Dans les coulisses du gouvernement Marois

Some interesting vignettes regarding the Quebec Values Charter from Dominique Lebel, former Premier Marois’s deputy chief of staff:

M. Lebel jette aussi un nouvel éclairage sur l’unanimité de façade du Conseil des ministres à l’égard du projet de charte de la laïcité signée Bernard Drainville. « Le débat est rapidement empreint d’émotion », note-t-il. Selon lui, « au moins la moitié des ministres ne sont pas à l’aise avec certains aspects [du document] ».

Source: Dans les coulisses du gouvernement Marois | Le Devoir

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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

Quebec Election – Initial Reactions

Quite an evening last night, watching the QC election results. Apart from the famous Peladeau raised fist for independence miscalculation, this election hopefully marks the end of divisive identity politics as exemplified in the QC Charter of Values. The gambit clearly did not work in combination with the referendum uncertainty and even Premier Marois’ overall gracious concession speech still played to les Québécois de souche, rather than the more inclusive messages of Couillard and Legault.

Clearly, the PQ needs a period of serious internal reflection and introspection. The leading candidates to replace former Premier Marois will need to get over their Kubler-Ross denial phase quickly (Drainville, Lisée and Peladeau were awful last night preaching to the shrunken PQ base) and it will be interesting to see the how the relative positions of the PQ and the CAQ evolved over the next few years.

I would not go so far as Andrew Coyne or Chantal Hébert as saying the PQ’s raison d’être of independence is completely dead, but it certainly would appear to be on life support.

From Le Devoir, a few articles on the magnitude of the PQ defeat:

À son premier test électoral, le chef libéral a fait des gains dans presque toutes les régions du Québec. Il a peint en rouge toute la ville de Laval et a arraché deux circonscriptions au PQ sur l’île de Montréal, en plus de remporter des sièges dans le Centre-du-Québec et dans la région de Québec, notamment. Le Dr Gaétan Barrette, candidat vedette parachuté contre l’indépendante Fatima Houda-Pepin, a facilement remporté la circonscription de La Pinière, sur la Rive-Sud.

Philippe Couillard met le PQ K.-O.

Avant même que ne commence le dévoilement des votes dans les circonscriptions, plusieurs membres du personnel péquiste concédaient la victoire au Parti libéral. Un consensus se dégageait : la campagne menée par Pauline Marois avait été désastreuse et on se promettait un bilan aussi exhaustif que sévère. Une majorité d’entre eux espéraient à tout le moins une défaite honorable, mais jamais les stratèges, appuyés par des sondages quotidiens faits selon les règles de l’art, n’avaient prévu pareille dégelée.

Catastrophe au Parti québécois

More commentary on the significance of the elections will come in the next few days but for some of the initial commentary:

Au Parti québécois, cette défaite provoquera de douloureux questionnements. La formation fondée par René Lévesque devra remettre en question le virage identitaire pris au cours des dernières années, virage qui, pour des raisons strictement partisanes, a fait un tort considérable au Québec.

Encore plus difficile sera la réflexion sur la raison d’être du PQ, l’indépendance. Quel que soit l’aboutissement de cette introspection, les résultats d’hier devraient inciter les péquistes à abandonner la stratégie de l’équivoque au profit de celle de la clarté.

Les Québécois ont dit NON (André Pratte, La Presse)

And finally, who leads this decimated party? Because the knives are already out. Drainville, Lisée and Péladeau prefixed Marois’s farewell speech with what amounted to stump speeches. This pack of restless egos all come with their own baggage: Péladeau is a capitalist boogeyman who derailed the whole campaign by declaring his sovereignist credentials. Drainville designed and executed the whole charter gambit, then thoroughly bellyflopped. Lisée went along with both, because he thought Péladeau and the charter was the one-two punch that, to paraphrase the title of his own book, would deliver a K.O. to the opposition.

Macleans. (Martin Patriquin)

It is impossible to overstate what a watershed this is. For thirty years after the Quiet Revolution, Quebecers were told the choice before them was either special status, under whatever name, or separation. At times the two were so blurred in definition that each could be made out to be the other. But what was clear was that they weren’t the status quo. They were better, in all sorts of fantastic ways….

But in the years since then, and in particular since the Secession Reference and the Clarity Act, it has slowly been dawning on Quebecers: neither of these choices is actually available. The choice is the status quo or the status quo. The rest of Canada is simply unwilling to make any more constitutional concessions, and wouldn’t be able to deliver them if it did, so tied up in knots has the constitutional amending formula become. Ditto separation: even if the rest of Canada tried to be helpful, the negotiations would go nowhere.

And as that realization has begun to sunk in, another, equally startling, has begun to take hold: The status quo is not so bad. We are not oppressed. We are not impoverished. We are not miserable. As Mr. Couillard said during the campaign, “we are happy in Canada.” What a revelation!

Quebecers have not only just said no to separation, but yes to the 1982 Constitution (Andrew Coyne)

Over the past month, that self-imposed tone-deafness has led to a campaign of false notes, from the second-coming atmosphere that attended the recruitment of media mogul Pierre Karl Péladeau as a star candidate, to Marois’s end-of-campaign mea culpa that she spent too much time entertaining the twin notions of sovereignty and a winning referendum.

One of the PQ’s worst fears has long been that it would turn out to be the party of a single generation.

Over their short time in office, Marois and her team have done much to turn that fear into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It has long been apparent that the so-called secularism charter that has been the signature initiative of the outgoing government repelled more young Quebecers than it attracted to the secessionist cause.

For the first time in its history, the PQ is more popular among older voters aged 55 and over than among any other age group.

Parti Québécois could be party of a single generation:  Chantal Hébert

Graeme Hamilton: Marois may be the one ‘reintegrating in another job’ after the election

Cleverly written and the irony of Marois’ juxtaposed photo op and messaging:

If it had been held a day earlier, Parti Québécois Premier Pauline Marois’ visit Wednesday to a centre helping immigrant women find work would have made more sense: “We are a welcoming nation. We want more immigrants from North Africa. We need to combat discrimination in hiring … April Fools!”

But Ms. Marois, whose charter of Quebec values would prohibit women wearing the hijab from working in the public sector, kept a straight face as she praised her government’s openness one minute, then said a daycare worker who refused to remove her hijab would lose her job the next.

“At that point they will have to make a choice, that’s for sure,” she told reporters, noting that the centre she was visiting, the Collectif des femmes immigrantes du Québec, is skilled at helping immigrants find jobs. “There are people who we can help to reintegrate in another job.”

Graeme Hamilton: Marois may be the one ‘reintegrating in another job’ after the election | National Post.

Haroon Siddiqui is equally critical on the use of minorities to advance the Charter message:

Anti-Semites usually insist they have Jewish friends. The late Pim Fortuyn, the gay right-wing Dutch politician, claimed he had several Moroccan boyfriends. The PQ parades its female Jewish and Muslim candidates — Evelyne Abitbol, of Moroccan Jewish ancestry, and Yasmina Chouakri, Leila Mahiout and Djemila Benhabib, all of Algerian Muslim descent. The PQ also backs Fatima Houda-Pepin, of Moroccan Muslim ancestry, who quit the Liberal party because of her support of the charter and is running as an independent. They are all entitled to their views and political choices. But the ironies of their high-profile candidacies are inescapable.
They are peddling their religious identities to champion the removal of religious identities from the state. They are feminists who want to fire vulnerable women from work. They promote post-religious modernism by importing the intra-religious divisions of their homelands rather than adhering to the Canadian rule of law that guarantees equality for people of all faiths or no faith.

Parti Québécois apes demagoguery of European right: Siddiqui

In the last few days of the election, communities are mobilizing their vote to defeat the Charter. While the focus of this article is with respect to the Jewish community in Quebec, expect that other community organizations are also active:

« Nous n’avons pas été épargnés par les débats publics décevants entourant la controversée charte des valeurs québécoises proposée par le gouvernement que dirige le Parti québécois », indique un courriel interne de la Fédération CJA, l’organisation qui représente les communautés juives de Montréal, obtenu par Le Devoir.

« Nous encourageons les membres de la communauté à faire tout leur possible, le jour des élections, pour aller voter pour le parti de leur choix. Même dans les circonscriptions qui semblent gagnées d’avance, les bulletins ont tous leur importance, car le financement des partis politiques est calculé au prorata du nombre de votes reçus à l’élection précédente. […] En ces jours qui précèdent l’élection, jouez un rôle actif dans notre démocratie et encouragez ceux qui vous entourent à s’exprimer », ajoute le message signé par Susan Laxer, présidente, et Deborah Corber, chef de la direction de la Fédération CJA.

Charte: les opposants sur un pied d’alerte | Le Devoir.

 

Marois a montré de l’intérêt pour le projet de loi de Houda-Pepin

Although the big news in Quebec is the upcoming elections and the increasing likelihood of a PQ majority government (the gambit of the Charter and the weakness of the opposition leaders), still interesting to note Fatima Houda-Pepin’s bill and the PQ use of it to advance the Charter and embarrass the Liberals:

Dans son projet de loi, la députée définit l’intégrisme religieux comme étant «une idéologie politique qui tend à imposer aux individus, à la société et à l’État des pratiques et des valeurs issues d’une interprétation radicale des religions, notamment les discours portant atteinte au droit à l’égalité entre les femmes et les hommes et incitant à la discrimination et à la violence ainsi que la propagande haineuse appelant à la légitimation du crime en vue de saper les bases de la démocratie et les droits de la personne».

Marois a montré de l’intérêt pour le projet de loi de Houda-Pepin | Jocelyne Richer | Politique québécoise.

French President Hollande tells Marois secularism eases social tensions

No surprise, as Quebec has always been influenced by French debates on accommodation and laicité, notwithstanding the very different histories and context of Quebec and France. France has had similar regulations to the proposed Charter since 2004 and there is ongoing debate over their effectiveness, not to mention the overall weakness of France’s integration of other communities, particularly Muslims.

French President Hollande tells Marois secularism eases social tensions – Need to know – Macleans.ca.

Hollande vante la laïcité proposée par Marois

Laïcité – Pauline Marois et Jean-Marc Ayrault sont sur la même longueur d’onde and other Charter-related articles

No surprise given that elements in Quebec have always been inspired by French cartesian approaches to integration issues, without taking into account the very different history and mix of immigration in Quebec compared to France, or the extremely poor French record on integration and participation of minority communities:

« Les propos de Jean-Marc Ayrault sont de la musique à mes oreilles, a déclaré la première ministre. Vous connaissez très bien notre point de vue. Ce sont les mêmes mots que j’ai utilisés à l’Assemblée nationale du Québec entre autres où j’ai parlé justement du vouloir vivre ensemble […]. Nous pensons qu’il faut que les règles soient claires et c’est essentiellement ce que nous faisons avec notre charte des valeurs affirmant la laïcité du Québec et de ses institutions. »

The visit took place the same day as the publication of a government-appointed working group report arguing for a more inclusive, open approach to integration, including rolling back some of the prohibitions of the hijab and more recognition of minority cultures . Quickly repudiated by the French government and opposition politicians alike, given the engrained nature of  French laïcité:

Laïcité – Pauline Marois et Jean-Marc Ayrault sont sur la même longueur d’onde | Le Devoir.

La laïcité française, une «inspiration» pour Marois | PAUL JOURNET | Politique québécoise

France urged to end ban on Muslim headscarves in schools amid fears over growing racism

And lastly, a couple of opinion pieces, the first noting the similarities and differences between Canada and Quebec on Christmas and religion (not that significant, much bigger differences between Canada and the US), the  second, by a self-styled “jeune rebel” uses Hitchens to make his arguments for the charter, with a dogmatic approach against religion:

Le Québec toujours habité par la foi  | MATHIEU PERREAULT | National

Hitchens appuierait le projet de loi 60 | Le Devoir

Signes religieux: Pauline Marois sur la défensive – and Other Charter Articles

Further to my earlier post (Question du voile: «On a plus urgent»), on the record of PQ ministers, and previous PQ governments favouring inclusion and openness on religious symbols (when PM Marois was education minister), fun to see lively debate in the Quebec legislature pointing out the contradictions with the approach in the charter.

And like so many politicians these days, she takes what I can only call the “stupid” approach of denying the shift, rather than being honest and having a discussion on why the change. Even if I don’t agree with the Charter, any good comms person or policy advisor to come up with a few talking points that would sound more credible than:

«Jamais, jamais, dans ce document (the 1988 policy document), nous ne parlons de signes ostensibles. Jamais, parce que, dans les faits, comme je suis très cohérente, ce n’était pas dans ce document, puisque dans la charte nous empêcherons qu’il y ait le port de signes religieux ostensibles, et cela va dans le sens du respect, de chacun et de tous et de toutes», a argué la première ministre.

The more the PQ speaks of coherence, the more incoherent it appears.

And the polls do not appear to show that the political gambit of the Charter has worked; the PLQ maintains a lead of 5 points over the PQ, which appears to have reached a plateau, and support for sovereignty is only 33 percent. Hearings on the Charter start mid-January for a period of two months, and we will see what impact they have.

Signes religieux: Pauline Marois sur la défensive | Martin Ouellet | Politique québécoise.

One of the Quebec nursing unions, La Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec (FIQ), surveyed its members showing 60 percent supported the charter. In contrast, most hospitals and other health associations have come out against the charter, given the large number of employees that would be affected, and the impact on operations that would occur.

La FIQ appuie la Charte des valeurs | Hugo Pilon-Larose | Santé

But a number of the larger unions that are members of the FIQ, particularly two in Montreal, have dissociated themselves from this endorsement of the Charter:

Charte de la laïcité: d’importants syndicats se dissocient de la FIQ | Hugo Pilon-Larose | Politique québécoise

Signes religieux chez les élus: le PLQ dénonce un message «d’exclusion»

Consistent yes, but wrong also, banning PQ candidates from wearing religious symbols. “Harmony” indeed, according to Premier Marois. Quebec Liberal Party calling this one correctly, as they have been throughout the Charter debates and discussions.

Signes religieux chez les élus: le PLQ dénonce un message «d’exclusion» | Martin Ouellet | Politique québécoise.

And a reminder of the xenophobic current behind the third party in Quebec (CAQ, formerly ADQ), which provoked the original reasonable accommodation debate over 5 years ago and the Bouchard-Taylor Commission.

«L’islam, une religion de violence», selon le fondateur de l’ADQ | DENIS LESSARD | Politique québécoise

Values charter not an attempt to drum up sovereignty support, Marois says

Would rather believe the commentary in Quebec and English Canada than these protestations to the contrary:

Values charter not an attempt to drum up sovereignty support, Marois says – Canada, Need to know – Macleans.ca.

And the usual political games with PQ leader Marois intimating that some members of the Quebec Liberal Party oppose the position of the Party (likely true, as in the case of most political parties, but Couillard has managed to maintain party discipline):

Le PQ doute de l’unanimité anti-charte au PLQ

And an admission that the Charter is not in conformity with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms from Daniel Turp, a prominent sovereignist and former Bloc Quebecois Member of Parliament:

Charte de la laïcité – Québec devrait user de la clause dérogatoire | Le Devoir

Lastly, Haroon Siddiqui of The Star has a blistering critique of the toughening up of the Charter in Bill 60:

The bill is based on demagoguery. It proposes a solution for a problem that does not exist. It divides society.

It is Orwellian. It claims to preserve secularism by axing a fundamental secular right – the right to freedom of religion that includes the right to show it.

The ostensibly leftist PQ is following rightwing European xenophobes, anti-Semites and Islamophobes. Its bill goes in tandem with recently announced reductions in immigration to Quebec. It is pandering to Quebecers who think that immigration is a threat to “the heritage of Quebec society” (46 per cent, according to a Léger poll) and those who are alarmingly intolerant of religious minorities (according to Forum Research and Angus Reid polls).

http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2013/11/09/pq_goes_all_out_in_waging_war_on_religious_minorities_siddiqui.html