In the light of Quebec’s proposal of a new “secularism” law today, I share this (entirely appropriate and relevant) statement of the Presbytery of Montreal from 2014.
Response to Bill 60 from
The Presbytery of Montreal, of
The Presbyterian Church in Canada (2014)
The Presbytery of Montreal, a body of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, hereby offers its response to Project de loi no. 60: Charte affirmant les valeurs de laïcité et de neutralité religieuse de l’État ainsi que d’égalité entre les femmes et les hommes et encadrant les demandes d’ accommodement. We offer our response in terms of the following affirmations and the following areas of disagreement.
1.1 We acknowledge and celebrate the unique identity of Quebec as a Francophone nation and province within Canada, and acknowledge the particular religious and cultural history that has shaped its values, laws, and social fabric. We also acknowledge and celebrate the presence of other linguistic and cultural communities within Quebec – including a large Anglophone minority – and celebrate the contributions such communities have made to the history, identity, and success of Quebec as a liberal democratic polity. We believe that Quebec has been enriched by this diversity.
What am I supposed to feel when I stand across from a government employee at the SAAQ (the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec)? This employee might ask for my expired registration papers. She will tell me how much it costs to re-register my car. She will probably point out that there are unpaid parking tickets to be dealt with before she can renew my registration. “Ok, ok, I knew those tickets would catch up with me eventually.”
But what am I supposed to feel or experience when I stand across from this employee?
Apparently Bernard Landry thinks that there is something particular I should be feeling or experiencing. Specifically, he seems to think that I should be experiencing some kind of dissonance or distress on account of the hijab she is wearing.
Landry, who is the former leader of the Parti Québecois, and the former premier of the province, has recently become the point person in publicly defending Quebec’s yet-to-be released charter of secularism – a charter that would apparently prevent this nameless Quebec employee from wearing her hijab.
And from his comments on the subject, I gather that M. Landry thinks there is something deeply problematic when I stand looking at this muslim-woman-employee through the plexiglass. There she is in her colourful scarf and with her professional demeanor. And here I am with my impatient “I need to get back to work” attitude. There is a problem here, apparently.