Since moving out west from my native Montreal some 15 years ago, I’ve frequently been asked what I miss most about my former home.
My usual answer is either that I hanker for real Montreal smoked meat or freshly made bagels (because, and no offence meant, bagels everywhere else are just vaguely bun-like things with holes in the middle, and not the chewy and doughy goodness that is a “real” bagel). But in reality, I’ve really missed the culture of downtown Montreal — the melting pot of nationalities, the falafel stands, little corner stores that sell perogies, and the sense that it is a place with a cool European vibe unlike any other locale in North America.
But now with the Quebec government’s proposed charter of values, the province is actually starting to resemble other parts of the continent… like maybe one of the southern United States (and I’m talkin’ Deep South where hearing banjo music would make you feel nervous)… and in the 1950s.
Created by the ruling separatist Parti Quebeçois, the document would ban public-sector employees — including judges, teachers and daycare workers — from displaying or wearing overt religious symbols such as the hijab.
Of course, the charter would not remove religious symbols and elements considered “emblematic of Quebec’s cultural heritage,” including the crucifixes in the Quebec legislature and atop Mount Royal in Montreal, or the thousands of religiously based geographic names (St. Adele, Cote St. Luc, etc). Can you say “double standard?”
I knew you could.
So, really, although they’re saying the proposed charter is all about inclusiveness, equality and separating religion and state, it’s really just an attack on anything that’s different from the Catholic, French mindset of the government. Remember, this is the place where public monies are spent on legislation and enforcement to suppress the rights of its English minority population. So, really this charter of values is frankly a charter of we-don’t-want-no-freaking-immigrants-being-different-around-here. It’s a charter of intolerance and racism. A perfect example came this month during the hearings on the issue when an older Quebeçois couple spoke of their trip to Morocco and how freaked out they got when they were asked to remove their shoes at a mosque, and when they saw people (gasp!) praying in a different way than they did. That testimony has since gone viral online, and is a perfect example of the xenophobic narrow-mindedness of people who live outside cities like Montreal in Quebec.
In the end, it boils down to the Quebec government once again shunning real Canadian (and basic human) values of inclusiveness and tolerance, in favour of playing politics and protecting only one culture… and that’s something I’ll never miss.