Que­bec’s cruel crack­down on mi­nori­ties

The Peterborough Examiner - - Opinion -

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.

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