But no one reads wmtc for breaking news. Maybe in February, I'll blog about Canada's embarrassing obstructionism in Bali.
So from the Better Late Than Never Department, this time the post is going up.
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If I were a Quebecker, I'd be painfully embarrassed by the public spectacle of the Bouchard-Taylor Commission. The Commission, supposedly studying reasonable accommodation of religious minorities "in response to public discontent" of those accommodations, is a carnival of racism, nativism and xenophobia. It would a laughingstock - if it weren't so dangerous.
As the Commission's road show continues, I've noticed a certain amount of delicacy in some of the media when dealing it. Are we Anglophones not supposed to criticize anything that comes from French Canada?
Racism is racism is racism, and it isn't any more palatable if it comes from a community that was once the target of racism themselves. Indeed, a case could be made that it's even worse, which is why I hate to see racism among Jewish people. I think we should know better.
The Commission was supposedly necessary because Quebec needs "a dialogue" about multiculturalism. The rights of women are supposedly being trampled in the Muslim community. And how shall we save Muslim women from themselves? By stoking fear and hatred of Muslims.
For a while there, each pronouncement emanating from the Commission was more outlandish than the next, a can-you-top-of-this of barely-disguised invective.
There was the veiled voting flap (I mentioned it briefly), which was never actually a problem at polling stations.
Quebec lawyer Guy Bertrand accused Montreal Canadiens captain Saku Koivu of "contempt for our language," because he is not fluent in French. The man was born in Finland, and speaks English and Finnish. From what I gather, he's a top player, a team leader, a cancer survivor and has lost some vision in one eye from an accident on the ice. Bertrand's statement was roundly (and rightly) rejected as nonsense, but it stands as a milestone in the What Will These People Say Next department.
Even the old kosher-tax myth reared its ugly head, because what's a racism and xenophobia without a little anti-Semitism thrown in?
The town of Hérouxville became famous when it passed a "manifesto" banning stoning and burning women. Guess what? That's illegal everywhere in Canada. No special laws are needed to prevent the Muslim hordes from burning women. One might almost think someone in Hérouxville wanted to stone a woman to death.
The declaration reads: "We wish to inform these new arrivals that the way of life which they abandoned when they left their countries of origin cannot be recreated here." So all the professional, middle-class Muslim families who are emigrating to Canada have abandoned "a way of life" where they murdered women in the town square? We might as well say Allan and I abandoned cross-burning and lynching. I've yet to figure out if anyone in Hérouxville has actually seen an immigrant.
In a CBC story, I read that "'Canadian style' multiculturalism a menace to Quebec, commission hears." Another Quebecker said, "I am ashamed to be a Quebecer sometimes, like when I hear idiocies like those coming from Hérouxville. ... Ignorance and fear produce xenophobia and racism, and the ideas of the extreme right."
I do wonder how much popular support this movement really has in Quebec. After all, it's easy to think everyone in the US is a bible-thumping, war-mongering, Wal-Mart shopping Bushbot. (No, they're not!) This op-ed by Lysiane Gagnon says that even René Lévesque, founder of the Parti Québécois, would have been disgusted.
For me, the worst part of this spew is when it's cloaked in women's rights. Christiane Pelchat, the president of the Quebec Council on the Status of Women, said, "Freedom of religion must be limited, intrinsically, by the right to equality between women and men". According to the Council, Islamic symbols such as the headscarf send "a message of the submission of a woman, which should not be conveyed to young children as part of a secular education, which is required to promote equality between men and women."
Freedom of religion should only be limited by what's illegal under the law. Telling a woman she cannot wear a niqab or hijab, which she feels is an expression of her faith, is not a step towards women's rights. It's just one group imposing their standards on another.
I found lots of good writing and organizing against the Commission, which was uplifting. The wonderfully-named blog Fagstein had some very good pieces.
The Quebec council on the status of women seeks to impose a dress code on all public employees, preventing them from wearing "visible religious symbols" like a scarf over their head or a little hat. Of course, it goes without saying that Catholics wearing crosses around their necks are specifically exempt. They get special treatment because they believe in the correct God.
Mostly Water reprinted this statement by the Montreal chapter of No One Is Illegal.
The "reasonable accommodation" debate in Quebec, and the related "Consultation Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences" (the so-called "Bouchard-Taylor Commission"), are fundamentally rooted in xenophobia, racism and sexism.
From the outset, the "debate" fails to recognize that Quebec and Canada are built on stolen Indigenous land, and constituted through the dispossession and genocide of Indigenous peoples who have been forced into "accommodating" colonization. Moreover, it completely ignores the fact that racism and white supremacy were intrinsically tied to the creation of both Canada and Quebec, and throughout their histories, have been instrumental in defining who "belongs" and who does not.
The Bouchard-Taylor Commission was created in the context of xenophobia during an election campaign and has provided an uncontested platform for racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.
Opportunistic politicians and corporate media have appealed to public fears and prejudices, and manipulated false controversies over religious practices and cultural differences to create a generalized hysteria, with little to no basis in fact. In its very framework it creates a binary of 'us' vs. 'them'; the 'us' being made up of white people of European descent, and the 'them' being whichever non-white immigrant group is currently under the spotlight.
The supposed "debate" has made open bigotry publicly acceptable, using simplistic caricatures that render our communities homogenous, uncontested and monolithic. While we reject this offensive portrayal of our communities, we assert the diversity of our cultures and traditions as well as our multiple identities. [More here.]
There's a good photo on the blog Tadamon! of a No One Is Illegal Protest. Tadamon! is an excellent blog, written in three languages, and worth a visit if only for the brilliant masthead featuring a portion of "Guernica".
Here's an excellent story about community groups organizing to reject the racism and xenophobia of the Commission - worth looking at with the photos.
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You know, the xenophobes who support the Bouchard-Taylor Commission owe a huge debt to multiculturalism.
Multiculturalism gives them a smokescreen to hide behind. They can claim "widespread public discontent" - and then create some.
Without an official Canadian policy of multiculturalism, they'd be forced to baldly state their true purpose: "We believe our culture is superior to everyone else's! We hate and fear people not like ourselves!"