MONTREAL – Quebec’s proposed Charter of Values came under fire on Thursday from an unexpected quarter: the former leader of the Parti Quebecois, Jacques Parizeau.
Serving as premier from 1994-1996, Parizeau nearly led the province to independence in 1995, and infamously blamed “money” and the “ethic votes” for the defeat of the referendum.
Writing in the French newspaper, Le Journal de Montreal, Parizeau noted that Quebec has already achieved significant separation of state and church.
“Since the Quiet Revolution, in just a few years, we have loosened the control the Catholic Church has had over society,” he wrote.
As examples, he pointed to the replacement of Catholic-run schools and hospitals by government-led institutions, also noting that the prayer at the National Assembly had been superseded by a “moment of contemplation.”
READ MORE: Quebec’s proposed Charter of Values
“So why has there been such support for the ban on ostentatious religious symbols?” he asked. “I think there is just one explanation: Islamism.”
“Contact with the Islamic world for many Quebecers is via infinitely repeated images of violence: wars, riots, bombs, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Boston Marathon; as well as the subordination of women and the violence inflicted should she try to free herself.”
Parizeau suggested that people’s response was obvious: “Not here.”
“In any case, when a government makes an effort to begin to limit the supposed danger of ‘the invasion of extremism,’ the first reflex is to applaud.”
He then went on to say that the proposed Charter of Values would not help the cause of sovereignty by suggesting that minorities and immigrants in Quebec would be forced to look to Ottawa for help in defending their rights.
“In fact, federalism is appearing as their true defender.”
While he did not call for the proposed secularism Charter to be abolished, Parizeau had several suggestions for improving it.
The Charter should outline the rules of conduct for the separation of church and state and the neutrality of the state with regard to religion, including rules for public sector workers on religious accommodations, and equality between men and women.
He also supported the Parti Quebecois’ recommendation that people should not offer or receive public services with their faces covered: “personally, I would go further than this,” he wrote, although he did not explain how.
“I think we ought to limit our recommendations to the Bouchard-Taylor report,” he noted. “To police, prosecutors, judges and generally, to those who hold positions of authority.”
In 2007, Quebec’s Bouchard-Taylor Commission investigated the issue of reasonable accommodation of minorities in the province, hearing from experts, individuals and organizations on identity, integration and religion. It presented its report in 2008.
As for the controversial crucifix hanging in Quebec’s National Assembly, recently the subject of a nude Femen protest? Parizeau suggested that after discrete consultation with all political parties, the president should have the cross moved to another location.
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