Flawed Constitutions

2022-07-01

The US Constitution implements only an incomplete version of secularism. The Canadian Constitution is worse.

Sommaire en français La Constitution américaine ne met en œuvre qu’une version incomplète de la laïcité. La Constitution canadienne est pire.

Three recent decisions by the Supreme Court of the US (SCOTUS) have been in the news. Each represents a setback for secularism. Together, they bode ill for the future of that country, representing a major victory for the Christian religious right. Their importance for other countries such as Canada and European nations has been exaggerated. After all, they involve legal issues particular to the USA. Nevertheless, they are troubling and must not be ignored. American politics has a nasty habit of spreading its influence well beyond the borders of that country.

These SCOTUS decisions are listed at the end of this blog, along with some media reports. All three grant religious privileges of one form or another and all undermine freedom from religion. Many articles and comments on these decisions contain numerous mentions of how separation between religion and State is being violated. Some commentators even mention the famous “wall of separation.” But apparently no-one has mentioned an obvious fact which greatly exacerbates the problem:

There is no religion/state separation in the US Constitution! Separation is not declared in the First Amendment. Just read the damn thing:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
— First Amendment to the United States Constitution

First of all, the first 10 words, called the Establishment Clause, simply declare that a State religion cannot be established. Very good! But there is no mention of separation. This just means that no one religion cannot be favoured. The expression “wall of separation” is from a letter by Thomas Jefferson, not from the US Constitution. The Amendment does not prevent favouring religion in general, unless you are lucky enough to get judges who interpret it that way, in the way that Jefferson apparently wanted, but which is not explicit in the Constitution.

Secondly, the following 6 words (“or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”) are called the Free Exercise Clause. They declare unconditional freedom of religious practice, as if freedom of religion were absolute. Freedom from religion is not guaranteed. Thus, religious are privileged.

So, when the Supreme Court majority rules, as it did in the Kennedy v. Bremerton case, that both the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment give the highschool coach the right to pray on the football field, they may, unfortunately, be right. It is, at the very least, a plausible interpretation of the text of the Amendment.

Throughout the history of the USA, some judges of the Supreme Court have endorsed the concept of separation of religion and State, but others have refuted it. There is continuous tension between accommodationists and separationists. Even before this recent spate of disturbing decisions, the accommodationists appeared to be winning.

Thus, the First Amendment of the US Constitution implements an incomplete form of secularism, with just a weak form of religious neutrality (where non-believers are not accounted for) and with no separation. The US Constitution is fundamentally flawed. It is certainly better than the Canadian Constitution. When it was adopted over two centuries ago, in 1791, it was progressive for the time, when Europe was full of monarchies and various degrees of theocracy. But it does not implement full secularism.

Why do so many Americans (and even Canadians!) talk about the First Amendment as if it were some wonderful document, the ultimate reference for secularism? I think there is an enormous quantity of arrogance in that attitude, as if all that can be considered best in the world, the best guarantees of freedom, must necessarily come from the United States of America. This is simply American chauvinism. And beyond the USA, in the English-speaking world in general, an unhealthy Anglo-ethnocentrism engenders a similar attitude of conceit.

Implications for Bill 21

If you think the Supreme Court of Canada should strike down Quebec Bill 21, then you are an objective ally of the bigots who rejoice that the Supreme Court of the US (SCOTUS) has struck down a ban on prayer during highschool sports events, as well as those who rejoice that SCOTUS is forcing taxpayers to fund religious schools in some contexts. In both cases you have a Supreme Court (Canadian or American) using a flawed constitution (Canadian or American) to strike down a secular measure (Bill 21 or secular schooling).

Both the US and Canadian Constitutions are flawed. Neither implements secularism, although the US Constitution goes partway there.

In both cases, judges who are nominated, not elected, have extensive powers. They can approve or strike down legislation passed democratically by the legislative branch of government. Or they can overrule decisions based on such legislation. Or, in the case of abortion, they can arbitrarily withdraw a right which the same court itself endorsed half a century previously. And yet, over 60% of Americans currently agree that abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Again, the Canadian situation is worse, because the law which is under threat (Bill 21) was passed by a legislature (Quebec National Assembly) which has never approved the 1982 Constitution on which the Supreme Court judges will base their decision. Furthermore, even before arriving at the Supreme Court, Bill 21 is challenged in two Quebec Courts (Quebec Superior Court and Quebec Court of Appeal) and the judges in both those courts are appointed by the federal government, not by Quebec. There is a clear lack of democracy.


The Three US Supreme Court Decisions

  1. 2022-06-27: Prayer During School Sports Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, This Court decision allows a highschool football coach to pray at the end of a game, while encouraging his players to join him.
    Media Reports:
  2. 2022-06-24: Allowing States to Control Abortion Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, This Court decision strikes down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision of 1973, thus rejecting any constitutional right to abortion and allowing individual states to legislate as they wish.
    Media Reports:
    • “In a devastating decision that will reverberate for generations, the U.S. Supreme Court has abandoned its duty to protect fundamental rights and overturned Roe v. Wade, ruling there is no constitutional right to abortion. Today’s decision—which abandons nearly 50 years of precedent—marks the first time in history that the Supreme Court has taken away a fundamental right.” U.S. Supreme Court Takes Away the Constitutional Right to Abortion
    • “On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court ruled 6–3 to uphold Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, and 5–4 to overrule Roe and Casey. Similar to the leaked draft opinion, the opinion of the court written by Justice Alito stated that Roe was ‘egregiously wrong from the start’ and its reasoning ‘exceptionally weak’. It also stated that Roe has ‘enflamed debate and deepened division’ and that overruling it would ‘return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives’.[334] The majority opinion relied on a constitutional historical view of abortion rights, saying, ‘The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision.’” Wikipedia: Roe v. Wade
  3. 2022-06-21: Funding Religious Schools Carson v. Makin
    Media Reports:
    • “The Supreme Court issued a ruling today in Carson v. Makin that requires the state of Maine to fund religious education at private religious schools as part of its tuition assistance program. The program pays for students to attend private school if their town does not have a public high school. The decision marks the first time that the court has explicitly required taxpayers to support a specifically religious activity — religious instruction — and expands the court’s 2020 ruling in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. There, the court held that that the Free Exercise Clause prohibited a state from excluding religious schools from private aid programs ‘solely because of their religious character.’” ACLU Comment on Supreme Court Decision in Carson v. Makin
    • “The Supreme Court is bulldozing the Wall of Separation. In a ruling just handed down, the Court’s conservative supermajority ruled that taxpayers can be forced to fund religious education. In Maine, the state pays for students to attend secular private schools if they live in areas without public schools of their own. The Court just ruled that by excluding sectarian schools from this arrangement, the state is in violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.” Taxpayers Forced to Fund Religious Schools

Next blog: The CRTC, Pierre Vallières and Postmodernism

The Great Canadian Euphemism

Bonne Fête nationale québécoise !

2022-06-24, Addendum 2022-06-26

In his speech before the Académie française, Quebec Minister of the French Language Simon Jolin-Barrette was totally correct in denouncing Canadian multiculturalism, as well as defamatory reactions against Bills 21 and 96 by English-language media.

Sommaire en français Dans son discours devant l’Académie française, le ministre québécois de la Langue française, Simon Jolin-Barrette, a eu tout à fait raison de dénoncer le multiculturalisme canadien, ainsi que les propos diffamatoires des médias anglophones contre les Lois 21 et 96.

Yesterday, 23rd June 2022, Simon Jolin-Barrette, Quebec Minister of the French Language, gave a formal speech before the Académie française in Paris. It was an exceptional moment, for rarely does the Académie invite foreigners to make such an address. Moreover, this is the first time in its nearly 400 year history that an elected representative who is neither head of State nor head of a government has been so invited.

As Quebec recently adopted legislation, Bill 96, which updates and reforms its Charte de la langue française, adopted in 1977 and known colloquially as Bill 101, Jolin-Barrette’s theme was, not surprisingly, the protection and reinforcement of the French language. He invited France to partner with Quebec with that goal in mind.

Jolin-Barrette referred to the increasing predominance of the English language and technology giants known as GAFAM as the “Anglo-American steamroller.” But it was perhaps his comments critical of multiculturalism—hardly controversial for the French—which ruffled the most feathers back home in this country, especially among Anglo-Canadians:

Although our project is thwarted by Canadian multiculturalism, which finds an equivalent in what you call communitarianism and which fights Quebec’s claims to be a distinct nation, the French language must truly become the language of use for all Quebecers…

He also denounced how many English-language media, both Canadian and American, have defamed Quebec and denigrated the actions of his government, particularly with regard to the secularism law (Bill 21) as well as Bill 96. Such media have endeavoured to paint those laws as regressive and authoritarian. But in his opinion, “Our fight for the French language is just, it is a universal fight, that of a nation that has peacefully resisted the will to power of the strongest.”

Simon Jolin-Barrette is absolutely right on both counts: (1) the perniciousness of the Canadian ideology of multiculturalism and (2) the defamatory reaction against Bills 21 and 96.

Canadian multiculturalism is a dishonest euphemism whose true meaning is cultural relativism, clientelism and a bigotry of low expectations, treating minorities as static, well circumscribed and distinct from the majority. It represents the death of universalism and a return to tribalism. A prime example of the consequences of multiculturalism is the experience of Yasmine Mohammed who, after suffering much abuse as a teenager at the hands of her pious Muslim step-father, was abandoned by Canadian authorities, both police and judge, who refused to take action because “different cultures are free to discipline their children in different ways.” Other consequences include all sorts of so-called “reasonable accommodations” (which should instead be called “unreasonable religious accommodations”) such as depriving children of music because of their parents’ religion, allowing—even celebrating—the veiling of young girls, thus endorsing a form of child abuse, allowing civil servants to wear religious symbols while on duty (which Bill 21 bans in Quebec) and so on.

The Québécois oppose Canadian multiculturalism because it reduces them to just another minority, which leads inexorably to Anglo-supremacy. Under Canadian multiculturalism, every language is reduced to folklore status, except English of course. Bravo Quebec for standing up for cultural and linguistic diversity!

Canadian multiculturalism is incompatible with secularism, because secularism requires that all citizens be treated equally, regardless of their religious affiliation or lack thereof. Neither Christians, nor atheists, nor Muslims, nor any other specific group should be allowed to display their personal religious opinions or identity while working in the civil service. This is called universalism and it is a core value of secularism. Those Anglo-Canadians who claim to be secularists need to face that reality.

Multiculturalism is the Great Canadian Euphemism. Proponents of this retrograde ideology arrogate to themselves the moral high ground, as if anyone who criticizes it were morally stunted or even “racist.” Their hypocrisy is obvious. Not only is multiculturalism a throwback to tribal days before the advent of universal human rights, it is also a tool used by anti-secularists to rationalize their anti-Québécois ethnic bigotry.

On this 24th of June 2022, a holiday here in Quebec, the Fête nationale, we celebrate Québécois language and culture. (This blog is in English because Anglo-Canadians are the ones who most need to read it.) Taking steps to protect the French language in Quebec is in everyone’s interest, including English-speakers, because without it, Canada and North America would be culturally much poorer. Without French language and culture, without Quebec, would Canada be anything more than a pale replica of the USA?

Addendum

Here is another example of Canadian multiculturalism in action: No child protection for Syrian refugee punched and lashed in N.S. for texting with a boy

Authorities used confusion about the victim’s age as an excuse to do nothing. The teenage girl was the target of a severe beating, enough to break her nose apparently. Whether she was 15 or 16 at the time, her father must be held accountable. But this is Canada. Would this have been allowed if the family were not immigrants from a Muslim country?


Next blog: Flawed Constitutions

The Patriots of Lower Canada

An Important Event in the History of Secularism in North America

2022-04-04

The 1838 Declaration of Independence of Lower Canada is a major milestone in the history of secularism.

Sommaire en français La Déclaration d’indépendance du Bas-Canada de 1838 est un jalon majeur dans l’histoire de la laïcité.


During the period between the British conquest of New France in 1763 (Treaty of Paris) and the formation (“Confederation”) of the Dominion of Canada composed of four provinces, the conquered territory went through several administrative changes:

  • 1763-1791: The former New France became a British colony named Province of Quebec.
  • 1791-1841: The Province of Quebec was divided into Upper Canada and Lower Canada, corresponding roughly to the southern parts of modern Ontario and Quebec respectively.
  • 1841-1867: Upper and Lower Canada were merged into a single colony called Province of Canada

In 1837-1838 an anti-colonial rebellion occurred in Lower Canada (now Quebec) which also inspired a similar but smaller rebellion in Upper Canada (now Ontario). The rebellion in Lower Canada was republican and secular in its aims. A major document of that rebellion is the 1838 Declaration of Independence of Lower Canada or Déclaration d’indépendance du Bas-Canada. It was authored by Robert Nelson, an Anglophone born in Lower Canada. It declares:

“That any union between Church and State is hereby declared to be dissolved, and every person shall have the right to exercise freely such religion or belief as his conscience dictates.”

(« Que toute union entre l’Église et l’État est par la présente déclarée être dissoute, et toute personne aura le droit d’exercer librement telle religion ou croyance qui lui sera dictée par sa conscience. »)

The Declaration also granted equal rights to native peoples.

Of course the Declaration never came into effect, because the rebels were no match for British imperial power and the rebellion was crushed. Several rebels were hanged at the Pied-du-Courant prison in Montreal. Many were exiled. The famous song Un Canadien errant by Antoine Gérin-Lajoie was inspired by the sight of a ship sending 141 condemned men into exil in Australia:

“A wandering Canadien, banished from his homeland, wept as he roamed foreign lands…”

(« Un Canadien errant, banni de ses foyers, parcourait en pleurant des pays étrangers.… »)

The 1841 merger of Upper and Lower Canada into a single colony was done on the recommendation of Lord Durham who was mandated by the British authorities to investigate the causes of rebellion. He also recommended accelerating British immigration. The goal was to anglicize French-speaking Lower Canadians by marginalizing them in a sea of English-speakers. (Today, such a strategy would probably be called cultural genocide.)

The Lower Canada rebels were called “Patriotes” and they are celebrated by a statutory holiday “Journée nationale des Patriotes” in late May. (It’s the queen’s birthday in Canada outside Quebec.) This year 2022 it is on May 23rd. As secularists, we remember their fight for freedom, democracy and secularism.

I have also written about the Patriots in a previous blog “Screw the Monarchy! Vivent les patriotes !


Next blog: The Dogmatism of the Post-Left

Unworthy To Be a Judge

2021-12-21

The recent appointment of Azimuddin Hussain to the bench of Quebec Superior Court reveals extreme bias.

Sommaire en français La nomination récente d’Azimuddin Hussain à la magistrature de la Cour supérieure du Québec révèle un parti pris extrême. Ce blogue est disponible en français : Inapte à être juge.

Yesterday (Dec. 20, 2021) we learned that the lawyer Azimuddin Hussain has been named to the bench, as judge of Quebec Superior Court. Hussain was very much in the news a year ago, when in November and December of 2020 he represented an opponent of Bill 21 before that very court. In his comments at that time, Hussain drew an outrageous parallel between Bill 21 and the Nuremberg Laws adopted by Nazi Germany in 1935. Basically, Hussain observed that the Nuremberg Laws led to genocide and holocaust, thus implying that Bill 21 could lead to something as serious.

Recall that the Nuremberg Laws denied German citizenship to Jews (as well as Romani and Blacks) and banned intermarriage and extramarital intercourse between Jews and Germans. On the other hand, Bill 21 requires that some civil servants and teachers remove any religious symbols they normally wear when they are on the job. That is all. Bill 21 does not apply when off the job.

Hussain’s words were much worse than just comparing apples and oranges—more like comparing a teapot with a Tyrannosaurus rex. To make matters worse, the judge Marc-André Blanchard did not object in any way. This incident is part of the general campaign, by the opponents of secularism, to denigrate and demonize Bill 21 and its supporters.

Hussain’s comment was made on a Friday. The following Monday morning, Hussain claimed he had been misinterpreted by the media and the judge responded, “I assure you that I understood your comparisons as being purely rhetorical.” In my opinion, this constitutes serious bias and a major lack of judgment by Blanchard.

However, other incidents during that case last year were arguably as bad or even worse. At one point, Hussain, in his determination to discredit the testimony of the expert witness (for the MLQ) Jacques Beauchemin, referred to him as “an older white male heterosexual who does not wear a religious symbol.” In an earlier court session, Hussain also belittled another expert witness, professor Georges-Auguste Legault, by calling him “a white man” in order to discredit his testimony. Given that sex, age, skin colour and sexual orientation are of no relevance in this context, Hussain’s comments were completely inappropriate. Even more disturbing was that Judge Blanchard listened to all this passively and made no objection, no attempt to reprimand Hussain for his improper behaviour.

In my opinion, for the above reasons, as well as for many other aspects of the court case last year, both Judge Blanchard and Azimuddin Hussain must be considered unworthy of the position of Judge of Quebec Superior Court. Both lack the necessary objectivity to occupy that position.

The appointment of Hussain also reveals that Federal Justice Minister David Lametti and those who advised Lametti must also be extremely biased.

Relevant Links


Next blog: Inapte à être juge

Bill 21 as Seen by Four Quebec Secularists

2021-12-18

Four perspectives on Quebec’s secularism law, Bill 21, from four prominent secular activists.

Sommaire en français Quatre points de vue sur la Loi sur la laïcité de l’État (Loi 21) du Québec, de quatre éminents militants laïques.

Here is a collection of articles about Quebec Bill 21. All four authors support the law, of course, as do all secular organizations in Quebec. Each gives his or her own perspective on Bill 21 and why that legislation is so significant. I have translated into English a few excerpts from their articles originally in French.

Marie-Claude Girard

Retired from the Canadian Human Rights Commission & Board member of the Rassemblement pour la laïcité (RPL)

Loi sur la laïcité de l’État, Une loi résolument féministe (State Secularism Law, A Resolutely Feminist Law), 2021-12-17.

Mme Girard reminds us that most religious symbols are very different for women and for men; “each of them conveys distinct social status, values, roles and responsibilities, which exacerbate their sexist character.” Thus, it is false to claim that Bill 21 somehow penalizes women. Rather, it is religion which imposes the disparity between symbols and thus religion which causes different impacts.

In the Muslim religion, for example, it is women who wear more visible religious symbols (the hijab, for example). However, it is not the law that discriminates, but sexist religious demands.

Furthermore, Quebec is a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979). Of course it is not up to the State to regulate sexist religious practices everywhere, but it must nevertheless ensure that its own institutions are free from sexism. By banning State employees in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols, Bill 21 is a resolutely feminist law.

Daniel Baril

President of the Mouvement laïque québécois (MLQ)

Hijab à l’école, Un cas qui illustre la nécessité de la loi 21 (Hijab at school, A case illustrating the necessity of Bill 21), 2021-12-16.

Mr. Baril reminds Justin Trudeau that seven parents testified for the MLQ before Quebec Superior Court in late 2020, in support of Bill 21, underlining the importance of protecting the freedom of conscience of their children “in the face of the illegitimate desire of some teachers to display their religious beliefs in an ostentatious and permanent manner in the classroom.” In particular, Muslim parents argued that “wearing the hijab in class constitutes an incitement to fundamentalist religious practice…” Thus, it is teachers who wear religious symbols in class who violate freedom of conscience and religion. Bill 21, on the other hand, protects those freedoms.

Mr. Baril also reminds Bob Rae that no international declaration grants the right to practise one’s religion in the workplace. And we are dealing with practice here, not belief.

As for recent events in Chelsea, the teacher Fatemeh Anvari admitted that her hijab represents a religious and ideological combat. Thus, her intention is to transmit a message.

It is precisely this kind of militant proselytism that the Secularism Law seeks to prevent in schools. While the hijab carries meanings, these meanings conflict with the duty of religious and ideological reserve that a teacher owes to her students.

Mr. Baril also denounces the overwhelming naïveté and dishonesty of Jagmeet Singh who falsely claimed that Bill 21 discriminates against women. In reality, it is religion which discriminates, not secularism, by imposing different social norms on men and women. Finally, it is ridiculous to claim that reassigning Fatemeh Anvari to a non-teaching position had the effect of reducing “diversity” among teachers. By that logic, all teachers would be obliged to wear some kind of partisan symbol in order to maximize diversity. How about “God Does Not Exist” on t-shirts? Maybe then Trudeau and Singh would understand the need for secularism.

André Lamoureux

Political Scientist and Lecturer at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM)

La loi 21 n’est ni raciste ni antimusulmane (Bill 21 is Neither Racist nor Anti-Muslim), 2021-12-16.

Mr. Lamoureux underlines the denigration of Quebec which is evident in recent hostility towards Bill 21. Banning religious symbols worn by agents of the State is not a manifestation of anti-Muslim sentiment. For example, since 2004, Algeria imposes such a ban on customs agents, police and security personnel and the military, and bans the full veil for teachers. Yet Canada allows the full veil in citizenship ceremonies and when voting, ignoring the fact that it is

a symbol of enslavement for women, a cloth prison promoted in fact by oppressive politico-religious ideologies, including those of the Muslim Brotherhood, salafist movements and Iranian fundamentalist currents.

Belgium, France, Bulgaria, Austria and Denmark have all banned the full veil in public. Germany and the Netherlands have banned it in some contexts. These are democratic countries which have not been admonished by the courts of the European Union. Morocco has even banned the manufacture of the burqa. Sri Lanka also banned the full veil in the wake of a major terrorist attack by the Islamic State. Are all these decisions “Islamophobic”?

To reject the dogmas of religious fundamentalism and separate religion from State is a matter of democracy and the protection of the freedom of conscience of all, including that of children. Bill 21 is therefore not anti-Muslim. This is why the federal government must withdraw from the process of legal challenges to Quebec’s law and cease all funding for groups seeking to destroy it.

Jean-François Lisée

Journalist, Politician, Former Leader of the Parti québécois (PQ)

Laïcité et obscurantisme (Secularism and Obscurantism), 2021-12-15.

Mr. Lisée’s message is straightforward, bold and indispensable. After all the defamatory accusations and outrageous denigration,

The time has come to respond without inhibition on the subject of the Quebec law. It is feminist, anti-discriminatory and avant-garde. It is part of a centuries-old fight for enlightenment and against obscurantism. It is exemplary and courageous.

Bill 21 is feminist because it bans the display, by civil servants in positions of authority, of the misogynistic signs of religions, symbolizing modesty and submission, thus refusing to normalize them. By doing so, Bill 21 renders an important service “to all women in Quebec who are subject to a retrograde religious and family influence and who try to extricate themselves from it.”

Bill 21 is anti-discriminatory because (1) it applies to religious convictions the same duty of reserve which was previously applied only to political convictions and (2) because it applies equally to all religions.

Bill 21 is avant-garde because of Quebec’s unique experience with religion. Nowhere else in North America has a society been so overwhelmingly repressed by religious domination in the past and then progressed so rapidly and so decisively along the road towards secularization and personal freedoms.

Bill 21 is courageous because, in spite of all the venom and vilification which have been heaped on Quebec for affirming its language, culture and identity, both the PQ and the CAQ mustered the courage to propose important secular legislation. And during all that, the promoters of secularism such as Guy Rocher, Jolin-Barrette, Bernard Drainville and others have shown far more respect for their opponents than they received in return. The opponents of Bill 21, whether they like to admit it or not,

play into the hands of misogynist forces who would display symbols of women’s subservience within the very apparatus of the State, they advocate discrimination that puts religious convictions—and therefore superstitions—above all other convictions, they protect ostentatious and minority religions, to the detriment of those which are more respectful of civil rule, and they turn their backs on the growing number of citizens who are abandoning religious myths and dogmas. Far from participating in enlightenment, equality or the primacy of science and reason, opponents of Bill 21 hinder the march of progress. It is high time we let them know.

Next blog: Unworthy to be a Judge

English Canada’s Messiah Complex

2021-12-17

English Canada has gone completely nuts—again—in it reaction against Quebec’s secular Bill 21.

Sommaire en français Le Canada anglais est viré complètement fou — et pas pour la première fois — dans sa réaction contre la loi laïque québécoise, la Loi 21.

I never cease to be amazed by the arrogance, self-righteousness and wilful ignorance of Anglo-Canadian opponents of secularism. There is usually a huge dose of contempt for Quebeckers underneath everything they say about Bill 21, as if Quebeckers were retarded troglodytes who need to be controlled and enlightened by the intervention of their wonderfully superior English-speaking neighbours.

…as if Quebeckers were retarded troglodytes who need to be controlled and enlightened by the intervention of their wonderfully superior English-speaking neighbours.

English Canada’s hysterical reaction to Bill 21 has reached new extremes. Its Messiah complex is out of control. Now Brampton (ON) and Calgary (AB) want to fight Bill 21, as if it were any of their phoquing business. The mayor of Toronto has endorsed Brampton’s idea. Many other Canadian municipalities and provinces have made pronouncements against Bill 21 in the past. Canada’s ambassador to the UN, Bob Rae, declared recently that Bill 21 violates the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights—a bald-faced lie. Just consult article 29(2) of that declaration.

Even Mayor Valérie Plante of Montréal, a politician whom I do not particularly like, had the good sense to warn mayors of municipalities outside Quebec that they should not be using taxpayers’ money to finance a challenge to a law in a different province. Even Quebec Solidaire (QS)—notorious for having dishonestly abandoned its previous pro-secular position only shortly after the last provincial electionexpressed similar misgivings.

Bill 21 is very moderate, even timid. Several European countries have similar but stronger legislation dealing with religious symbols, and many more countries ban full-face coverings (including many Muslim-majority countries). A person who refuses to remove any religious symbol while on the job, especially if working as a civil servant or teacher, is behaving unethically. To allow the wearing of such symbols by civil servants and teachers is to grant an obvious religious privilege.

The English- and French-speaking worlds have two different ways of managing religion-State relations. Much can and has been written to explain the differences, but the most important distinction can be summed up in one simple but crucial principle: Separation between religions and State. So-called secularists in the English-speaking world regularly use this term “Separation” but rarely apply it completely. But the 1905 French secularism law has that term in its very title, “Loi de séparation des Églises et de l’État)”, and the principle is applied much more consistently in France.

All secular organizations in Quebec support Bill 21, but NO so-called “secular” organization in Canada outside Quebec supports it. Think about that for a moment.

Quebec follows the French model, but has some distance to go. Bill 21 needs to be strengthened at least by (1) extending religious symbol bans to the entire civil service and all school personnel, and (2) ending fiscal privileges still granted to religious institutions. However, Quebec is far ahead of the rest of Canada. All secular organizations in Quebec support Bill 21, but NO so-called “secular” organization in Canada outside Quebec supports it. Think about that for a moment.

…they must at least recognize Quebec’s jurisdiction in this matter and stop meddling in that province’s internal affairs.

When the separation principle is included, I call this “republican secularism” in order to avoid confusion (because the word “secularism” alone may be ambiguous). The republican model is clearly superior to the Anglo-American model, but if English Canadians are too ethnocentric or pig-headed to admit this, they must at least recognize Quebec’s jurisdiction in this matter and stop meddling in that province’s internal affairs.

Canada is a federation in which provinces have a certain degree of autonomy. Bill 21 is within Quebec’s provincial jurisdiction. When people from outside Quebec intervene in an attempt to repeal a Quebec law like Bill 21, democratically adopted and supported by the majority of the population of that province, then those intervenors are practising a form of neo-colonialism and cultural imperialism. And this from a people who swear by so-called “multiculturalism” as some kind of dogma! Obviously, that prefix “multi” does not include the Québécois.

Given a choice between republican secularism and religious privilege—including privileges for political Islam—only a fool, or a religious leader, would choose to support the latter. But that is what opponents of Bill 21 are choosing.

Their cowardly conformism to the dominant ideology of cultural relativism confuses other secularists and weakens the cause enormously.

Those organizations which claim to be secular, while hypocritically opposing secularism in the one place in Canada which is making real progress in that direction, are arguably the worst. Their cowardly conformism to the dominant ideology of cultural relativism confuses other secularists and weakens the cause enormously. The very people who should be putting their energies into supporting initiatives such as Bill 21 and making public statements to counter the hysterical anti-secularism of the Anglo-Canadian press and politicians are doing just the opposite. They have betrayed this important cause—and the many Canadians who support Bill 21—by choosing convenience over principle and religious privilege over separation.

If the current court challenge to Bill 21 reaches the Supreme Court of Canada, which is probable, and if that Court strikes the law down, which is possible, that decision will surely cause a major constitutional crisis. This in turn will, in all probability, lead to a huge increase in support for the Quebec independence movement, which eventually may lead to a unilateral declaration of independence by Quebec.

Quebec will continue its process of secularization which it started over half a century ago at the beginning of the Quiet Revolution. It can continue that progress either as a province within Canada, or as an independent secular republic.


Next blog: Bill 21 as Seen by Four Quebec Secularists

Quebec Bill 21 for Dummies

Abbreviated Version

2021-12-14

A summary of the basic facts about Bill 21 and the controversy surrounding it.

Sommaire en français
Un résumé des faits essentiels concernant la Loi 21 et la controverse à son sujet.
Ce blogue est aussi disponible en français.

Given that Quebec Bill 21 is in the news again and many misconceptions, misunderstandings and outright lies are being spread, it is time to establish a few important facts. Here is the minimum you need to know.

  1. Bill 21 is law which partially implements State secularism in Quebec and which imposes a very minor, even trivial, restriction on the freedom of expression of some State employees, by banning them from wearing religious symbols on the job. This in no way impacts their freedom of belief. This is done to protect the freedoms of other people: users of civil services and especially schoolchildren. This is basically what all laws do: seek an equilibrium between conflicting freedoms. Bill 21 does a reasonably good job at that, although it is too weak.
  2. Quebec is in the vanguard of secularism in the Americas. Many people in English Canada do not understand this, or refuse to understand it.
  3. Many people and groups oppose secularism for various reasons. But there is one anti-secularism force which is particularly virulent and dangerous: political Islam, which is an international extreme right-wing politico-religious movement, also known as Islamism.
  4. One of political Islam’s preferred propaganda tools is the Islamic veil, which it promotes anywhere and everywhere it can. It has had enormous success imposing the veil in Muslim-majority countries where a few decades ago the veil was rarely seen in cities. By having women wear this propaganda tool, they can play the victim card very effectively. The veil is both religious and political, especially the latter. Its meaning is independent of the mentality of the women who wear it, who are often unaware of the veil’s full implications but feel pressure to conform by wearing it.
  5. Islam and even Islamism enjoy enormous preferential treatment from the so-called left (and increasingly from the centre, like Justin Trudeau), for historical and ideological reasons related to the spectacular success and equally spectacular ultimate failure of Marxism.
  6. Ethnic bigotry against Francophone Quebeckers is a major theme throughout Canadian history. Islamists have greatly exploited it. Anglo-Canadian fear of the Quebec independence movement increased this prejudice in recent decades. English Canada’s hysterical opposition to Bill 21 is largely (but not entirely) a hate-propaganda campaign against the Québécois.

Next blog: La Loi 21 pour les nuls

The Incompetence of Shachi Kurl

Her “Question” to Bloc Leader Blanchet was Not a Question

2021-09-22

The behaviour of Angus Reid president Shachi Kurl at the English-language leaders’ debate shows that she is incompetent as she was unable, or unwilling, to conduct herself with a modicum of impartiality.

Sommaire en français Le comportement du président d’Angus Reid Shachi Kurl lors du débat des chefs en anglais montre qu’elle est incompétente car elle n’a pas pu, ou n’a pas voulu, se conduire avec un minimum d’impartialité.

Shachi Kurl is president of the polling agency Angus Reid Institute and was moderator of the 9th September 2021 English-language debate of federal political party leaders. The election is now over, with results practically identical to the party standings before the election. Nevertheless, the controversy caused by the behaviour of the moderator at this debate remains very relevant.

The debate began with the theme of “Leadership and Accountability” in which Kurl, after initial questions to Singh and Trudeau, caused a scandal by asking the following as her first question to Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet:

You deny that Quebec has problems with racism, yet you defend legislation, such as bills 96 and 21, which marginalize religious minorities, anglophones and allophones. Quebec is recognized as a distinct society but for those outside the province, please help them understand why your party also supports these discriminatory laws.

Canada election 2021: English-language federal leaders’ debate | FULL

For this question, Kurl was accused of Quebec-bashing by many Quebecers, including the entire National Assembly which unanimously passed a motion calling for the broadcasters of the debate to apologize. Not only did Quebec Premier Legault denounce Kurl’s attack on Quebec, even Justin Trudeau and Erin O’Toole agreed that Kurl’s formulation was inappropriate.

These accusations against Shachi Kurl for the tendentious nature of her question are of course totally well-founded. As I have been explaining for years, opposition to Quebec’s secularism Bill 21 is motivated, in part, by anti-Québécois ethnic bigotry (or racism if you prefer) which has been a recurring theme throughout Canadian history. This is the reality of the situation, although so-called anti-racists fail to recognize it. (Kurl’s question also referred to Draft Bill 96, legislation whose purpose is to strengthen protection of the French language and which would establish French as sole official language in Quebec. The federal House of Commons has, by an overwhelming majority, endorsed having that official status recognized in the Canadian Constitution, although a few anti-Francophone fanatics are still upset about it. However, Bill 96 is beyond the scope of this blog.)

The essential point to be made here is that Shachi Kurl’s “question” was not a question. Rather, it was obviously an accusation. It baldly asserted an extremely negative value judgment—that Bill 21 is discriminatory and perhaps even “racist”—dishonestly disguised as a question.

The fact that Kurl was unable or unwilling to ask a real question, having at least some semblance of impartiality, is proof of her incompetence. For the president of a polling agency, this is particularly disturbing, for how can anyone have confidence in the impartiality of a polling firm if its president is not even capable of formulating a question appropriately when moderating a political debate? If the moderator behaves like a partisan participant in the debate, rather than a disinterested arbiter, then she or he is incompetent.

Kurl could have formulated her question is a much more unbiased manner. She could, for example, have simply observed that some commentators have asserted that Bill 21 (or Bill 96) is discriminatory and then asked Blanchet his opinion of that assertion. But she did not. Instead, she choose to ask an extremely loaded question, making the negative assertions her own and denigrating the Québécois as racist.

When asked about the controversy, Kurl referred to the decision of Justice Marc-André Blanchard of the Quebec Superior Court, rendered 20th April 2020, which did indeed qualify Bill 21 as discriminatory while nevertheless upholding much of the law. This judgment stands as long as it is not overturned by a higher court. However, that decision can hardly be considered a reasonable assessment of Bill 21. Recall the following aspects of Justice Blanchard’s decision:

  • The judgment exempts English-language schools from Bill 21 on the grounds that it violates minority-language rights. This is absurd. Bill 21 has nothing to do with language or language rights.
  • The judgment suspends Bill 21’s ban on face-coverings for sitting members of the Quebec National Assembly, on the grounds that the ban violates the right to vote and run for public office. Again, this makes no sense, as such a ban in no way affects voting or running for office.
  • The judgment asserts that religious symbols worn by a person are far more important that political symbols because they involve the very “soul or essence” of the believer. This gives religious expression a priority greatly exceeding that of political expression, thus egregiously privileging religion. It also asserts—ludicrously—the existence of the human soul!
  • The judgment criticizes Bill 21 for failing to recognize any law of “God.” This implies that the State should recognize religious law, not just the law of the land, a totally unacceptable situation.

To say that Justice Blanchard’s decision was in error would be the understatement of the century. If Shachi Kurl has to resort to that decision to justify her tendentious behaviour at the leaders’ debate, she is grasping at straws.

It is important to remember that opposition to Quebec Bill 21 is based on totally neglecting the rights of civil service users and schoolchildren to an environment free of religious proselytism. Instead, the law’s opponents give absolute priority to the freedom of religious expression of the employee while displaying utter contempt for the rights of the users and schoolchildren whom the employees serve. They offer no valid reason to justify this religious privilege.

Finally, the association of Bill 21 with “racism” which is part of Shachi Kurl’s “question” is standard practice for the law’s opponents. Although the law obviously has nothing whatsoever to do with race or racism, opponents like Kurl irrationally and dishonestly conflate race with religion. This allows them to make specious accusations of racism, because defamation is their primary weapon in their war against secularism. Their constant use of such slander against secularists is proof of the vacuity of their arguments.


Next blog: What the “Woke” and the Political Right Have in Common

The Necessity of Quebec Bill 21

A response to the pseudo-argument
“Quebec Bill 21 does not meet any existing need.”

2021-04-26

In the current context of the proliferation of Islamist ideology, Quebec Bill 21 is necessary.

En français Ce blogue est disponible en version française : La nécessité de la Loi 21

One of the popular pseudo-arguments employed by opponents of Quebec Bill 21 is their claim that such legislation is unnecessary, that it does not meet any real need. This bogus argument can be decoded by considering it in connection with another favourite pseudo-argument of antisecularists: that Bill 21 is somehow “discriminatory” and in particular that it “discriminates” against Muslim women.

But first, we must recognize the context in which we live: the proliferation of Islamist ideology.

To grasp fully the issues at play here, we must understand the objective significance of the Islamic veil. The veil, whether it be a hijab, chador, niqab, burqa, etc., is obviously an emblem of radical Islam, that is, Islamism. It is a political uniform and a tool which Islamism uses to infiltrate our societies, a marker of the territory which Islamists seek to occupy, with the complicity of a certain political “left” sometimes referred to as the “Islamoleft,” as well as other partisans of cultural relativism. The veil is also a very strong symbol of misogyny and sexism, as well as an icon of fundamentalist religious obscurantism.

Not to recognize this obvious fact, this objective reality—to claim, on the contrary, that the veil is just a banal article of clothing—is foolish and inexcusable.

We also know that the religious meaning that promoters of the veil assign to this accoutrement is one of purity. That is to say, the veil is a purity symbol which indicates that the woman wearing it is a good Muslim who deserves paradise and, on the other hand, that the woman who does not wear one (especially a Muslim who does not wear one) is impure and deserves to end up in hell. So this is the “choice” the woman faces: heaven or hell.

This objective reality of the veil is completely independent of the mentality or intention of the woman who wears it: she may wear it by choice and be completely unaware of its political significance; or, she may wear it because she is pressured to do so by family or community; or she may be an intentional supporter of Islamism. None of this changes the fact that the veil is a banner of Islamism.

Thus, given this reality, it is obvious that Bill 21 and similar measures which prohibit the wearing of religious symbols by State employees are absolutely necessary in order to counter this Islamist campaign. And to be fair, in order not to discriminate against a particular religion, these prohibitions must apply to visible symbols of all religions.

Therefore, Quebec Bill 21 is necessary and, in addition, it is designed not to discriminate. Thus, two bogus arguments of anti-secularists are entirely debunked. As for the opponents of Bill 21 who continue to use these pretexts, they are either completely mistaken, or they are crassly dishonest.


Next blog: The “Woke” are Not the Political Left