We recently learned that an employee of a school in Trois-Rivières has obtained a religious accommodation based on Bill 62. The professional training centre Bel-Avenir has granted a Muslim student the right to use a school room for prayers. This accommodation is in no way reasonable. On the contrary, it is an undue and unacceptable privilege granted to a religion. A non-believer would never demand such a prerogative, and at any rate it would never be granted anyway because only religions are given such preferential treatment. It is time to put an end to such privileges. If an individual wants to pray, there are mosques, churches, synagogues and temples, and there is of course one’s own home. A school’s mandate is education, not religious practise.
We all remember that infamous Bill 62 which bans face-coverings in the public service (whether worn by employees or users) but which permits religious accommodations in many contexts. Thus, it was weak legislation from its conception because the possibility of accommodations inevitably compromises the ban on face-coverings. However subsequently, even that weak ban, as stipulated in the Bill’s Section 10, was suspended by the courts on December 1st 2017 and then suspended again a second time on June 28th 2018. The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), with support from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), led the court challenge which led to these suspensions of Section 10. And in both cases, the government of Quebec made no effort to defend its Bill.
Thus, the only positive element of Bill 62, the face-covering ban, has been eliminated thanks to the efforts of political Islam, supported by so-called defenders of civil liberties. In what remains of that Bill, there is an open door to religious accommodations which further enables progress by political Islam. The willful blindness of the CCLA in supporting the campaign against Section 10 is inexcusable. It was obviously a campaign against rights and freedoms; i.e. it abused the language of civil rights in order to fight against civil rights. Given that it is women who are targeted by Islamists whose goal is to impose the wearing of the veil, including the niqab, the suspension of Section 10 represents an enormous setback for gender equality and a boost for the subjugation of women.
The author Yolande Geadah (Prix Condorcet-Dessaulles 2007) criticizes the decision of the Couillard government not to appeal either of the two court rulings suspending the ban. She deplores the fact that this decision went almost totally unnoticed because its implications of such inaction are serious. Left uncontested, the court ruling of June 28th will set a precedent.
In the opinion of Ms. Geadah, the Quebec Liberal Party was seriously mistaken both in adopting Bill 62 and in failing to defend it. It failed to consult with competent experts who could have outlined the social and political issues raised by various forms of Wahhabism. She also points out that the court’s allegation that face-covering bans cause “irreparable harm” is purely hypothetical in light of the observation that in all the European and Muslim countries where such a ban has been adopted, most women who wear a face-covering simply abandon that practice without renouncing their religion.
Finally, Ms. Geadah points out that, even though the number of women wearing the full veil in Quebec is minimal, the social impact is certainly not negligible. Those persons who blindly defend the full veil, using religious freedom as their pretext, fail to understand that efforts to impose the veil in the West, in defiance of any laws which may restrict it, is part of a larger movement. Those efforts have little to do with fundamental freedoms and much more to do with giving religious principle priority over civil law.
What then is to be done? According to Ms. Geadah, the government, whatever party that might be, must avoid repeating such “errors” in the future. As secularists have pointed out repeatedly, it is both essential and urgent that the principle of secularism be enshrined in the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.
I agree completely with Ms. Geadah’s insistence on enshrining secularism in the Quebec Charter. But there is one point on which she is mistaken in my opinion. I do not consider that the Couillard government committed “errors” with Bill 62. On the contrary, the whole saga, in my opinion, unfolded precisely as planned by that government from the beginning: they adopted an ill-conceived bill, knowing full well that it would be invalidated by the courts. The government can now claim that they tried to legislate on this question, but unfortunately the courts were against it. They now throw in the towel and abandon the issue. To make matters worse, the precedent set by this fiasco will make secularisation an even more difficult task in future.
The Quebec Liberal Party (QLP), under the leadership of Philippe Couillard, is a party utterly committed to Trudeau-style multiculturalism, i.e. cultural relativism and anti-secularism. The purpose of Bill 62 was to shove yet another nail into the coffin of the Secularism Charter proposed by the previous government, with the goal of setting a precedent which would crush any hope of further secularisation in Quebec. And for the moment at least, they have succeeded. Any ban on face-coverings in the public service is completely ruled out, while religious accommodations, such as that prayer room in the Bel-Avenir school, can proceed unhindered. Thanks to this toxic residue left over from Bill 62, this issue of accommodations will come back to haunt us again and again, like a poisoned gift, uselessly complicating the work of the personnel in public institutions. At the same time, those in charge of hiring will be less and less inclined to consider candidates from certain religious miniorities, because of the very real fear of eventual requests for accommodation.
To turn things around and continue the fight for a secular Quebec state, to put the brakes on anti-secular forces, of which Islamists are the most important representatives currently and of which the Liberal parties of Quebec and Canada are objective allies, the next Quebec government, after the October 1st elections, will have to act with iron-fisted determination and exemplary political courage.