How the Lanaudière region sees the Charter of Values

JOLIETTE – The town of Joliette is a rural town in the Lanaudière region of Quebec. About 20,000 people call the town home. It lies about 50 km from Montreal, but the street-level reality seems a far cry from cosmopolitan Montreal.

“Here it’s very different,” said Catherine Martinet, a Montrealer who recently moved to Joliette. “There aren’t a lot of religions here… it’s not like Montreal or other big cities.”

That may partly explain a new Angus Reid poll suggesting that while two-thirds of Quebeckers supported the proposed Quebec Charter of Values, support for it is stronger outside Montreal. The charter has polarized groups in Quebec, wedged between the choice of whether to allow public religious symbols or not.

It’s an issue that raises the question of whether a minority religious group can publicly express their creed, or whether it represents a religious imposition.

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“In the society they live in, in Quebec, I don’t think you can,” said Eugenie Gosselin, a CEGEP student in Joliette. “It doesn’t work, and you’re a minority and it’s life – you have to deal with it.”

Yet Gosselin is like many Joliette residents Global News spoke with – she feels like religious freedom is an important component of Quebec society.

“You don’t want to undo what you believe in,” she said. “I get that they have really strong beliefs in something.”

Some of the people Global News spoke with viewed the absence of outward religious symbols as being encouraging to freedom of religion, rather than detracting from it. Many groups – especially in Montreal – have railed against the proposed charter as flying in the face of reasonable accommodation.

“If we wear symbols, people will think that we want to impose a religion,” said Gabriel Legault, another CEGEP student. “Beliefs are a personal thing. We don’t have to impose our beliefs on other people.”

The charter has caused a firestorm of controversy since word of its existence leaked late last month.

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