Quebec Bill 21 Causes Earthquakes, Anal Warts and the Collapse of Civilisation

2019-05-21

In this blog I present a sampling of articles in which opponents of Quebec Draft Bill 21 make outrageous claims as they attempt to rationalize their irrational opposition to the Bill.

Sommaire en français Dans ce blogue je présente un échantillon de plusieurs articles dans lesquels des opposants au projet de loi 21 du Québec font des déclarations extravagantes dans le but de rationaliser leur opposition irrationnelle à cette législation.

Given their lack of any plausible line of reasoning, antisecularists, in their vituperations against Quebec Draft Bill 21, have a strong tendency toward dishonesty, irresponsible speculation and sometimes complete nonsense. Here are a few examples.

  • The Ignoble Prize for Hyperbole goes to William Steinberg, mayor of the Montreal suburb of Hampstead, who accused Bill 21 of promoting “ethnic cleansing.” He subsequently qualified his remark by stating that he was talking about “peaceful ethnic cleansing,” not by direct violence. Either way, this outrageous claim is an extreme example of the defamatory behaviour of many opponents of the Bill.
  • The Ignoble Prize for Dogmatism goes to the Conseil québécois LGBT (Quebec LGBT Council) for its May 10th declaration « Des organismes LGBT dénoncent le projet de loi 21 » (“LGBT Organizations Denounce Draft Bill 21”) which (1) falsely accuses the Bill of being discriminatory, (2) repeats the slander linking the Bill to anti-Muslim violence and (3) laments the legislation’s restrictions on face-coverings which are “obviously aimed at veiled Muslim women and thus contribute to the stigmatisation of a population already hyper-marginalized.” In other words, the Council completely ignores the fact that fundamentalist Islam promotes death for gays, lesbians and other sexual minorities and instead chooses to express its solidarity with fundamentalist Islam’s favourite propaganda ploy, promotion of the veil, even the face-covering niqab. Why? Because unconditional defense of fundamentalist Muslims (while throwing secular Muslims under the bus) is part of the regressive pseudo-left dogma to which the Council evidently adheres.
  • The Ignoble Prize for Hypocrisy goes to CFI Canada (CFIC), an organization which claims to support secularism and critical thought but which abandons both in its attitude towards Bill 21. I discussed CFIC’s betrayal of its espoused principles in a previous blog.
  • The Ignoble Prize for Pseudoscience goes to McGill University psychiatric residents Sara Hanifi and Salam El-Malouf and many cosigners for their April 26th article which alleges that Bill 21 will negatively affect Quebecers’ health! They associate the Bill with “exclusion,” “hateful and racist speech” and “interpersonal and systemic discrimination” no less. Their discourse is replete with the familiar specious vocabulary (including the notorious “Islamophobia”) of the regressive pseudo-left which racializes religion and thus enables religious privilege. Their entire thesis is based on the false assertion that the Bill is discriminatory—a house of cards which crumbles on first inspection. Columnist Denise Bombardier qualified these psychiatrists’ theory as paranoid ravings. I basically agree, although I consider their nonsense to be more ideological than paranoid.
  • Coren […] fails to distinguish the public sphere (which is totally unaffected by Bill 21) from the civil sphere […]

  • In Maclean’s Magazine, Michael Coren has a cow over Bill 21 in his article “Quebec’s proposed secularism law is repugnant. Here are six reasons why.” Coren repeats the old canard about “discrimination” against Muslims, slanders Quebecers with the extremely tendentious and unacceptable term “Islamophobia.” He dismisses the Bill as populism, confuses religious neutrality with secularism (the latter extends the former greatly) and fails to distinguish the public sphere (which is totally unaffected by Bill 21) from the civil sphere (i.e. State institutions, where the Bill does apply, but only to some employees). What is repugnant here is Coren’s pro-religion prejudice.
  • Dan Bilefsky recycles old anti-Quebec clichés in his New York Times article “Quebec Proposes Bill Barring Public Employees From Wearing Head Scarves at Work.” The article greatly emphasizes declarations against the Bill and repeats several of Coren’s tactics, including use of “Islamophobia.” Even worse, Bilefsky links the Bill with mosque shootings in Quebec City and Christchurch, thus implying that the Bill would somehow increase the probability of such attacks. Such speculation is irresponsible. In fact, the exact opposite argument is more plausible: by taking action to reduce religious interference in State institutions, the proposed Bill would favour social harmony and reduce the danger of such violence.
  • […] by taking action to reduce religious interference in State institutions, the proposed Bill would favour social harmony and reduce the danger of such violence.

  • Montreal Gazette columnist Don Macpherson tries to ridicule the Bill in his article “The CAQ anti-hijab bill, worse than useless” but succeeds mainly in displaying his total ignorance of secularism. He maintains that the Bill “would weaken Quebec’s own charter of rights” when in reality it would significantly strengthen and improve Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms by inscribing “laïcité” into it, thus ensuring that future legislation would respect (1) the equality of all citizen—including male-female equality, (2) the freedom of conscience of all citizens, (3) religious neutrality and, most importantly, (4) separation between religion and State, i.e. State autonomy with respect to religions.

Antidotes to Antisecular Misinformation

The above list is only a small sampling of the wide variety of inanity and insanity which can be found in the media opposing Draft Bill 21. As an antidote, I urge you to read the article “Quebec’s Secularism Bill” in which author Luis Granados expeditiously cuts through the bullshit of the Bill’s opponents. A sample:

The ban covers all religions, including Quebec’s majority Christian population. No more crucifix pendants. No more yarmulkes. No more hijabs. No Satanic Temple t-shirts, should anyone be so inclined. Government employees get paid to do a job for the taxpayers, period. Advertising for the God industry has no place in the doing of that job, any more than advertising for a political candidate would. Employees are free to promote whatever they like on their own time, but not while they are officially representing the government. […]

Some are even threatening civil disobedience, because the laws of God should apparently trump those of mere humans. What should matter most here is not what the employees want, but what the “customers” want—given the customers are children whose minds are being shaped by those in authority. […] Children deserve to be educated in a neutral environment. They don’t need teachers putting up signs saying “Jesus is the Answer”—or wearing clothing that says the same thing. They don’t need teachers wearing a cap boasting that “I’m one of God’s chosen people, and you’re not.” They don’t need teachers silently communicating that women should be ashamed of their bodies—or the equally disgusting message that men are incapable of controlling themselves if they are sexually distracted by seeing the top of a woman’s head.

Finally, some logic and common sense about secularism from an English-language publication—a rare thing indeed.

Here is another reality-check. Consider the fact that article 22(4) of Quebec’s Loi sur l’instruction publique (Education Act) stipulates:

“A teacher shall act in a just and impartial manner in his dealings with his students;”

How can a teacher be impartial while he or she constantly displays an obvious symbol of a particular religion when on the job, interacting with pupils in the classroom throughout the schoolday? The ban on religious symbols which Draft Bill 21 proposes is a simple application of the above stipulation. Even if you continue to oppose the ban, at least be honest in your opposition and avoid gratuitous accusations. It is patently outrageous to assert that Bill 21 is xenophobic or worse.

I leave the final word to columnist Mathieu Bock-Coté who, in an article entitled « La laïcité vue d’Europe » (“Secularism Seen from Europe”) writes:

“From a European perspective, Draft Bill 21 appears terribly minimalist, almost insignificant. Every time I explain the Bill to people in France, whether they are on the political left, right or elsewhere, they wonder how something so elementary could cause such scandal. When I talk about the accusations of racism directed at Quebec for something so minor, they sincerely struggle to believe it.”


Next blog: Le Québec est laïque !

An Open Letter to the Council of Canadians

2019-02-12 Epilogue ajouté le 2019-02-13

In this blog, I respond to an article which appears on the website and in a bulletin of the Council of Canadians. The article, which apparently represents the position of the Council, associates the massacre of January 29th 2017 with so-called “Islamophobia,” “racism” and “white supremacy” and exploits the massacre in order to denigrate secularism and vilify those who support it.

Sommaire en français Je répond un article paru récemment sur le site web et dans un bulletin du Conseil des Canadiens (Council of Canadians). Ce texte, qui représente apparemment la position du Conseil, associe le massacre du 19 janvier 2017 aux soi-disant « islamophobie », « racisme » et « suprémacisme blanc » et instrumentalise cet événement pour dénigrer la laïcité et diaboliser ceux et celles qui l’appuient.

Your email bulletin of January 30th 2019, contained the following article by Rachel Small: Commemorating the second anniversary of the Quebec City Mosque attack.

The content of Small’s article is dishonest and extremely tendentious. It makes repeated use of the unacceptable expression “Islamophobia” whose purpose is to stifle legitimate criticism of both Islam and Islamism. The fact that Canada’s parliament was manipulated into adopting a motion (M-103) endorsing this concept is no excuse. Progressives have a duty to reject its use. To fear a religion, especially a monotheism such as Islam or Christianity, is not an irrational “phobia” but rather a sane and healthy response to danger. The crime committed by the assassin of January 29th 2017 was not his fear, but rather where he directed it — at innocent individuals — and how he expressed it — with murderous violence. We certainly do NOT need to fight against “Islamophobia”; rather we must encourage rational discussion and criticism of religion while directing that criticism first and foremost against ideologies (rather than against human beings) and against censorship of debate.

Even worse is the article’s conflation of religion and race. Race has absolutely nothing to do with the event. Rather, it involved religion which is completely distinct from race. Small’s evocation of “white supremacy” is completely irrelevant and so misleading as to be a bald-faced lie. The misuse of this expression is an insult to the many blacks, Jews and others who have indeed been persecuted because of that ideology, especially in the USA. Currently, white supremacism is very marginal here in Canada. However, when it did have a strong presence, when the KKK had many Canadian chapters, it was virulently anti-Catholic and anti-Quebec and engaged in acts of terrorism against French-language churches and schools. The use of “white supremacy” to characterize the motives of the 2017 mosque killer is ahistorical and an insult to all Québécois.

Small’s mention of “decades of wars against Muslim-majority countries, state policy which has normalized the killing of millions of Muslims” is particularly inappropriate. Need I remind her that we are talking about a crime which occurred here, in this country, not elsewhere? If Small wishes to complain about the foreign policy of the USA, the UK or any other country, then I suggest she take her complaint to the appropriate government instead of trying to dump the blame on someone in Quebec City.

The tendentious nature of Small’s article reaches a paroxysm when she approvingly links to two other very revealing documents: The article by Jasmin Zine in The Conversation, which has published several diatribes imbued with anti-Québécois prejudice, repeats and deepens Small’s dishonest assertions. The text by Toula Drimonis in the National Observer uses the all-too-familiar false accusation of “far-right” (and again “white nationalist”!) to slur the secularism measures proposed by the newly-elected CAQ. Both Zine and Drimonis manifest a total ignorance of secularism, in particular republican secularism (laïcité).

Si la Charte de la laïcité avait été adoptée en 2014, si les partisans de cette Charte n’avaient pas été si massivement diabolisés et ciblés par des fausses accusations diffamatoires, si la population québécoise n’avait pas été si complètement abandonnée par ses chefs politiques après la prise du pouvoir par le PLQ en avril 2014, alors le massacre du 29 janvier 2017 n’aurait probablement jamais eu lieu.

Quebec has legislation which forbids public servants from wearing partisan political symbols while on the job, an eminently judicious measure. It is both reasonable and necessary to extend this ban to religious symbols, given that religions are inevitably political when they insinuate themselves into state institutions. Both the Charter of Secularism proposed by the PQ government in 2013-2014 and the measures announced by the new CAQ government are laudable efforts which progressives have a duty to support. Neither Zine nor Drimonis makes any attempt to address the solid arguments for a ban on such symbols. Their failure to do so represents journalistic incompetence. Secularism — including banning religious symbols in government — is not only the will of the people in Quebec, it is a noble and enlightened program which helps to reduce the risk of inter-religious conflict.

Regardless of the intentions of the authors of these three articles, the objective result is opposition to secularism, complacency towards political Islam and an endorsement of anti-Québécois racism.

If the Charter of Secularism had been adopted in 2014, if supporters of that Charter had not been so overwhelmingly demonized and slandered by false accusations, if the Quebec population had not been so totally abandoned by its political leaders after the Quebec Liberal Party took power in April 2014, then the massacre of January 29th 2017 would, in all likelihood, not have occurred.

The perpetrator of the mosque shooting was a psychologically unstable individual who had been the target of bullying throughout his young life. He also feared Islamist terrorism. In addition, he, like all Quebeckers, had been for years inundated with a tsunami of propaganda condemning anyone who had even the slightest misgivings about Islam or Muslims with specious accusations of Islamophobia, racism, intolerance, xenophobia, far-right affinities and a plethora of other sins. In other words, Quebeckers were subject to incessant psychological intimidation by mainstream media and many politicians, denigrating them for having legitimate concerns, vilifying them for desiring a secular state, bullying them into silence and removing all hope of healthy debate. At some point, the young man snapped.

The attitude of Small, Zine and Drimonis is dangerous and can only increase the probability of future violent acts by stigmatizing necessary criticism of religion. If the Charter of Secularism had been adopted in 2014, if supporters of that Charter had not been so overwhelmingly demonized and slandered by false accusations, if the Quebec population had not been so totally abandoned by its political leaders after the Quebec Liberal Party took power in April 2014, then the massacre of January 29th 2017 would, in all likelihood, not have occurred. I earnestly hope that the current Quebec government will keep its secularization promises because that will help repair some of the enormous damage done by irresponsible ideologues such as Small, Zine and Drimonis.


Epilogue

Pour faire contrepoids à la propagande anti-québécoise dénoncée ci-dessous, lisez donc ceci : Le calme dans la tempête, Le calme digne, le calme fort, Léolane Kemner, Journal de Montréal, 2019-02-13.


Next blog: Quebec’s Draft Bill 21 Implements State Secularism

Open Letter to TheConversation: An Organ of Anti-Quebec Propaganda

2018-12-29

In this blog I review a series of very dubious articles which appeared over the last year or so on the website TheConversation, all of which reveal a pronounced anti-Quebec prejudice.

Sommaire en français Dans ce blogue je passe en revue une série de textes très douteux, parus depuis un peu plus d’un an sur le site web TheConversation, qui révèlent tous un fort préjugé anti-Québéc.

Dear Editor of TheConversation,

When I first read the article “Québec’s fashion police: A century of telling women what not to wear” by Donica Belisle in TheConversation, I thought it was probably the worst article I had ever read. The article dishonestly attempts to equate two actions which are diametrically opposed: Catholic obscurantism in the past with Quebec’s current efforts to reduce the influence of religious obscurantism on public institutions. Belisle displays total ignorance of the secularism issue which is at the heart of this whole controversy. Furthermore, she denigrates Quebec society by painting it with the brush of the Catholic far-right, while ignoring the Islamist far-right which is far more active in Quebec.

My colleague Michel Lincourt has written to TheConversation in order to explain just how shoddy Donica Belisle’s article is. I certainly agree with his criticism. But I consider that he was in fact a little too kind. Firstly, he used the expression “Quebec bashing” to describe Belisle’s article, whereas in my opinion a stronger term, such as “anti-Quebec propaganda” or “anti-Québécois racism” for example, might be more appropriate. Secondly, Michel concentrates on one single article and thus perhaps did not notice a disturbing pattern of which TheConversation is guilty.

For my part, I did a search for “Quebec” on your website and discovered that Belisle’s article is not the worst. My search turned up a list of six other articles, all published within the last 15 months, which range in quality from very bad to atrocious. They all have much in common with Belisle’s writing. I list them here, with a brief summary of each.

  1. Quebec’s niqab ban uses women’s bodies to bolster right-wing extremism, Yasmin Jiwani, 2017-10-23.
    This screed condemns the previous Québec government’s Bill 62 while completely misunderstanding its import. A ban on both face-coverings in public services and religious symbols worn by public servants would be an excellent idea, but the Bill 62 did NOT do that. It did not enact religious neutrality—and even less secularism. It simply pretended to ban face-coverings while legislating exceptions which made the ban extremely weak. The purpose was not “to bolster right-wing extremism” as Jiwani claims in her paranoid title. The Bill was a cynical attempt by the Quebec Liberal Party to pretend to satisfy the Québécois’ overwhelming desire for secularism while doing practically nothing. But even such an impotent law was too much for some, such as Jiwani, who raves about the “ultra-right” in Quebec. The only far-right in Québec is constituted by those who oppose secularism by dishonestly and grossly misrepresenting it.
  2. The link between Quebec’s niqab law and its sovereignty quest, Efe Peker, 2017-10-29.
    The title’s obvious purpose is to frighten the reader by brandishing the boogeyman of “sovereignty.” Peker then starts by reassuring the reader that he is not “old-stock Quebecois” because, apparently, the opinion of such a person cannot be trusted. That sounds like racism to me. Peker employs the tendentious term “Catho-laïcité” instead of secularism or laïcité, thus revealing his prejudices once again. Enormous progress has been made in removing the Catholic symbols which were ubiquitous in Quebec only decades ago. The Charter of Secularism proposed in 2013-2014, an excellent initiative which Peker dismisses as a “mess,” would have applied to all religions, but Peker sees only religious discrimination.
  3. Islamophobia in Québec: An ideology rooted in 20th century imperialism, Frederick Burrill, 2017-12-10.
    This article immediately loses all credibility because of its use of the loaded and unacceptable expression “Islamophobia.” To fear Islam (or any other religion) is not a phobia, rather it is simply due diligence. Burrill refers to the journalist and secularist Janette Bertrand as “feminist” where the quotes around the word clearly indicate his contempt for the former television personality, much loved by Québécois. Finally, Burrill’s attempt to denigrate contemporary Quebec secularism by rooting it in Catholic missionary propaganda of the early 20th century is beyond ridiculous.
  4. The hypocrisy of Québec’s move to ban religious dress, Richard Moon, 2018-10-22.
    Moon repeats a theme we have already heard countless times from numerous anti-secularists: the observation that keeping the crucifix in the National Assembly is “hypocrisy.” But like all of them, he fails to recognize that removing the crucifix without banning religious symbols worn by public servants would also be hypocritical. The only correct solution is to do both: both government installations and public servants on duty must be free of obvious religious symbols. Moon fails to mention that secularist organizations in Quebec overwhelmingly supported both the Charter of Secularism in 2013-2014 and CAQ’s recent proposals while at the same time calling for removal of that crucifix.
  5. Québec’s push to ban the hijab is ‘sexularism’, Yasmin Jiwani, 2018-11-05.
    The very title of this article is insane. Jiwani denigrates CAQ for being “exclusionary” and throws in some fatuity about “the margins of race, religion and gender,” only one of which—religion—is relevant to the issue. Two things are clear however: (1) the author deliberately conflates race and religion, so that she can then throw false accusations of racism at secularists; and (2) she presents the wearing of the Islamist veil as a woman’s right of choice. Both are unacceptable deceptions practised regularly by Islamist ideologues. The latter is an example of their inversion strategy, i.e. presenting a sexist constraint (the veil) as a “right,” thus rebranding misogyny as pseudo-feminism.
  6. Notwithstanding clause or not, Québec must accommodate its employees, Sébastien Parent, 2018-12-05.
    Parent fails to distinguish between religious neutrality and secularism, as if they were synonyms. The former is a weak and incomplete subset of the latter, lacking the necessary separation between religions and state which is at the core of secularism. Parent repeatedly uses the misleading expression “reasonable accommodation” when in fact he is talking about religious accomodation. The former is a euphemism whose true meaning is the latter. The fallacious word “reasonable” distracts from the fact that accommodating religions is never acceptable. Making exceptions to laws in order to accommodate religious practices is to grant unacceptable privileges to religions. The fact that courts sometimes impose such accommodations simply shows that legislation needs to changed. In the meantime, the Quebec government will wisely use the notwithstanding clause to work around this problem.

Beyond the particularities of each of these seven articles, there are common threads running through the series:

  • A complete and wilful misunderstanding of secularism and a failure even to cover the relevant issues.
  • False accusations of discrimination against Muslims. The observation that bans on religious symbols will appear to target Muslims is a result of the fact that (a) Islamists claim to speak for all Muslims in general (they do not) while (b) these same Islamists promote the wearing of the misogynist veil in order to gain political influence. (Thanks largely to incompetent journalists, the strategy is working.)
  • An adulteration and inversion of feminism, as if the veil were a feminist choice, when in reality it is one of the worst expressions of misogyny ever invented.
  • Conflation of race (innate, immutable characteristics of the individual) with religion (a choice which can change).

Even more serious is what is lacking from this series of articles:

  • No attempt to understand republicanism and universalism and how they inform and support secularism.
  • No attempt to present the very solid arguments in favour of bans on religious symbols and face-coverings in public services, let alone even begin to refute them.
  • No attempt to present the views of secular, modern Muslims who support religious symbol bans.
  • No mention of the fact that Quebec already bans political symbols worn by public servants on duty. Extending this to religious symbols is an eminently reasonable and fair measure to take.
  • No acknowledgement whatsoever of the problematic nature of the expression “Islamophobia.”
  • No consideration of multiculturalism and the many relevant criticisms of that ideology which encourages isolation of communities.
  • No criticism whatsoever of the problems with Islam and Islamism. (Example: The extremely damaging taboo against apostasy.) Apparently only Christian—and preferably Catholic—obscurantism may be mentioned, let alone criticized.
  • Failure to recognize that Québécois are more advanced on the issue of secularism than Canadians outside Quebec and, especially, far more progressive that hostile media such as TheConversation.

I notice that your website’s motto is “Academic rigour, journalistic flair.” What a bad joke. Your series of articles about Quebec and secularism is a cesspool of journalistic incompetence, wilful ignorance and contempt for the Québécois, coupled with a disturbing tendency to repeat some of the classic elements of Islamist propaganda.


Next blog: Fourth Anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo Massacre

The Dishonesty of the Globe and Mail

2018-10-16

I criticize a particulary dishonest editorial, recently published by the Toronto newspaper The Globe and Mail, which opposes secularism and denounces the new CAQ government for doing what the newspaper itself proposes, that is, leaving the crucifix in the National Assembly. The editorialists also indulge in a little Quebec-bashing along the way.

Sommaire en français Je critique un éditorial particulièrement malhonnête, récemment paru dans le journal torontois The Globe and Mail, qui s’oppose à la laïcité et prône la même mesure qu’il dénonce chez la CAQ, c’est-à-dire, laisser le crucifix à l’Assemblée nationale. Les éditorialistes font aussi un peu de Quebec-bashing en passant.

On October 11th, the Globe and Mail published an editorial under the title: “By defending a crucifix, Quebec crosses the line into hypocrisy.” It is replete with misconceptions and misleading assertions. The key thesis of the editorial is the contrast between two announcements made by Quebec’s new CAQ government led by François Legault:

  1. Banning religious symbols worn by public servants in positions of authority.
  2. Leaving the crucifix above the speaker’s chair in the National Assembly where it is, using the excuse that it is part of Quebec’s heritage.

All secularists in Quebec agree: that crucifix must go…

There is indeed a serious inconsistency here. But the editorial declares that “Quebec” is hypocritical. No, if anyone is being hypocritical here, it is Legault and the CAQ, not Quebec or Quebeckers in general. All secularists in Quebec agree: that crucifix must go, perhaps moved to a museum. (Furthermore, the law governing the National Assembly must be modified to prohibit any future displays of religious symbols in the legislature, including symbols worn by MNAs.) And yet the Globe and Mail editorial itself calls for leaving the crucifix in place! Why? In order to justify their opposition to any ban on religious symbols. The editorialists simply want to block any progress towards secularism.

The editorial mentions that, ten years ago, the Bouchard-Taylor commission recognized that the crucifix in such a prominent place in the N.A. is a powerful symbol linking legislative power to the majority religion. Exactly! That is why it must be removed. But the editorial neglects to mention that the same Commission recommended a ban on religious symbols worn by public servants in positions of authority, very similar to what CAQ has recently proposed! (There is one important difference: CAQ would extend the ban to apply to teachers.)

Identity Politics

The editorial whines repeatedly that Quebec is indulging in “divisive identity politics.” This is a common complaint made by English-Canadian journalists in order to denigrate Quebec. Yes, leaving the crucifix could certainly be called identitarian. But the ban on religious symbols is the direct opposite of identity politics, the goal being to make the Quebec public service religiously neutral, in the same way that it is already politically neutral (because political symbols are already banned for all public servants).

The Canadian government regularly practices its own aggressive brand of identity politics by promoting dangerous cultural relativism…

When it comes to identity politics, nothing can compare to fundamentalist Islamists who aggressively promote the hijab and even the niqab as markers of identity. The Canadian government regularly practices its own aggressive brand of identity politics by promoting dangerous cultural relativism (which it euphemistically calls “multiculturalism”) as essential to the Canadian identity—and denigrating anyone who might question it, as many Quebeckers do. Canadian multiculturalism is very divisive because it attaches greater importance to ethno-religious identity than to citizenship; most importantly, it is incompatible with the secularism which most Quebeckers support.

Demonizing Secularism

The editorial is particularly tendentious when it refers to the “Parti Québécois’s odious Charter of Quebec Values.” Firstly, the name is incorrect. Secondly, the PQ Charter of Secularism was anything but odious. If adopted, it would have constituted a major step towards secularism. All secularists in Quebec supported it, as did a majority of the population. But since it contained a ban on religious symbols, the Globe and Mail hates it. It was the Charter’s opponents who were odious, slandering both the PQ government and Quebeckers in general with all sorts of egregious epithets. And now, enemies of CAQ’s proposed ban are at it again.

The editorial claims that there is “public outrage” against CAQ. Nonsense. On the contrary, there is a wave of great hope generated by the promise of this new government, and a fervent desire that it not back down in the face of the virulent opposition, such as that from the Globe and Mail.

The demo was basically a circus of anti-Quebec bigotry and fundamentalist Islam…

There was a so-called “anti-racist” demonstration held in Montreal less than a week after the CAQ victory. The demo was basically a circus of anti-Quebec bigotry and fundamentalist Islam, along with various sympathizers such as the “Antifa” (who should more properly be called “anarcho-Salafists”) who denounced the CAQ as “racist”—thus conflating race with religion in order to slander secularists. Noticeably absent, however, were those of a Muslim background who support secularism, such as AQNAL (Quebec Association of North-Africans for Secularism).

Freedom of Conscience

The employee can put their crucifix, hijab, turban, tin-foil hat, Pastafarian colander or whatever back on at the end of their shift.

But let us get to the crux (forgive the pun) of the matter: Why should religious symbols be banned for state employees, especially those in positions of authority? The answer is obvious: to protect the freedom of conscience of all citizens, who have a right to public services without staff pushing their personal ideology in the public’s face. Political symbols are already banned; this must be extended to religious ones. Such a measure does not threaten freedom of religion. On the contrary, it protects freedom of religion and freedom from religion, both of which are encompassed by freedom of conscience. The ban would only apply during working hours. The employee can put their crucifix, hijab, turban, tin-foil hat, Pastafarian colander or whatever back on at the end of their shift.

No rights are absolute, for they are limited by effects they have on the rights of others. The Globe and Mail editorial laments that CAQ would limit religious believers’ “right to express their religious beliefs as they see fit” but there is no right to practice one’s religion while on the job! The ban would have zero effect on religious practice outside the workplace.

Discrimination Against Non-Believers

…the Globe and Mail supports a world in which religious advertising is allowed everywhere…

The editorial enjoins Quebec politicians to show a “rational generosity of spirit.” Yet the Globe and Mail supports a world in which religious advertising is allowed everywhere, even on the bodies of government employees, thus threatening the rights of everyone—believer, atheist, agnostic—who does not want such propaganda imposed on them. I own several t-shirts which declare loudly and proudly that I am an atheist. But I would not wear any of them to work if I were employed in the public service, because I would not be so boorish as to push my personal convictions onto a captive audience in the workplace. I demand the same courtesy of religious believers. A rational generosity of spirit would imply accepting the duty of discretion when one works in such a position.

…the Globe and Mail promotes discrimination against atheists…

The Globe and Mail editorialists demand no such discretion from religious believers. Rather, they promote a major privilege for Roman Catholicism by leaving the crucifix in the N.A., even after hypocritically denouncing the CAQ for doing the same. The Globe and Mail then promotes privilege for all religions—to the detriment of non-believers—by opposing any ban on religious symbols in the public service. Thus, the Globe and Mail promotes discrimination against atheists and other non-believers.


Next blog: My Favourite Graph

The Moral and Intellectual Bankruptcy of Antisecularists

The movement against Legault and the CAQ has zero credibility.

2018-10-08

A recent demonstration in Montreal by so-called “anti-racist” activists illustrates yet again that the enemies of secularism are sadly lacking in moral and intellectual integrity. In particular, they deliberately conflate race and religion, thus aiding and abetting religious fanaticism.

Sommaire en français Une récente manifestation à Montréal par des militants soi-disant “anti-racistes” montre encore une fois que les ennemis de la laïcité manquent tristement d’intégrité morale et intellectuelle. En particulier, ils confondent délibérément la race et la religion, favorisant ainsi le fanatisme religieux.

Shortly after being elected on October 1st 2018, the new premier, François Legault, and his CAQ party announced their intention to start implementing various secularism measures, in particular, banning religious symbols worn by public servants in positions of authority, i.e. police, judges, prosecutors, prison guards and teachers. This is incomplete, but nevertheless an excellent start to implementing secularism in Quebec and supported by the majority of the population and basically all secularists in Quebec.

Poster for 2018-10-07 demo, slightly modified Click to enlarge
Demo poster, slightly modified
to make it more honest.

But there are forces who oppose secularism and do so in an extremely dishonest manner. Yesterday (2018-10-07) a demonstration was held in Montréal to protest the new measures. The demo was announced as being against racism, but a major focus was on denouncing Legault and the CAQ as racist.

The fallacy of conflating race and religion is a common tactic used by anti-secularists. It has been refuted countless times, but because of the extreme dishonesty of anti-secularists who falsely claim to be “anti-racist,” it is necessary to do so once again. So I summarize:

  • Race involves innate and immutable characteristics of the individual, whereas a religion is an ideology—a collection of ideas and beliefs—which can change overnight.
  • Religion and race are thus completely different phenomena.
  • Religion may be freely chosen if and only if there is freedom of conscience. Unfortunately, most religious believers have a religion forced on them as children, via indoctrination.
  • One of the key pillars of secularism is freedom of conscience, i.e. to make sure that individuals have the freedom and the autonomy to choose or reject an ideology which others may try to force on them. Thus, public institutions must not show preference for any religion.
  • The secular measures announced by Legault and CAQ are obviously not racist. Their purpose is to keep religious bias out of the affairs of state and government. They apply to all religions.
  • The secular measures announced by Legault and CAQ are clearly necessary because public servants in positions of authority must not display any religious partisanship.

Furthermore, the anti-secularists masquerading as “anti-racists” are dishonest in several ways:

  • The conflation of race with religion is clearly a fallacy, a strategy used in order to defame secularists as “racist.”
  • The conflation of race with religion constitutes a denial of freedom of conscience, condemning individuals to the religion into which they were born, a product of pure chance. It is a denial of a basic human right, the right to think for oneself.
  • They use the crucifix in the Quebec National Assembly as an excuse to allow public servants in authority to wear blatant religious symbols. Of course that crucifix must be removed, and Legault’s decision to keep it there is unacceptable, but that is no excuse. Two wrongs do not make a right. The government needs to remove the crucifix:
    1. because it is the right thing to do; and
    2. in order to deprive anti-secularists of one of their favourite propaganda ploys.

Furthermore, the opposition to any form of dress code is nonsensical and dishonest, because:

  • In the Quebec public service, politically partisan symbols may not be worn by employees on duty. It is thus hypocritical to allow religious symbols to be worn. Religious symbols are generally very political.
  • Dress codes are a widespread phenomenon throughout society. For example, the Canadian parliament imposes certain restrictions on Members of Parliament. The Rules of Order and Decorum stipulate that “to be recognized to speak in debate, on points of order or during Question Period, tradition and practice require all Members, male or female, to dress in contemporary business attire.” Why should any MP be allowed the privilege of being exempted from this rule simply because of his or her religion?
  • It is a major goal of Islamism to impose the wearing of the Islamic veil anywhere and everywhere. By opposing all dress codes, anti-secularists are objectively allied with extreme right-wing political Islam. Anti-secularists are not anti-fascist, they are objectively pro-fascist.

Given the above considerations, we see that those who denounce the new Quebec government as “racist,” because of its secular measures, are both intellectually bankrupt, for their arguments are fundamentally irrational, and morally bankrupt, because they oppose freedom of conscience and support the agenda of a far-right religious movement.

One small glimmer of reason from an individual who is normally a staunch ally of the anti-secularists: Manon Massé of Québec solidaire has publically stated that Legault and the CAQ are not racist. Very good. But she nevertheless opposes Legault’s plans because QS would not include teachers in the religious symbol ban. Furthermore, she did not, as far as I know, distance herself from the so-called “anti-racist” demonstration.

Anyone who cares sincerely about child welfare, especially the well-being of believers’ children, will support Legault’s proposed ban on religious symbols worn by teachers, thus helping to make public schools a refuge from religious indoctrination.

One final observation about the modern anti-racist movement, and this should come as no surprise to anyone: that movement is often racist itself. In particular, here in Quebec, so-called “anti-racist” activists often accuse Quebeckers in general of being racist. This itself is a racist attitude, an expression of anti-Québécois ethnic bigotry. In reality, the vast majority of Québécois, including those who voted for the centre-right CAQ, are more progressive that many of those activists.

Relevant Links:


Next blog: The Dishonesty of the Globe and Mail

The Quebec Election, Oct. 1st 2018

Some Good News & Some Bad

2018-10-04, 2018-10-11, update to table of election results

My assessment of the good and bad results of the recent Quebec election, on October 1st.

Sommaire en français Mon appréciation des bons et mauvais résultats des élections au Québec du 1er octobre.

In the October 1st 2018 elections in the Canadian province of Quebec, a major upset occurred. The Quebec Liberal Party (QLP), which has held power for most of last 15 years, was swept from power and a new party, the Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ), won a solid majority in the legislature. Its leader François Legault thus becomes premier of Quebec. In addition, the Parti Québécois (PQ) lost many seats and was reduced to a shadow of its former importance, while the ostensibly far-left but communitarian Quebec Solidaire (QS) went from marginal status to being about equal to the PQ. There are 125 seats in the Quebec National Assembly. Thus, 63 are required to form a majority government. The following table sums up the situation before and after the election.

Political Party Seats before election Seats after election Seats after recounts
2018-10-11
Quebec Liberal Party 66 32 31
Parti Québécois 28 9 10
Coalition avenir Québec 21 74 74
Quebec Solidaire 3 10 10
Independents 6 0 0

First, the bad news:

Ève Torres
Click to enlarge
Ève Torres, a QS candidate.
Fortunately she did not win.
Unfortunately she came second.

  • The very weak vote for the centre-left PQ, the only social-democratic party of the four major ones, and the party which in 2013-2014 proposed a very good Charter of Secularism. Unfortunately the PQ’s position on secularism has been erratic since then.
  • The election of the centre-right CAQ as the new government. However, the CAQ is probably no further to the right than the former PLQ government which imposed a lot of economic austerity. Also, the CAQ is nowhere nearly as far right as Doug Ford in Ontario or Donald Trump in the USA. For example, all four parties including the CAQ recognize that global warming is a major problem to be faced. As this is the first time the CAQ has held power, we will have to see just how they position themselves in practice.
  • The new premier François Legault plans to keep the crucifix in the legislative chamber (salon bleu) of the National Assembly. This old symbol of Catholicism must be removed, perhaps installed in a museum in the National Assembly, but Legault will evidently not do that. Its continued presence in the legislature is an unacceptable violation of secularism.
  • The worst news of all: the gains made by Quebec Solidaire, a group of sectarian regressive leftist anti-secularists, objective allies of political Islam, whose politics are seriously corrupted by identity politics, the conflation of race with religion and related errors. The gains by QS are a major cause of the losses by the PQ.

Now, the good news:

  • Legault plans to ban face-coverings in the public service, thus replacing the PLQ’s bill 62 whose article 10 (which banned face-coverings) was suspended by two court decisions.
  • Legault plans to ban religious symbols worn by public servants in positions of authority, i.e. police, judges, prison guards and teachers.
  • Legault has indicated that he is prepared to use the so-called “Notwithstanding” clause if necessary (for example, if the courts attempt to suspend a ban on face-coverings or religious symbols). This pro-secular decisiveness is admirable, especially considering the waffling and hostility of most other politicians when dealing with secular issues. Also, this is very different from the situation in Ontario where premier Doug Ford’s use of that clause was for rather frivolous reasons based at least partly on a personal settling of accounts with Toronto City Council.
  • The best news of all: the decisive defeat of the Quebec Liberal Party, a party which is anything but “liberal” despite its name, a corrupt gang of anti-secular multiculturalists who regularly denigrated the Quebec population which they were supposed to represent. Good riddance. Note that the QLP remained in power largely thanks to overwhelming, unwavering and obsessive support from Quebec’s anglophone regions (which, by all appearances, would continue to support the QLP even if that party chose a stone statue of Queen Victoria as its leader). Despite continued support from them in the recent election, the QLP lost much support outside anglophone regions. Thus Quebec’s francophone majority, which is very pro-secular, has finally regained some control of its government. The tail no longer wags the dog.

A final reminder:

As the anti-secular forces have no rational arguments to justify granting privileges to religion, they will do what they regularly do: resort to slander and defamation.

We can expect the fanatical multiculturalists who currently control most political parties, especially the federal ones, to go ballistic in reaction to Legault’s secular initiatives. As the anti-secular forces have no rational arguments to justify granting privileges to religion, they will do what they regularly do: resort to slander and defamation. They will accuse Legault and his supporters of “racism” or any number of similar sins. In fact, they have already begun. Their slander must be resisted resolutely. Remember, anyone who conflates race and religion is incompetent to deal with either. Such accusations simply underline the intellectual sloth and vacuity of those who oppose secularism.


Some Relevant Links:


Next blog: The Moral and Intellectual Bankruptcy of Antisecularists

Quebec-Bashing: Three Recent Examples

2018-09-11, Updated 2018-09-12

In this blog I present three recent articles, published in English-language media, each of which denigrates Quebec and the Québécois in a spurious, dishonest and sometimes slanderous manner.

Sommaire en français Dans le présent blogue je décris trois récents articles, parus dans des médias anglophones, dont chacun dénigre le Québec et les Québécois, et ce, d’une manière fallacieuse, malhonnête et parfois diffamatoire.

Quebec-bashing is a very popular sport in Canada outside (and sometimes inside) Quebec. Ever since the British conquest of New France some 250 years ago, the Québécois have been the whipping boys and girls of Canada, the poor, weird people, from a priest-ridden region, who talk funny and fail to practice the obviously superior religion of Anglicanism. For two centuries, poverty and second-class (or lower) status were the norm for the majority of Québécois. A few decades ago, in the Montreal area, French-speakers earned less than all major immigrant groups who in turn earned less than English-speakers.

Of course, things have changed greatly since then. The change has been especially significant during the last half-century, and for that, the Québécois themselves can take most of the credit. With the Quiet Revolution, Quebec shook off the yoke of Roman Catholic domination (which had been maintained by the British conqueror for pragmatic reasons of social control) and made dramatic progress politically, socially and economically.

With that major rite of passage, that movement towards collective maturity, the idea of forming an independent nation, preferably a secular republic, became popular. But, not suprisingly, the Quebec independence movement scared the fucking bejesus out of other Canadians, who reacted strongly against it, sometimes with rational argument, but more often than not with panic and bitter resentment. And thus, a new wave of Quebec-bashing was born, this time adding fear to the already overwhelming contempt which had always been there. According to the bigots who engage in this sport of Quebec-bashing, Quebec nationalists in general, and independentists in particular, are “racist,” “xenophobic” or worse. And these slurs have simply been recycled in the context of Quebec’s recent attempts to complete the secularization process which it began a half-century or more ago.

This all came to a head in 2013-2014 when the independentist Quebec government of the time proposed a Charter of Secularism. The identitarian left, allied with political Islam, has added its poisonous voice to the chorus of Quebec bashers and haters. The propaganda offensive is overwhelming. But resistance is strong too.

The following are three examples of articles which have appeared recently in the English-language media and which continue this ignoble tradition of contempt for the Québécois.

Slander and Misconceptions in The Guardian

Published in the Guardian (UK) on 2018-07-12, Martin Patriquin asks the extremely loaded question How did Quebec’s nationalist movement become so white? in an article which is so tendentious that it would take dozens of pages to refute all of its deliberate misconceptions and slanderous implications. Patriquin trots out the old chestnut of Jacques Parizeau’s alleged racism, something I deconstructed in a previous blog, and claims that Parizeau initiated a “drift into ethnic nationalism” culminating in the Quebec Charter of Secularism proposed in 2013 (and which Patriquin incorrectly calls the “Quebec values charter”). Patriquin thus indulges in the same dishonest ploy used by the enemies of secularism: deliberately conflating religion with race and ethnicity. He even claims that that Charter was “designed to pit multicultural Montreal against the rest of the province” and accuses the PQ of promoting “scorched earth nationalism!” Huh? What the hell has Patriquin been smoking? He refuses to make the necessary distinction between multiculturalism (a divisive anti-secular ideology unpopular in Quebec) and cultural diversity (a fact of life welcomed by Quebeckers).

Patriquin thus indulges in the same dishonest ploy used by the enemies of secularism: deliberately conflating religion with race and ethnicity.

Patriquin complains about “oodles of crucifixes dotting Quebec’s landscape.” Apparently he is living in 1950, or perhaps 1850. Arguably Patriquin’s worst comment is his assertion that “the PQ’s current leader [Jean-François Lisée] echoes the sentiments of America’s 45th president.” This is the sort of denigration we could expect from Justin Trudeau, and indeed did get a few years ago, shortly after Trudeau was elected.

Patriquin would like us to believe that the Quebec independence movement has lost steam because it is “so white” and has failed to attract new blood, in particular immigrants. But he ignores several major reasons why the main independentist party, the Parti québécois (PQ) has dropped in popularity: (1) its very success, in particular the success of Bill 101, which offers some protection to the French language and thus makes independence appear less necessary; (2) the competition of a new and regressive (i.e. Islamophilic) leftist and ostensibly independantist party, Québec Solidaire (QS), which has split the independentist vote by sapping the PQ of its left-wing; and (3) Ideologues like Patriquin himself (and QS) who have done considerable damage poisoning the waters of political discourse with their intolerant attitude towards nationalism.

Innuendo in Quillette

Commenting on the recent controversy surrounding the play SLĀV which was cancelled by the Montreal Jazz Festival over concerns of so-called cultural appropriation, Dan Delmar misses the point with his Quillette article of 2018-08-14, The Furore Over a Quebec Theatre Production Has Missed the Point. After an introductory nod to the progressive nature of Quebec politics, the article quickly descends into the typical Quebec-bashing rhetoric which associates Quebec nationalism with xenophobia. Like Patriquin, Delmar laments that Quebec is not enamoured of multiculturalism. More on that later.

Like Patriquin, Delmar laments that Quebec is not enamoured of multiculturalism.

Delmar sinks even lower by rehashing the old slanderous idea of a parallel between Quebec nationalists and resentful white Confederates in the Deep South after the American Civil War. He even accuses Québécois of having a “persecution complex.” Given that denigration of Quebeckers is an ongoing, ever-present phenomenon to which Delmar himself is contributing, his admonishments are hypocritical. Delmar claims that Quebeckers have a “blind spot” when it comes to the race question, but it is Delmar who is blind, expecting Quebec to follow the cultural norms of the USA where the race issue is distorted by the horrific history of slavery in that country, whereas Quebec’s history is completely different. Delmar needs to learn that Quebec is not USA-North.

Ignorance and Racism in the Washington Post

The two examples above are bad enough, but the Grand Prize for Quebec-bashing goes to J. J. McCullough for his diatribe Maxime Bernier’s rebellion comes from the right to upend Canadian politics in the Washington Post on 2018-08-23. Bernier recently issued a series of tweets criticizing Justin Trudeau’s cult-like obsession with the buzzword “diversity” and his “extreme multiculturalism” (which I have discussed briefly in a previous blog). Like Patriquin and Delmar, McCullough cannot abide criticism of multiculturalism.

It gets worse. McCullough goes completely off the rails when he writes:

Bernier is a uniquely flawed vehicle for this message. As a Quebecker, he is an ambassador of a province whose French chauvinism represents the most striking refusal of any Canadian community to conform to the norms of the country’s English majority. A thickly accented French Canadian who complains about “people who refuse to integrate into our society and want to live apart in their ghetto” inevitably opens himself to charges of hypocrisy, […]”

Is it possible that McCullough could be so astoundingly ignorant that he does not even know that Canada has two official languages, and that French is one of them?

Is it possible that McCullough could be so astoundingly ignorant that he does not even know that Canada has two official languages, and that French is one of them? On what basis does McCullough assume that Bernier or any other Francophone Québécois has some obligation to “conform to the norms of the country’s English majority?” If Bernier’s bilingualism is mitigated by a less than perfect command of the English language, in what way does that invalidate his opinion? McCullough’s use of the expression “French chauvinism” is hypocrisy of the most extreme order, given his blatant English chauvinism and ethnocentrism. Comfortable in his ignorance, he reduces Anglophone culture to a monoculture to which all must slavishly conform.

A Common Thread

There is a common thread running through all three articles: a condemnation of the Québécois for not supporting multiculturalism. The three authors blather on about multiculturalism, blissfully ignorant of valid critiques of that ideology which promotes ghettoization and impedes the integration of immigrants.

Racism is a widespread phenomenon and probably exists in all societies, including Quebec. But if the three authors discussed above were truly concerned about that issue, they would have addressed the very problematic nature of Canadian multiculturalism which is not a panacea for racism—as some ideologues maintain—but is in reality a close cousin of racism. Multiculturalism is not a synonym for cultural diversity but rather one way of managing such diversity, and not a very good one at that. Secularism is a different way, a far superior alternative.

The problems with multiculturalism are well known. Already a quarter century ago, Neil Bissoondath gave us a useful critique: Selling Illusions: The Cult of Multiculturalism in Canada. Maryam Namazie, Kenan Malik, Trevor Phillips and others have criticized it extensively. But Patriquin, Delmar and McCullough ignore the obvious fact that multiculturalism has become an ideology promoting cultural relativism which should be rejected. This ideology remains a sacred cow in Canada outside Quebec for various reasons, one being that it is a convenient excuse for bigotry against the Québécois who, less naïve, less monarchist and more (small-r) republican than most Canadians, retain a healthy scepticism with respect to it.

Summing Up

Trashing Quebec and Quebec nationalists has the important function of denigrating both secularism and national sovereignty, both of which are necessary for democracy and both of which are under attack from Islamists, neoliberals and their multiculturalist allies. Whatever the intentions of the three authors may be, they objectively promote that reactionary programme.

In fact, I find the expression “Quebec-bashing” a bit too mild. I hesitate to use the term “racism” because that epithet has been so over-used and abused by regressive pseudo-leftists—and in particular by Quebec-bashers. But if the shoe fits… The degree of contempt often found in writings such as those discussed above sometimes reaches the level of racism; that is the case with McCullough in my opinion. Here I am using the term racism in the more general sense of ethnic bigotry as explained in a previous blog. By recycling age-old Anglo-bigotry, Patriquin, Delmar and McCullough have done their part to poison political debate within Canada and without, while displaying their ignorance of the salient issues.


Next blog: Les extrêmes se touchent : Twitter censure une caricature de Charb

Quebec’s Right to Self-Determination

Are you a progressive Canadian?

2017-07-27

In this blog I discuss the question of Quebec independence and I make the point that recognition of Quebec’s right to self-determination (which need not imply promotion of the independence option) is a necessary component of any progressive political stance. Failure to recognize this right constitutes a serious impediment to secularism in Canada in general, not just in Quebec.

Sommaire en français Dans ce blogue je considère la question de l’indépendance éventuelle du Québec. Je maintiens que la reconnaissance du droit du Québec à l’auto-détermination (ce qui n’implique pas nécessairement de prôner l’option indépendantiste) est une composante essentielle de toute orientation politique progressiste. Le refus de reconnaître ce droit représente une entrave majeure à la laïcité au Canada en général, et pas seulement au Québec.

Let us consider a little thought experiment. Suppose that at some date in the near future, the Parti Québécois (or another sovereignist political party) holds power in Canada’s province of Quebec, and that they plan to hold a referendum to decide whether Quebec should become an independent country. Furthermore, in order to simplify our thought experiment, let us suppose that, after intensive negotiations, all significant players in this drama—whether passionately in favour of Quebec independence, or fervently opposed to it, or holding some intermediate opinion—have agreed on the following three major points:

  1. the wording of the referendum question;
  2. the criterion for victory or failure of the independence option;
  3. in the event of failure, a restriction on the holding of similar referenda in the future.

Point (1) means that all have agreed on the wording of the question which will be put to voters. For example, “Do you want Quebec to separate from Canada to become an independent republic?” or whatever the various players agree to.

Point (2) means that all have agreed on what threshold will be necessary to decide that the referendum results represent a victory for independence. For example: 50% + 1 of all votes cast; or 50% + 1 of all eligible voters; or 60% of all votes cast; or 60% of all eligible voters; or whatever the various players agree to.

Point (3) implies that, if the independence side loses, all players agree that another referendum posing the same or a similar question may not be held again for a minimum number of years—for example, 15 years, or 25 years, or whatever the various players agree to. This will avoid the so-called “neverendum referendum” scenario, i.e. repeated and frequent referenda.

Thus we have what I think is a comprehensive set of conditions to make the referendum as fair as possible. Perhaps I have forgotten some other condition which should be met and which could be negotiated by all the major players in addition to the three listed above. I assume that all such major issues have been dealt with before the referendum is held.

I now ask you, dear reader, what your reaction would be if—after all these conditions had been met and the referendum held—the YES side won. What, in your opinion, should be done? In particular, what course of action should be adopted by the federal government in Ottawa?

I think the answer is obvious. Having agreed to a set of conditions assuring the fairness of the vote, and the YES side having won, the Ottawa government would have no choice but to accept the decision and to begin negotiations, in good faith, with the Quebec government, to facilitate the transition to sovereign nationhood for Quebec. If you disagree with this course of action, then you do not recognize Quebec’s right to self-determination. Furthermore, if you do not recognize Quebec’s right to self-determination, then you and I disagree on a fundamental principle of Canadian history and politics.

Now, in practice, I recognize that the conditions I have set up in preparation for the referendum are probably unrealistic. Indeed, if any of the parties to that preparation did not recognize Quebec’s right to self-determination, as I am certain some would not, then they would probably demand conditions to which independentists could never agree, such as, for example, an unrealistically high threshold for victory (condition 2). In practice, any referendum would probably occur in a context where controversy about the terms of the referendum continues to abound. Nevertheless, my goal in presenting such an idealized situation where most agree on those terms is to reduce the number of variables, i.e. to simplify the situation in order to expose one major variable, that variable being whether or not the stakeholders recognize a right to self-determination.

It is the duty of every […] progressive […] to support Quebec’s right to self-determination.

The bottom line is this: It is the duty of every person who considers himself or herself to be progressive in any real sense of that word—that is to say, in favour of fundamental human rights, in favour of social justice (an expression I continue to use despite the frequency with which it is bandied about and often abused), in favour of values which the left has traditionally defended (but in recent years has unfortunately tended to forget)—it is such a person’s duty, I say, to support Quebec’s right to self-determination. That does not mean that they must promote Quebec independence. Indeed, one may quite legitimately oppose it for a variety of reasons—for example, the political and economic instability which might (or might not) be the consequence of splitting up the Canadian federation and might (or might not) impoverish the population or otherwise significantly reduce their quality of life. But in that case one must respect Quebec’s right by opposing it honestly, with rational argument. And if the will of the Quebec nation—as expressed through a fair referendum—is to become independent, then one has a duty to respect that decision.

(Yes, Quebec constitutes a distinct nation within Canada: definition (1) of the Wiktionary definition of nation is “A historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, ethnicity and/or psychological make-up manifested in a common culture.”)

Furthermore, if one opposes the Quebec sovereignty movement irrationally, for example by claiming that it is “racist” or “fascist” or some such nonsense, that is by simply slandering it, then one is guilty of ethnic bigotry against the Quebec nation. And ethnic bigotry is a form of racism (in the extended sense, as I have defined it in a previous blog, although not in the strict sense, because Quebecers constitute an ethnic group and a nation, but not strictly a “race”). Thus such specious accusations are blatantly hypocritical because the persons making them are themselves guilty of racism.

The strategy of slandering the Quebec sovereignist movement by associating it with repressive and xenophobic right-wing political movements is […] hate propaganda against the Quebec nation.

Let us be very clear. There is nothing about the Quebec independence option which is essentially “racist” or “intolerant” or “fascist.” The strategy of slandering the Quebec sovereignist movement by associating it with repressive and xenophobic right-wing political movements is an extreme form of what has become known as “Quebec-bashing” but which I would simply call hate propaganda against the Quebec nation. Racism and ethnic bigotry are present in all societies and any nationalism may be vulnerable to the influence of such tendencies. However, any right-wing clerico-nationalist tendencies in Quebec have been largely eclipsed in the last half-century by the resolutely secular nature of Quebec’s Quiet Revolution. The conflict between Quebec sovereignists and Canadian federalists (i.e. for and against Quebec independence) is essentially a confrontation of two competing nationalisms:—Québécois and Canadian—and it is largely a matter of taste which of the two one prefers. Opposition to Quebec independence often takes the form of ethnic bigotry against the Quebec nation, and that bigotry is often expressed through the vehicle of Canadian nationalism—which can be very intolerant.

A lesser issue related to self-determination needs to be asserted as well. Respect for Quebec’s right to self-determination also implies respect for decisions of political importance but of lesser consequence than independence, decisions which may clash with values held by many Canadians outside Quebec. The obvious example of this is the desire of the majority of Quebeckers for a version of secularism in keeping with the republican tradition, i.e. laïcité. As Quebec is a separate province within Canada and Canada is a federation in which provinces hold significant powers, the right of Quebeckers to decide for themselves already has some legal basis, but that right is compromised by the fact that federal law takes precedence (which, in fact, constitutes an excellent argument for Quebec independence).

[…] old bigoted anti-Quebec memes were trotted out in order to demonize the Quebec Charter of Secularism […]. Partisans and dupes of Islamofascism made full use of such demonization to oppose the Charter.

We saw how old bigoted anti-Quebec memes were trotted out in order to demonize the Quebec Charter of Secularism proposed by the Parti Québécois government in 2013-2014. Partisans and dupes of Islamofascism made full use of such demonization to oppose the Charter. This bigotry rendered the Charter debate highly toxic and impeded rational discussion of the important issues involved. If Quebec’s right of self-determination had been respected, this problem would have been greatly reduced.

So-called secularists […] who allow their hostility towards Quebec nationalism to cloud their judgement […] constitute a major threat to the very secularism which they claim to support.

Why am I making this point in a blog normally devoted to issues of atheism and secularism? Because the demonization of Quebec independentists (and even softer nationalists) is a major impediment hindering efforts at secularization in Canada. Secularism is a major value of the Quebec nation, something which that nation shares with French culture in general, the result being that progress towards greater autonomy for Quebec and progress towards secularization tend to go hand in hand. This has been the case throughout the Quiet Revolution of the late XXth century and it continues to be the case. So-called secularists in Canada outside Quebec who refuse to recognize Quebec’s right to self-determination, who allow their hostility towards Quebec nationalism to cloud their judgement, who allow themselves to be manipulated by Islamists, constitute a major threat to the very secularism which they claim to support.

References


Epilogue

If the above blog speaks to you then you may be interested in the organization Anglophones for Québec Independence (AQI) founded in 2015. I personally am not a member, because I prefer to remain neutral on this issue, but I am very glad that such a group exists because they work to alleviate the stigmatisation of Quebec nationalism. Indeed, part of AQI’s mission is “to demystify inaccurate stories about Quebec and to answer insulting attacks, including the tired accusation that Quebecers are racist or xenophobic.” In other words, they promote intellectual hygiene, which can only make secularism debates healthier.


Next blog: Notes on the Regressive Left, Part II: ANTIFA: Shock Troops of the Regressive “Left”

The Quebec City Attack: Some Context

2017-02-05, last modified 2017-02-06

Some context and background about the attack on a mosque in Quebec City on Sunday, January 29th 2017.

Sommaire en français Quelques informations pertinentes pour contextualiser l’attentat contre une mosquée de la ville de Québec, le dimanche 29 janvier 2017.

As you know, on January 29th 2017, a gunman went on a rampage in a Quebec City mosque, killing six and wounding several others. Here are a few details about this horrific attack and events before and after, gleaned from a variety of sources, details which may have gotten lost in the current highly charged political atmosphere.

  • The police initially reported that there were two shooters, one North-African, the other a Caucasian with an obvious Québécois accent. They then determined that the former was a witness who was fleeing for his life — in fact he was cleaning snow from the mosque steps when the shootings began. The police publicly corrected their error the day after the shootings, but apparently some media, particularly in the US, took their time. During the short period of confusion, before the correction was announced, some speculated about a conflict between rival Muslim sects, but I found that scenario to be implausible. In Iraq or Egypt, maybe, but not in Quebec City.
  • The perpetrator, Alexandre Bissonnette, was apparently not a Quebec nationalist. According to blogger André Gagnon, his Facebook presence (no longer available) was almost entirely in English, whereas Quebec City is almost entirely French-speaking. His political profile is closer to the extreme-right wing of the Canadian Conservative Party (the party of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper), the party of WASP racism and Orangism. (Although the Conservative Party is rather weak in the province of Quebec in general, it paradoxically has stronger support in the Quebec City region.)
  • According to police, their interrogation of Bissonette showed he was influenced, at least to some degree, by the anti-Muslim climate which currently reigns in the USA.
  • Police will probably not recommend terrorism charges, as such charges are more difficult to prove in court, while the perpetrator is already facing 6 counts of premeditated murder and 5 counts of attempted murder, enough to put him away for 25 years with no possibility of parole. But I would call it terrorism.
  • In June of 2016, the severed head of a pig was left on the doorstep of the Quebec City mosque. I wrote about it in a previous blog, Of Pigs and Prayer.
  • The perpretrator gave himself up to police willingly. This is atypical of such attacks.
  • All those killed in the attack were male. This is the result of gender segregation in the mosque. Only men are allowed in the main area of the mosque on the ground floor. Women and children are relegated to other levels.
  • A funeral for three of the dead was held on February 2nd in a major venue, the Maurice-Richard Arena, in Montreal:
    • The funeral was attended by dignitaries including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard and the mayors of both Montreal and Quebec City. It was practically a state occasion, broadcast on television.
    • The main level, where the caskets were located, was reserved for men, except for female dignitaries and wives of dignitaries. Other women were excluded from the main level because of gender segregration.
    • During his speech, Premier Couillard repeated the words “Allahou Akbar,” claiming that they are incorrectly associated with violence.
    • Although two of the three deceased are from the Kabyle people of Algeria, their relatives were offended that Arabic and not the Kabyle language was used in the ceremony.
  • Other recent attacks involving Québécois:
    • On January 15th 2016, six Québécois were killed, along with 24 other persons, in an Islamist terror attack on a hotel and restaurant in Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso. Four of the six were from the Quebec City area. Prime Minister Trudeau made a declaration condemning the attack, but took no other action. Two days later he visited an Ontario mosque which had been vandalized after the terrorist attacks in Paris on 2015-11-13.
    • The most recent terrorist attack in Quebec was in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu on October 20th 2014, by an Islamist radical, causing two deaths: a soldier and the perpetrator.
    • The preceding was an attack by Richard Bain on an event in Montreal, celebrating the victory of the Parti Québécois on the evening of the September 4th 2012 provincial election. Bain’s apparent goal was to assassinate as many separatists as possible, especially party leader and newly elected premier of Quebec, Pauline Marois. He failed, but unfortunately one person, a stage technician, was killed. Bain made anti-French comments during the attack. I would call this incident Anglo terrorism. Hatred directed against French-speaking Québécois and especially against independantists is a major problem in Canada but rarely reaches such extremes.

The Future Looks Very Bleak

The underlying problem is the confusion between an ideology, Islamism (a subset of Islam), and human beings of Muslim culture. Those who refuse to allow full criticism of the former by claiming that it offends the latter are contributing to the very confusion which they claim to oppose.

There is an old proverb which states that to understand is to forgive. This may apply to minor faults, but it certainly does not apply here. We may try to understand the motives of the killer, to explain his behaviour; however, no explanation, no motivation, whether political or other, can possibly justify or excuse this horrific act of mass murder. If Bissonnette thought that he was scoring a victory against Islamism, then in addition to being a contemptible mass-murderer he is also extremely stupid, because, by gunning down innocent Muslims, he has given Islamists a major propaganda victory, something they can exploit for their own ends, just as Donald Trump’s draconian U.S. travel ban on Muslims from some countries also played into the Islamists’ hands.

The lone perpetrator is to blame for this massacre; he alone has blood on his hands. However, there are others to whom lesser blame must be assigned, others who are responsible for creating an atmosphere which made such an attack more likely to occur, which facilitated such an atrocity. And there are others who are completely innocent but have been unfairly targeted.

It took a very short time for the unscrupulous to begin exploiting this tragedy for political ends. Slanderous and hateful comments have been made, condemning secularists and the Québécois in general. The antisecular regressive left (i.e. false left) and cultural relativists were already overbearingly arrogant; this tragedy has only emboldened them, making matters even worse. The underlying problem is the confusion between an ideology, Islamism (a subset of Islam), and human beings of Muslim culture. Those who refuse to allow full criticism of the former by claiming that it offends the latter are contributing to the very confusion which they claim to oppose.

By failing to take aim at the tremendous harm which religions cause, the fake left betrays human rights and drives more and more people towards the far right of the political spectrum where such criticism is contaminated with bigotry and anything but rigorous.

Now, more than ever, rigorous criticism of religion, including Islam, is crucial. By failing to take aim at the tremendous harm which religions cause, the fake left betrays human rights and drives more and more people towards the far right of the political spectrum where such criticism is contaminated with bigotry and anything but rigorous.

It does not take telepathic powers to recognize that this massacre was a form of revenge for Islamist terrorist events. By falsely blaming Québécois in general and by remaining complacent with respect to Islamism, our incompetent political leaders have virtually guaranteed that the cycle will continue unbroken. Islamists are now emboldened and will seek revenge, then another anti-Muslim fanatic will seek revenge for that, and so on, and so on. The future looks very bleak indeed.

I will be exploring some of these issues in future blogs. Unfortunately, I have a lot of material at hand.

Links


Next blog: Charles Taylor est-il compromis avec le Prix Templeton ?

Hate Quebec, Hate Secularism

2016-02-06

Antipathy towards Quebec and anti-secularism often go hand in hand in Canadian politics. They are, or should be, unrelated issues, but as republican secularism is more popular in Quebec and multiculturalism more popular outside Quebec, they become intertwined. I give some examples of this harmful attitude, from comments on an atheist web site to a Globe and Mail article.

Sommaire en français Une antipathie pour le Québec et une prise de position antilaïque sont deux attitudes souvent confondues dans les débats politiques au Canada. En principe ces deux questions n’ont rien directement en commun, mais deviennent entremêlées puisque la laïcité (républicaine) est plus populaire au Québec et le multiculturalisme plus populaire hors Québec. J’en présente quelques exemples tirés d’un site web athée et d’un article du journal torontois Globe and Mail.

One day during the campaign leading up to the Quebec provincial election of April 2014, I visited the web site Canadian Atheist and found, to my initial surprise, that the most recent post consisted mainly of a very brief video, only a few seconds, configured to run in an infinite loop, showing Pauline Marois—premier of Quebec at the time—standing before a cluster of microphones at a press conference and, with the palm of one hand, gently but firmly pushing Pierre-Karl Péladeau away from the microphones. Péladeau, a rich businessman and owner of media giant Québecor, had recently become a Parti Québécois (PQ) candidate in that election and has since become leader of the party, replacing Marois after the party’s defeat in that 2014 election.

Clearly the video was meant as a mocking embarrassment to the PQ, showing a conflict between two leaders—current and future—of that separatist party. But why would such a video be posted on an atheist web site? It had no relevance there. What could some alleged power struggle within a provincial political party have to do with atheism? The video sequence was obviously meant to be humorous but succeeded merely in being adolescent and bizarre.

Furthermore, by any reasonable standard, an atheist web site would be expected to adopt a serious, even sympathetic attitude towards that political party. After all, a major aspect of the PQ’s platform in the 2014 election was its Charter of Secularism which, if adopted, would have officially declared the Quebec state to be secular and would have instituted separation of religion and state as official policy in Quebec. All atheists and secularists could be expected to support such a measure enthusiastically and to be favourably disposed towards whoever proposed it.

However this is Canada, and as I have learned to my great chagrin, expecting Canadians—in particular Canadians who claim to be secularists—to behave reasonably and in accordance with their own best interests is a recipe for disappointment. Despite the valiant efforts and the perseverance of my friend and colleague Veronica Abbass, editor-in-chief of Canadian Atheist, the postings and in particular the comments on that site sometimes degenerate into a fetid cesspool of anti-secularism and hatred of Quebec, the two currents being very much intertwined. That, in a nutshell, is the explanation for the video posting described above. For technical reasons it has unfortunately—or perhaps fortunately—since disappeared from the site, so I am unable to name the author who posted it.

Indeed, that site is infested by a small but very vocal number of ethnic bigots—the poster of the video just mentioned being one—whose extreme antipathy towards Quebec nationalism greatly exceeds any attachment they might have to secularism. Several of them avoid using a full name. Their comments vary in length, from a simple specious insult like “Islamophobia!” to interminable diatribes thousands of words long. Here is a representative sample from one of those comments:

[…] the pq charter […] had nothing to do with secularism and everything to do with repressive nationalism.

[…]

The PQ hates multiculturalism because it implies québécois culture is no more special than any other, and therefore not deserving of special status and protection. True secularism is about not privileging one religion over any others, it is not about bullying religious minorities out of the public sphere/service.

Comment by “Joe”

The author of the above comment needs to pulls his/her head out of his/her gluteal sphincter and recognize a few obvious facts:

  1. The Charter, whether one agreed with it or not, was certainly about secularism.
  2. Quebec nationalism in general has been, for the last half century, resolutely secular in orientation.
  3. Putting Québécois culture on par with a religion, as he/she does, is absurd.
  4. French-language culture in Canada, concentrated in Quebec, is certainly “deserving of special status” and indeed, constitutionally so, as French and English are Canada’s two official languages.

The reality is that the avant-garde of secularism not just in Canada but in all of North America—indeed in the entire western hemisphere—is in Quebec. The crucifixes that used to be omnipresent there are mostly gone, while the crucifix still hanging in the National Assembly is an annoying remnant whose continued presence was formally guaranteed not by the PQ but by the Quebec Liberal Party which vehemently opposed the Quebec Charter of Secularism, in collaboration with Islamists.

The irony of the comments by “Joe” is that he/she correctly identifies the situation—that multiculturalism reduces the French language and culture to a status no greater than any other non-English culture—and then draws precisely the wrong conclusion: that this situation is justified.

Canada was founded as an ostensibly bilingual nation, a partnership between two founding cultures and languages: the English and the French. In practice, it did not quite work out that way, with English having far greater dominance, while French gradually receded almost everywhere. The British imperial power, at its apogee, was notorious for its arrogance, ethnocentrism, paternalism and racism. The fact that the French (and to a lesser extent the Scottish) tended to intermarry with First Nations people a little more than others gave the English yet another excuse to look down their noses at them. In the 1960s, the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism studied this linguistic imbalance and proposed policies to attempt to correct it. However, within a few years, the concept of biculturalism had been forgotten and was supplanted by multiculturalism.

Whether intentional or not, this replacement of “bi-” by “multi-” led to further devaluation of French language and culture, already in an inferior position. With multiculturalism, French culture became just another in a mosaic. The dominance of English culture became overwhelming. Multiculturalism thus became a vehicle for Anglo ethnocentrism. An ideology which claims to be a solution to racism (it is not) became a vehicle for devaluing one of Canada’s two founding cultures.

Multiculturalism thus became a vehicle for Anglo ethnocentrism. […] The arrogance and paternalism of British imperialism have been recycled and repackaged as multiculturalism.

And that is one major reason why multiculturalism is so popular in Canada outside Quebec, and less popular in Quebec. It allows Canadians to pretend to be anti-racist, while simultaneously providing a convenient excuse for their ongoing antipathy towards French-speaking Quebecers. The arrogance and paternalism of British imperialism have been recycled and repackaged as multiculturalism.

Anyone who claimed to be a secularist could not in good conscience oppose the PQ Charter unless they were honest about what they were opposing, and on what basis they were opposing it. They were in fact opposing a law inspired by the French tradition of republican secularism, and their opposition was based on a defence of religious privilege as guaranteed by Lockean pseudo-secularism as explained in a previous blog. Charter opponents rejected the Charter because it represented a more coherent form of secularism. They preferred the inferior Lockean form, but rarely had the clarity to say so. However Quebecers prefer the republican form, as is their right.

The tendentious habit of opposing secularism by vilifying those who propose it certainly did not disappear when the party which proposed the Charter was defeated in April of 2014. It continues unabated. We saw it recently during the federal election of October 2015, when anyone who pointed out the foolishness of allowing face-coverings during citizenship hearings risked being accused of “intolerance” or worse. Anti-Quebec memes were freely recycled for this purpose. For example, Sheema Khan, writing in the Globe and Mail during the federal election campaign trotted out that old chestnut of Jacques Parizeau’s “money and ethnic votes” comment as an excuse for supporting wearing the niqab, while comparing the 1995 pro-Canada, anti-separatist rally in Montreal to a “noble” pilgrimage (i.e. the “hajj”). Does this mean that Allah condemns those damn separatists?

It is a tenet of Canadian mythology that Parizeau’s comment was “racist” but in reality he was just being a sore loser, angry that his side lost the referendum by a very narrow margin whereas the federal government had subsidized the rally in violation of Quebec legislation limiting campaign spending. Without such federal overspending, the “Oui” side might have won. As for the “ethnic” part, Parizeau was simply referring to the well-known phenomenon of federalists seeking electoral advantage by encouraging new immigrants in the Montreal area to assimilate to the English-language community rather than the French. Parizeau’s comment, made in the heat of bitter disappointment, was foolish because an intelligent politician such as he should have known that his political enemies would use such a comment to make unfounded but damaging accusations. That is indeed what they did, and continue to do even after his death.

Another irony: Parizeau was among those sovereignists who expressed strong reservations about the Charter of Secularism. But that does not stop enemies of secularism from using his example to denigrate secularists.

The demonization of Quebec nationalism harms all Canadians because it jeopardizes the fight for secularization.


Next blog: The Cult of Impotence