The proposed Charter of Quebec Values. Telegraphed Gazette Column. 18 September 2013
The push by the Parti Quebecois to institute a charter which would force neutrality upon all government, and public sector employees has received mixed reviews from inside the province, while outside of Quebec in the rest of Canada, things have tended to lean towards a protest of this proposed charter. Now this does not mean that there is no support for this legislation outside of Quebec; indeed when I spoke of this to some of my outfit members in Planetside 2 (keep in mind that I do not know their actual nationality) expressed support for it, and subsequently stated that they wished the United States of America would also sign into affect this sort of legislation.
Officially titled: Charte des valeurs quebecoises, this proposed bill would bring into effect the following: amend the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, establish a duty of neutrality and reserve for all state personnel, limit the wearing of conspicuous religious symbols, make mandatory to have one’s face uncovered when providing or receiving a state service, and finally establish an implementation policy for state organizations. While most obvious religion items are prohibited – such as a turban, hijab, etc – finger rings, small pendants, and earrings will be permitted. Alongside these exemptions is the crucifix in the Quebec National Assembly, and the observation of Christmas; both of which have been cited as a key piece to Quebec cultural heritage, and both have led to allegations of ethnocentric hypocrisy.
Right now in the present time, all 3 of the major federal parties have come out to publicly denounce the bill, citing it as a sort of tool towards separation: for when the supreme court challenges this and strikes it down, the Quebec government can in turn say that Ottawa is interfering with Quebec’s domestic affairs, and that in order to avoid this from happening again, it is time to separate – according to Justin Trudeau of the Liberal Party of Canada.
Now let us brush aside all the mud and grime that has splattered on top of this piece of paper and really look at what the ink says – yes there is a sort of “encripted code” metaphor being used here, so let us begin. On one hand an individual can argue that Quebec wants their population to be culturally homogenous; as evident by their bill 101 – which protects the French language and gives it priority over all other languages, mainly English – and now the Charter of Quebec Values. Now no where in there does it say that a particular ethnicity shall be barred from holding public office, for a white woman can also be ordered to adhere to this practice and remove her hijab if she is a Muslim. Now let us look at the definition of racism for a moment here: Racism; noun; 1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others. 2. a policy, system of government, etc, based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination. 3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.
Racism can also be best described in this format (disclaimer: the following is an example, and should be interpreted as such): I am Asian, I have a head size of 3.457, and I have black hair and brown eyes; therefore I am superior to you, filthy, unwashed peasants. Your small heads and skeletal structures make you weak and inferior, and due to the smallness of your skull, your blood vessels are more restricted, giving you less intelligence, and academic capabilities. There, scientific racism at its finest.
With that example on the table, let us look at this charter of values: who says a Muslim HAS to be a middle-eastern woman? Where in the literature does Sikhism HAVE to be the soul property of Indian men? Where does it say that ONLY a white male is allowed to be a Christian? The points I am trying to make, are they getting through? This is about cultural beliefs, not about race. People always pulling the race card hoping it would make all other arguments invalid is another story for another day: my point is if they wanted to discriminate against races, they could make ancestral background checks mandatory for all public service employees. Example of this could be: “Was your family here between 1627 and 1775? Do you have any ancestors from that time period?” Pure-blood Quebecers – as they like to put it – will be able to trace their ancestry all the way to that time period, and so they can get priority in the wait list for a public sector job: magic is it not?
The Parti Quebecois is just trying to make their government services less religious, and more neutral when it comes to such affairs. After all enforcing neutrality can – in some cases – give benefits to the greater society for they do not see the government as taking a bi-partisan stance on things; kind of like our Monarch! The charter is meant to put everyone on the same playing field, so that they can gel into one cohesive unit. A polyethnic society, where the population is made up of different ethnicities, and where they all speak the same language, believe in the same political system, and carry common hobbies, social practices, and so forth. The lines of race, or religion, or anything else that divides us, disappears beneath the snow and ice, and we are left with one, cohesive peoples: the Quebecers.
Yet, here is the opposite side of the coin: how does a head scarf, or a head piece, prevent someone from carrying out their duties? The example I will use is the United States Marine Corps and their policy on tattoos. The USMC has a limit of 4 tattoos, and the limitations also extend to what kind of tattoos one has on their body; no racist, hateful, sexist, or disloyal markings are acceptable. Now the latter half I agree with entirely, but a limit of 4? People, just because a kid’s got tattoos does not mean they cannot fight; more often than not they do the fighting, and the hard, dirty, dangerous work that is needed to win wars. They are the ones who have that bit of extra fire in them, and they have what it takes to carry on even when they are cold, wet, thrashed, hungry, and sleep deprived. Tattoos does not make them any less of a marine than a clean-body marine: and neither does a hijab, or turban.
Sikhs have a proud tradition of soldiering, and I remember from when I was in grade 7, this Indo-Canadian man came on TV to explain why Sikhs were enlisting at a fairly high rate according to the statistics drawn up for that research. The Sikhs have a tradition of being the warriors, and they transferred that culture into the British Indian Army, and later on the various commonwealth forces that they were allowed to join. Okay cool, so their turban somehow makes them more a soldier than a shaved head farm boy from Saskatchewan? No it does not my friend, nor does it make them any less of a soldier than the Saskatchewan farm boy.
The clothing must be business casual, the uniform must be CADPAT; they understand that, and they have not done a thing to change that. All they ask, is that they be allowed to carry on some traditions of which their ancestors have done so for generations – the Sikhs in particular – but apart from that they WILL speak the same language as you, they WILL adhere to your laws, and they WILL respect your national institutions. When the attacks occurred in Norway, people would have never expected the attacker to be a upper-middle class, Norwegian male who attended university in Oslo. These sorts of hateful, disgusting, attacks are carried out by the lovely little bunch of insane, “mental patients” who misinterpreted the text, and then proceeded to take that interpretation and use it for their crimes.
The day care worker is not going to say: “listen kids, you are now going to become Jewish!” nor will a public service worker lean into a conversation with a citizen and say: “I only serve Catholics, you heathen scum.” The cloth, the fabric, or the piece of metal, is not going to turn them into preachers, cultists, or what have you. The cloth, the fabric, or the piece of metal, just says they are religious: much like the tattoo says that this marine is part of this regiment, or that he or she is loyal unto death, or they have the guts to win, or they like guns. Come on guys, it is not going to change these people, and turn them into cannibalistic, slaving mutants hell bent on world domination. When you walk towards a counter, they will not convert you, only ask you for your ID, and care card. When you put your kid in that day care, all that little child is going to learn is A, B, C, D, E, F, G. H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P. No “special agenda” here people, however the idea of everyone wearing a suit, or the bearskin and red tunic, or jeans and T-shirt has a certain appeal towards it. After all the Chinese-Canadian community does not go about wearing Ming Dynasty clothing, nor do Cossacks in Canada wear their traditional clothes when out in downtown Toronto.
Tough topic ladies and gentlemen, there is no easy answer because when you look at places like Saudi Arabia, they do enforce a dress codes and religious practices. Likewise in Japan, they also enforce cultural practices: we here in the west are free to openly discuss these topics as it is not a matter of race, but a matter of how we want our nations to look like in the near future. Already some cases in Europe have declared Multiculturalism a failure, so it is only a matter of time before we engage in a serious discussion over what to expect from our citizens, and how do we communicate this is a manner that will convince them that we want them to be part of our society, and that we are not interested in differences, only similarities. Heck another example is the French Foreign Legion: the unit is part of the French army, but only foreigners can join it. How do they get people from so many different backgrounds to gel as a cohesive fighting unit? Legion traditions: marching songs, hats, Legion cultural lingo, and the French language as the common language of all the recruits in the Legion. When someone wants to be “smart”, or “funny” and say: “hey are there any Chinamen in the Legion?” the Legionnaires will answer: “You will only find Legionnaires here.” That sentence – aside from the rather distasteful remark from a hypothetical idiot prior to (it is an example by the way) – signals that Legionnaires are Legionnaires; there is no difference between a Legionnaire who is of the Chinese ethnicity and the Legionnaire from Romania. This cohesive family-like structure is appealing to me in some ways. When someone asks me what am I, I reply Canadian. When they probe further, I get pissed: I do not like to think of myself as anything else. When I am identifying my ethnicity for a statistical survey or something along those lines, fine, I will cooperate. However when it comes to the general public, I dislike those who seem to always be astonished at the fact that I am a Canadian, and not what they think I was. Look genius, last time I checked, you do not look “American.” The hair is too blonde, and the eyes – oh the eyes – they seem more, Russian. Get my point?
On one hand, cohesive people from various backgrounds, all gelling together as one: sounds great, but it might need more work. Yet on the flip side, even without this “united as one peoples” sort of chant, the turban, or the hijab, is not going to stop him or her from giving me my medical attention, helping me carry the ammo across the 600 meter zone, or helping me up when I fell on my rear end because I did not see the sign when I ran into the hallway.