The Mouth that Roared
It's a little bit disheartening to know that no matter how hard we in the media fight back against it, the nationalist rhetoric emerging from the corridors of power in Quebec City these days shows no signs of abating.
The minority-government PQ would like Quebecers to know that at the top of the long list of problems with this province -- which include being taxed higher than any other population in North America, institutionalized corruption, a lack of family doctors, nurses and qualified health-care professionals, crumbling infrastructure, underfunded schools, high dropout rates and much, much more – are the visible religious symbols worn in the public sector by Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and other non-Christians. Crucifixes? Not religious – rather, the government considers them a symbol of our culture. Of course, one wonders what the Pope would say about the crucifix not being considered a religious symbol.
But what if that culture doesn't belong to all of us?
That's why laws like these are so dangerous. Jews, Sikhs, Muslims and other cultural minorities are as much a part of the fabric of this province as the Quebecers who have lived on the family fame for generations. If you live here, and you contribute in some form to the society you live in, then you are inextricably a part of it and no amount of rhetoric can convince me – or most other Quebecers living in the silent majority – otherwise.
Saying one group of people can wear religious symbols but not another necessarily creates two classes of citizens in Quebec – which, if you believe all the rhetoric about the province being an open and inclusive place, makes the PQ and other ultra-nationalists that are fearful of the minority boogeyman the biggest hypocrites on the face of the earth. In fact, it outed the Bloc Québécois as hypocritical when the federal party dropped Ahuntsic MNA Maria Mourani from caucus after she spoke out in opposition to the provincial law. Seems silly – but it just goes to show that if you oppose Quebec nationalists in any way, you'll just be ostracized and ignored.
'Welcome to Quebec – where we welcome people from all over – as long as they promise to immediately become just like us' seems to be the pervading sentiment coming from Quebec City.
And that is complete bull. Poppycock. Nonsense. Can I be any clearer?
OK, I'll try. It's crap.
A society does not get richer, in material wealth, or in cultural wealth by shutting itself off to new things, new ways of thinking and new cultures. The danger in classifying cultural minorities as 'les autres' means they will never be able to break down the barriers that some Quebecers have put up – and will never feel completely comfortable in Quebec.
It's a huge problem. Look at the West Island, for example. One of Montreal's most ethnically-diverse areas (largely) boasts a high rate of bilingualism and even trilingualism – which is an example many of us who have lived here our whole lives ought to follow.
Here's a charter of values I can get behind: treat others as you would want to be treated. Make newcomers – who have enough issues of their own in moving to a strange land thousands of miles from anything that is familiar to them – feel welcome. Allow them to become a part of your world – and it is likely they will see the value in it. Impose it on them, and they will want to push back. It's human nature, after all.
Let's make it happen.