Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Dangerous Logic of Quebec's 'Charter of Values'

“That’s it, I’m moving to Canada.” It’s probably one of the most consulted entries in the modern American liberal’s phrasebook. That, or, “I’m moving to France.” Although it’s far easier said than done (visas can be tricky), it’s not hard to see why the sentiment is so popular among fed-up Democrats. Canada and France, home to universal healthcare, state-funded arts, and rigorous gun control, are generally havens of progressive values. One would think the province of Quebec, which stands at the cultural intersection of French and Canadian progressivism, would be the ideal liberal locale.

But Quebec could soon follow France's lead on government-enforced secularism and depart even more than it has previously from the policies of tolerance and multiculturalism that Canada is known for, all in the name of “values.”

The Quebec Charter of Values (Bill 60) was originally proposed in May 2013 by Bernard Drainville, Quebec’s minister of democratic institutions and active citizenship and a member of the nationalist-separatist Parti Québécois, which won a minority mandate in the 2012 general election. Among other things, the legislation seeks to prohibit public-sector employees from wearing “objects such as headgear, clothing, jewelry or other adornments which, by their conspicuous nature, overtly indicate a religious affiliation”—items like kippahs, turbans, hijabs, and even larger-than-average crucifixes. The ban would apply to all civil servants, including teachers, doctors, nurses, and police officers. It remains unclear whether the bill will pass and withstand legal challenges, but 60 percent of Quebecers now support the charter’s ban on religious symbols.

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