Quebec’s cruel crackdown on minorities
What do you call a misguided government that threatens to slash immigration, fire civil servants for wearing religious symbols at work and deport immigrants who fail language tests?
In many parts of today’s world, “authoritarian,” “xenophobic” and “racist” would leap to mind.
In Canada, the three words “Coalition Avenir Québec” do the job.
The upstart party recently elected to become Quebec’s next government is poking a hornet’s nest with its mean-spirited threats to get tougher with immigrants and deny to much of the province’s public sector fundamental rights that are enshrined in law.
Here’s hoping the Coalition Avenir Québec gets stung and wilts under the hot winds of opposition blowing from within and without the province.
The hostile policies it’s aiming not only at newcomers but minority groups that have been in Quebec for generations are outrageous, divisive, unfair and unjustifiable.
Incoming premier François Legault may claim he has the right to keep his election promises to cut immigration by 20 per cent and even expel newcomers who fail French-language and Quebec-values tests. He may argue, too, that voters handed him a mandate to prohibit public sector workers in positions of authority — such as police, prison guards, teachers and judges — from wearing any visible religious symbol on the job.
But no one has a mandate to tear apart a diverse, harmonious society in order to impose some perverse, anachronistic notion of social purity. And Legault’s defiant vow to invoke the notwithstanding clause to enact his odious policies proves he knows they would violate Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The CAQ has failed to make a convincing case that Sikh police officers wearing turbans or Muslim teachers wearing head scarves are unable to do their jobs.
There are already workers successfully employed in these roles and wearing such religious symbols either in Quebec or other parts of Canada.
Legault argues the state should be secular and neutral. Fair enough. But it’s absurd to argue that a Jewish teacher wearing a kippa cannot provide secular, neutral instruction or that students will conclude the small head covering means the state is actively promoting Judaism.
And, lacking a convincing argument, the government has no moral grounds for denying individuals their right to practise their faith.
Likewise, threatening to deport immigrants who fail language and values tests within a certain time limit is plainly wrong, as well as cruel. Yes, newcomers should become a part of Canadian life. But they should be helped and welcomed into the mainstream, not prodded and badgered.
As for drastically cutting Quebec’s intake of immigrants, many voices in Quebec are already insisting that the province needs this infusion of new blood to keep its economy healthy.
A hopeful sign that many Quebecers are more tolerant and understanding than their next government came last weekend when thousands of people in the province protested these policies — many calling them racist.
The Coalition has hinted it might be flexible in the workplace and limit to new hires the ban on wearing religious symbols. More protests could make it retreat farther.
For its part, the federal government should be clear and vigorous in opposing these objectionable policies.
Perhaps it could facilitate Canadian citizenship for immigrants in Quebec who pass the required tests. We doubt even an intransigent Legault could deport a Canadian citizen.