Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Religious Discrimination in Quebec? Not Shocked At All

Quebec has passed legislation that will forbid government workers in positions of authority from wearing religious stuff--well, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh stuff.  Why?  What is the problem here?  The problem is that each party competing for the xenophobic vote in Quebec ended up supporting something like this.  Sure, the anti-immigrant party, Coalition Avenir Qu├ębec, is the one who won, but the Liberal Party was pandering in this direction before. 

There is no crisis or problem here in terms of a real public policy problem to be addressed.  The folks who support this would argue that having those in authority wear religious symbols might make it seem like the government is promoting a particular religion.  And that might be sincere if they were worried about crosses.  But they are not.

Instead, as Jacob Levy said wisely years ago, this issue allows two distinct groups of Quebeckers to form an alliance: those that hate all religions and those who are Catholic and thus want to see rivals expelled from the public space.  So, of course, politicians pander to this, but that is on them.  Discriminating against minority religious groups is a bad look for a government and a province that complains about tyranny of the majority.

How would an independent Quebec government treat minorities?  Well, this particular legislation suggests: not great, Jean!  Maybe the nationalists are hoping for a fight to rouse the separatist sentiment. 

One thing to keep in mind--Quebec has far more public employees in authority as they not only own the courts and the buses but also the universities, public school teachers, and the cops.  Maybe professors are too Jewy for the CAQ? 

Given how past discussions about this stuff has gone, it may be that some folks are not being anti-semitic or Islamophobic or anti-Sikh on purpose, but there are those who are very deliberately so.  And those who support this law but don't think they are doing anything wrong should maybe pay attention to how discrimination like this sends signals both to those who want to commit violence and those who are likely to be targets.  Because this essentially creates a permission structure whereby those who hate more passionately are given the signal to go ahead since the provincial government has said that these people are less worthy. 

Canadians in Quebec and across the country should be outraged.  But Islamophobia is not just a Quebec thing.  It is just very Quebecky to worry about discrimination while dealing it out.  I do miss many things about Quebec, but this?  Nope.  Don't miss it at all.

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