This election can’t be over soon enough

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I’m counting the minutes until they count the last ballot. I’m frustrated and worn out from the longest 33 day (plus 18 months) campaign in memory. I’m exhausted from clenching the newspapers, yelling at the TV and wincing at the radio. I waved my fist back at PKP and cringed at Janette Bertrand. I got angrier each day with Marois’ venomous attacks on Anglos and religious folk and Ontario students domiciled in Quebec yet robbed of their right to vote.

Mailloux spewed anti-semitic poison that would have led to demonstrations elsewhere in Canada, but here the Premier stood by her side and shook her head in agreement.

Lisée contradicted Drainville who contradicted Marois who contradicted herself. I could barely keep score.

Yes, Canadians would still be able to visit Quebec without a passport as our borders with the ROC would be open, Quebec would help set Canadian monetary policy… Forget unilateral declaration of independence. Marois just willed it by snapping her little fingers without a referendum or negotiation. Chutzpah!

The Premier of all Quebecers showed us that nous didn’t include us. No need to debate in English.  You, ain’t nous. (The only upside was that we didn’t have to see her face on telephone poles deep in D’Arcy McGee).

But, Couillard gained the courage and determination to say to Quebecers what no liberal leader has said as long as I could remember (except when Charest was leader of the PCs in Ottawa, I’ll give him that). The English-speaking people of Quebec are full partners, our language does not diminish theirs and every parent in Quebec wants their kid to be bilingual, if not trilingual. And, oh this was a biggie, maybe, just maybe, he could settle old scores by working on Quebec’s place within Canada.

Could we really be at the dawn of a new era? This may be the last big chance to fix what’s wrong in Quebec and in Canada. Our kids are more mobile than ever before. The bilingual ones can pick up and get a job well beyond Quebec’s borders. Not so for the one’s whose parents voted away their right to teach them English at a young age.

If we can just get beyond the old and tired debates about language and independence and work to become more bilingual and more united with our fellow Canadians (who transfer billions of dollars to our cash-starved, economically depressed province, merci very much), maybe, just maybe, we can look ahead to a brighter, healthier, richer, happier tomorrow.

Fingers crossed. I’m going to vote!

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

Mayor Housefather’s Santa Claus poem on Bill 60 and the PQ

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Mayor Anthony Housefather of Côte Saint-Luc reads his poem entitled The PQ the Week Before Christmas.


Mayors are unanimous in opposing “laughable” and “shameful” Bill 60

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Well said Mr. Mayor, umm, make that mayors.

I greatly appreciate the clarity and frank talk that I’m hearing from our local mayors beginning with newly elected Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre. The last think we need is more division, more ways of shaking confidence in Montreal’s future and its economic and social development.

Mayors Anthony Housefather and Bill Steinberg were direct and to the point. “Laughable”, “shameful”, “appalling, “immoral.”

As Housefather summed up, “It’s just so sad.”

Thank you to our mayor. And to yours. Quebecers of various stripes must stand up against such a deplorable abuse of fundamental rights.

What’s more, the tabling of this Bill 60, in the days leading up to Remembrance Day, when we honour and commemorate the lives lost and forever altered of those brave Canadians, Quebecers included, is quite poignant. Our war veterans and peacekeepers put their lives on the line, made the ultimate sacrifice, fought for fundamental rights and freedom for people they didn’t even know in faraway lands. What would they say about what the Quebec Government is trying to do with this bill given the sacrifices made by generations before us? Shame. Shame. Shame.


Mayors call proposal divisive, appalling and embarrassing


The mayors of Montreal and its neighbouring municipalities joined the chorus of dissent against Quebec’s proposed Charter of Values bill Thursday, calling it divisive, appalling and embarrassing, and vowing to defy it.

Montreal mayor-elect Denis Coderre said he would travel to Quebec City to reiterate the city’s objection before a parliamentary committee and the leaders of the provincial political parties, including Premier Pauline Marois. The bill hurts not only the city’s social fabric but its economy as well, and he repeated earlier promises to challenge the bill in court, if it comes to that.

“There is no problem with having a neutral state and open secularism (where people can display religious symbols),” Coderre said. “Integration does not mean uniformity. We define this city by its diversity, and my role is to make sure we keep it.”

Coderre cited a survey taken by the Conseil du patronat, Quebec’s largest employers’ group, which found 63 per cent of business owners opposed the charter and 82 per cent predicted it would have a negative effect on Quebec’s image internationally. He said he would ask Montreal’s newly elected city council to pass a motion opposing the charter as well as the agglomeration council, as they have done in the past.

Côte-St-Luc Mayor Anthony Housefather called the bill both harrowing and embarrassing.

“It’s an absolutely appalling piece of legislation and I think it’s something that would be laughed at in any other jurisdiction in North America,” he said.

“It puts religious freedoms at a level where the state itself is imposing restrictions on people’s individual expression of their religious freedom and their dress at work. Of course, while providing an exemption for whatever they consider to be Quebec’s cultural heritage, such as the crucifix.”

Housefather criticized the bill for putting the will of the Parti Québécois over that of local mayors and constituents.

“It devalues the rights of municipalities, hospitals, school boards, and the rights of elected officials at other levels of government and simply imposes their view of provincial government on everybody.

“The people of Côte-St-Luc did not elect Pauline Marois … and whatever values she is talking about are not the values of Côte-St-Luc. This is the PQ trying to appeal to a segment of the electorate for their re-election, and it’s appalling.”

Hampstead Mayor William Steinberg said his municipality wouldn’t even bother to apply for exemptions to the charter because that would give it a legitimacy it does not deserve.

“We will ignore it” if it is voted into law, he said. “Let them take us to court, I don’t care — we can be the test case. We won’t even consider the law. It’s illegitimate, it’s immoral and shameful and we will not co-operate with it at all.”

None of Hampstead’s public employees wear religious symbols, but many have asked if they could in protest if the law comes into effect. Certainly, said Steinberg, who calls Bill 60 the Charter of Shame.

Westmount Mayor Peter Trent said the PQ is trying to “manufacture discord and problems for ulterior motives … for partisan reasons for the final goal for which the PQ was founded.”

He predicted the party has gone too far, however.

“They’ve gone completely beyond reason and I think they will find such a negative reaction they will have to pull back.”

For Housefather, the damage has already been done.

“This is one of the rare times I am so embarrassed by our provincial government,” he said. “Rob Ford is making Toronto a laughingstock. In my view this current Quebec government is making Quebec a laughingstock.

“It’s so sad. It’s just so sad.”

Twitter: renebruemmer

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Letter: We, in our gorgeous diversity, are all Québécois

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This is a letter to the editor published in the Montreal Gazette. The writer is Cheri Bell, an articulate commercial lawyer. Cheri’s letter reflects her considerable passion for Quebec society.  It is an excellent opinion piece that deserves praise and wide circulation. Well done Cheri.



As a member of several minority demographics — I’m a Jewish, female, anglophone Quebecer — I am thoroughly embarrassed and concerned by the proposed Charter of Quebec Values. Taken together with other nationalist PQ policies, actual and proposed, such as Bill 101 with its expanding scope, Bill 14, the xenophobic manipulation of the reasonable accommodation principle for political gain and the seemingly innocuous proposal to extend a mandatory Quebec History course — or, should I say, more “identity propaganda” — to the CEGEP level, all send the clear but disturbing message that one population segment (francophones de souche) holding one religious viewpoint (secularism, now via a state-imposed reaction to the rigid Catholicism of Quebec’s past) is the only authentic, appropriate and welcome demographic in Quebec. These retrograde and anti-democratic policies create government-sanctioned divisions and prejudice in our society, not the cohesion the government is claiming to promote.

Growing examples of harassment of veiled women on our streets not only were foreseeable, but are sure to extend to other visible religious minorities. This is because “cohesion” cannot be legislated through enforced secularism. Doing so not only distorts the principle of separation of church and state, but creates an absurd homogeneity à la Harry Potter’s Ministry of Magic.

True tolerance, acceptance of the “other,” comes about through mutual exposure, not by state-imposed repression of the “other.”

And where will it stop? Whether or not personally affected by the charter of values and these other myopic policies, we must unite against them; and against the narrow-minded, agenda-driven government that endorses them. Let us all show the PQ that we do not accept its regressive, divisive policies. We, in our gorgeous diversity, are all Québécois, and we will not be concealed.

It is also not because the proposed charter of values goes too far, as Jacques Parizeau has said, but because it exists at all. These are not my values. Nor are they the values of many enlightened Québécois. The Charter of Quebec Values is a shameful blight on Quebec’s political landscape that both underestimates and undermines the openness of the Quebec people.

Cheri Bell

Cheri Bell is a concerned citizen, wife and mother who resides in Montreal, Quebec (Canada). She is a commercial and contracts lawyer who is the acting General Counsel and Director of Purchasing for the City of Côte Saint-Luc.


Did “money and the ethnics” really mean CSLers?


Jacques Parizeau’s infamous words, blaming “money and the ethnic vote” after the Yes side’s razor-thin referendum loss in 1995 was back in the limelight last week when he spoke out against the Charter of Quebec Values.

Mr. Parizeau revisited the controversy telling radio-show host Paul Arcand he was referring to the “common front” of the Greek, Italian and Jewish congresses that campaigned for the No side. A dozen polling stations in the heavily Jewish district of Côte-Saint-Luc had not a single Yes ballot, he said.

Quebec values charter ‘goes too far,’ says former Parti Québécois premier Parizeau

Ingrid Peritz, The Globe and Mail

October 3, 2013

The Parti Québécois had probably expected its contentious secular charter to run into opposition from federalists, minorities and the party’s usual political foes. But now the PQ is facing fire from a towering figure within its own ranks.

Former premier Jacques Parizeau went public on Thursday with a blunt repudiation of the charter of values that landed like a bombshell into an already volatile debate on religious freedoms.

“It goes too far,” the Journal de Montréal said in summing up Mr. Parizeau’s views in a screaming front-page headline. In an open letter inside the mass-circulation daily, Mr. Parizeau makes his case, which had been the object of speculation for weeks.

Mr. Parizeau, 83, has a tainted legacy when it comes to the sovereigntist movement’s relations with ethnic minorities. But he is regarded as an elder in the PQ and perhaps the most influential living figure among devoted sovereigntists. On Thursday, PQ minister Jean-François Lisée, a former adviser to Mr. Parizeau who now sits on the opposite side of the charter issue from his onetime boss, acknowledged the former party leader’s stature when he said Mr. Parizeau has been front and centre in every major debate in Quebec since the 1960s.

“It’s a Quebec value” to hear from him, Mr. Lisée said as the government of Premier Pauline Marois scrambled to make the best of the embarrassing broadside. Mr. Parizeau’s critique, written in a measured and professorial tone, is that Quebec eased into secularism gradually and without a crisis, and the Catholic religious garb that nuns and priests once wore was set aside without the state resorting to laws.

He attributed public support for the PQ’s plan to ban religious headgear in the public service to fear of Islamic extremism.

“It’s understandable,” he wrote. “About the only contact most Quebeckers have with the Islamic world is through images of violence, repeated over and over: wars, riots, bombs, the attack on the World Trade Center and of the Boston Marathon,” he wrote. “The reflex is obvious: We’ll have none of that here!”

Yet Mr. Parizeau insists Quebeckers are neither “mean” nor “vindictive,” and polls show that a strong majority opposes the notion of firing a woman over her headscarf.

He also parts ways with Ms. Marois on the crucifix in the National Assembly. Mr. Parizeau says it should come down; the PQ wants to maintain it in the name of Quebec’s heritage.

Mr. Parizeau carries his own baggage when it comes to ethnic groups in Quebec. He is remembered for blaming “money and the ethnic vote” after the Yes side’s razor-thin referendum loss in 1995.

Mr. Parizeau revisited the controversy on Thursday, telling radio-show host Paul Arcand he was referring to the “common front” of the Greek, Italian and Jewish congresses that campaigned for the No side. A dozen polling stations in the heavily Jewish district of Côte-Saint-Luc had not a single Yes ballot, he said.

In the same interview, he said immigrants came to Quebec to live in peace, and the PQ’s proposal is starting to frighten them. And the ban on visible religious symbols would target only Muslim women, not men.

“What is circulating on social media is hardly reassuring for them,” he wrote in his letter.

Mr. Parizeau is the most prominent but not the only sovereigntist to take aim at the Marois government over the charter. MP Maria Mourani quit the Bloc Québécois after being expelled from caucus for criticizing it. Former Bloc MP Jean Dorion has said the charter would sabotage relations with the sizable community of French-speaking immigrants from North Africa.

Mr. Parizeau’s attack also contains a political warning. He notes that all federal parties staunchly support Quebec’s minorities in the debate. “In effect, federalism is presented as their real defender,” he said.

The PQ has shown no sign that the critiques – from Mr. Parizeau or anyone else – are making it reconsider. In fact, a newspaper reported on Thursday that the party is weighing removing the right to opt out of the charter from its original proposal.

Liberal House leader Jean-Marc Fournier said the PQ has made its religious-garb rules an electoral strategy and has no desire to seek a consensus despite the threat to social peace. “[The PQ] wants to pick at the sore because that’s its electoral battleground.”


Values charter part of ‘inclusive nationalism,’ Drainville says

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Elias Levy, Reporter, Tuesday, October 8, 2013


The proposed Quebec charter of values is “temperate and reasonable” and in keeping with the Parti Québécois’ “inclusive nationalism,” says the minister responsible for promoting the legislation.

The criticism that the proposed charter is exclusionist and discriminatory against Quebec’s religious minorities is “unjust and unfounded,” Bernard Drainville, the provincial minister of democratic institutions and citizenship participation told The CJN in a French-language interview.

The charter is “based on the fundamental principle that all those who live in Quebec are Quebecers, no matter what their origin, their religion or the colour of their skin,” Drainville said.

“We are all Quebecers. The nationalism vigorously defended by the Parti Québécois is inclusive and open to differences… and totally opposite to the divisive nationalism described by the critics. The charter of values… is an extension of the inclusive nationalism to which the Parti Québécois has subscribed for a very long time.”

As for criticism from English Canadians outside Quebec, Drainville said he’d like to remind them of a major historical fact they may have forgotten.

“In 1832, the parliament of Lower Canada was the first of any government in the British Empire to recognize, for the first time, the civil rights of the Jewish community. The parliament consisting mainly of French-Canadians – as they were then called – allowed Ezekiel Hart, a man of Jewish origin elected in Trois-Rivières to sit in the legislative assembly…

“The Jewish community has been an integral part of Quebec for a very long time, since they settled here in the late 1700s. They have made a major contribution to the development and evolution of Quebec society… and we believe that they continue to be an extremely important part of Quebec society today.”

As for the prohibition against public sector workers wearing overt religious symbols – such as kippot, hijabs and crosses – Drainville said it’s not discriminatory because “its application will be limited strictly to working hours.

“The state in no way whatsoever wants to confine or interfere with the religious convictions or morals of our citizens when they are not [employees] of the state.”

It was this conviction that led the government to “confine the proposed neutrality” to these situations only, he said.

“For example, there was never any question of… limiting the wearing of religious symbols in the public sphere, as the French did with the full veil… Neither was there ever any question of limiting the wearing of religious symbols by ordinary citizens. In France, they forbade the wearing of ostentatious religious symbols in classrooms… Let’s be clear: the restriction on wearing overt religious symbols will be limited only to the state and to employees of the state.”

Asked about the likely effect the new legislation would have on Montreal’s almost 100-year-old Jewish General Hospital, Drainville stressed that “for the Parti Québécois government, the Jewish General Hospital is a jewel of the Montreal community and of Quebec society. The hospital is an institution that has huge credibility and adds greatly to the richness of the Quebec health and social services network.

“We are very conscious of the socio-historic circumstances that led to the creation of the Jewish General in the ’30s: Jewish doctors did not have the right to practise their profession in the other Quebec hospitals. There were also members of the Jewish community who had problems being treated in some hospitals,” he added.

“We want the Jewish General Hospital to keep its identity and its personality. There is absolutely no question of jeopardizing the identity of this important health-care institution. Besides, we have taken note of the wishes of the Jewish General Hospital to exercise its right of withdrawal [from the requirements of the charter], renewable, as provided in the proposal… currently on the table. This would permit the employees of the Jewish General Hospital to continue to wear religious symbols within their workplace.”

Nevertheless, Drainville recently said that he hopes public institutions, including the JGH, that take advantage of the proposed charter’s opt-out clause won’t do so forever and that they’ll accept the new reality.

Asked whether there’s a contradiction between recognizing the JGH as distinct and expecting it to eventually adapt to the charter, the minister said, “All I can say at this stage is that we’re very conscious of the distinctive, special character of the hospital. Our intention is not to question in any way the identity of this renowned institution, which we value very highly.”

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Une entrevue avec le Ministre Bernard Drainville

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Elias Levy, Reporter, Thursday, October 3, 2013


Bernard Drainville, Ministre responsable des Institutions démocratiques et de la Participation citoyenne dans le Gouvernement du Parti Québécois dirigé par Pauline Marois, est résolument convaincu que la très controversée Charte des valeurs québécoises, dont il est le principal concepteur et promoteur, permettra aux Québécois de “bâtir une société plus tolérante, plus accueillante, plus égalitaire et plus harmonieuse”.


C’est ce que nous a dit Bernard Drainville au cours de l’entrevue qu’il a accordée au Canadian Jewish News.


“La neutralité en matière de religion de l’État québécois est une condition pour mieux assurer et protéger la liberté de religion et la liberté de conscience des Québécois. La neutralité religieuse, c’est un choix de société que nous proposons à tous les Québécois.”


Canadian Jewish News: La grande majorité des Québécois issus des Communautés culturelles, parmi eux la Députée dissidente du Bloc Québécois, Maria Mourani, ont associé sans ambages le Projet de Charte des valeurs proposé par le Gouvernement du Parti Québécois à l’expression hideuse d’un nationalisme ethnique et exclusionniste. Comment réagissez-vous face à cette critique très sévère?


Bernard Drainville: Cette critique est injuste et non fondée. Le nationalisme québécois que nous épousons au Parti Québécois est un nationalisme rassembleur, fondé sur un principe fondamental: tous ceux et celles qui vivent au Québec sont des Québécois, peu importe leur origine, leur religion, la couleur de leur peau… Nous sommes tous Québécois. Le nationalisme défendu vigoureusement par le Parti Québécois est très inclusif et ouvert à la différence. Ce nationalisme, qui est fondé sur l’égalité de tous les citoyens et citoyennes du Québec, indépendamment de leurs origines culturelles, est tout le contraire du nationalisme que vous évoquez. La Charte des valeurs que nous proposons à tous les Québécois s’inscrit dans le prolongement de ce nationalisme inclusif, auquel le Parti Québécois a adhéré depuis très longtemps.


C.J.N.: Les critiques au sujet de votre Projet de Charte des valeurs émanant du Canada anglais sont aussi très virulentes.


B. Drainville: Je tiens à rappeler à nos amis du Canada anglais un fait historique majeur, qu’ils ont malheureusement oublié complètement: en 1832, c’est le Parlement du Bas-Canada, Présidé alors par Louis-Joseph Papineau, qui fut le premier de tous les Parlements de l’Empire britannique à reconnaître pour la première fois les droits civiques de la Communauté juive. C’est le Parlement du Bas-Canada, constitué majoritairement de Députés Canadiens-Français -c’est ainsi qu’on les appelait à cette époque-, qui a permis à Ezekiel Hart, Député d’origine juive de Trois-Rivières, de siéger dans cette Assemblée législative. Malheureusement, nous sommes obligés de rappeler de temps en temps au Canada anglais ce fait historique très marquant de notre Histoire commune.


La Communauté juive fait partie intégrante du Québec depuis très longtemps. Les Juifs sont établis au Québec depuis la fin des années 1700. Les Juifs Québécois font partie d’une Communauté qui a beaucoup apporté à l’Histoire, au développement et à l’évolution de la société québécoise. Leur contribution à l’essor du Québec est absolument remarquable. Je tiens à dire à nos concitoyens d’origine juive que nous tenons à eux, qu’ils sont une partie extrêmement importante de ce qu’est la société québécoise d’aujourd’hui. Nous tenons à ce que les Juifs continuent à contribuer, comme ils l’ont si bien fait dans le passé, à l’évolution et au développement de la société québécoise. J’ai énormément de respect et d’estime pour la Communauté juive québécoise. Je veux la rassurer. Cette Communauté exemplaire et admirable a encore beaucoup à apporter au Québec d’aujourd’hui et de demain. On va construire le Québec ensemble.


C.J.N.: Votre Projet de Charte des valeurs prône une laïcisation totale de la Fonction publique québécoise, c’est-à-dire l’interdiction pour tous les employés du secteur public et parapublic de porter des “signes religieux facilement visibles et ayant un caractère démonstratif”. Par contre, les signes religieux portés discrètement seront tolérés. N’y a-t-il pas là une contradiction effarante avec le principal objectif de la Charte des valeurs que vous proposez aux Québécois?


B. Drainville: Le Gouvernement du Parti Québécois pense qu’un signe porté discrètement, qui n’envoie pas un message religieux, est acceptable. Ce qui est problématique à nos yeux, c’est un signe qui envoie, à celui ou à celle qui le voit, un message religieux. Un citoyen qui s’adresse à l’État, c’est-à-dire à un fonctionnaire, à un enseignant, à une éducatrice, à un médecin… ne s’adresse pas à un croyant, il s’adresse à un serviteur de l’État. Nous pensons donc qu’une des responsabilités qui incombent à celui ou celle qui travaille pour l’État, c’est d’être neutre. Les fonctionnaires font déjà preuve de neutralité politique. Nous pensons que la neutralité religieuse doit suivre aussi la même logique, c’est-à-dire se traduire également par une absence de signes religieux ostentatoires.


C.J.N.: Lors de l’élaboration de votre Projet de Charte des valeurs avez-vous pris en considération un élément identitaire irrécusable: à savoir que les signes religieux arborés par les Juifs, les Musulmans et les Chrétiens observants -la kippa, le hijab, la croix-, dont ils ne se départissent jamais, font partie intégrante de l’identité de ces derniers? Vous allez donc contraindre les employés de l’État québécois portant un signe religieux à faire un choix très douloureux: renier pendant leurs heures de travail un principe identitaire cardinal auquel ils sont viscéralement attachés ou quitter leur emploi. Cette mesure coercitive n’est-elle pas discriminatoire à l’endroit des minorités religieuses du Québec?


B. Drainville: Pas du tout. Nous croyons que notre proposition de Charte des valeurs est bien mesurée et raisonnable, dans le sens où l’application de celle-ci se limitera uniquement aux heures de travail. L’État n’a pas à encadrer où à s’immiscer de quelque façon que ce soit dans les convictions religieuses ou morales des citoyens lorsque ces derniers sont en dehors de l’État. C’est cette conviction qui nous a amenés à baliser très clairement seulement dans le champ étatique le cadre de la neutralité religieuse que nous proposons. Par exemple, il n’a jamais été question d’encadrer de quelque façon que ce soit le port de signes religieux dans l’espace public. Les Français l’ont fait avec le voile intégral. Le Gouvernement du Québec ne le fera pas. Il n’a jamais été question non plus d’encadrer le port de signes religieux par des citoyens. En France, on a interdit le port de signes religieux ostentatoires dans les salles de classe. Le Québec a décidé de prendre une autre direction. Que les choses soient claires: l’interdiction des signes religieux ostentatoires se limitera seulement à l’État et aux employés de l’État. La prémisse étant que si l’État est neutre, les hommes et les femmes qui le représentent doivent l’être aussi.


C.J.N.: Sur quoi vous basez-vous pour affirmer que cette mesure très contestée sera viable?


B. Drainville: Il y a déjà des cas documentés de personnes qui retirent leurs signes religieux lorsqu’elles sont en présence d’enfants. C’est le cas de plusieurs éducatrices Musulmanes portant le voile qui travaillent dans une École publique, une Maternelle ou un Service de garde. Ce constat nous fait croire qu’il est possible pour quelqu’un qui porte un signe religieux ostentatoire, un voile par exemple, d’accepter de le retirer pendant quelques heures durant la journée afin de respecter son devoir de neutralité et aussi afin de respecter les enfants et les parents qu’il dessert dans le cadre de ses fonctions professionnelles. Ceux et celles qui portent un signe religieux ostentatoire et qui travaillent pour l’État doivent également penser aux clientèles qu’ils desservent. Ces clientèles doivent être aussi prises en compte dans l’équation.


C.J.N.: Si votre Projet de Charte des valeurs est adopté par l’Assemblée Nationale du Québec et mis en oeuvre, une Institution phare de la Communauté juive et du Réseau de la Santé du Québec, l’Hôpital Général Juif de Montréal, sera affectée en premier lieu. Nombreux sont ceux qui estiment que cette Charte des valeurs menace sérieusement la spécificité socio-identitaire juive de cette réputée Institution de Santé québécoise presque centenaire. Quel est votre point de vue sur cette épineuse question?


B. Drainville: Je tiens à dire que pour le Gouvernement du Parti Québécois, l’Hôpital Général Juif de Montréal est un joyau de la Communauté montréalaise et de la société québécoise. L’Hôpital Général Juif est une Institution qui a une très grande crédibilité et qui représente une grande richesse pour le Réseau de la Santé et des Services sociaux québécois. Nous sommes très conscients des circonstances socio-historiques qui ont mené à la création de l’Hôpital Général Juif de Montréal dans les années 30: les médecins d’origine juive n’avaient pas le droit d’exercer leur profession dans les autres Hôpitaux du Québec. Il y avait également des membres de la Communauté juive qui avaient de la difficulté à se faire soigner dans certaines Institutions hospitalières québécoises. Nous souhaitons que l’Hôpital Général Juif de Montréal conserve son identité et sa personnalité. Il n’est absolument pas question de remettre en cause l’identité de cette importante Institution de Santé. D’ailleurs, nous avons pris note de la volonté de l’Hôpital Général Juif d’exercer son droit de retrait, renouvelable, prévu dans notre Projet de Charte des valeurs. La proposition gouvernementale qui est présentement sur la table permettrait donc aux employés et au personnel de l’Hôpital Général Juif de Montréal de continuer à porter des signes religieux dans le cadre de leur travail.


C.J.N.: Pourtant, vous-même avez déclaré dernièrement que vous espérez que les Institutions publiques, dont l’Hôpital Général Juif de Montréal, qui recouriront à la clause dérogatoire ne le fassent pas ad vitam aeternam et qu’elles s’intègrent le plus rapidement possible dans le cadre établi par la Charte des valeurs que le Gouvernement du Parti Québécois propose. Votre position sur cette question n’est-elle pas contradictoire?


B. Drainville: Je comprends la question que vous me posez. Tout ce que je peux vous répondre à ce stade-ci, c’est que nous sommes très conscients du caractère particulier, spécifique, de l’Hôpital Général Juif de Montréal. Notre intention n’est pas de remettre en question de quelque façon que ce soit l’identité de cette Institution de Santé renommée, qui a une très grande valeur à nos yeux.


C.J.N.: Une très forte majorité de Québécois est favorable à l’adoption de balises pour mieux gérer les demandes d’accommodements religieux. Par contre, votre proposition de bannir totalement les signes religieux ostensibles dans les Institutions publiques divise beaucoup les Québécois? Seriez-vous prêt à supprimer cette mesure controversée inscrite dans votre Projet de Charte des valeurs?


B. Drainville: La démarche que nous proposons aux Québécois est très démocratique. Le Gouvernement québécois est en train de consulter les citoyens sur cette question capitale. Le Site Internet explicitant les grandes lignes du Projet de Charte des valeurs a déjà été consulté par 140000 Québécois et Québécoises. Nous avons déjà recueilli plus de 15000 commentaires. C’est énorme. Dès l’annonce officielle de ce Projet, nous avons dit que nous étions ouverts à l’amélioration de celui-ci, c’est-à dire à sa bonification. Je ne peux pas aller dans le détail tout de suite. Ce serait très prématuré d’évoquer des scénarios spécifiques. Pour le moment, nous sommes au stade de recueillir les commentaires des citoyens. Les idées et les options proposées par les citoyens du Québec nourriront notre réflexion lors de la phase de préparation du Projet de Loi qui encadrera cette Charte des valeurs québécoises. Mais, avant de procéder à la rédaction finale de ce Projet de Loi, nous devons évaluer l’ensemble des idées et des propositions qui nous ont été soumises par les citoyens. Si on est capable d’améliorer ce Projet de Loi, de le bonifier, c’est évident que nous le ferons. L’objectif c’est de déposer ce Projet de Loi cet automne. Il y aura ensuite de longues consultations. Je tiens à dire à quel point je souhaite que la Communauté juive participe très activement, comme elle l’a toujours fait dans le passé, au processus de consultations sur la Charte des valeurs québécoises.


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“Immigrants not welcome here?”

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The following is an excellent opinion drafted by my friend and colleague Mitchell Brownstein. Mitchell sums up my feelings on this so-called Charter of Quebec Values. We both stand in total opposition and will continue to speak out against any threat to fundamental rights. 

“Immigrants not welcome here?”

by Mitchell Brownstein, Immigration Attorney and Cote Saint-Luc Municipal Councillor

Councillor Mitchell Brownstein

Councillor Mitchell Brownstein

As an attorney practicing Immigration Law since 1990 and more recently representing clients in wrongful dismissal claims, it is clear that the proposed Quebec Charter of Values is a wanton aggression on fundamental rights. In a province with such a rich diversity of communities I cannot believe that this is something that could ever come into law. The Parti Quebecois government is sending an insidious message that some people are not wanted here. As responsible Quebecers we must oppose it and let all Quebecers know what the dangers of such a proposal are.

Lawyers from our firm have travelled on business missions with the Government of Quebec (Team Canada and Equipe Quebec Missions) and have watched our provincial governments whether Liberal or Parti Quebecois promote Quebec as a multi-cultural community that welcomes individuals from around the world, offering them the opportunity to become full members of our society, while maintaining their religious beliefs and culture. They have encouraged immigration and presented Quebec as a place that welcomes individuals of diverse religious beliefs and culture. It is ironic that after such solicitation and encouragement, that the Marois Government has now decided that these same individuals are not welcome.

Many of our clients, who have chosen Quebec as their home, wear Hijabs, Turbans, Kippahs, ornamental crosses and other religious symbols. They are doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, business people, and students and come here with the greatest desire to contribute to Quebec society. They work in the private and public sector and chose Montreal as the place they thought welcomed them as full members of society, including their right to religious freedom.

Should this Charter come into law individuals working in the Public Sector as teachers, nurses, doctors or other professions will be told to take off their religious/cultural garb or resign. Quebecers should not have to choose between their religious beliefs and economic well-being. In Labour law this is called constructive dismissal and under existing law, provides the individual with the same rights and recourses against their employer as wrongful dismissal, since changes in the terms of employment that force an individual to quit are tantamount to being fired. This argument is one that the Federal Government should use to illustrate the unconstitutionally of this proposed Charter of Values, should it come in to law, as it clearly infringes on an individual’s religious rights as guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In my other job as a Municipal Councillor for the City of Cote Saint Luc, I am very proud to be a part of a Council led by Mayor Anthony Housefather, whereby we always speak loudly in order to protect individual minority rights. We will defend the rights of our public sector employees who wear any form of religious clothing or jewelry. It is a sad day for all Quebecers that our government is creating laws to divide us rather than unite.

Mitchell Brownstein is managing partner of the Law Firm Brownstein, Brownstein and Associates specializing in Immigration and Wrongful Dismissal Law. He is also a Municipal Councillor for the City of Cote Saint Luc.

Sermon by Rabbi Lionel Moses on the eve of Yom Kippur: Mme. Marois, read my lips!


The following is a brilliant and evocative speech by the rabbi of Shaare Zion Congregation in Montreal. Congratulations to Rabbi Moses. Y’asher Koach. May his words and his teachings inspire our government and our fellow citizens to show respect and tolerance for one another. For good.



Charter of Quebec Values: PQ’s Jean-François Lisée open to ‘improvements’ for Cote Saint-Luc and Jewish General


Video: Charter of Quebec Values: PQ’s Jean-François Lisée open to ‘improvements’.

MONTREAL – Facing growing opposition to its proposed Charter of Quebec Values, the Parti Québécois government is willing to make “improvements” to it, the minister in charge of Montreal suggested Tuesday morning.

Jean-François Lisée defended the controversial charter at length, but declined to give any details on how to improve it.

Lisée said he was “first out of the gate” in predicting that the charter – which would prohibit public-sector employees from wearing “ostentatious” religious symbols during work hours – would cause a “storm.”

“Let’s take a deep breath,” Lisée said. “This is another chapter in Quebec’s willingness to have a neutral state.”

He noted that the “opting out” provision in the charter – allowing municipalities and institutions to abstain from adhering to it for five years – arose out of a recognition of the Jewish General Hospital and Côte-St-Luc, which has a significant Jewish community.

Nonetheless, he reiterated that the five-year opting out would not be automatically renewed forever, describing it as a “transition period” for cities and institutions.

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.

Open letter to Pauline Marois from Tommy Schnurmacher

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Bravo to CJAD’s Tommy Schnurmacher for this poignant, tongue-in-cheek missive to the Premier of Quebec.

My open letter to Pauline Marois

Posted By: Tommy Schnurmacher ·

Dear Pauline,

Sorry that I have not written sooner; it really has been ages since we spoke. Actually, we’ve never spoken before, but you know what they say – better late than never.

You do know, Pauline, that you certainly don’t need an invitation to drop by whenever you are in town. Pop by my studio any weekday between 9 and noon. I work at CJAD. Yes, CJAD. It’s an English radio station right on the corner of Rene-Levesque and Papineau, you can’t miss us. Even if I’m interviewing some Anglo, never mind just come right in, sit down and make yourself at home.

I must congratulate you on the proposed Charter of Quebec values. Everybody, but everybody, is talking about it. Many of my friends are concerned about the massive debt and economic situation in this province and you cannot imagine how elated they are that you have managed to take their mind off such a depressing subject.

I know that we have a $258 billion debt, but I hear that you will borrow close to $2 million to help spread the word about the charter. Those Liberals would probably waste that money on hiring more nurses or some silly research project.

Before I forget, Pauline, please convey my best regards to that charming Monsieur Drainville who did such a fine job introducing the Charter the other day. The artist rendering of the hijabs and kippas and turbans causing such consternation was not exactly Mona Lisa, but it really was very well done. A fine Quebecois artist no doubt.

Monsieur Drainville was very helpful to point out that the new charter is intended to unite us and provide clarity. I must commend him on his kind approach insisting that these measures will be phased in over a five year period so that those minorities get used to the idea of slowly being deprived of their rights without feeling like anyone is in an unseemly rush.

When it comes to referendums, the Clarity Bill, we both know, is utterly appalling, but you can never have too much clarity when it comes to banning religious minorities from landing a government job, now can you?

I know that you are such a busy woman having to comment on all those Brits punching each other out because of multiculturalism, but I hope you can help answer some questions from some of my dim-witted friends who just don’t get it.

One friend owns a big depanneur. He doesn’t want to hire more Muslim women or any religious Jews or Sikhs, but he has heard that it is against the law to discriminate against anyone on the basis of religion. He wants to know if it would be okay for him to tell these ethnics that he does not want to hire them because he wants to have a neutral depanneur.

There is also a question posed by my neighbour who owns a small daycare centre. She has three Muslim women working for her who wear hijabs. Apparently, they do a very good job with the little kids. She wants to know if she should fire them right away unless they take off the hijab. If they refuse, should she attempt it to remove herself or will there be a specific Quebec government office to call.

Before I sign off , I must also commend you on your decision to keep the crucifix in place in the National Assembly. It’s part of the patrimoine, n’est-ce pas? For some reason, that Argentinian man in the Vatican, you know, the one who wears a white kippa, he is under the impression that the crucifix is a religious symbol, but what does he know?

Pauline, you have always said that Quebec appreciates diversity and that in Quebec, there is a place for everyone. Thanks to this Charter, minorities will know their place.

A la prochaine,



A very dark day in Quebec history

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Quebec government pictogram displaying which religious symbols would be allowed under the Charter of Quebec Values

Quebec government pictogram displaying which religious symbols would be allowed under the Charter of Quebec Values

Cote Saint-Luc Mayor Anthony Housefather stated at last night’s public council meeting that once we have seen the actual bill, which has yet to be tabled, we will play a leadership role and will respond to the specifics and strongly oppose any attempt to infringe upon the liberties of any faith practiced by any Cote Saint-Lucer or any Quebecer.

I will stand shoulder to shoulder with Mayor Housefather and members of Council to oppose such an unconscionable and despicable proposal launched by Pauline Marois’ Parti Quebecois government.

Once again, Quebec will be the laughingstock of international media. This negative perception does nothing to boost tourism, business or our lagging economy and standard of living.

Cote Saint-Luc should be an example of tolerance and respect regardless of one’s language, religion or culture. I will proudly speak out against any discrimination by the government and hope that you will too.

Aislin. The Gazette. September 10, 2013.

Aislin. The Gazette. September 10, 2013.

Letter: Election on Rosh Hashanah would be a problem for Jewish candidates and election workers

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An excellent letter that appeared in the Gazette by Cote Saint-Luc Senior Men’s Club President Sidney Margles:

The Gazette. June 10, 2013

Re: “PQ minister firm on election date” (Gazette, June 8)

There is nothing wrong with a fixed Quebec election date, but when it infringes on a particular segment of society, the law must have flexibility. Other jurisdictions have taken this into account.

It is true that Jews can vote in advance polls if the election were to take place on Rosh Hashanah, one of the holiest Jewish holidays.

However Jews who work in election campaigns, either for candidates or for the Directeur Général des Elections, would automatically have to decline to participate, as it would be a violation of their faith.

Also to be considered are Jewish candidates who would be unable to fully participate in election day activities.

Jewish citizens have been full participants in the democratic process, dating back several hundred years in Quebec. Why change now?

While Minister Drainville may not see his position as being out of place, he should look at himself in the mirror and ask himself why rigidity rather than flexibility and common sense must prevail.

Sidney Margles

Côte Saint-Luc

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