The national press is in full-throated rant about Quebec’s policy against overt religious coverings, symbols and trinkets being worn by state employees.
A government that posts sketches of impermissible religious dress in the public-sector workplace, as the Parti Québécois did on Tuesday, has cut itself off from its province’s roots of tolerance and freedom of conscience, and Canada’s. And once it has done so, how far will it go?
Farther, is my guess. When the last Protestant in Quebec graveyard is bulldozed, or finally abandoned to weeds, then the Parti Quebecois will breathe a sigh of relief. It is the path they have been on for forty years and they are not stopping now.
The National Post’s Jonathan Kay gets to the point about face-coverings, and I agree with him, as I am sure all readers would:
It is only a tiny slice of Canadian Muslims who support the wearing of the niqab: Most of this country’s Islamic community, no doubt, finds face-covering as alienating as the rest of us. Yet Ms. Marois’ legislation shows how the minority of Muslims who don the niqab is threatening religious freedom for everyone else: Because it is unseemly to crack down on just one religious or cultural tradition, the anti-niqab backlash in Quebec has taken the form of incipient legislation that targets all religious communities. If the niqab, then the turban. If the turban, then the Star of David. If the Star of David, then the Christian Cross. And if the Christian Cross, well then, even non-face-covering Muslim headscarves are outré, as well.
The contradictions, inconsistencies, stupidity and injustice in all this are too glaring for any fair-minded person to overlook. So is the massive unwarranted incursion by the state into the private choices of individuals. The PQ, in a bid for a galvanizing cause, has resorted to demagoguery, beneath which simmers barely concealed bigotry. This may be the battle Marois wanted: That no longer matters. The “Charter of Quebec Values” is an abomination. Quebecers and all Canadians should say so, come what may.
No, sir. Reaction should be proportionate to the offence. Quebec is ruling in a sensitive issue, yes. But think for a moment.
- The state tells women to cover themselves decently, from breasts to thighs. Men cannot go around naked. The state does regulate dress.
- It has a right to enforce dress codes for its public servants more particular or stringent than general provisions for decency.
Of course the Parti Quebecois is creating a cynical wedge issue, and I am reasonably sure they will win on this, electorally, and in surprizingly large majorities.
Is the proposed legislation over-broad? Yes. Will it lead to vexatious enforcement by vexing enforcers? Yes. Is it constitutional? Probably not, but not so unconstitutional as to be thrown out entirely, and the Supremes may well tailor the code to suit their own ideas while affirming the principle of the government’s right to determine dress codes for employees.
And most important, will English Canada’s overblown reaction do any good? No. It will harden Quebec attitudes, but that is less important than this fact: it will make more difficult the social regulation of Islam, which is not far off in English Canada too.
Everyone take a valium.
Addendum: Parti Quebecois support now at 40% among French Quebecers, according to polls conducted for the Globe.