Québec: Canada’s Xenophobic Obsession
Pic by: Ulrik F. Thyve
Now that science has determined that women can neutralize all of men’s self-respect protection systems by exposing very precisely 40% of skin and my own experience with the very powerful effect of long dark hair being nonchalantly tossed over a shoulder to reveal a soft, tanned neckline, I think we can all agree that Islam’s founders knew what they were talking about.
If only we could say as much about the English-Canadians media…
Just last week I was eating soup at a Vancouver area Timmy’s after driving 5000 kilometers across northern Ontario, the Prairies—where I did not come across any mosques, big or little—and a snowstorm in the Rockies, just letting the left coast mellow wash away my separatist rage while I read the Vancouver Sun, only to discover that the religious paraphernalia of Québec’s civil servants was what was on British Columbian minds.
Who knew? More than seven months after Gérard Bouchard and Charles Taylor handed in their report on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences I had to drive across an entire continent to find out that Québec was still obsessing with so-called reasonable accommodations!
“Reasonable accommodation is a ridiculous phrase, not least because it sounds like a reference to a decent hotel room”, writes Naomi Lakritz in Reasonable Accommodations: Québec’s Xenophobic Obsession. “But used in the context of Quebec, it’s clunky and it carries overtones of an us-versus-them mentality that, frankly, because it is not an issue in the rest of Canada, lends a distinct xenophobic tinge to Quebec’s obsession with the idea.”
And I naively thought we had moved on to much more important topics, like how not speaking English very well is a worse crime than being a front for organised crime…
Lakritz, a former writer for the National Examiner, the fine news organization that broke the story of the Clinton divorce and the return of Bob Barker as host of the Price is Right, is apparently very angry at the prevailing consensus in Québec that employees of the state should not be allowed to wear visible religious clothing.
“As I type this, I am wearing a chain with a little pendant on which is inscribed in Hebrew the Shema, the prayer that is central to Judaism. I’ll wear what I please in this free country, regardless of whether I work in the private or public sector.”
Listen, Naomi, I don’t care if you have Aleister Crowley’s eight lecture on Yoga for Yahoos! tattooed on your ass and share it with the world in your free time, there is no way you will wear what you please while on the clock at the Société de l’Assurance Automobile du Québec. You’re not wearing a Bloc Québécois baseball cap while you’re working for the government and you’re not wearing a Marc Lépine Rocks t-shirt. Some things are absolutely inappropriate to wear when representing the government of all Québécois.
Are religious symbols part of those inappropriate symbols? I’m not sure. I haven’t made up my mind. A ban on religious symbols is a pretty radical idea, but it’s a popular idea in societies that have first hand knowledge of religious extremism. It’s the prefered option in Turkey, pretty much the only progressive and democratic muslim country out there.
My parents grew up in a province where catholic priest administered the province and when people who didn’t happen to be loyal Roman catholics, Anglicans or members of a major jewish congregation basically didn’t have access to education or health care. They fought pretty hard to kick God out of Québec’s schools and government and their not about to let him back in.
A ban on religious symbols is many things. It’s hardcore, I’ll give that to you. It’s not a perfect solution either. The one thing it isn’t, though, is a manifestation of intolerance. It’s the exact opposite of that. It’s a dedication to the principle that all citizens are absolutely equal before the state. Period.
Although well intentioned, Canadians must never forget that their approach, the so-called multicultural approach, the idea that the State can treat citizens differently, depending on their culture, religion and beliefs, is part of the same continuum that, in most extreme cases leads to “separate but equal”, segregation, apartheid and Indian Reservations.
Oh, I’m exaggerating, now, am I?
Well tell me then, which xenophobic Québec school board was it that brought back racially segregated schools in 2009? Wait, was it la Beauce? No, wait, was it those evil rednecks in the Saguenay?
No. It was the Toronto District School Board in Ontario.
The path to hell is paved with good intentions, they say. Just ask Anakin Skywalker.