Pauline Marois and Bernard Drainville
“I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’ ” Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t — till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’ ”
“But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ’a nice knock-down argument’,” Alice objected.
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master — that’s all.”
—Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass
“These (rules) offer harmonious relations and social cohesion for a Quebec that is increasingly multiethnic and multireligious.”
—Bernard Drainville, Quebec Minister responsible for Democratic Institutions and Active Citizenship, on the introduction of the Charter Affirming the Values Of Secularism and the Religious Neutrality of the State, As Well As the Equality of Men and Women, and the Framing of Accommodation Requests
Drainville could give Humpty Dumpty a lesson or two in how to twist words beyond recognition.
Take the social cohesion Drainville says will result from the Parti Québécois’s much criticized Charter of Values, henceforth known as the Bill of Blah-Blah. According to the Council of Europe, whose mission is to promote democracy and human rights, it is defined as “the capacity of a society to ensure the well-being of all its members, minimizing disparities and avoiding marginalization.”
It’s hard to see how the Bill of Blah-Blah does any of that, especially the part about avoiding marginalization. The BBB is actually designed to increase the marginalization of minority religious groups. It’s also unconcerned with the welfare of the mostly working poor who may lose their jobs if they insist on wearing a kippah, headscarf or turban while waxing the floors of some government office complex.
Drainville’s bill even reaches beyond that vulnerable group and threatens the livelihood of people working for companies hired to do work for the government. And just what do you think will happen to the job prospects of observant Jews, Sikhs or Muslims who apply to work at any of the thousands of companies big and small that rely on government contracts? They might not be told they were rejected for their religion, but that will certainly be the effect of a law that would put the government’s stamp of approval on overt discrimination.
As for harmonious relations, well, the PQ may actually be making some headway there. This week, the Association des musulmans et arabes pour la laïcité defended the Jewish General Hospital against PQ candidate Tania Longpré, who wrote on Facebook that she thought the word Jewish should be removed from its name.
Hell, maybe Obama should send Pauline Marois to the Middle East to see if she can unite Jews and Arabs there as well.
The PQ’s Conseil National last weekend adopted a proposal that all future candidates for the party must swear they will never wear overt religious symbols in the National Assembly.
In a similar spirit, I hereby promise I will never wear a whalebone corset. At least, not in public.
That this motion even reached the council floor is ample evidence of just how gleefully disingenuous the PQ has become. They pretend that their attack on overt symbols affects every religion equally when even a child knows that Catholics don’t wear such symbols. Yet they say nothing about the most obvious Christian icon around: the pervasive use of Saint in everything from town names to public holidays to the friggin’ Ste. Flanelle.
So let me ask Drainville a simple question:
Which is the greater threat to the symbolic religious neutrality of the state: a few hundred head coverings of daycare workers and cleaning women — or 557 cities, town and villages with Saint, Notre-Dame, Ange or Trinité in their name?
If half the towns in the province included Allah, Mohammad, Buddha or Yahweh in their names, do you really think the PQ would ignore it?
And what about the schools? I went to St. Luke’s elementary and St. Thomas high, both of which still carry their Catholic names 13 years after religious school boards were eliminated. Is there a more obvious statement of the state’s lack of secularity than the thousands of towns, streets, rivers, lakes, mountains and schools named after Christian symbols? Even half of our statutory holidays — St-Jean, Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving — have religion at their root. So why doesn’t the Bill of Blah-Blah repeal them?
Let’s not even get into the state subsidization of private religious schools and the property tax exemptions for religious buildings.
So, Mr. Drainville and Madame Marois, I call Bullshit on the Bill of Blah-Blah. It’s not about secularity any more than it is about the equality of the sexes. It’s about pandering to racism and to racists. It’s about the suppression of basic human rights. It’s about the deliberate creation of social upheaval for electoral gains.
So take your Charter and stick it in your glory hole.
And by glory, I mean ass. ■