For the Parti Québécois, bad habit dies hard

Martin Patriquin on the PQ internal politics regarding the resurrection of the Values Charter and related positioning:

The introduction of Drainville’s charter proposal in the fall of 2014 unleashed one of the more divisive chapters in recent Quebec political history. In one example, Quebec actress and pro-charter spokesperson Janette Bertrand said the province needed such a thing because Muslim doctors allowed women to “die faster.” It was all for naught for the PQ, pollster Claire Durand notes. “The charter was never strong enough to drive votes to the PQ. What drives votes in the Gaspé is the price of lobster, not whether a woman wears a hijab at the licence bureau.”

The charter’s lack of electoral oomph suggests the PQ’s return to identity politics is something bigger than crass politicking; perhaps the party has truly realized the limitations of its appeal to immigrants and non-francophones. At any rate, Drainville’s foray has the support of several sovereignist tenors, including Gilles Duceppe. The former Bloc Québécois leader criticized Drainville’s original charter during the last election campaign. He has since changed his mind.

“I think we need a charter,” Duceppe says. And because the Liberal government relies on the votes of religious minorities, Duceppe says only the PQ is poised to pursue the goal of state secularism. “Already, the ethnic vote isn’t very strong with the PQ. They come here from troubled countries, and they don’t want further problems,” he says. “They didn’t come to Canada for the weather.”

For the Parti Québécois, bad habit dies hard – Macleans.ca.

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Quebec Values Charter 2.0: Ban against crosses, hijabs would only apply to new public employees | National Post

English coverage of Bernard Drainville’s attempt to resuscitate the values charter (earlier post Charte de la laïcité: «une clause grand-père» prévaudra |Drainvilleand a useful comparison between the earlier and current versions:

Comparison of Drainville’s charter proposals

PQ’s original charter

• The ban on ostentatious religious symbols in the workspace was sweeping and applied to the entire public sector including justice, health and education. The bill defined the symbols as “overt and conspicuous,” which meant a tiny crucifix or small ring with the Star of David or earring was fine, but anything big was not.

• The bill provided for a five-year exemption from the ban for CEGEPs, universities, health care and municipalities. In the uproar, many institutions said they would use the exemption.

• Private schools and non-subsidized daycare centres were not covered.

• It would be mandatory to have one’s face uncovered while providing or receiving a state service.

• In the name of religious heritage, the giant crucifix on Mont Royal and other religious symbols in the public space — such as the crucifix over

the speaker’s chair in the blue room of the National Assembly — would remain. Employees would still be allowed office Christmas trees.

• Amend the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms to entrench religious neutrality of the state and the secular nature of institutions.

Drainville charter

• The big change in the proposal is the so-called grandfather clause. That means that while the plan is still to ban conspicuous religious symbols in the whole public sector, existing workers would have acquired rights and not have to respect the rules.

• Implicit in the new package is that no employee thus could be fired for refusing to comply, which emerged as the real stumbling block for the short-lived PQ government.

• The new ban would thus only apply to new hires. As Drainville stated, working for the government carries with it responsibilities and one of them is to not express, or display, one’s personal convictions.

• Respecting their independence, Drainville said the new ban would not apply to CEGEPs, universities and municipalities. They would, however, be required to adopt their own internal religious neutrality policies.

• Added to the charter would be the creation of an observatory on religious fundamentalism and a 1-800 phone line where people could report honour crimes.

• The National Assembly crucifix could be moved elsewhere in the legislature if MNAs vote to do so.

Quebec Values Charter 2.0: Ban against crosses, hijabs would only apply to new public employees | National Post.

Charte de la laïcité: «une clause grand-père» prévaudra |Drainville

Quebec Public Administration

From 2011 National Household Survey

This will hardly help integration in Quebec. The above chart shows just how limited the number of visible minorities are among federal employees in Quebec and particularly in the Quebec provincial and municipal governments (a similar pattern is found in Quebec’s education system, particularly elementary and secondary schools and CEGEPs):

«Il faut avancer, a résumé M. Drainville en entrevue. On ne peut pas s’empêcher d’avancer parce qu’il y a des actes de terrorisme qui sont posés chez nous ou ailleurs dans le monde. Quand on fait cela, ils gagnent. On ne doit pas se faire dicter nos débats et nos choix démocratiques par les extrémistes.»

Quelques jours avant la pause des Fêtes, M. Drainville a promis de dévoiler au début 2015 une version plus «souple», plus «consensuelle» de la Charte de la laïcité qu’il a défendue l’an dernier. Il a fait valoir que, si le gouvernement péquiste minoritaire avait pu mener son projet de loi à terme, il aurait dû en venir à un compromis avec la Coalition avenir Québec.

Selon nos informations, la nouvelle charte prévoira que l’interdiction de porter des signes religieux, la mesure phare de la première version, ne s’appliquera qu’aux futurs employés de l’État. Aucun employé actuel ne serait obligé de s’y conformer.

Charte de la laïcité: «une clause grand-père» prévaudra | MARTIN CROTEAU ET DENIS LESSARD | Politique québécoise.

Quebec union apologizes for liquor store video that singled out immigrants

Same narrow mindset that brought us the Quebec Values Charter. The CSN, if I recall correctly, may have supported the Charter:

The video, recorded in Alberta, included comments from a French-speaking man suggesting private liquor sales in the province have resulted in a poor level of customer service.

The unidentified man asserts that immigrant business owners from India and Pakistan are uninformed salespeople when it comes to the sale of alcohol.

Following a backlash from outraged residents of Quebec and Alberta, the union, the Confederation des Syndicats Nationaux, issued an apology and announced its decision to remove the controversial remarks from the video.

Devinder Toor owns 14 Alberta liquor stores and has been in the alcohol sales business for 14 years.

He says he and his staff stay on top of available products in the market.“We are very confident,” explains Toor. “The staff works to answer all the needs of the customers. We try to put the best value for the customers in terms of knowledge, prices and everything.”

Quebec union apologizes for liquor store video that singled out immigrants | Toronto Star.

The Interview: Philippe Couillard on Quebec’s future – And the Values Charter

Paul Wells ask Quebec Premier Couillard on the values charter:

Q: People have the impression that with the PQ’s election loss, the charter of values is a dead letter. But don’t you have your own plan to bring in something comparable?

A: A big mistake in politics is to think that because an issue appears to have been settled, it doesn’t exist anymore. You just sweep it under the rug and pretend it doesn’t exist. Not only in Canada but in other countries where we have to rely on immigration for our growth, the question of coexistence of values in communities is important. It has to be dealt with.

The difference between our approach and the PQ’s is: our approach is not discriminatory. What we could not tolerate in their approach was job discrimination being introduced, and defining “neutrality” as forbidding any religious signs, which frankly is something we find totally unacceptable.

But we always said that certain principles have to be clarified. One is the question of the face. I think this is a line in the sand for many Quebecers and Canadians: That if you’re going to give services or receive services, your face should be uncovered. That’s about all we’re going to do, and frankly all that needs to be done.

The mistake of the PQ, and I think it was by design, was to go too far. Using this as a wedge issue, trying to revive a very ethnic brand of nationalism in Quebec. At the end of the day, it’s great news for Quebec that it didn’t work in their favour.

The Interview: Philippe Couillard on Quebecs future – Macleans.ca.

Charte des valeurs: Lisée aurait démissionné plutôt que de l’appuyer | Le Devoir

Well, that’s a change. He didn’t show any reserve when in Government:

Jean-François Lisée a désavoué, mercredi, le défunt projet de charte des valeurs de son collègue Bernard Drainville. Six mois après la défaite du gouvernement minoritaire de Pauline Marois et le naufrage de la charte, le candidat pressenti à la direction du Parti québécois prétend qu’il avait des objections majeures à l’endroit du projet de loi 60, tel que conçu.

Le député de Rosemont a déclaré qu’à défaut d’un assouplissement dans les dispositions de la charte, il n’aurait pas hésité à quitter ses fonctions de ministre en guise de protestation.

«Je trouvais que la charte était une très grande avancée dans la marche vers une plus grande laïcité de l’État, mais j’étais favorable à une application très graduelle», a expliqué M. Lisée lors d’une mêlée de presse.

«Je considérais qu’il n’était pas acceptable humainement que des employés qui avaient travaillé pour l’État pendant plusieurs années soient menacés de congédiement ou de sanctions parce qu’on avait décidé de changer les règles en cours de route. […] Il me semblait impossible d’appuyer une partie de la législation qui allait soumettre des gens à des pressions et à un stress terrible», a-t-il précisé.

…. L’ancien ministre responsable de la région de Montréal semblait pourtant à l’aise lorsqu’il défendait publiquement le projet de charte aux côtés de M. Drainville, ministre responsable du projet de loi.

En outre, à l’automne 2013, il cosignait une lettre dans le New York Times avec M. Drainville dans laquelle il faisait l’apologie de la charte, en la comparant au concept du «mur entre l’État et la religion», attribué à l’ancien président américain Thomas Jefferson.

Il écrivait que «le fait de demander aux employés de la fonction publique de ne pas porter de signes ostentatoires pendant qu’ils sont au travail» constituait «la suite logique» du processus de laïcisation en cours au Québec depuis les années 1960.

Charte des valeurs: Lisée aurait démissionné plutôt que de l’appuyer | Le Devoir.

Jonathan Kay: Petty language spats have all but vanished in Quebec since Marois’ ouster

While anecdotal, and drawing from those of similar views, Jon Kay’s lengthy column on how the tone has changed in Quebec following the defeat of the PQ and their Quebec Values Charter is worth a read:

Much has been written about the PQ’s insidious impact on Quebec politics. What has been less remarked upon — in other provinces, at least — is how thoroughly the shrill nastiness of Ms. Marois and her administration seeped into the everyday life of ordinary Quebecers. On the subway, in restaurants, at gas stations, interactions between English and French, Jew and gentile, Muslim and non-Muslim, became more fraught. In one notorious case, at the cafeteria of Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital, a worker became so enraged when a customer refused to speak French that she allegedly assaulted him with a thrown tomato sandwich. English-language social media and radio call-in shows were full of similar stories. Then came the April 7 election, and suddenly the stories stopped.

A reminder of the effect that Government rhetoric can have on how people perceive their relations with others, and their being accepted by wider society.

Jonathan Kay: Petty language spats have all but vanished in Quebec since Marois’ ouster

The charter may be gone, but Quebecs identify crisis remains – Patriquin

Foreshadowing the fall debates? Managing this will be challenging. What will be interesting to see is whether the PQ tries again to use this as a wedge issue (despite limited traction during the election) or try to build back the more inclusive PQ of the past):

Having returned to power, the Liberals will soon unveil new legislation regarding the wearing of religious garb in the public sector. As with all issues relating to identity, the party will do so begrudgingly, if only to stave off another “reasonable accommodations” debacle it can only lose, and to starve the opposition PQ of a potent talking point. In all likelihood, that legislation will be some version of Bill 94.

And that could well be a problem.Any legislation of this nature stands a good chance of provoking another divisive spleen-venting within Quebec society—if not a court challenge. Flashpoints are easy to come by. Among them were the frosted windows at a Montreal YMCA. In 2007, the community centre agreed to partially cover their street-level windows, so that little Jewish boys would be spared the sight of naked, sweaty flesh.

Fanned by the Journal’s tabloidy outrage, this agreement made between a group of citizens and a private enterprise was quickly and wrongly spun into a cautionary tale of “immigrants” the Hasidim have actually been here for over half a century asking too much of the state. Then there was the outrage over the cabane à sucre that dared offer its Muslim clients a prayer space and pork-free baked beans.

A reaction to this faux-debate, Bill 94 was cursed with some decidedly flighty language. The bit about having one’s face uncovered while giving or receiving a government service wasn’t actually a rule but a “practice.” It made no mention of what would happen if someone deviated from this practice by, say, wearing a niqab to school. Further, any requested exemption from the “practice” would be denied if it meant compromising “security, communication or identification”—a broad stroke far too open to interpretation.

“Bill 94, sensibly interpreted, did not lead to a general prohibition against having a covered face,” McGill constitutional law professor Robert Leckey points out. “What I worry about, though, is that even adopting such legislation, passing into law the ‘practice’ of showing the face, might lead some officials to think that they should refuse accommodations as a matter of course.”

Finally, there’s the matter of the media, the Journal in particular, which will probably frame Liberal legislation as “Bill 60 lite,” as Leckey says. It’s an uncomfortable truth: wretched as it may have been, the Charter was popular in Quebec—particularly amongst the vote-rich Baby Boomer generation. The Liberals know this. In trying to appease Quebecers’ insecurity, one can only hope even pray the government doesn’t stoke their irrational fears once again.

The charter may be gone, but Quebecs identify crisis remains – Macleans.ca.

International: «L’image du Québec ternie par la Charte»

Not surprising that this came up in a meeting with Quebec’s representatives abroad:

Préparant cet énoncé politique avec ses hauts fonctionnaires, la nouvelle ministre des Relations internationales Christine St-Pierre avoue avoir été surprise que la «machine» ait insisté sur cette nécessité «d’améliorer» la perception du Québec à l’extérieur de nos frontières. Bien sûr, les casseroles de 2012 et même l’affaire Magnotta ont contribué à faire mauvaise impression, mais le dossier de la Charte des valeurs a bien davantage terni l’image du Québec, lui a-t-on expliqué. «Le corps diplomatique a eu une rencontre à ce sujet parce que l’image du Québec était ternie par la Charte», martèle Mme St-Pierre.

International: «L’image du Québec ternie par la Charte» | Denis Lessard | Politique québécoise.

Les fameux avis juridiques sur la Charte restent introuvables

I am not sure what is more objectionable and irresponsible: making apparently false statements about legal opinions or not asking for legal opinions. In either case, another mark against the Marois government:

Dès la première conférence de presse à ce sujet, en septembre 2013, La Presse lui avait demandé si ce projet était soutenu par de tels avis pour expliquer quelles étaient les chances de succès en cour, si la Charte de la laïcité pouvait traverser le test des chartes canadienne et québécoise des droits. M. Drainville avait alors répliqué: «Nous avons la conviction que ce projet-là est constitutionnel. On a des avis qui vont dans ce sens. Mais comme vous le savez, ces avis constitutionnels sont toujours confidentiels, l’ont toujours été et vont le rester.»

L’ex-ministre de la Justice, Bertrand St-Arnaud, avait toujours refusé de confirmer l’existence d’avis juridiques de son ministère sur le projet de loi 60. Mais en campagne électorale, clairement embarrassée, Mme Marois avait laissé entendre qu’elle en avait plusieurs et qu’ils étaient même contradictoires. «Nous avons eu des avis juridiques. Certains nous disent que cette charte pourrait tenir la route. Mais cependant, je tiens à ce point à cette charte que s’il faut aller vers une dérogation, nous le ferons», avait-elle dit, soutenant même que des avis «disent qu’il y a des risques». Peu après, le ministre St-Arnaud avait encore refusé de confirmer que son ministère disposait de tels avis.

Les fameux avis juridiques sur la Charte restent introuvables | DENIS LESSARD | Politique québécoise.

Le PQ n’avait pas d’avis juridique