A Quebec commission composed of Gerard Bouchard (a sociologist and Lucien’s brother) and Catholic philosopher Charles Taylor, will presently begin public hearings on how Quebecers should accomodate immigrants in terms of religious and cultural differences. The issue is widely referred to as « reasonable accomodation. » The words encompass every day gestures that help integrate immigrant customs and religious practices into the broader Quebec society.

The issue is complicated by the fact that French Quebecers are insecure about their identity and this is fuelling a backlash against minorities. These tensions popped up in the village of Herouxville which adopted a code of conduct that discourages special treatment of newcomers of different religious or enthnic backgrounds. A new electoral law in Quebec obliges everyone who casts a vote to show his or her face. Where does this leave Muslim women who wear full-face veils? The Canadian Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that a Quebec law could not bar a Montreal student from wearing his dagger-like kirpan to school.

Just this morning The Gazette carried a front page story about a small group of Mennonites near Granby who plan to move to Ontario or New Brunswick. Although they have made a significant contribution to their community after learning French, they are reluctantly moving because they are being forced to enroll their children in government-approved schools where they object to the teaching of evolution, the acceptance of gays and lesbians and low « morality standards. In Ontario they will be able to home-school their children and they will not be obliged to follow the provincial curriculum.

In the last provincial election Mario Dumont and the ADQ supported a restrictive accomodation of immigrants and they parlayed this policy into winning a number of seats. There is no question this whole issue will be front and centre in the next provincial election.

How does one balance respecting the ethos of the majority with accomodating the cultural and religious practices of the minority? Could this just lead to more ethnic ghettoes?

Should special consideration be given in Quebec to the fragility of the French identity because it is swamped by a continent of anglophones?



  1. 1
    Joanne Nicholls Says:

    Two things.

    One, everyone is dancing around the whole issue of multiculturalism and it is a sensitive political issue.

    Two, the rest of Canada has walked on eggshells around Quebec and its « distinct society » for years. They keep trotting out the « …but we are special… » card all the time and expect the rest of the country to bend over backwards to allow them to preserve their distinctiveness. Quebec IS distinct. So is Newfoundland, BC, Saskatchewan and Nunuvut. Every part of the country is distinct. That is what makes up Canada, but no one part of the country should have greater privileges that another and no one province should be allowed to manipulate the fundamental values of Canada for its own ends.

    I also think it is important to ensure that the people who are participating in the democratic process are the ones who are entitled to do so. It is my understanding that Muslim women can show their faces, but not to men other than their family members. Perhaps there is a way to ensure that female voters’ faces are shown only to female election officials.

    I also think that there needs to be concessions made all around. For example, I have female Muslim students in high school who cannot swim. This is fine if they are in Afghanistan but that is not acceptable here. Where I live, you cannot drive an hour in any direction without falling into a major body of water–not to mention the number of homes with swimming pools. Knowing how to swim is a necessity–not a luxury.

    Those people who have lived here for generations need to learn that there may be more than one way of doing things and the people who come here from elsewhere need to learn that things are done differently here than what they are used to and have to adapt to a degree.

    There has to be a happy medium somewhere.

  2. 2

    Hi Joanne,

    It’s super to see you back with a very informed comment.

    However, I think Quebec is distinct in a way that other provinces are not and I think it should not be beyond the wit of the rest of Canada to recognize this distinctiveness. Quebec is a small island of the French culture and language trying to survive in the sea of English North America. There are pressures on Quebec that do not exist for other provinces. Unless these pressures are confronted Quebec will end up like Louisiana. For French Quebec it is a constant struggle for survival.

  3. 3
    Joanne Nicholls Says:

    Neil, you do have a point. I know that there is a lot to preserve in Quebec. But Quebec has to also be careful not to isolate itself so much from the rest of the country that there are just little pockets of English-speakers and immigrants in an environment of hostile French-Canadians.

    I don’t live in Quebec and all I have to go on is what I hear in the news. But, as an outsider, many Quebeckers come off as extremist and intolerant. I don’t believe that to be true on an individual basis, but maybe Quebeckers need to plead their case more effectively to non-Quebecois Canadians.

  4. 4
    Stéphanie Pagano Says:

    Toute cette question « d’accomodation raisonnable » n’est pas sans fondement. Cependant, je crois que l’on doit d’abord définir ce que l’on entend par « raisonnable ». Je ne sais plus qui à dit: La liberté des uns s’arrête où celles des autres commence.

    Si moi j’immigre dans un autre pays, avec une culture et une histoire différente, JE vais faire de mon mieux pour adhérer à ces régles et ces façons de vivre. Je n’imposerais pas MA façon.

    Le multiculturalisme est une particularité au Québec. C’est ce qui fait son charme. Il ne faut tout de même pas oublier, que le fait d’être québecois est en soit une particularité du reste du Canada.

    Le français est notre langue. Il est important de ne pas l’oublier ou le négliger. Personellement, chaque nouveau arrivant devrait pouvoir être capable de s’exprimer en français. Leurs enfants devraient fréquentés l’école française. C’est un fait pour tous que le Québec est une province francophone…il faut le respecter. Respecter la terre d’acceuil.

    Pour les religions, chacun à droit à croyance. Cela ne devrait jamais interférer avec les services publics. Qui dit public, dit pour tous également. Il y a des régles de socièté, de civisme ou toutes autres qui se doivent d’être égales pour tous. Si moi le québecois je n’ai pas droit d’arme blanche à l’école, celui qui selon sa religion se en droit dans ammené une, non plus n’a pas le droit. Si le fait de voir des femmes s’entraîner par la fenêtre dérange certains ( ce qui est arrivé au YMCA, c’est à eux à s’accomoder.

    Chaque immigration fait lui-même la demande de venir, ils s’avent que se sera différents. C’est pour ça qu’ils viennent. Je les acceuil tous à bras ouvert.

    Nous respect_ils lorsqu’ils veulent tout changer? Lorsqu’ils NOUS demande de s’adapter? Ne serait_ils pas à eux de s’adapter?

    Stéphanie Pagno

  5. 5

    Merci, Stephanie, pour avoir pris le temps de compose un contribution special a cette conversdation.

    Bienvenue au Blog McKenty. Hope you will comment again.

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