If you are a minority government with a goal of removing your province from the country, and you want to avoid talking about your bad economic record — well, it must be time to pick on “the ethnics.”
It’s hard to come to any other conclusion about the motivation behind the xenophobic Charter of Quebec Values, unveiled on Tuesday by the minority Parti Quebecois government in Quebec.
The term “the ethnics” was used by former PQ premier Jacques Parizeau, when the province came very close to approving separation in 1995. A 50.6 per cent margin approved staying in Canada. Parizeau blamed “money and the ethnic vote” for the narrow loss.
His successors haven’t forgotten. The Quebec charter is a thinly-disguised attack on non-Caucasian, non-“pure laine” Quebecois. These include those not from a Catholic background, those with a different skin colour, those who practise a religion other than Christianity (with a special aim at Jews and Muslims) and those who somehow look different, such as wearing a head covering or a symbol of their religion.
Ever since news of such a charter was leaked, likely by the PQ, there has been a lot of reaction. Much of it has come from outside Quebec, which suits the PQ agenda perfectly, as it can then claim that Quebec is “different” from the rest of Canada.
However, it is heartening to see strong reaction from the federal government and the two federal party leaders who represent Quebec seats — Thomas Mulcair of the NDP and Justin Trudeau of the Liberals. Mulcair, in particular, has something to lose as his large Quebec caucus includes some soft PQ supporters, and his party gained much of the “nationalist” vote in the 2011 federal election, when it won 59 Quebec seats.
The Quebec Liberals and the second provincial opposition party, the CAQ, also oppose the charter, as it was detailed on Tuesday. Unfortunately, the CAQ seems likely to support some elements of it, likely trying to appeal to some of the voters the PQ is targeting.
Quebeckers should think back to when longtime premier Maurice Duplessis targeted Jehovah’s Witnesses 70 years ago. This attempt to ban religious symbols is a similar paranoid attempt to exploit differences for political gain.
Most Quebeckers are fair-minded people. Hopefully they will see political trickery for what it is, and reject an attack on their neighbours.