AN EXCHANGE ON QUÉBEC’S TREATMENT OF RELIGIOUS MINORITIES
I wrote an article for an anthology that Kathy Walker and Will Kymlicka edited on Cosmoplitanism. I took up issues of interculturalism in terms of the Bouchard-Taylor report. A reviewer for UBC said I was “simply Quebec bashing” primarily because I agued B-T calls for reconciliation/harmonization gestured towards my ideals of multiculturalism as cosmopolitanism. Worse, the reviewer suggested I read some articles I thought offered one-side and unexamined arguments that Quebec was the ideal society for immigrants in the West, and that no other society incorporates diversity and differnce as well as Quebec–what I thought was very different from what B-T were saying. I don’t fault people for having different and even strongly held positions on anything. We can debate the merits of our conclusions. I find it intimidating when terms like “Quebec-bashing” are used so freely and in my view unnecessarily, even if there is strong disagreement. (Indeed a few months later Bouchard came out and said that he wanted to disagree with those who (deliberately?) misinterpreted the B-T report and argued a position very similar to what I had offered Will & Kathy). Needless to say the article was not published. Will and Kathy were very understanding but I assume the UBC editors would not have dared to go against the reviewer, not even accept a rewrite as the article was so tainted, So I withdrew the article. But it did hurt. I admire how you have dealt with this allegation. Of course, I continue to learn from you.
Enjoyed the talk at Massey yesterday. I think there is a missing piece.
Aside from political personalities and populism, there is actually a political theory underpinning what otherwise appears to be irrational political actions of Ford-Harper et al.
They actually have a different theory of the State. I encounter this in my philanthropy work and it is a pre-occupation right now among the foundation leadership.
There was for decades a consensus around policy development, dialogue and political decision making. It was assumed that there was a linear progression from academic research to pilot projects, evaluation, policy debate then a dialogue with the civil service that eventually resulted in options being presented to Cabinet. Foundations played a major role in funding the initial research, pilot projects and evaluation studies.
That model of policy development has now been broken, spectacularly by the Harper government, rudely by the Ford administration but not so subtly by the late McGinty government. It is not just ideology.
The new proposition is that governments have values they got elected on and they now they implement based on those values. They are not interested in research or policy dialogue or in hearing from the civil service. The theory is that the State is in the business of making decisions, it is not in the business of Socratic dialogue.
In my view, we have to seriously consider this and respond. These guys are crude, but they actually have a theory motivating their actions. We ignore it at our peril.
Warren Bell Applauds Howard
When we lived in Québec, the Québecois we met were generally more personable, more warm and more social than their Anglophone counterparts. Educated Québecois were generally broader and more holistic and humanistic in their outlook on life.
The Charter of Québec values is not, in my opinion — and as so eloquently laid out by you — a good representation of the historical or social truth of la belle province (ou “mon pays…”). It represents a retrograde step legally and ethically, for whatever narrow political end.
The people of Québec deserve better.
Salmon Arm, BC
Marc-André’s Criticism of Howard on Québec
I do not want to go into a debate over this very sensitive issue.
I would simply like to say that I share many of Howard Adelman’s concerns, and I do agree that the debate over the charter partly “appeal to the fears of pure laine francophones”, which are mostly irrational. I simply think it is non-sense to reduce the pro-charter perspective to ethnic populism.
There is a civic, rational debate that is also taking place on this issue. I would like to bring to your attention that the ex-Supreme Court judge Claire L’Heureux Dubé, the ex-Minister Louise Beaudoin, and anthropologist Luce Cloutier announced yesterday that they are quitting the main feminist organization in Quebec, Fédération des femmes du Québec, because the organization is embracing a liberal, individualist feminism. The new organization, in the name of women’s rights, wants to go further than the proposed charter in order to Laicize the Quebec society.
I do not agree with their position, but I would never call them anti-democratic ethnic nationalists in order to discard the civic perspective of these progressive, even radical, feminists. And again, during an unrelated speech in science policy, calling the Quebec minority government anti-democratic for raising the issue remains to me unacceptable (as if Quebec bashing was the easiest way to get support of a Toronto audience when discussing any issue).
And while I am at it, in his blog entry, Harold Adelman suggests a causality between opposition to wearing ostentatious religious symbols in Quebec and recent drop in employment. I mean, come on! Do I really need to explain that, once again, it is pure unrelated Quebec bashing. In the last year there was significant job creation in Quebec (yes we see a decline since January, but comparisons are normally made over one year, cherry-picking the start date to do comparisons is what lobbying groups do, not academics). He also mentions that Quebec also witnessed a dried-up investment for developing natural resources in the province. I have a lot of troubles understanding the causality here. Is he saying that the PQ should continue supporting asbestos mining, or maybe the PQ should refuse requiring more dividends from mining companies. Maybe we should simply do away with environment concerns and transform Anticosti and Gaspesia into FortMcMurrays, and while we are at it deregulate oil transportation to create jobs. Unfortunately, people at Lac Megantic might disagree.
Sorry, I am getting carried away.
My point was that Howard Adelman has very valid points on both science policy and identity politics. I am just appalled about the way Quebec-bashing has become the new norm even among the academic elite in the rest of Canada.
Howard Responds to Marc
Why is criticism in a debate that is supposed to be encouraged called Quebec bashing? The piece praised Quebeckers for their common sense and tolerance generally, but criticized the GOVERNMENT for its policies and failures in other areas. If I criticize Harper is that Canada bashing? If I criticize Bob Ford, is that called Toronto bashing?
Sorry for snapping out on you, but let’s just say that I am angry with the way that this issue has been covered in the rest of Canada. I agree with Michael Ignatieff about the irrational Quebec bashing this issue launched in the rest of Canada: http://www.ledevoir.com/politique/quebec/388274/les-pro-laicite-de-divers-horizons-forment-un-rassemblement
I thought your opinion was well balanced and, like I mentioned, I almost completely agree. However, you say that everyone supporting the idea that public employees should not display ostentatious religious symbols are not upholding the values of pluralism, democracy and equality. I disagree. In your blog entry, you reduce the contrary view to ethnic nationalism showing its ugly head, to irrational pure laine francophones. As if Quebecers were tainted by a dark side and that the only thing that PQ wanted to do is to gain votes by capitalizing on that dark side. At the contrary, I thought that arguments in favour of a laic face for public employees are also supported by the values of pluralism, democracy and equality. You might say that you are criticizing the Government and not Quebecers, what I read is that Quebecers, especially the ones supporting the PQ, remain a bit backward, still struggling with crypto-ethnic debates as compared to the modern rest of Canada who fully embraced equality, plurality and democracy.
I know my perception of your opinion is certainly not the right one, but the way some elements were expressed in both the speech and the blog entry did not help in lifting the confusion. You still need to explain to me why you used the economic argument to discredit the PQ and their charter on values.
Please send any additional correspondence to me directly and not on the biojest mailing list.
All the best,
I understand the irritation about Quebec bashing Marc-Andre. There is a tendency to do that among some commentators outside Quebec, but I’d emphasize ‘some’. I have personally written a short blog piece for the Huffington Post some time back about a particular example of this bashing by a Globe and Mail columnist whose name I don’t even want to mention.
But let me make some friendly comments about the exchanges on this: it is also too easily seen as a ‘Toronto’ thing in Quebec or Montreal, this Quebec bashing, as suggested in your last message, as if it is a common practice and widely popular down here. Among the many Toronto colleagues and friends I know, it’s a rare exception rather than the rule.
Another thing I’d point out, as an ‘adopted’ member of the francophone minority here in Toronto in relation to one of your comments: there is a tendency in Quebec to trivialize the significant rights francophone Canadians have outside Quebec. Are they always easily enforceable? No, but they are there nevertheless, and are impressive rights that exist within the Canadian context for a proportionally small population, because of the significant role of the francophone community in the construction of the federation. From my experience talking about this with Quebec friends and family (and particularly with nationalist friends and family), the francophone reality and the existence of language rights are all too easily brushed aside because they don’t fit the Quebec nation-idea. Franco-Ontarians tend to be irritated by this, and I’m sure other francophones outside Quebec as well (e.g. the more than 30 % francophones in New Brunswick, which is after all a bilingual province). Yes, you are right that anglophones have significant minority rights in Quebec, but francophones outside Quebec also have significant rights, which is true even though there are proportionally much less of them than anglophones in Quebec–where anglophones still represent close to 8% of the population, and historically represented close to 14%. My kids like to engage my nationalist family members in Quebec about this, as they are proud franco-ontarians who have had all their education in Toronto in French public schools. An interesting phenomenon in the Toronto context: francophone schools–and we’re not talking here about immersion!–are thriving. While english schools are closing, several new francophone public primary and secondary schools have been opening up since we arrived here in 1997. There are other examples of significant rights… You suggested that anglophones have ‘way more rights’ than any francophone minority in other provinces, which seems to overstate it. Measuring and comparing the ambit of these rights in their complex historical and geographical contexts is very hard anyway…
Finally, stereotyping also occurs in the other direction, and particularly even in the context of the multiculturalism debate: what we get to hear about the ‘failure’ of multiculturalism in ‘Toronto’ (and the UK), and the alleged existence of ghetto’s here from some in Quebec (including some influential commentators) is truly astonishing and even irritating, as it is so far from our lived experience. Those same people fail then to acknowledge the incredible failure of good integration in countries that have enacted ‘laicite’ measures or outright anti-muslim measures. It’s for me truly disappointing to hear that even people like Justice L’Heureux Dube seem to ignore that countries like Belgium (my home country), France, Germany and others with measures along the lines of what Quebec is proposing are absolutely not examples to be followed and have clearly not succeeded in improving integration as a result of those measures… In fact, the measures added onto existing isolation and exclusion. I’m just mentioning it here since it shows troubling stereotyping the other way round, and I understand you are not in favour of those measures.
My reading of the PQ charter-project is that it is certainly in part a calculated attempt to stir up a new nation building project, and by the same token create a distance between Quebec and other provinces who stick to a more common-law model of multiculturalism. It is very clever politics, since the louder others complain, the more Quebec uniqueness is confirmed and the more Quebecers will get the feeling that they are not understood. Our exchanges about this confirm to some degree the political success of this approach. In fact, the term ‘Charter of Quebec values’ is just a confirmation of the political component of this: if this is just about laicite, state neutrality, and equality of citizens, there is nothing uniquely ‘Quebecois’ about it and you could call it something very different. What’s particularly ironic is that Quebec is putting on the table something that is probably reasonably popular also outside Quebec, but not publicly acknowledged…
These are just some thoughts….
Mag Responds to Trudo
All your points are very well noted.
On comparing rights, you are right that I should be more careful. In some regions of Canada, some franco minorities are thriving. Still, most analysis, like the one by the Canadian Council of learning (http://www.ccl-cca.ca/CCL/Reports/LessonsinLearning/LinL20090919MinorityFrancophoneEducationinCanada-2.html ), agree that the franco minorities in Canada usually face much more troubles in terms of access to education and cultural events in their language.
I agree about how stereotyping occurs in the other direction as well. You should hear all the stereotypes we hear here about Alberta… I certainly did not want to fall into stereotypes as well, and if it looked that way in anything I wrote,then please accept my apologies.
I am not sure how much the measures in Belgium or Germany look like the ones proposed in the Charter of Values, but I know that what is suggested in QUebec is in the end far more balanced than what we saw in France. I simply hope the debate over the charter here will learn from international experiences, as you mentoned, in the same way that Canadian multiculturalism (a model of integration not favoured in Quebec) can learn as well from international experiences.
I completely agree with your reading of the project in terms of political strategy, and it is also where I found the most discomfort on this issue. I am happy that Quebecers (under an all-inclusive civic definition of what “Quebecer” mean) are having this democratic debate about laicity. I just hate the way how this democratic debate is being instrumentalized for electoral reasons, and I hope that we will still be able to have an enlightened debate, based on evidence and embracing shared core values of equity and democracy. In all cases, it does not mean that the pro-charter voices in Quebec are only ethnic nationalists incapable of embracing modernity.
All the best,