September 30, 2013 6:14 pm

In Quebec, two interpretations of diversity collide

MONTREAL – In the midst of the controversy surrounding the Quebec Charter of Values, the provincial government is launching the “Week of Intercultural Gatherings” in an effort to promote diversity in the province.

The effort immediately drew criticism from vocal members of Montreal’s visible minorities.

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“Why is it intercultural, exactly, and not multicultural?” said Eman El-Husseini, a stand-up comic who was born in Kuwait of Palestinian parents. “That I find weird on its own, and also the fact that I’ve never heard of it.”

It brings in sharp relief the differences between the Two Solitudes and how they view diversity. The multiculturalism championed in the rest of Canada is passed over in favour of interculturalism in Quebec. In contrast with the Canadian mosaic, interculturalism “takes something from other cultures, it allows Quebec culture to become more diverse, but the idea is for everyone to head in the same direction and speak the same language,” explained Quebec Immigration Minister Diane de Courcy.

The ruling Parti Quebecois “definitely doesn’t like multiculturalism, because multiculturalism is the antithesis to ethnic nationalism,” said Bruce Hicks, a Carleton University politics professor.

The Charter of Values would ban overt religious symbols in the civil service under the batter of promoting official secularism. But in the mind of Eddy Perez, an organizer of an anti-charter protest, it promotes isolation.

“It shows a bit of hypocritical attitudes there,” he said. “The secular aspect they’re trying to bring with bring discrimination.”

El-Husseini says that she was completely on-board with many of the PQ’s core beliefs. “I was with her about conserving the French language,” she said. But the government is “taking it to a level, where her vision of Quebec does not include me, I feel.”

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