Home » Political Related » Where is Multiculturalism heading in the next year or two in Québec? (#183)

Where is Multiculturalism heading in the next year or two in Québec? (#183)

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The last few posts put the spotlight on multiculturalism and interculturalism, what they are, what role they play regarding controversial matters, and what place they have in public discussion in Québec.

In this post, I’d like to give you a political commentary and place the issue of multiculturalism, interculturalism and reasonable accommodations in the context of current political events in Québec.

This post deals with a number of complex issues, and unfortunately it would be difficult to break it up into smaller posts.  Also, because it is a subjective opinion piece (with many conjectures), I would rather keep it together as one piece and label it as being just that:  a subjective opinion piece with a good number of political conjectures.

Before going further, the essence of this post will only really make sense if you have read the previous posts:

I also strongly urge you to read an earlier post I wrote which covers much of what has happened in Québec politics from March 2012 until January 2015.   The post is entitled Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois (but it discusses many pertinent matters beyond GND).  Without this backgrounder, it may be difficult to understand the “political feeling and atmosphere” of matters discussed below.

The post entitled “Multiculturalism & Interculturalism: The discussion in Québec”, discussed how there are a number of public columnist and opinion-maker figures in Québec (often, but certainly not always in the sovereignist camp) who have taken a very public position against multiculturalism.  The post “Multiculturalism & Interculturalism: The discussion in Québec” explained what their arguments are.

Because their arguments against multiculturalism have been repeated for at least a couple of decades by a good number of high-profile sovereignists, these long-standing arguments have given swaths of the public a misleading view of what multiculturalism is.  At the very least, it makes segments of the public unjustly hostile to certain aspects of multiculturalism.  At the most extreme end of the scale of public sentiment, the projection of anti-multiculturalism views has the potential to influence referendum results should another referendum for sovereignty ever be called (2018, 2022 or 2026 election cycles?).

Québec’s recent history already saw how the Parti Québécois capitalized upon this perceived mismatch and estrangement between multiculturalism and interculturalism.   When the PQ introduced the Charte des valeurs in 2013 (the “Charter of Values”), it was with the intention to “beef-up” interculturalism (a matter within Québec’s provincial jurisdiction) under the claim that multiculturalism doesn’t cut the mustard.   The Charte des valeurs was supposed to legislate (essentially codify in a Napoleonic model) what may be considered “reasonable” accommodations (but more specifically “unreasonable accommodations”) by Québec’s society towards religious devotees in Québec.

Regarding this “codification”, you have to keep in mind that in civil matters, Québec operates under the Napoleonic Code.  This means that laws, regulations and rules are stipulated in writing ahead of time.  Judges simply have to determine if the prescribed legal matter adheres to the written word or not.  However, in the rest of Canada, civil matters fall under Common Law principles, meaning case law evolves as matters are dealt with by the courts, case-by-case.   To date, matters around “reasonable accommodation” have not been codified in Québec (both the federal Multiculturalism Act and Québec interculturalism have been dealt with through evolutionary case law).

With that being said, because Québec exercises jurisdiction over its own interculturalism, I get the sense that people in Québec may not be opposed to the idea of embarking on a codification of certain aspects of “reasonable accommodation” (after all, Québec’s population is very used to, and comfortable with using a codified system of rules.  Likewise, aspects of Québec’s society may feel a bit more awkward when civil and other societal matters are left to – what they may perceive as being – “the winds” of Common Law).

I have no idea if this codification will or will not happen, but there are signs out there that things may be moving in this direction.  If it does occur, it would be a major shift on the multiculturalism and interculturalism front, with major implications – and a Charter of values could be the vehicle under which this may occur.  Keep this in mind as you read on.

In the last post, Multiculturalism & Interculturalism: The discussion in Québec, I discussed that accommodations under multiculturalism and interculturalism are deemed reasonable to the extent that society deems them to be reasonable.  If certain accommodations are not deemed reasonable by society at large, then they are not accorded.  If certain requests for accommodations are deemed reasonable, society is then more than willing to grant them.  Yet if other accommodation requests generate mixed feelings from the public, then society may be willing to strike a compromise with respect to accommodations.

Yet, with the introduction of the Parti Québéois’ Charte des valeurs, the party was proposing to “tell” the public (the majority and minorities alike) what they “should” view as reasonable and unreasonable accommodations.   Up until now, such a codified approach has not been how multiculturalism worked, nor has it been how interculturalism worked.  Accommodations are a societal choice, which fit the situation at the right place, and at the right time.   Little-by-little, society then evolves.   But what the Charte was proposing was a complete one-upping over multiculturalism, under the premise that multiculturalism was broken, and that aspects of interculturalism should be codified under the Charte des valeurs.

The primary goals, under the Charte, would have been to forcefully prevent any provincial public civil servant from wearing any “ostentatious” (ostentatoire) religious symbol (no crosses, no veils, no kippahs, no religious beards, no turbans, etc.).  Thus, religious symbols, by way of a Napoleonic code, would not be accommodated – essentially rendering the Multiculturalism Act (and the flexibility it accords for accommodations) ineffective and defunct in the realm of such matters (there are questions regarding constitutionality of such a Charte, but I’ll get to that a little further down).

But the proposal for the Charte des valeurs didn’t stop there.  During public forum debates of winter 2014 and the 2014 election campaign, fringe elements of the sovereignist movement capitalized on the perceived political momentum that the Charte was generating.  They called for it to include other controversial elements:  applying Bill 101 to CEGEPs which would compel all non-Anglophones to attend college only in French.   Other fringe proposals were to compel federal government operations within Québec to be subject to Bill 101 – meaning that the federal government would not be allowed to operate in English in Québec, nor would it be allowed to render bilingual services.   Pauline Marois (the leader of the PQ at the time), found herself between a rock and hardplace with these supplementary proposals for the Charte.  On one hand, it was not the party’s intention to go this far.  But on the other hand, these fringe proposals were energizing and engaging the PQ’s grassroots base.  There was the appearance that a new momentum was building in favour of the PQ (as a side note, we later learned that this perceived “momentum” was actually an illusion, one which played a role in the PQ’s downfall).  In the end, the PQ did not expressively reject these fringe proposals (for fear of alienating their base), but they did not expressively approve of them either.

This lead to even more “off-shoots” of the “off-shoots”.  One off-shoot proposal was a very grass root movement to control English at the university level, and thus to control out-of-province Anglophone students’ rights to reside in Québec or pursue their studies in Québec.  This proposal further branched into some of the most bizarre sub-proposals, regarding residency rights, voting rights… you name it (the super-star celebrity Jeanette Bertrand took the reins of this one).  A wholly independent “citizens action” movement took root.  The movement was called Les Jeanettes, and the superstar wife of Pierre Karl Péladeau (and perhaps the second most well-known celebrity in Québec after Céline Dion), Julie Snyderjoined forces with Jeanette Bertrand to spearhead a general feminist movement in support the Charte (they even organized large-scale parades in the streets).  You can watch someone’s home footage of it here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hm7LKpW4acc.

The Parti Québécois was hoping that proposals for the Charte des valeurs (both official ones the PQ endorsed, in addition to non-official ones from off-shoot ones from fringe movements) would garner them support from key voting sectors of Québec’s society – and perhaps it did in some ways.  After all, the Parti Québécois and sovereignists in general were bombarding the public with the argument that multiculturalism ran counter to Québec’s interests, and counter to the objectives of interculturalism.   It was an argument used to score political points.  It was intended to make the public believe that (1) they needed a saviour from multiculturalism (thus, in came the Charte), and (2) that Québec needs independence owing to the incompatibility of Canadian multiculturalism with Québec values.

Whereas the Charte proposals gained supporters in some areas of society (mostly with white Francophone voters, particularly residing in suburbs surrounding Montréal – a suburban region which  contains ¼ of Québec’s population), the Charte proposals also had the opposite effect of alienating large swaths of other segments of Québec’s society.   This alienation, combined with other semi-related events of spring & summer 2014 (read the post on Gabriel-Nadeau Dubois) sealed the fate of the Parti Québécois.   In 2014, they lost the 2014 election with their worst election results in more than 30 or 40 years.

Despite the failure of the Parti Québécois’ plans to create a Charte, which would codify a denial of accommodations, damage was likely done in the sphere of how the public perceives multiculturalism.  I say this because almost 18 months was spent with a government in power (the Parti Québécois) telling the public repeatedly that multiculturalism was broken, was not compatible with Québec or Québec values, and that it needed to be replaced (or be superseded).

What prompted the proposal for the Charte des valeurs Québécois to come about in the first place?

With respect to sovereignty, Steven Harper’s Conservative government has seemingly adopted a stance of not debating it in public in Québec, and of “ignoring” it to death (with the latter being the main strategy… i.e.: if you don’t talk about sovereignty, scars will have time to heal, people will concentrate and re-centre their political views around other matters of importance, and the issue will die).  In this respect, on anything regarding the topic of sovereignty, the Conservatives have avoided discussions which could cause emotions to run high, not only in Québec, but also elsewhere in Canada.

In a number of ways, it actually it is a strategy which has worked (I will be the first to admit that I am surprised that it seemed to have worked – on several fronts no less).  Other parties (provincial and federal) appear to also be going down the same path, and all have publicly stated they will not reopen the constitution at any time in a foreseeable future – preferring instead to make many small policy and legal decisions, one incremental step at a time, in order to deal with matters which could otherwise be dealt with in one major fell swoop through a re-opening of the constitution.

The Parti Québécois was well aware that the wind was taken out of their sovereignty sails by this new “ignore-it-to-death” strategy.  After all, the PQ’s adversaries (Ottawa, the provincial Liberals, the provincial CAQ, and other provinces) refused to hand them a public battle on a silver plate.   Traditionally, when emotions run sky high in Québec – particularly anti-“Ottawa” emotions – the PQ and their sovereignty proposals also ride high in the polls.   But in the absence of flash-points of tension with Ottawa, in the absence of a federal-provincial battle, and in the absence of ideological fights between Québec and the rest of Canada, the PQ flounders (very public infighting withing a very diverse PQ party begins) and public support for their ideologies go by the wayside.

The Parti Québécois therefore sees it in their interest to try to find an emotional subject which would forge a poignant wedge between the people of Québec and Ottawa/Anglophone Canada.  Once they believe they have found the magic harp, they traditionally play it until the strings fall off.

Multiculturalism has been one such scapegoat which the Parti Québécois fixed squarely in their sights.  Even if they twisted multiculturalism in every way it could be twisted, and even if they gave it a few more wrings for good measure, they continued to hope that this would be one area which the public might finally latch on to for the purposes of building support and an argument for sovereignty.

I do not believe that the Parti Québécois cared if their proposals were constitutional or not.  Rather, they simply wanted the population to latch on to their proposal for the purpose of igniting an emotional constitutional battle.   If their proposal would have been judged unconstitutional, the Parti Québécois would have probably basked and rejoiced in such a ruling.   They would have touted such a ruling as proof that their anti-multiculturalism and pro-Charte vision of Québec could only be settled by sovereignty, thus giving ammunition to a claim that even “Canada’s constitution is against Québec”.   They may have very well been prepared to invoke the notwithstanding clause to implement the Charte des valeurs, which would have dragged, quite unwillingly but unavoidably might I add, the federal government and federalist opposition parties into the arena – an event the Parti Québécois was bargaining on.  It would have been the emotional constitutional battle they were hoping for.

Commentary:  I routinely hear Anglophone Canadian opinion-makers, politicians outside Québec, and other “quick-lipped” figures say the Charte would be unconstitutional, and thus the Charte cannot come to fruition.  These people say the PQ cannot, and should not introduce the Charte, otherwise they would face a “battle”.  They may be right regarding its constitutionality, but this kind of rhetoric — at least with this type of wording — plays right into the PQ’s hands, and should be avoided (Harper seems to have realized it, and we have not heard him invoke this sort of rhetoric, and he has not spoke publicly about the Charte’s constitutionality… other Federal party leaders also seem to be tip-toeing around the issue, much like Harper).  Yes, if the PQ really wants it, the Charte can be implemented through use of the notwithstanding clause, and yes, it would result in a battle with sky-high emotions — exactly what the PQ wants.  Opinion-makers outside Québec would be wise to reconsider spouting off about the constitutionality of such a move and to look at the bigger picture when developing alternative strategies.  To do otherwise would run the risk of alienating large segments of Québec’s public which feels they ultimately control the levers of their own destiny (sovereignists or not).  There is more at play that just a simple matter of it being constitutional or not.  This one area which is poorly understood by Anglophone Canada .

So what happened that derailed all of this?

However things did not go quite the way the Parti Québécois had hoped.  In the past 10 years, the Parti Québécois has had 3 leaders, 1 long-term interim leader, and they will have a fifth leader in May (Bernard Landry, André Boisclair, Pauline Marois, Stéphan Bédard + possibly Pierre Karl Péladeau in May 2015).   With so many leaders, and with each of them trying to create a flash-point of conflict with Ottawa, multiculturalism as “the holy flash-point” has been lost on the public among many other potential “hot flash-points” the PQ has trumpeted (employment insurance, provincial-federal fiscal imbalance, foreign affairs, cultural affairs, agricultural free trade hurting Québec’s milk & cheese industry, language issues, worker re-training, CRTC decisions, military shipbuilding grants not being given to the Davie Ship Yard in Québec City, fisheries and Ocean matters, oil pipelines, international climate change accords, carbon markets, Canada’s aversion to publicly-funded universal daycare and pharmacare stances, perceived Québec bashing [but Sun News TV is now shut down]… and the list goes on, and on, and on).

In the 10 years that the PQ has had 5 leaders – with each trying to find a new and better federal-provincial flash-point for battle – the public realizes that it is impossible for every little thing to be a flash-point between Québec and Ottawa.  In this respect, I think the public simply lost faith in the Parti Québécois (the PQ simply shot themselves in the foot by always crying wolf).   Thus, the public has not latched on to the multiculturalism argument quite in the same way as the Parti Québécois had hoped.

So then, multiculturalism is no longer a controversial subject in Québec, right?   Well, not so fast…

However (and I say “however” with a very strong tone), multiculturalism has taken a prolonged, hard flogging in the public arena in Québec.   I know a number of people whose backs go up the moment the “M”-word is uttered (and these are reasonable, well-educated people).  When I hear the reasons why people have an adversity towards multiculturalism, many are the same reasons invoked by the Parti Québécois.  This demonstrates that two generations spent of beating it into the ground has taken a toll on the public’s perception of multiculturalism.   On top of that, multiculturalism is not taught in Québec high schools with any seriousness.   And those who I know who have had teachers teach them about multiculturalism say that their teachers’ own understanding of multiculturalism is not accurate either (it is often more about negative perceptions than reality).

The “general” public perception for many in Québec (as a result of a couple of decades of certain political camps trying to score political points) is that multiculturalism cannot protect French, that it is harmful to French, that it was never designed to and cannot help immigrants integrate into a society as different as Québec’s, that it cannot be adapted to Québec’s unique legislative and social programs, that it suffocates and strangles any interculturalism initiatives the government takes, that it is stagnant, that it cannot be reactive, proactive or evolve to reflect changes in Québec’s society, that it can be manipulated by immigrants to allow them to retain English as their lingua-franca, and that it is essentially and culturally an Anglophone solution for an Anglophone society’s way of life – completely incompatible with Québec society.

Whao!  That is a quite a long conveyor-belt of assertions towards multiculturalism.

At the same time, if you were to ask the majority what multiculturalism means (the true definition), as well as “how” it works, these same people who hold the above views would not be able to answer you.  Wham!  There’s the problem!

Here is a video of example of what I mean by the public taking opinion-makers at their word: https://youtube.com/watch?v=iNMMGVJXw3A

[In the above video, the commentator on the left, Mathieu Bock-Côté, is a very well known, high-profile and sovereignist newspaper columnist.  He regularly makes the television and radio talk-show rounds on LCN, Télé-Québec, and RNC radio network.  He has a regular column in the Journal de Montréal and op-eds in La Presse and Le Devoir newspapers. Needless to say, he is quite recognizable in Québec.  I’ve regularly seen and heard him on TV and the radio for several years now.  He is also a university professor;  with his main staff position at Université de Montréal, and as the head of a political science course at the Université de Sherbrooke.  He’s not some fly-by-night figure.  It would be very concerning if he is teaching this inaccurate version of multiculturalism at university, let alone seeing it in the media so often.  You’ll note when the host, Mario Dumont (also very well known; he used to be the ADQ leader and leader of the official opposition in Québec – and I would not even place him in the sovereignist camp anymore) asked for the true definition of multiculturalism, the response given by Bock-Côté was from another planet.  Dumont appeared to not even know the himself, thus it gave Bock-Côté free reign to carry on with his re-wired and distorted version of multiculturalism and what it is doing to Québec.  When asked what multiculturalism is, in one sentence Bock-Côté described it as the host culture having to erase itself so as to make way for every other culture, for all of them to be neutral so every grievance can be accommodated, and so it works against the existence of the host or national culture.  The rest of the interview took this tone (Big sigh – Deep breath).  We have been seeing this far too often in the media].

If you read my previous few posts, you would know that the reality of multiculturalism is quite the opposite of the above assertions.   Nonetheless, damage has been done in the sphere of public perception.  This is likely a reason why provincial parties (the Liberals and CAQ) and federal parties (Conservatives, Liberals and NDP) are all reluctant to even bring up the word “multiculturalism” in Québec.  They know that significant segments of the public will not accurately interpret whatever they say about it.  Thus political speeches, political interviews, and political literature in Québec are devoid of the “M”-word.   Nor has there been a call to include learning about multiculturalism in provincial high school curriculums (likely owing to the fact that teachers may themselves have strong misgivings towards multiculturalism, making it a high-risk topic to incorporate into high school curricula without knowing how it would be conveyed to students.  Plus many may come to believe that a government which implements learning about multiculturalism is one which is trying to score political points).

I will say this – if a non-sovereignist government is looking for a strong political strategy in a related arena, one which could rally the masses, trumpeting the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a far better and much safer bet.  The CCRF is much better understood and much more respected by Québec’s population than multiculturalism.  It is more black and white, and people can see it in action on a daily basis.   It too has its deterrents in some political camps (that’s a whole other book), but nonetheless, most people recognize it is something to be valued.  It is the CCRF which federalist parties are much more willing to openly discuss in public (and they do).  They routinely hold it up as an example of collective values which we all share as one country.

Where does multiculturalism in Québec go from here?

It will take time – a long time – to repair multiculturalism’s public perception in Québec, let alone to even begin to think it could be a topic with which to rally the population around a common cause.

I’m not sure what the best way is to repair its image considering how invisible it has become in education, political discourse, and in the media (that is, when it is not being attacked in certain media circles).  I’m wondering if ignoring multiculturalism – at least as a point of discussion in the public sphere, and similar to recent strategies taken towards sovereignty – might actually be the best solution.  Right now, the “M”-word is not seen in the best light… so perhaps it should be put to sleep as a public debate (at least for the next little while).   Of course, this would be a touchy and controversial strategy.  But an “out-of-sight and out-of-mind” approach would mean that negative perceptions towards multiculturalism would also disappear from public view while the topic is parked for a while.  That might allow time for the M-word’s “rehabilitation” – and its gentle and slow reintroduction as a public discussion topic (perhaps over several years).

The Parti Québécois learned the lesson that it cannot continuously flog this and every other topic under the sun in the hopes that they will all become the holy grail of political conflict needed to incite public support for sovereignty.   Thus, the Parti Québécois has already “backed-off” – and this might just afford the breathing space that multiculturalism needs in order to slowly have its image repaired.

The Charter 2.0

With that being said, there is one more chapter on the horizon in this murky realm:  La Charte 2.0 (The Charter of Québec Values, version 2.0).   When you now mention la Charte 2.0, almost anyone in Québec who follows politics will know what you’re talking about.   Following the utter failure in 2014 of the PQ’s Charte des valeurs québécoises, an elected Parti Québécois MNA, Bernard Drainville (a famous and former Radio-Canada reporter and the author of the original Charte des valeurs) decided to run for the leadership of the Parti Québécois.  Yet, he is running on a platform of a “toned-down” version of the Charte (which has been nicknamed the Charte 2.0).

Unlike in 2014, Drainville and his supporters will not allow the Charte 2.0 to be highjacked and torn in all directions by “fringe elements” of the party or extreme fringe supporters of sovereignty.   Thus, he has considerably narrowed the focus of the Charte 2.0.  The original version of the Charte would have banned anyone receiving a paycheque from adorning oneself of any religious symbols.   Those who would have been affected by the original version included as wide range of people as public daycare workers, a payroll clerk distributing paycheques in a Northern Inuit village’s community centre (ie: no beads on Inuit jackets if they had to do with Inuit religious beliefs), a person responsible for cutting municipal grass with a weed-whacker, a trucker hauling septic tanks between provincial camp gounds – anyone receiving public pay, period.

La Charte 2.0 would be much narrower and would contain only two proposals for codified accommodations / non-accommodations:

  • It would only ban religious symbols for the most visible and most authoritative public servants (those making decisions in which avoidance of a perception of bias would be deemed paramount). These professions would likely only be restricted to provincial police officers, judges, provincial immigration officers (those working in Québec’s provincial immigration ministry), and perhaps physicians and certain teachers/professors (although these last two professions are still up for debate within Bernard Drainville’s own ranks).
  • The second proposal foresees that those already working in the above professions would be subject to a grandfather clause. This means they would not be subject to the news rules and only those entering the professions would be subject to the Charte 2.0.  There is still a debate within the Parti Québécois if the grandfather clause would be for a 5 year period, 10 year period, or indefinitely.

Can this proposal come to fruition?

La Charte 2.0 has not gone unnoticed by the ruling provincial Liberals.   During the 2014 election campaign, the Liberal leader and Québec’s Premier, Philippe Couillard, said a Liberal government would be prepared to “quickly” adopt similar value-based legislation, but repackaged under the label of “secularism” rather than the label of “values” (i.e. a “Charter of Secularism” or Charte de laïcité).   After all, the watered-down version of the Charte 2.0 is not very harsh, nor is it nearly as radical.  I would dare to say that 2.0 could possibly be swallowed by sufficient portions of Québec’s population (and it could possibly even be swallowed by a sizeable portion of Anglophone Canada’s population, had this occurred elsewhere in Canada… But then again, there’s no way of truly knowing unless circumstances were to play themselves out).

This was a political strategy decision on the part of the provincial Liberals.   I’ll explain:

The Liberals know that the Parti Québécois’ long leadership race will concentrate primarily on sovereignty and the introduction of a new referendum as quickly as possible (which differentiates this Parti Québécois leadership race from any past PQ leadership races).   The Parti Québécois has said themselves that any new referendum initiative would likely be the very last one in Québec’s history (at least for the next 50 – 100 years) regardless of which way it goes.  Thus, they do not want to make the errors of the past election – that of running on a complex, multi-faceted platform.  They want to restrict political debate squarely on sovereignty and the next referendum (rather than other governance issues).   This is one of the main reasons why Pierre Karl Péladeau looks set to win the leadership of the party in May 2015.  He publicly stated that he is not at all interested in governance issues should he become premier, and that his only concentration would be to hold a referendum as quickly as possible, then resign and get out of politics.

However, Bernard Drainville, one of the party leadership contenders, has ruthlessly kept alive the idea of the Charte 2.0.  Perhaps he truly believes in its merits, or perhaps he still believes it continues to have the potential to invoke a constitution crisis on the multicultural front with Ottawa should a referendum be called (or perhaps he believes both – which is what I would venture to say he believes).

Nonethless, the provincial ruling Liberals have taken note, and they appear ready to “one-up” the Parti Québécois.   I mentioned above that the provincial Liberals have publicly stated (no less as part of their 2014 election platform) that they would be prepared to “quickly” invoke secularism legislation very similar to la Charte 2.0.   Their proposals were not unlike Drainville’s Charte 2.0.  Yet five months have gone by since the Liberals were elected, and their “quick” secularism legislation has not yet been proposed.

What are they waiting for?  Well, I think they’re waiting to see how Drainville’s Charte 2.0 goes over with the public during the Parti Québécois’ own leadership debates from February 2015 to May 2015.  If the Parti Québécois only selects two major issues to form their new mantra (that of fast-tracked sovereignty and the Charte 2.0) then the provincial Liberals may make their move and introduce their own Charte 2.0 – thus stealing the thunder from half of the Parti Québécois’ new mantra.  I believe the provincial Liberals would do this knowing that it would (a) avoid a constitutional showdown with Ottawa (the provincial Liberals would be much better able to navigate these waters with Ottawa so that it does not become a constitutional crisis), and (b) the Parti Québécois will have half their new raison d’être taken away from them by the Liberals in one fell swoop.

There is also another reason why the Liberals may be stalling with respect to introducing a Secularism Charter (Charte de laïcité);  they may feel it prudent to see if the Parti Québécois’ proposal leads to public condemnation.  If the PQ’s Charte 2.0 proves to once-again polarize Québec’s public while the PQ hashes it out among themselves, the Liberals may simply want to let the Parti Québécois have it.  This means the Liberals may not want touch it (after all, why would the Liberals want to assume responsibility for divisive, poisonous legislation if, on the other hand, leaving it to the Parti Québécois would result in the public once again tearing the Parti Québécois to shreds?).

However, if Québec’s public does appear to develop an appetite/tolerance for a greatly watered-down Charte 2.0, the Liberals may then want it for themselves, and thus kill many birds with one stone by introducing a Charte de laïcité.

In this sense, multiculturalism (and especially issues around accommodations) has now become the new political ping-pong toy – and is quickly becoming a pawn on a chessboard, rather than an ideology for societal advancement and progress.  The unfortunate direct side-effect is that its true meaning, goals, and worth has been lost on the public, and many out there simply look at it as an objectified component in overall competing political platforms.

We likely won’t know what the Liberals will do until after October 2015.  In the meantime, they will probably want to wait to see how the PQ leadership campaign pans out, what the PQ will do with the Charte 2.0, what the public reaction will be, how it will all play out during the federal election campaign, and then the provincial Liberals will make their move (one way or the other), after the federal election in October 2015.

At the end of the day, any provincial legislative bills regarding a Charte 2.0 will directly butt-up against the federal Multiculturalism Act, and there may be additional constitutional implications.  The Québec Liberals first need to know who their partner in Ottawa will be (Conservative? Liberal? Minority? Majority?).   Only after October 2015 will they be in a position to make some major (but quite sensitive and delicate) decisions.

That’s where we’re sitting on the multiculturalism front in Québec right now.  It’s certainly not boring.  Although the next chapter will be written over the next few months, the final phrases of the chapter may not be finalized until late in 2015/early 2016.

I guess we’ll all have to wait to find out what happens.  🙂

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COMPLETE SERIES:  MULTICULTURALISM AND INTERCULTURALISM (8 POSTS)

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1 Comment

  1. […] Where is Multiculturalism heading in the next year or two in Québec? (#183) […]

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