whew. I needed occasional help from both a French-English dictionary and the ol' Google there. That's not elementary French. No matter: last I looked there were anglophones in Quebec, and it's just plain rude to create an English web site that includes important messages in French only. This continues throughout the site...the bare bones are in English, but click on anything for further explanation and you are met with a wall of French. It's as if they could only bring themselves to use so much English before abandoning it in disgust. Even the English is riddled with Gallicisms and odd turns of phrase that look as if they were run through Google Translate. I guess "perfunctory" is the word I'm going for here. It's really no surprise: this is the same province that has a government entity ostensibly concerned with 'keeping French alive', but mostly concerned with keeping English in its place.

I preserved the capitalizations in that bolded opening statement, and they are telling. Every instance of 'government' or 'state' is capitalized. No other non-proper noun is capitalized. The message here is subtle, but profound: I'd  dare to suggest in Quebec, the State is supreme. Certainly it has assumed the characteristics of the Church it has so thoroughly deposed.

(The Quebecois harbour so much antipathy towards the Catholic Church which, until a couple of generations ago ruled their lives, that the list of swear words in Quebec is thoroughly dominated by religious terns. And these aren't mild swears, either.)

Now, I am not religious. And as many of you know, I have nothing but disdain for the people of all faiths who insist on shoving their God down my throat. I believe one's religion, or lack thereof, is an entirely personal matter. As such, I can understand the general principles behind this Charter. The state has no business promoting any one religion.
That said, ''separation of church and state" does not mean what they think it means. As Kenney notes, "it guarantees freedom of religion, not freedom from religion." If you offended to the point of wanting to ban a mere religious symbol, you not not very secure in your lack of faith. Then again, if you are so offended by English that you mandate all English words be less then half the size of their French equivalents, and you can't bother to translate a simple web site, you're not very secure on your little French island.

And this above all is what I don't understand about Quebec. They have a wonderful vibrant culture that they seem determined to isolate under the guise of "protecting" it. The constant belittlement of the "other" in Quebec society, whether that "other" is someone religious or someone English or, crisse de c├ólice de tabernak, both,  only promotes anger -- which, as we all know, is simply fear in drag.Quebec is on a mission to homogenize their population. You get the real sense that they'd be most happy if the English just vamooses and took the last vestiges of religion with them.

It's kind of funny that the Canadian government is at odds with this, in a way. They've been all about promoting "Canadian values" themselves. They haven't been so, I don't know, brazen about it, though. They're primarily concerned with letting us know so-called "honour killings" are unacceptable and that women are not property. They're not trying to tell civil servants that large crosses are verboten (though small ones are okay).

I hope the Canadian government goes after this with everything at its disposal. There's nothing wrong with secularism, but enforcing it under penalty of law is no different than a state religion.

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