12 May 2018

Hébert: Running in Outremont a risky move for NDP Leader Singh

Winning in Mulcair’s riding is far from certain and losing would inflict further damage to NDP party morale, Chantal Hébert writes.

MONTREAL—With pressure mounting on Jagmeet Singh to enter the House of Commons at the earliest opportunity, the rookie NDP leader is apparently seriously considering a run for Thomas Mulcair’s soon-to-be-vacant Outremont seat.
Winning the Montreal riding would be a big deal. A Singh byelection victory would assuage fears that on his watch the NDP is at risk of returning to its non-starter status in Quebec.
It would shatter the Liberal assumption that Justin Trudeau can count on his home province to deliver enough gains in 2019 to make up for seat losses elsewhere.

Singh's religiosity complicates the NDP’s Quebec quandary


The turning point in the 2015 federal election campaign in Quebec came in mid-September, a month before voting day, when the Federal Court of Appeal struck down a Conservative government ban on face coverings at citizenship ceremonies. For New Democratic Leader Tom Mulcair, it was the moment of truth that ended his party’s long run atop the polls in the province it had swept in 2011.
The NDP had come face-to-face with its own two solitudes.
The Quebec left is uncompromisingly secularist. While it supports freedom of religion, it believes that visible manifestations of faith are to be discouraged in the public sphere, lest they impinge on the separation between church and state. Quebeckers fought hard to throw off an oppressive Catholic Church and see any religious accommodation by the state as a threat to the gains of the Quiet Revolution. More recently inspired by France’s secularist approach, the Quebec left supports strict limits on where and when religion can be practised.

Léger: Cracking the Quebec Code: An insider’s guide to understanding Quebec's 7 core values

Jean-Marc Léger has written a book that only a Quebecker could write.  The famed pollster says so himself – and the bold title he’s chosen gives away the reason.
Cracking the Quebec Code: The 7 keys to understanding Quebecers, makes the kind of tantalizing promises for itself that a reader might expect from a marketing guru like Mr. Léger. “For the first time,” a foreword boasts, “English Canadians will have access to Quebeckers’ best-kept secrets.” Here, finally, is a “skeleton key” to the “question of Québécitude.”
Co-written with journalist Pierre Duhamel and business scholar Jacques Nantel, the book uses survey data, interviews with provincial leaders and a novel approach measuring reactions to hundreds of key words to come up with seven traits that define the Quebec character:
  • joie de vivre [ant: sobriety]   
  • easygoing [ant: alert]  
  • non-committal [ant: principled]   
  • victim [ant: survivor]
  • villagers [ant: cosmopolitan]  
  • creative [ant: rational]  
  • proud [ant: assertive].

06 May 2018

Montreal Gazette: Loss in Quebec Bill 99 constitutionality case is ultimately a win

Thursday's judgment changes nothing. Still, it provides a welcome reminder that a UDI in the absence of prior negotiations would be illegal.  


Keith Henderson may have lost his court challenge against Bill 99, but Justice Claude Dallaire’s nuanced decision Thursday in the long-running case ultimately leaves him a winner. It allows just about everyone else to declare victory, too. 

The law, enacted in 2000 by the Parti Québécois government of the day, asserted Quebecers’ right to determine their future. Underpinning Henderson’s challenge was the concern that certain articles might be used as a springboard to a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI). 

Dallaire basically ruled that the law was constitutional because it does not serve as any such thing, nor was it intended to. Rather, she noted, it merely affirmed Quebec’s existing rights and jurisdictions in response to what was perceived as an encroachment by the federal Clarity Act; it was a political cry of “Maîtres chez nous.” As was made clear by the Supreme Court of Canada’s 1998 reference opinion, a referendum victory (with a clear majority and clear question) could be only a first step toward secession, and a UDI without prior negotiations with Quebec’s partners in Confederation on the terms of secession would be illegal. 


05 May 2018

CCLA: Quebec [Anti-niqab] Bill 62 Infringes on Freedom of Religion


CCLA has submitted a brief to the Quebec National Assembly’s Committee on Institutions as part of its special consultation and public hearings on Bill 62. Bill 62 — An Act to foster adherence to State religious neutrality and, in particular, to provide a framework for religious accommodation requests in certain bodies — is a deeply troubling law that would infringe basic rights and cannot be justified in a free and democratic society.

At the core of Bill 62 is section 9, which prohibits public employees and recipients of public services from wearing face coverings, such as the niqab, unless they receive special accommodation via a flawed religious accommodation process. We have argued that the bill unfairly targets individuals who wear religious face coverings and thereby infringes freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and the right to be free from discrimination. We have also pointed out inconsistencies in the proposed law – such as its special protection for “the emblematic and toponymic elements of Québec’s cultural heritage, in particular its religious cultural heritage, that testify to its history” – which exacerbate the bill’s purpose or effect of unfairly targeting individuals from minority religious, ethnic, and racial groups and, in particular, women from these groups.

CCLA is urging the Quebec government not to move forward with the bill.

Judge [stays] Quebec [Bill 62] until province establishes rules for religious accommodation


MONTREAL — A Quebec judge has temporarily stayed a key provision of the controversial law banning people from receiving or giving a public service with their face covered.

Superior Court Justice Babak Barin ruled today the article will be stayed until the province establishes rules under which people can apply for a religious accommodation to the legislation.

Bill 62 was passed in October and was criticized for targeting Muslim women because they are among the few people in society who wear face veils.

Quebec’s face-covering ban is Ottawa’s business: [Toronto Star] Editorial


But while provinces have jurisdiction over how to deliver their services, there is of course an important constraint on that power: the constitutional protection for all Canadians of the rights and freedoms identified in the Charter. The question in the case of Bill 62, which seems unfairly to target women and Muslims, and which assumes the state has the right to impose a dress code, transcends jurisdiction.

These are the fundamental issues raised in a court challenge of the law launched last week by the National Council of Canadian Muslims, among other organizations and individuals. And, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau now seems to recognize, they are clearly issues of national interest.

Trudeau said on Monday that his government is considering its options. It has a few: it could, for instance, add its voice to the challenge as an intervener; it could seek to speed up the process by referring the law to the Supreme Court; and it could contribute financially to the procedure. Whatever approach it chooses, Ottawa should be unafraid to lead.

27 April 2018

Johnson: There's no threat in sight to French linguistic predominance in Quebec

  What counts most for the vitality of French culture is the number of people speaking French, not slight variations in the proportion.   


The usual chorus of Quebec politicians and pundits chanted lamentations over the 2016 census data published on Aug. 2. Even after Statistics Canada confirmed that a computer error had categorized thousands of French speakers as English, even after corrected figures were published on Aug. 17, the call was raised for tougher legislation to curtail English.

Jedwab: Diversity debate: Poll shows sharp divide between Montreal and regions

As politicians spar over whether a woman in a hijab can be a police officer, details from a Léger poll reveal a deep divide between multicultural Montreal and the rest of Quebec on immigration.