14 February 2010

Manifesto for a Pluralist Quebec


Proclamation for pluralist Quebec

(Short Version of proclamation here)

We are political and intellectual allegiances various, but we share a deep concern as for the direction which the debate takes on the identity and the food-together in Quebec. It seems to us that an opened, tolerant and pluralist vision of the Québécois company, a vision which is according to us in continuity with the main trends of modern Quebec, is occulted by two currents of thought which are in rupture with this evolution and our history. These two currents end up converging in a manner of designing the Québécois company which, according to us, risk to deprive Quebec of the dynamism which at the companies a posture of reception and dialogue insufflates, essential conditions to the development of an authentic food-together.

Two convergent currents

We would qualify the first of these visions of preserving nationalist. She sees Quebec like having made too broad concessions towards cultural diversity these last years. The interculturalism, opened secularity, the practices of reasonable compromise, the program of Ethics and religious culture (ECR) and other policies similar are perceived by holding of this position like putting in danger an authentic Québécois culture and like eclipsing the memory of the historical majority.

The second vision asserts a strict secularity. She challenges the religious demonstrations “ostentatious” in the public sphere. She intends to return the monk out of public space, not in the name of majority Québécois values, but in the name of a design of the company which prefers to limit any sign of religious allegiance to the only private space.

These two currents, a priori different, converge concretely in two manners. Initially, insofar as the practices and the religious signs of the minorities are always more “visible” with the eyes of the majority that them his clean, holding them of a strict secularity and those of a preserving nationalism meet in the same attitude of intransigence at the place of the minorities, demanding which they yield with a vision of the Québécois company that they would not have contributed to forge. The two currents also converge when a strict secularity is called upon against citizens members of religious confessions whose beliefs are held for incompatible with the secularity of the Québécois company.

However, there exists another vision of the company Québécois, more open, more tolerant and especially more dynamic in its design of the social reports/ratios: we believe that it corresponds, better than the visions do it which we have just described, with the requirements of the joint life in a plural company and with the sociopolitic orientations of Quebec. This vision is currently weakened by the place which preserving nationalism and strict secularity in the public debate occupy, by the fact also that none of the two Québécois political principal parties is made the carry-standard explicitly of it (even if this vision, at various times, was embraced as well by the Québécois Party as by the Liberal party of Quebec). We wish to expose here this pluralist position, which seems to us ready to answer the challenges of Quebec of today and tomorrow.

We recognize that the questions of culture and identity raise passions. That can make so that the tone rises, that the personal attacks, the lawsuit of intention take the step on the reasoned debate. We note that the debate on the Québécois identity does not have escaped with this tendency. We are convinced that Quebec does not have anything to gain so that the debates on such fundamental stakes are done in terms also not very civil. We will thus assert ourselves, in the exchanges which we hope to have with those which do not share our vision of Quebec, of us to hold some with the arguments and the principles.


Pluralism as a normative orientation is shown several things: of relativism, multiculturalism trudeauist, “Chartism”, antinationalism, elitism, etc Several of these charges are however mutually exclusive. Thus, the charge of relativism means that the pluralist ones would do little case of the rights and freedoms of the person; on the contrary, that of “Chartism” implies that they absolutisent the rights and that they are ready to tolerate, on their behalf, any practice. Not astonishing, therefore, that according to the current secularist, the Ethical program and religious culture, for example, does little case of the Charter of the rights and freedoms of Quebec, whereas, for holding of preserving nationalist mobility, this program rather reduces the Québécois identity to the aforementioned charter.

The pluralist position, such as we conceive it, is neither relativistic nor chartist. The position that we defend is rather the following one: the members of the cultural and religious minorities - let us exclude from the analysis the problems of the relationship with the people autochtones, if fundamental that it deserves a distinct analysis - should not be victims of discrimination nor of exclusion on the basis of their difference. Moreover, when they result from immigration, their integration at the Québécois company should not require a pure and simple assimilation. We believe that each one can be integrated into the company Québécois - i.e. to take part in the social life, policy and economic - while remaining attached to beliefs or practices which are distinct from those of the majority, as long as they do not carry not reached to the rights of others. For example, if the immigrant must endeavour to be integrated into the company of reception and must respect his laws and his institutions, the latter must, n the other hand, take care to raise the obstacles to its integration and develop its contribution. The duty of adaptation is reciprocal.


The base of the pluralist position is the respect and the recognition of diversity, whether this one is the fact of minorities or the majority. This recognition does not mean only it is necessary to tolerate all the cultural and religious practices, nor that the Québécois company must be conceived like the juxtaposition of cultural communities folded up on themselves. Quite to the contrary, the type of pluralism that we defend wants a deepening of the democratic values on which rests contemporary Quebec. This is why, fundamentally, we adhere to the program Québécois interculturalism, such as it was initially conceived by the PQ of Gerald Godin and Rene Lévesque and taken again by the PLQ of Claude Ryan and Robert Bourassa. Quebec is seen there like a pluralist company, whose French is the common public language. Diversity is perceived there like a richness, within the limits fixed by the respect of the rights and freedoms of the person and the democratic values. The interculturalism also seeks to support the intercultural relations rather than the identity fold. Which aspect of this program the critics of the pluralism do oppose he exactly, and which propose?

It appears erroneous to us to advance that this policy of respect of the diversity implemented at Quebec in the last decades had like consequence the negation of the Québécois nation or the interests of the majority. There is not null incompatibility to affirm at the same time the respect of diversity and the continuity of the Québécois nation. Quebec chooses already, according to its collective interests and of criteria which it itself established, approximately 70% of the new arrivals on its territory (the federal one dealing of the family reunifications and the refugees). It adopted a charter of the French language which defends and promotes the language of the majority. As for “opened” secularity, it makes a distinction between what concerns the historical heritage and what would be a form of identification of the State to a particular religion. The nondenominational teaching of the religions envisaged by program ECR, for example, grants a larger place to the Christian traditions because of their historical importance in Quebec. The pluralist position does not seek to give the meter of the history to zero; she assumes at the same time the historicity and the diversity of the Québécois company.


As for secularity, she is asserted with strength in the current debates, as if the principles of this political installation were absent from Québécois political culture. However, the characteristics of secularity are implemented at Quebec since decades; the last stage was besides the laicization of our school system. In Quebec, the State working out the collective standards without a religion or that a group of conviction dominates the official capacity and the public institutions. He exerts his neutrality while abstaining from supporting or obstructing, directly or indirectly, a religion or a secular design of the existence, within the limits of the community property. This political orientation fulfills the requirement to protect the freedom of conscience and its free expression, just as the equality of all the citizens. That means that the civic rights and political citizens are not conditional with the abdication of the beliefs and the practices of those which express them. In Quebec, since 1774, no believer is held to abjure part of his faith to have access to the public office. The catholics, should it be pointed out, were the first to be profited from this constitutional protection.

Still today in several companies, the individuals who are not identified with the majority religion not only do not enjoy equal rights, but their political honesty remains suspect. This same belief, to the effect which the publicly expressed religious membership is prejudicial with the national identity, emerges now to Quebec; and according to this diagnosis, a charter of secularity would have become necessary. However, if the contents of this request is examined, one realizes quickly that such a charter would be before a whole legal instrument prohibiting the manifestation of religious adhesions of the citizens in the public sphere as well as the requests for compromise on religious grounds (at the same time, it would develop the Christian symbols).

If it is necessary and desirable to get along on the significance and the range of secularity, we believe that the pure and simple prohibition of any demonstration of religious membership would not answer any social need. Initially, no religious group, in Quebec, is able to impose its standards on the whole of the company; then, the manifestation of religious adhesion is not in contradiction with the membership citizen. In addition, such a prohibition would have a discriminatory effect, because it would aim only the believers belonging to the religions comprising of the vestimentary or food regulations. Lastly, a law of general prohibition, even under the heading of a charter of secularity, appears disproportionate to us compared to the sought objectives, in particular the neutrality of the public services.

This institutional neutrality requires that the collective standards be applied in an impartial way, whatever is the sex, the ethnic origin or nun of the person who exempts the service or that who receives it. However, it is already the case: indeed, the Québécois laws and policies are not elaborate according to religious standards. The relationship between the representatives of State (civils servant, teachers, etc) and the citizens is not of religious nature but other (administrative, teaching or coercive, for example). The fact that a government official posts a sign of religious membership by no means does not prevent it from applying the laic standards in an impartial way; the citizen can only note this religious sign, in the same way that it can notice the ethnic origin of the civil servant. Not more than the skin color, the accent or the sex, one cannot suppose that this religious affiliation constitutes a skew which interferes in the way in which the civil servant applies the law or the payment. On the other hand, the prohibition of religious signs can be justified if those involve a dysfunction of the service, an security issue, a discriminatory treatment with regard to other people, a real attack with their dignity or, if they give place to a proselytism. Should it be pointed out, secularity is binding on the State, not to the individuals.

Secularity, indeed, was historically conceived in order to prevent the State or certain groups of the company to adapt the right to be made judges of the opinions, the beliefs or the practices of the citizens. The will to absolutely ensure the emancipation with regard to beliefs considered authoritative or passeists, by refusing any compromise in the name of a laic requirement, comprises all the ingredients of a possible exclusion, opposite with the objective of integration. The equality, so much from a legal point of view than social, can be expressed according to different methods, provided that the means to ensure its implementation do not affect the equality of statute of the citizens, the equality of the resources for the conduit of its life and the equal opportunity in the access to education, work, justice, the departments of health.

It is necessary to be wary of any proposal for an ideal model of secularity, issuing definitively according to which methods of installation the monk must be marked out in the laws and the definition of the food-together. We recognize that the typical locations must be discussed of debates and, and the Bouchard-Taylor ratio had already identified a certain number of it. The primary reason which must invite us to prudence is that the lived worlds never correspond to models defined in advance, that the personal situations and social are changeantes, that they require continuous adjustments and new balances to be found. Secularity is not a way of solving the tensions (real or imaginary) by removing them.

Common values

Lately, it was much question of the “Québécois values” in the debate about the food-together. According to certain voices, these values would be put in danger by certain measurements, the such reasonable compromises. Holding of this speech consider that the majority would have the right to require immigrants (a term which, in their arguments, designates sometimes people and communities installed in Quebec since generations) whom they conform to the known as values. The compromises (reasonable or not), course ECR and other measurements would be guilty, according to some, to make the values minority higher than those of the majority, and according to others to gum any concept of value by posting a moral and cultural relativism complete. But what is it of these “common values”?

The speech of the common values takes two forms. According to certain preserving nationalists, the diversity in the manners of conceiving the “good life” would be only apparent. There would be deep Quebec, a silent majority which would never have disavowed its traditional values, which would represent the true Québécois identity. For some, these values traditional, inherent in the Québécois identity, would be related to Catholicism; this one would now cover an financial asset, in the name of which the contents of the public space of Quebec and the possibility would be circumscribed of expressing its difference there.

This rhetoric more reflects the voluntarism of its defenders that any reality of the Québécois company. By which mystical symbiosis do manage they to detect the true contents of the values of this majority? Force is to note that they project their own preferences there, their own designs of the good life, applicant whom they make the object of a vast consensus.

The second form which the speech of the common values takes wanders not by this type of projection, but rather by an excess of abstraction. In order to identify values which would be truly common behind the expansion of the lifestyles which coexist in public space, there would be a consensus on abstractedly formulated statements, like the democracy, the rights, freedom, the pluralism and the equality of the men and the women. The values which appear in the “Declaration carrying on the Québécois values” that must now sign all the immigrants in Quebec are of this type.

To be in favour of the democracy, the rights: nothing more creditable. But which is the precise extension of these rights? How to define the concrete limits of the religious liberty? Freedom of expression? The same applies to the value as indisputably represents the equality of the men and the women. What implies this engagement precisely, beyond the respect of the laws? When it is a question of answering concretely, the pluralism of the Québécois company will highlight inevitably various ways to do it. The pluralism of the values requires not that we try to reduce this diversity, but that we find of the means of dialoguing and to make common decisions which do not gum our diversity artificially. It is with the opening, the tolerance and the mutual respect which the pluralism invites us which is with the base of our democratic institutions.

Because this pluralism of the values within the Québécois company is not a defect. On the contrary, it is a sign of the vitality of our democratic institutions and robustness of protections which we grant to the civil liberties. It would be necessary to worry if our company were indeed as consensual as the cantors of the common values claim it.

Charters of the rights and institutions

Confidence in our institutions, we said. However, the “crisis of the reasonable compromises”, which was at the origin of the Bouchard-Taylor commission, was also, for some, a crisis of the institutions. It rested on an erroneous perception: the right and the courts would not have shown their capacity to frame the application of the compromises on the basis of of values and important principles, such as the equality of the sexes. Several were then of opinion that only a political deliberation of nature could make it possible to fix adequate limits at the practices of compromise.

We believe that the dialogue between the legal institutions and the political institutions is necessary. This dialogue is registered in logic even our institutions. The rights stated in the charters Québécois and Canadian can indeed be restricted by a legal provision, within limits which are reasonable and whose justification can be shown within the framework of an free society and democratic. In “extreme” cases, the legislator has even faculty to derogate from certain rights or freedoms. We are thus far from the “government of the judges” which appears, in a so preeminent way, in the speech of those for which “the right spoke too much”.

It appears perilous to us to standardize the fundamental texts which are the charters of the rights. However, it is precisely what certain current speeches, in which the charters are, in a specious way imply according to us, put in competition with other values. Are convened here, like counterweights with the charters, the equality between the women and the men, the separation of the Church and the State, the primacy of the French language and, according to a bill recently filed in by one of the opposition parties to the National Assembly, the historical heritage of Quebec. The tautological character of this enumeration deserves to be underlined. Certain elements (as the equality man-women) underlie already, indeed, of the general legal concepts, such as the prohibition of discrimination. In the same way, separation enters the State and the religion: this separation, which was explicitly recognized by our courts as of the Fifties, for summer has conceptualized like rising from the fundamental freedoms (conscience and religion) guaranteed by the charters of the rights. It is thus wrongfully that certain proposals make separation of the State and religion a distinct value, likely to influence the interpretation of the Québécois Charter. And how to speak about the Québécois values without also evoking the protection of the rights and freedoms, the justice and the rule of the law, the protection of the minorities, the social solidarity, the rejection of discrimination and racism?

Such a speech of vulgarizing reduces the charters of the rights to an abstract and désincarné unit of standards. Actually, the sphere of the rights and freedoms includes, one sees it, several of the values to which one refers in the current debates. Let us evoke besides, to buckle the loop, the difficulty in defining what it is necessary to understand by the “historical heritage of Quebec”. Several, we are, will support that the respect of the rights of the minorities, and in particular of the religious minorities, precisely forms part of this historical heritage. Since 1832, the Room of assembly of Low-Canada (Quebec) innovated by adopting a law which recognized, with any person of Jewish religion, the rights and preferences of the other confessions. The equality of the worships then marked in 1840, then will be reaffirmed in 1851 in the Law on the freedom of the worships, always into force. Our charters of the rights are heiresses of this historical long tradition of tolerance and opening. With due respect to those which make a point of opposing right and history (or right and identity), the right also forms part of the history. Of our history.

The way of continuity

A popular strategy in criticisms of the position which we defended here is to affirm that the pluralist prospect would be cantilever with the historical trajectory of Quebec. The facts state on the contrary that it is holding them of a strict secularity and a preserving identity nationalism which choose the way of the rupture. The way of the reasonable recognition of diversity appears being to us that of continuity with the history of Quebec. The Québécois Charter of the rights and freedoms, the interculturalism, the Charter of the French language, open secularity are all of the forms of governorship which aim at establishing a balance, certainly always moving, between the respective legitimate concerns of the majority and the cultural minorities, linguistic and religious. We believe that the constant search for this balance honours the Québécois nation, that it is a precondition in the search of an authentic food-together. We wish that it remain.

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