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The last couple of posts, and this and the next post relate to how Canada and Québec’s issues, politics, societal concerns, and social spheres mutually effect each other. This is why we very much share a collective psyche in so many spheres (more which is shared than not). It is a symbiotic relationship.
The following is the second example of three where Québec and Canada are mutually, and currently (right now) influencing and shaping each other’s societal views and collective psyche (an “averaging out” and “melding” of the two, if you will).
This example examines a debate going on right now which involves reasonable accommodations. I have already sufficiently blogged on the question of reasonable accommodations, so there is little need for me to delve into the details of it again. If you wish to read up on the details, you can refer to a few past posts:
SERIES: MULTICULTURALISM AND INTERCULTURALISM (8 POSTS)
- ENG – Multiculturalism Redefined? (#179)
- ENG – Multiculturalism & Interculturalism: Lost in definition… (#180) – POST 1 OF 3
- ENG – Multiculturalism & Interculturalism: Sometimes a Headline-Maker (#181) – POST 2 OF 3
- ENG – Multiculturalism & Interculturalism: The discussion in Québec (#182)– POST 3 OF 3
- ENG – Where is Multiculturalism heading in the next year or two in Québec? (#183)
- FR – Le multiculturalisme redéfini? (#178)
- FR – Le Multiculturalisme & l’interculturalisme: Le concept expliqué (#186)– billet 1 sur 2
- FR – Le Multiculturalisme & l’interculturalisme: Des aspects controversés (#187)– billet 2 sur 2
The latest public debate regarding reasonable accommodations pertains to the wearing of Niqabs in public, or during the participation in / exercise of official government bureaucracy.
The debate started in Québec before it took off in the rest of Canada. The debate took flight in Québec in 2012 with issues surrounding the Chartes des valeurs..
Now that we’re in “unofficial” election mode for the 2015 Federal election, the debate has recently made the leap from Québec into the overall Canadian arena in the last few months (since the end of 2014). However, I do not believe the debate would have become mediatized or political elsewhere in Canada had the matters not already been issues in Québec. Federal pan-Canadian politicians, desirous of votes in Québec and elsewhere in Canada, have brought the debate into the full public Canadian arena (which perhaps would not have happened had certain high-profile federal politicians not got their fingers in it).
A mix of Middle-Eastern politics, current events and religious fundamentalism (which in my view should never have been mixed into the Niqab debate) has been capitalized upon by opportunistic politicians – and these completely unrelated matters have now somehow ended up being tied to a discussion regarding the wearing of the Niqab by the narrowest of minorities in Canada (perhaps involving only a few hundred individuals across the entire country).
Three posts ago, you saw how this debate is now entering the realm of federal political attack advertisements – in a very high-profile manner to say the least (click HERE to see one such ad against the Niqab, but be aware that there are others out there as well).
Generally speaking, for many Canadians, this is the first time they have come face-to-face with this specific debate. Thus, for many in the country, they are still in the learning stage regarding the issue at hand (many, perhaps most, did not even know what a Niqab was until certain politicians decided this would be an election issue). This has therefore left a huge “public understanding gap” which a number of politicians are capitalizing on. These politicians have insinuated to the public that current (violent) Middle-Eastern events and / or “anti-Canadian values” can be tied to wearing the Niqab in a Canadian context, and thus they have filled the public misunderstanding gap with an emotional “plug” (regarding citizenship ceremonies, appropriate dress at court, what is “comfortable” clothing in a public space, what symbols are to be associated with radicalization, and even terrorism [Yikes! Seriously??], etc.).
A few provincial Québec politicians and parties (four parties in Québec to be precise; 1 federal party (the BQ), 3 provincial parties in Québec (the PQ, QS &ON) have been flogging the Niqab issue for three years. It was only because some Federal politicians only recently saw that this was a debate upon which could be capitalized on (following Québec’s example), that this was brought into the Canadian arena as a whole — primarily by the Conservative party
(Note: I am not making a political statement as to whether or not I support the Conservative party overall… I am merely stating that it is a fact that the Conservative Party has brought this issue into the public arena).
The Conservatives have tried their hand at this debate with the rest of Canada, they have crafted their own messaging, and it is now dividing aspects of the Canadian population, and perhaps is paying political dividends (big sigh).
I also know that this issue is dividing certain Conservatives and even Liberals within their own respective parties — right across the country (I have friends in both parties, and people in both parties seem to be torn over the issue, and how it has been politicized). This division within each respective party was perhaps an unintended and unexpected by-product of the debate. But it is also a division which is very present in Québec as well. It is being talked about across the country, and it has now become a Canadian debate in this respect, rather than just a Québec debate (regardless if one is Francophone or Anglophone).
However… my personal feeling is that most Canadians feel that this should not be a public debate, and are rather indifferent to the issue (even if they vote Conservative), despite the attention it is garnering. A perfect indication of this: An election was called in Alberta today for later in May (Canada’s most big “C” Conservative province, and the province where I grew up, and in which much of my family still lives)… and this appears to NOT to be a matter which any Alberta provincial politician wishes to capitalize upon as an election issue (be it Progressive Conservative, Liberal, NDP or Wildrose). I think that says a lot (and I also know many people in Québec who had wished this issue never surfaced in Québec either).
Nonetheless, on the Federal scene, I’m guessing this one debate alone has occupied 15%-20% of the Federal election-issue debate for the first third of 2015 (perhaps even 25% or higher). I personally feel that this is quite sad if these numbers are anywhere close to being accurate; what a waste of precious electoral debate time, especially when there are way more important issues to debate. On the other hand, perhaps it is a good thing that this is being debated… if for nothing else, than to get this debate over with as quickly as possible, and to bury this issue once and for all as a question of public debate; both provincially in Québec, and Federally across Canada. Time will tell what the outcome will be.
If you have never “met” someone who wears a Niqab, I strongly urge you to have a look at the following 25 minute video interview in the CBC article below.
It is an interview with a very well educated businesswoman / entrepreneur who wears the Niqab (does that in itself peak your curiosity??). This interview might help you to understand this Niqab issue better (I wish we saw many more video interviews like this, especially in French and in Québec… where I have so far seen no interviews of this nature to date).
Within the first 24 hours, the above CBC article and interview garnered 2500 comments. I personally cannot remember the last time that I have ever seen a CBC website article accumulate 2500 comments in such a short period of time (I have been reading the CBC news online on an almost daily basis for over a decade, and I have actually never ever seen any of their articles garner 2500 comments). I think that shows just how strongly people across the country feel about the issue — either in support of the person in the video, or against the wearing of the Niqab under certain conditions.
That is precisely why certain political parties are so quick to capitalize on the question, and turn this into an election issue; a perfect example of how Québec’s political and societal debates and sphere also affects the rest of Canada – coast-to-coast.
The next post will provide an example of a public debate which is just starting to gain momentum in English Canada, which has the potential to become a significant issue, and which has the potential to make a jump from English Canada to Québec.