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 election—expressed 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