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

© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

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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