NOW THAT THE ELECTION is over, will you admit that the question put to Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet was completely appropriate?
During the Sept. 9 debate of political leaders, moderator Shachi Kurl prefaced her question to Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet: “You deny that Quebec has problems with racism, yet you defend legislation, such as bills 96 and 21, which marginalize religious minorities, anglophones and allophones.”
Then why does your party, Kurl continued, support “discriminatory laws?”
Later, Mr. Trudeau, you said: “The premise of the question was wrong and quite frankly insulting to Quebeckers,” said Trudeau. “We know there is lots of work to do across the country to fight against systemic discrimination, to stand up against intolerance.”
The premise of the question was right on. If you weren’t so desperate to appease Bloc Quebecois supporters and curry their favour, you would have acknowledged how legitimate the question was.
You, and the other two leaders, were quivering in your boots at the thought of displeasing some Quebecers. You could have shown more spine and supported groups most discriminated by Bill 21; groups who dress differently because of their customs and culture.
Groups represented by the National Council of Canadian Muslims, for example. Fatema Abdalla, communications co-ordinator at the NCCM, said there was nothing wrong with the debate question itself.
“We must be clear that a law [Bill 21] that enshrines second-class citizenship to Quebec Muslims, Sikhs and Jews must be called out as discriminatory. At this very moment, we must see a clear commitment to calling it for what it is,” she said.
Quebec’s Bill 21 bans some public-sector workers such as teachers and police officers from wearing religious symbols or attire on the job.
“These laws are not about discrimination. They are about the values of Quebec,” Mr. Blanchet replied. He accused Ms. Kurl of unfairly criticizing Quebec in her question.
Shame on you, Mr. Blanchet for playing identity politics. What you describe as “values” are the fears of Quebecers that they are under siege. Bill 21 is a thinly veiled attack on people that look different. You claim that you are transferring power to ordinary people by removing religious symbols, specifically immigrants’ clothing. But Bill 21 is everything about fear of the “other” and nothing about the power of religions; now marginalized anyway.
Quebecers are confident, outward looking, cosmopolitan people. Many disagree with you. According to a opinion poll conducted in 2019, one-third of Quebecers don’t support your noxious bill.
Your identity politics didn’t work that well, did they Mr. Blanchet? You only picked up two more seats compared to the last federal election and most of those were from rural Quebec.
In urban areas, where people actually interact with immigrants, those fears evaporate. Montrealers overwhelmingly rejected your party.
Shachi Kurl’s question was tough but fair. It had been agreed on by a consortium of broadcasters.
Quebec’s politicians would not hesitate to ask hard questions of the rest of Canada –nor should they.
Too often, Canadians timidly defer valid criticisms of Quebec, apprehensive that they will politically-incorrect.
The politics of fear must to be exposed, Mr. Trudeau. Not only should you challenge Bill 21 in court, but you should confront the shadowy fear of others wherever it’s found in Canada.
David Charbonneau is a retired TRU electronics instructor who hosts a blog at http://www.eyeviewkamloops.wordpress.com.