Secularism Betrayed: 2020 Version

English-Canadian pseudo-secularists sink even lower.


Several ostensibly “secularist” organizations in Canada outside Quebec either oppose Bill 21 or maintain a cowardly silence or neutrality on the subject. The situation has degenerated since the PQ’s Charter of Secularism in 2013-2014.

Sommaire en français Plusieurs organismes prétendument « secularist » au Canada hors Québec s’opposent à la Loi 21, ou gardent un silence ou une neutralité pusillanimes à ce sujet. La situation actuelle est encore pire que celle à l’époque de la Charte de la laïcité du PQ en 2013-2014.

We Canadians have the good fortune to live in a country where one of the founding peoples (if I may use that quaint expression), concentrated mainly in one province, has articulated a very well developed modern tradition of secularism. I say “tradition” because it is well over a century old, yet “modern” because it is very much a product of Enlightenment values, values to which all of us who are concerned with human welfare are greatly attached.

Quebec secularists have worked very hard, for many decades, towards their goal of secularism in that province. The most recent product of their efforts is Bill 21. That legislation is faced with great resistance and hostility. Dishonest journalists and politicians constantly denigrate Quebec, Quebeckers and secularism and misrepresent what Bill 21 does.

Secularists throughout Canada should be enthused by the adoption of Bill 21 and offer their whole-hearted support and solidarity to their Quebecois colleagues.

Secularists throughout Canada should be enthused by the adoption of Bill 21 and offer their whole-hearted support and solidarity to their Quebecois colleagues. And it should not require the intervention of outsiders to teach them to recognize the value of that legislation. But no, they have not done so. Blinded by various dubious ideologies, they have thrown Quebec secularists under the bus, either by keeping a cowardly silence or, worse, by siding with the Islamists and their allies who are determined to kill secularism.

A Deafening Silence

Where are the articles in support of Bill 21 on the websites of the Centre for Inquiry Canada (CFIC), or Humanist Canada (HC), or the Canadian Secular Alliance (CSA) or any other ostenibly secular organization in English Canada? Where are the press releases expressing solidarity with Quebec secularists and their resistance against the tsunami of hostility from the English-language media and from federal, provincial and municipal politicians? The articles analyzing how Canadian multiculturalism is incompatible with secularism and thus should be revised or abandoned? The articles denouncing the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) for its attempt to kill secularism in Quebec? The articles denouncing the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) for its complicity?

Where are the texts explaining how schoolchildren are vulnerable to the influence of teachers who wear religious symbols? The articles explaining that allowing a State employee to wear a religious symbol while on duty is an obvious example of religious privilege?

Where are the texts written by English Canadian humanists and secularists analyzing the antisecularism of Charles Taylor and the clientelism of Justin Trudeau who panders so much to religious minorities? Where are the articles denouncing the American media’s knee-jerk hostility to French secularism? We saw an example of that very recently, with the dishonest article in the Washington Post by James McAuley who deliberately conflates masks worn for health reasons with the full Islamic veil.

If lack of member support prevents the Directors of an organization from making official declarations, that does not prevent them from publishing opinion pieces in support of Bill 21.

Perhaps there are such articles or press releases and I have missed them. If you know of any, please send me the links using the contact form on this site.

Secularism: A Foundational Principle? Or Merely an Option?

Any Canadian organization which claims to be secularist must, to be consistent, support Bill 21. If an organization cannot endorse Bill 21 because of insufficient support by its members, then the Directors should at least have the honesty to admit that secularism is not part of that organization’s foundational principles, but merely an option which it may abandon, depending on where the wind is blowing at the current moment.

…secularism is not part of that organization’s foundational principles, but merely an option which it may abandon, depending on where the wind is blowing…

The fact that an incomplete model of secularism—i.e. the Lockean—is the norm in the RoC is no excuse. The major difference between the Lockean model and full secularism is the absence of the separation principle in the former. And yet, the principle of separation between State and religions is well known in the English language and frequently invoked. All that secularists need to do is to take that principle seriously, to apply it where appropriate, to be consistent with their own declared values. If a State employee, while on duty, wears a visible crucifix, or a hijab, or a kippa, or a Sikh turban, or any other obvious religious symbol, then the separation principle is clearly violated. To deny this is disingenuous and dishonest.

From Cowardice to Hypocrisy

The neutrality with respect to Bill 21 adopted by some organizations is an act of cowardice. But the behaviour of CFIC is far worse. An article included in CFIC’s May 2020 newsletter not only opposes Bill 21 to the point of throwing support behind the antisecularists of the NCCM, but it even shows willingness to lie as a strategy in the court case—by using the falsehood that Bill 21 discriminates against women. It is not clear whether this article represents the organization’s formal position, but if CFIC does not, in the very near future, distance itself from that position by making a public declaration renouncing those who seek the repeal of Bill 21, then we can conclude that CFIC is guilty of abysmal hypocrisy by opposing the very principle, secularism, which it claims to support.

…opposing the very principle, secularism, which it claims to support.

(I do not have time to discuss the BCHA here, but its position is even worse, because it has explicitly rejected secularism by using the word “laïcité” as an excuse to dismiss it.)

We who support Bill 21 are either abandoned or stabbed in the back by our so-called “sister organisations” outside Quebec. The behaviour of Canadian pseudo-secularists has been cowardly, irrational, and extremely hypocritical.

It was not always so: back in 2013-2014, several English-Canadian organizations, including Humanist Canada, supported the PQ’s Charter of Secularism of the time. And, to the best of my knowledge, they did so on their own initiative. But today, things have degenerated. That same HC has adopted a neutral position. See the analysis and discussion in AFT Blog #118.

Apparently no Canadian group outside Quebec will support Bill 21, even though it is weaker than the PQ Charter was with respect to religious symbols. But some tell us to be patient, that we should be diplomatic. No Way. English-Canadian pseudo-secularists have no excuse. They deserve the full brunt of our criticism.

Next blog: TBA

2 thoughts on “Secularism Betrayed: 2020 Version”

  1. Here what could be some reasons why those pseudo-secularists do not support the Secular of Québec (Bill-21):
    1)Coalition Avenir Québec is a center right party. In the so-called Canadian Left they even qualified CAQ a “racist” party, therefore the secularism of the CAQ is based on racism. Of course nobody are able to answer the following question: since when religion is a race?
    3)Confusion between freedom of conscience and freedom of religion. Freedom of conscience protects believers and non believers, freedom of religion protects only the believers.
    4)Anti-french chauvinism

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