If Quebec separates, we keep Montreal

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Jonathan Kay: If Quebec separates, we keep Montreal

National Post | March 5, 2014 

Having sown the political fields with an ugly campaign against ethnic garb and the English language, Quebec Premier Pauline Marois is now hoping to reap a bounty of votes in an April 7 provincial election. If she wins a majority, the province likely will hold a third sovereignty referendum. It’s been almost two decades since the last one, and separatist foot-dragging on the question of when they’ll get their “winning conditions” is beginning to take on a farcical Waiting-for-Godot aspect. If not now, when?

During the 1995 referendum campaign, the federalist forces held a downtown Montreal rally that drew an estimated 100,000 participants. But as Michael Den Tandt reported in Wednesday’s edition of the National Post, such scenes are unlikely to be repeated this time around. Quebec’s bloated welfare state and dysfunctional infrastructure programs suck in $16.3-billion more in federal money than the province gives back. Increasingly, Alberta is becoming Canada’s economic engine, as Quebec dawdles about developing its own energy resources and repels investors with its absurd language laws. To many Canadians, Quebec’s government looks less like a partner in confederation, and more like a bailout case.

Meanwhile, the Quebec government’s completely gratuitous attack on religious freedoms in the province finally has convinced many Canadians that the province’s society truly is distinct, albeit in the worst possible way. It goes without saying that not all Quebecers are xenophobes. But if they are willing to re-elect, in majority form, a government that builds its popularity at the expense of turbaned nine-year-old soccer players, hijabbed nurses, and yarmulke-wearing doctors, well that says something doesn’t it? We’re all federalists here, but the behaviour of Quebec’s government truly does strain the conceit that “Canadian values” hold interrupted sway from coast to coast.

So how should our federal government respond if a referendum is called by a re-elected Parti Québécois? Here are four suggestions:

First, don’t act as if Quebec separation would be some kind of apocalypse. Acting as if Quebec’s departure from Canada is unthinkable destroys our bargaining position on a hundred different issues once the referendum fails. Indeed, such hysteria is a major reason Quebec has built up that annual $16.3-billion bribe.

Second, notwithstanding the paragraph above, let’s not waste our breath lecturing Quebec about the economic fallout of separation. Like all sentimental nationalists, Quebec separatists see independence as a sort of magical elixir. Warning them about dollars and cents is like warning teenage poker players that all those cigars might eventually give them gum cancer.

Third, make NDP leader Thomas Mulcair — and every other soft federalist — tell us clearly whether he or she respects Canadian law. Specifically, the Clarity Act, which defines a valid referendum result as one based on “a clear expression of the will of the population,” expressed through “a clear majority” of voters — as opposed to the bare-bones majority standard of 50%-plus-one, which the NDP has supported since the Jack Layton era.

Fourth, and this is the big one: Have the courage to tell Quebec, flat out, that if Canada is divisible, so is Quebec. And whatever clear voting standard is used to adjudicate the overall result of the province’s referendum will be the same result used to adjudicate the status of the province’s northern Cree regions, the Eastern Townships, and, most importantly, Montreal.

There are several million people living in Quebec who oppose their provincial government’s separatist agenda

Which is to say: If 60% of Quebcers somehow can be convinced to vote for separation, while 60% of Montrealers vote to retain the status quo, then Ottawa should partition Montreal as part of sovereign Canada, free of Quebec’s parochial language laws, ethnic demagoguery and dead-end economic policies.

Partition wouldn’t be about Canada making any sort of land grab, even if that is how separatists would describe it. Partition would be about fulfilling our historical and constitutional obligations to Canadians — especially Anglophones and immigrants — who have grown up in this country expecting their government to respect basic rights (especially those pertaining to language and religion). Since Quebec’s separatists have shown that they have no intention of respecting these rights — indeed, that are willing to ostentatiously flout these rights as a means to appeal to the worst instincts of Québécois voters — the federal government must signal that it will act decisively when the votes are counted.

It is fine for jaded Canadians in Toronto and Calgary to say they’re tired of Quebec’s complaints, and that the province can just “go its own way” if it likes. But there are several million people living in Quebec who oppose their provincial government’s separatist agenda, and they may soon be looking to Ottawa for vindication of their rights. In the unlikely event that the separatists win a referendum, the voices of these Canadians must not be ignored.

National Post

Anthony Housefather: Beware the Secular Police

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In my opinion:

Anthony Housefather is a tireless fighter for fundamental rights. From the protection of linguistic rights of Quebec’s oppressed English-speaking community to the promotion of Cote Saint-Luc’s Human Rights Walkway to speaking out against the mean-spirited Charter of Quebec Values Anthony is always ready to defend and protect.

Bravo Mr. Mayor. I’m proud to work side-by-side with you.

Mayor Anthony Housefather

Mayor Anthony Housefather

Anthony Housefather, National Post | 13/09/16 |
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It was not enough that the Parti Quebecois’ “language police” gave us Pastagate. Now they want to give us Kippagate. Should their Charter of Quebec Values be adopted, it seems sadly certainly that Quebec will once again be in the headlines of all the world’s major newspapers after an orthodox Jewish surgeon is escorted out of a hospital by the new “Secular Police” in the middle of performing surgery. A ridiculous notion, absolutely. But after watching this government for a year, it is hard to put anything past them.

Following their failed attempt to divide Quebecers through language policy, the PQ is now attempting to divide us by stigmatizing religious minorities. The PQ will argue that its proposed Charter treats all religions equally. But it does not. There is no required dress that I am aware of that religious Catholics must wear at all times. This is not true of many minority religions. Practicing Sikh men are supposed to wear turbans, many Muslim women choose to wear a hijab because they believe it is their religious duty, some Jewish men believe they must wear a kippa. The PQ’s proposal would essentially require these individuals to choose between their faith or keeping their jobs in the civil service, education and health care. Beyond being an affront to freedom of religion, this proposal will make our civil service, already dominated by white francophones, even less diverse.

The Parti Quebecois government continues to espouse the view that its narrow minded policies somehow reflect the values and beliefs of all Quebecers, or at least all good Quebecers. It also presumes that the values of the majority should trump the rights of the minority.

As the mayor of a city composed of people of many cultures, languages and religions, I categorically oppose this proposed Charter. It does not reflect my values or the values of most of the people I know. My values are those set out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Rights. My values are that the rights of the individual are sacrosanct. Nothing in my values tells me that a civil servant working in my city is somehow harming our society by wearing religious attire.

As the mayor of a Quebec city, I can tell you that some of my civil servants wear religious garb. And we have received precisely zero complaints.

In Cote Saint-Luc, we have civil servants who wear kippas and turbans and large ornamental crosses. Not one of my residents has ever complained. Just because these civil servants dress in this way does not mean that Cote Saint-Luc is not a secular city. We respect and support all religions and those who have no religion, we do not favour one position over another and an employee who dresses a certain way does not force their religion on others. My residents care about the service our civil servants provide not how they dress. Our goal is to have diversity in our civil service and that will not be achieved by telling various groups they need not apply.

Would the menorah on our lawn be banned, even though the Jewish community has been here since 1760?

Indeed, the issues a municipality would face under this Charter go well beyond the dress of civil servants. Recently Cote Saint-Luc council agreed to erect flags in honour of the 50th anniversary of Saint Richard Church. Would this be permitted under the Charter? At winter holiday time we have a Christmas tree and menorah on our lawn. Would this be permitted? According to the PQ, the Christmas tree is OK as it is part of Quebec’s cultural heritage. Does this mean the menorah would be banned, even though the Jewish community has been here since 1760? I have enough on my plate as mayor without having to worry about violating the law by supporting our local churches and synagogues.

Of course our council would vote for the five-year exemption under the law permitting us to opt out of certain provisions of the Charter. But who knows how the government would then treat those municipalities that applied for exemptions? Moreover, even if I managed to protect my own civil servants by invoking the exemption, is it fair that a civil servant in a neighbouring town is forced to choose between their faith and their job because a majority of their council did not support obtaining an exemption?

A few months ago, I was appalled by Bill 14, which sought to tough Quebec’s language laws. But my faith, if that term is still permitted, was restored by the lack of support the government received once the proposed law was understood. I hope the same is the case for the Charter of Quebec Values.

National Post

Anthony Housefather is an attorney and the Mayor of City of Cote Saint-Luc.

Why I won’t be going to La Ronde

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In my opinion:

La Ronde and its parent company Six Flags has helped fan the flames of intolerance and turned their backs on a simple form of reasonable accommodation. Rather than allowing those who are prohibited from eating the food sold on site at La Ronde, the corporation caved in to a deluge of “protests” most of whom, I’ll venture a guess, have never stepped foot in La Ronde.

To be sure, I blame La Ronde’s intolerance squarely on corporate greed.  They force everyone to buy their ridiculously expensive, low quality, fast food because, well, because they can.

I would have brought my own sandwiches and healthy snacks even if my family wasn’t Kosher. But seeing as we do keep Kosher am I to pay their expensive entrance fees to be told I must exit their grounds if I want to eat my own food, which I’d have to leave in a stinking hot car? I think not. I’ll show La Ronde and Six Flags what I think about their mean-spirited and greedy decision by spending my amusement dollars where I’m wanted.

 

 

Montreal amusement park ends ‘special privileges for halal and kosher food’ amid uproar

National Post | Graeme Hamilton | 13/07/22

For the boys at Camp Gan Israel in the Laurentians, the trip to the La Ronde amusement park in Montreal is one of the highlights of the summer. Because the camp is kosher, and La Ronde does not sell kosher food, the children have always been allowed to bring in their own snacks.

But after a newspaper went undercover last week to reveal that Muslims and Jews with dietary restrictions were exempt from the ban on bringing food into the park, La Ronde announced an end to the religious accommodation Monday.

“After hearing feedback from our guests, La Ronde would like to clarify that only guests with special medical dietary needs will be considered to bring outside food with them as they enter the park,” communications manager Catherine Tremblay said in a statement.

The “feedback” included a 19,000-name Internet petition and a stream of intolerant reader comments on media web sites after the Journal de Montréal broke the news last week. The paper’s reporter had donned a headscarf and received a sticker allowing her to bring her sandwich into the park. “Special privileges for halal and kosher food,” the front-page headline read. “Lunches forbidden at La Ronde except for Jews and Muslims,” the paper reported on its website.

I think that before companies give in to accommodation vigilantism they have to think about the broader ramifications

The uproar over the amusement park’s policy is the latest sign of the resurgence of Quebec’s debate over the reasonable accommodation of religious minorities. It comes as the provincial Parti Québécois government prepares a new charter aimed to protect “Quebec values” against a perceived assault by minority religious groups.

Last month, the Quebec Soccer Federation made international headlines when it ignored the advice of the national federation and barred turban-wearing Sikhs from playing. It reversed the ban after the sport’s international governing body, FIFA, said the head coverings were acceptable.

In May, Quebec’s minister responsible for the planned values charter, Bernard Drainville, denounced a long-standing Montreal policy that allowed observant Jews to avoid parking tickets during high holidays.

Liba Mockin, co-director of Camp Gan Israel in La Minerve, Que., said her camp has always enjoyed a good relationship with La Ronde and she is optimistic a solution can be reached before next year’s visit.

“Everyone needs to eat during the day,” she said. “Because we’re so restricted and it’s not optional — it’s not like we’re deciding on that day whether we’re eating kosher — by telling us we can’t bring kosher food, you’re telling us we can’t eat for the day.”

Officials with La Ronde, which is owned by the American company Six Flags Entertainment Corp., declined interview requests and did not reply to emailed questions about the policy change.

Jack Jedwab, executive director of the Montreal-based Association for Canadian Studies, said the backlash over La Ronde’s accommodation is a sign of growing “accommodation vigilantism” in Quebec. “I think that before companies give in to accommodation vigilantism they have to think about the broader ramifications,” he said.

The motivation is much more dangerous than the actual action

Salam Elmenyawi, president of the Muslim Council of Montreal, said La Ronde would not be facing the problem if it made halal and kosher food available in its restaurants.

He said the fact that visitors to La Ronde can eat picnic lunches in a special area outside the park entrance means the end of the accommodation will not bring significant inconvenience. But the message sent is harmful.

“The motivation is much more dangerous than the actual action,” he said.

“I think it is a bit distasteful for them to make this an issue.”

It is reminiscent of the uproar over accommodation practices that led to Quebec’s 2008 Bouchard-Taylor commission. Authors Charles Taylor and Gérard Bouchard concluded that the crisis was largely fuelled by misinformation and blamed journalists for embarking on an ill-informed “accommodation hunt.” (Then as now, the Journal de Montréal led the charge.)

The hunt is back on, and the level of journalistic rigour is scarcely better. Just consider when the Journal decided to undertake its sting — during Ramadan, when most healthy Muslims fast from dawn until sunset. The reporter’s sandwich may have been the only purportedly halal food to pass through La Ronde’s gates that day and for weeks to come.

National Post

• Email: ghamilton@nationalpost.com

Parking-gate: PQ minister takes aim at Jewish ‘parking tolerance’

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How lucky we are that the PQ isn’t in charge of parking.

That didn’t stop PQ Democratic Institutions Minister Bernard Drainville from coming up with the latest moronic notion of what parking rules would look like in an independent Quebec where the PQ would control everything from pasta on menus to the language kids may use while playing in the schoolyard.

PQ parking rules would never accommodate any Jew whose religion prohibits him or her from driving on a holiday. But G-d forbid that Quebec would ever remove the display of Christmas trees, or close roads for a Santa Claus parade or remove the crucifix from the National Assembly. Not to mention other tolerances such as road closures for the St. Patrick parade or Italian festival or any number of multi-cultural or religious festivities enjoyed by hundreds of thousands across Montreal. Secularism in the PQ’s Quebec is one way, against “les autres”.

The PQ doesn’t miss a chance to insult or denigrate one minority or another in its pursuit of linguistic purity and uni-culturalism. Whether it’s parking, playgrounds or pasta this mean-spirited and ill-advised government has shone a light on itself for the world to see.

Does parking tolerance here or there threaten the French language any more than a christmas tree threatens Judaism?

The vast majority of Quebecers know that accommodation is reasonable, that tolerance is welcoming. The PQ should figure it out too. Live and let live. Park and let park.

Read more:

PQ minister takes aim at Jewish ‘parking tolerance’ in apparent attempt to inflame Quebecers | Full Comment | National Post.

National Post Full Comment: Throwing around Quebec’s c-word

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Dan Delmar: Throwing around Quebec’s c-word

National Post | 13/05/07 |

One of the most offensive words in the Québécois lexicon is “colonisé.”

Also abbreviated as “colon” (not the organ, it’s a soft N), it is an adjective hurled at those who have been metaphorically “colonized” by their embrace of the English language.

It’s a word that is used among Francophones casually, in private. In public, it typically is used only by fringe ultra-nationalists, a few rabid radio talk-show hosts, and, last week, an elected member of Quebec’s National Assembly.

In a debate about Bill 14, a language law that might be described as the ugly stepchild of Bill 101, Parti Québécois MNA Daniel Breton objected to Liberals speaking English in the legislature — even though the practice is perfectly permissible, and is done on occasion when legislators are dealing with matters pertaining to Anglo Quebecers.

“I would like to highlight that elected members of the official opposition in the National Assembly expressed themselves in English on the subject of Bill 14, a law on the French language,” Breton said in the legislature (speaking in French, of course). “You might have the right, but it shows to what point you are ‘colonisés.’”

The statement is offensive for a number of reasons. And it shows that Breton knows less about Canadian history than the average high school student.

Francophones were, of course, the colonizers. The true “colonisés” were Aboriginals. Despite the popular myths of ultra-nationalists such as Breton, and their claims to victimhood, Francophones in Canada are not an indigenous people.

Breton’s comments also are consistent with retrograde PQ policies (including Bill 14 itself) that cast multilingualism as a threat to Quebec’s identity, and unilingualism as a mark of true Québécois patriotism.

This is hardly the first time that Breton has attracted controversy. He had a brief stint as Quebec’s environment minister, which ended when it was revealed that he called up the head of Quebec’s public consultation bureau to make it clear that the agency would hear from him if he wasn’t satisfied with their decisions.

To describe a fellow Quebecer as “colonisé” is more than just a cheap insult. It’s a Québécois species of McCarthyism

Breton also was found guilty of three counts of fraud for making false EI declarations in 1988. The co-founder of Quebec’s Green Party, he once was caught speeding in a Porsche at 275km/h. This is the man whom the PQ has chosen to defend one of the most controversial bills in the party’s history.

If the PQ were a normal political party, his behaviour in the National Assembly alone would be enough to have him removed from caucus. He is not fit to represent Quebecers, sovereignists or otherwise.

If the PQ wants to repair its credibility, Premier Pauline Marois must rid her party of those who contribute to hateful, regressive rhetoric. To describe a fellow Quebecer as “colonisé” is more than just a cheap insult. It’s a Québécois species of McCarthyism, and a sad example of how fringe separatist elements are impeding tolerance between Quebec’s two main language communities.

 

Dan Delmar is the co-founder of Provocateur Communications and the co-host of Delmar & Dwivedi on CJAD 800 Montreal.

Barbara Kay: Quebec seeks covert exit from pledge to ethnic minorities

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National Post, Full Comment

Barbara Kay

Friday, Apr. 5, 2013

 

Quite a lot of printer’s ink has been consumed in the last few months on the iniquities inherent in Quebec’s proposed Bill 14, a substantial revision of Bill 101, Quebec’s 1977 Charter of the French Language.

 

Under Bill 14, we have learned, bilingual municipalities could lose their bilingual status against their will according to slight demographic shifts; military families could see their traditional rights to have their children educated in English during their tours in Quebec terminated, effectively suffocating the English school system in that region; English CEGEPs could see their freedom to accept francophone students curtailed (which would hurt francophones a lot more than anglophones); and employees would have the right to sue their employees if they were asked to speak English on the job.

 

Here is another, quite insidious twist to Bill 14. Bill 14 will replace the current Charter’s words “ethnic minorities” with “cultural communities.” On the surface that seems rather anodyne. But in terms of human rights, that would be a momentous change. For “ethnic minorities” has status in international, national and provincial human rights codes, while “cultural communities” has no status at all.

 

When “ethnic minorities” feel their rights have been abrogated, they can make a moral appeal to the UN Declaration of Human Rights of 1948,or the UN Covenant on Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities of 1992, not to mention the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

 

But I suspect one especially pressing reason for the change is that with it, Quebec can ignore the Quebec City Inter-Parliamentary Union of October 2012. (See ipu.org for information on this organization, which seems not to have much political muscle, but certainly holds high ideals.)

 

The IPU’s latest gathering was held in Quebec City last October. The theme was: “Citizenship, Identity and Linguistic and Cultural Diversity in a Globalized World.” It produced the “Quebec City Declaration,” and as I note some of the declaration’s highlights below, please bear in mind that they were adopted unanimously:

 

* “We, members of parliament gathering in Quebec City on the 127th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, firmly uphold cultural, linguistic, ethnic, racial, political and religious diversity as a global value which should be celebrated, respected, encouraged and protected within and among all societies and civilizations”;

 

* “We are convinced that a diversity of ideas, values, beliefs, languages and cultural expressions…enriches our outlook and experiences at the national, regional and international levels”;

 

* “All individuals must be allowed the full enjoyment of their equal and inalienable rights recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights…[and] should not lead to any discrimination whatsoever based on culture, race, colour [or] *language*…”;

 

* “Moreover, persons belonging to linguistic minorities should not be denied the right to use their own language or to gain access to minority-language education.”

 

This last provision really sticks in the craw. Bill 101 of course already abrogated this right, and Bill 14 would only extend its application in a more draconian fashion. But it takes a special brand of political cynicism not only to sign off on an international document one has not honoured in the past and has no intention of honouring in the future, but to hold the assembly in which these dishonoured human rights are praised in the very shadow of the legislature that mocks them.

 

National Post

 

bkay@videotron.ca

 

National Post editorial board: English is a right, not a privilege

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National Post Editorial, Jan. 4, 2013

 

 

Language tensions are to Montreal what black flies are to the Laurentian mountains that lie to the city’s north: They’re easy to ignore individually, but collectively at peak season they can lead to near-intolerable frustration. Sometimes, they make residents feel they are paying too high a price for the pleasure of experiencing Quebec’s charms.

 

During the last provincial election, language tensions were ratcheted up to one of those near-intolerable peaks as a tried and true means of garnering votes by the Parti Québécois. PQ leader Pauline Marois and her minions spread false, fear-mongering tales of the French language’s demise in Montreal, and in subtle but effective ways, encouraged francophones to feel offended even by the sound of the English language.

 

On three separate occasions within weeks, an English-speaker allegedly was physically assaulted by a francophone who had simply overheard — not even been spoken to personally — other people speaking to each other in English, and who cited the sound of English as the reason for their animus.

 

Shortly after the election, a transport employee put up a sign on his subway collection booth that “here things are done in French” and refused to speak English to a woman making inquiries. A paramedic refused to speak English in an emergency situation involving a child in an anglo area. In October, a subway ticket taker allegedly grabbed a woman customer who spoke English to him in a headlock and punched her, allegedly telling the customer to “go back to your country” and “in Quebec, we can only speak French.”

 

This was one “black fly” too many, and brought blowback that demanded investigation. Montreal’s Société de transport de Montréal (STM) deplored the violence, but insisted Bill 101, Quebec’s language law, forbade it from legally compelling bus and subway workers to speak English.

 

In December, Montreal’s Gazette filed an access-to-information request with the STM, seeking a legal opinion on how Bill 101’s employee-language requirements apply to the agency. On Dec 21, the STM responded: “No such legal opinion exists.” But the Gazette investigation found otherwise in the language of Article 46 of Bill 101: “An employer is prohibited from making the obtaining of an employment or office dependent upon the knowledge or a specific level of knowledge of a language other than the official language, unless the nature of the duties requires such knowledge” (our emphasis).

 

For example, the Agence métropolitaine de transport (AMT), which runs Montreal commuter trains, requires front-line agents to be able to communicate in English. That is sensible, because the commuter trains serve areas of Montreal that are predominantly anglophone. It makes even more sense for buses and subway stations, because they not only serve anglophone residential areas, they also serve untold numbers of tourists and other unilingual visitors from the United States and the rest of Canada.

 

Montreal anglos wrongly have come to believe that the use of English by public service workers is a kindness rather than an obligation. Indeed, many of them believe that French is the only official language in Quebec. But English is in fact an official language in Quebec, by virtue of Section 133 of the BNA Act and the federal Official Languages Act. That rankles Quebec nationalists, but there is nothing they can do about it.

 

When the PQ came to power, they declared French the only official language of the National Assembly and the courts — even though everyone knew this was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court duly struck that down in the 1979 case of Attorney General vs. Blaikie.

 

Not all francophones in the Quebec government’s employ must be competent in English — just as not every Ontario government worker must know French. Obviously the working language of Quebec is French, just as English is the working language of most other provinces. But in those contexts where clear communication is required for citizens to make use of critical services, then both official languages should be admissible as a matter of course.

 

National Post