Friday, January 24, 2014

Does tolerating intolerance make one tolerant? Québec's secular charter

Québec's secular or 'values' charter is quite the paradox.  Those who are opposed to it accuse proponents of being xenophobic and intolerant.  Supporters of the charter consider detractors to be supporters of intolerance.  So who are the intolerant ones, the supporters of the charter or its detractors?

While the legislation is aimed at banning many different religious symbols from being worn in certain public spaces, the flashpoint for discussion is the various forms of head and/or full body coverings worn by some Muslim women.  

Québec society is very secular in nature.  I go to church here on a semi regular basis, a Roman Catholic church, and my wife and I are always among the youngest attendees.  The congregations are dominated by elderly parishioners, if I had to guess I'd put the average at somewhere between 70 and 80 years of age.  

Why have so many Québecers turned their backs on a church that at one time was such a huge part of their identity?  One of the reasons is Rome's treatment of women.  Women here were the last Canadians to be given the right to vote in provincial elections.  It wasn't until 1944 that Québec women could vote for their provincial MNAs.  

A big opponent to the cause of suffrage was the Roman Catholic Church. Then Québec cardinal Rodrigue Villeneuve objected to women voting based on the perceived authority structure of the family, that is to say MEN ARE IN CHARGE.

The government of that day opted to be intolerant of Roman Catholicism's intolerance when it came to equality of the sexes, and it was obviously the right choice.

In that light it should not be surprising that many Québecers support the charter.  They see it as a continuation of the feminist movement and a fight for the equality between women and men.

And frankly I have to say I agree.

Even Québec Liberal MNA Fatima Houda-Pépin, the only Muslim woman in the National Assembly, supports at least some aspects of the charter.  Actually that should be former Liberal MNA, as her opposition to her party's negative stance on the charter has forced her to leave the party and sit as an independent.

Now I'm not suggesting that there isn't a red neck element who support the charter for reasons more xenophobic....yes, there are plenty of those.  But sometimes even small and wrong minded people can be in favour of positive change, even if its for the wrong reasons.  

1 comment:

Altavistagoogle said...
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