A recent editorial from The Globe and Mail, probably the most influential media source in Canada, is quite possibly the most odious and bigotted screed I have ever had the displeasure of reading in my lifetime.
The newspaper’s editorial of October 28th, 2019 gets one thing right: it accuses the three federal parties (Liberals, Conservatives and NDP) of soft-pedalling their opposition to Bill 21 in an attempt to minimize vote losses in Quebec in the recent federal election. Of course it did not work, because their ploy was so obvious.
But the rest of the editorial is a cesspool of misinformation, dishonesty and slander against secularism and against Quebecers who support it. Here are a few examples:
- “Bill 21, the law that bars government employees from wearing religious symbols, such as head coverings, on the job” — Inaccurate. No, the law only applies to employees in positions of authority, hired since the draft law was published last March.
- “Muslim women were actively being refused jobs as public-school teachers in Quebec because of the law” — False. Even where the law applies (see #1), no-one is refused a job because of their religion. Each employee, regardless of religion, is simply required to remove any partisan religious (or political) symbols while on the job. The law bans certain behaviour, not people or groups of people.
- Bill 21 is an “opportunistic betrayal of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms” — Tendentious. Legal experts disagree on whether Bill 21 is compatible with the Canadian Charter. Not only does the editorial fail to acknowledge this, but it also neglects to mention that (a) Québec has never approved the constitution of 1982 which contains the Charter; (b) Bill 21 was passed by the Quebec government which was elected recently with a strong majority; and (c) a strong majority of Quebecers support Bill 21; and (d) even in Canada outside Quebec, almost 40% support Bill 21 in spite of massive media opposition to it.
- “Bill 21 is a stain on Canada and Quebec.” — Outrageous nonsense. Bill 21 is progressive legislation which helps protect the freedom of conscience of users of public services and students in public schools. It was adopted by the only province in Canada where secularism is making significant gains. The stain on Canada is the exaggerated and irrational opposition to Bill 21, so virulent in Canada outside Quebec, of which the Globe and Mail editorial is an extreme example. Bill 21 is in fact rather timid and does not go far enough. Religious symbols are banned in public services and/or schools in France and in parts of Switzerland, Belgium and Germany. Face-coverings, including the full Islamic veil, are banned in many European and African countries, including some Muslim-majority countries. Quebec’s Bill 21 is neither exceptional nor unreasonable.
- “The federal government is secular…” — A blatant lie. It is patently obvious that the Canadian State and government are not secular. Federal legislation is peppered with religious privileges, for example:
- The very Charter of Rights and Freedoms vaunted by the G-&-M editorial begins by declaring that “the supremacy of God” is one Canada’s founding principles.
- Hate propaganda legislation contains a religious exception—i.e. granting impunity for religious hate speech—which was reinforced in 2003 in order to placate Christian homophobes and which in 2018 then Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould refused to even consider repealing despite our parliamentary petition to that effect.
- Canadian firearms legislation also has a religious exception (exemption from required photo).
- Canada’s long-standing anti-blasphemy law was repealed only recently, in 2018, but in the previous year motion M-103 condemning so-called “Islamophobia” was adopted by federal parliament, effectively re-establishing a new anti-blasphemy policy which, unlike the repealed law, grants privileged protection to one particular religion.
- Religious institutions enjoy major fiscal privileges; for example “advancement of religion” is one criterion for registration as a charity.
- Citizenship regulation 17(1)b) stipulates a religious privilege in citizenship ceremonies.
- “Bill 21 and the systemic racism that it represents” — Another blatant lie. Bill 21 is about managing religious diversity using secular measures, i.e. separating religions from the State. It has absolutely nothing to do with race. Conflating race with religion only serves to empower religious fanatics who use specious accusations of “racism” to attempt to silence their critics.
- “racist acts targeting them [Muslim women] have increased since the law came into force…” — Nonsense. Bill 21 has nothing to do with race. Bill 21 does NOT target Muslims or women or any other group; rather it puts small and reasonable restrictions on behaviour while on the job. Furthermore, the hijab, niqab and other veils are not worn by Muslim women in general but only by those under the sway of political Islam. Finally, reports of alleged hostility against veiled women are highly dubious because of very poor methodology.
- “vulnerable people, whose basic freedoms were being trampled by the Quebec government” — Nonsense. Bill 21 does not trample anyone’s rights. On the contrary, as observed above, it strengthens freedom of conscience by reducing religious advertising and passive proselytizing in public services and schools.
Finally, to add insult to injury, the editorial demonizes the Bloc québécois for its separatism. Everyone, including the Globe and Mail, has of course the right to express one’s opinion for or against Quebec independence. However, the Bloc did not in fact address the independence issue during the recent election campaign. Rather, it promoted, among other issues, secularism, and that, the anti-secularists at the G-&-M cannot abide.
Unfortunately there is nothing new about the G-&-M editorial. It is simply an extreme example of the virulent anti-secularism which the mainstream media in Canada outside Quebec (and some inside) regularly spew. The pattern is familiar, with the usual three elements:
- Wilful ignorance of secularism, a refusal to even attempt to understand the basics of religion-State separation and a denial that it is even necessary.
- Religious bigotry, systematically rebranding religious privileges as “rights” and taking the position that such privileges always trump other rights.
- Ethnic bigotry against Quebecers, painting them as “racist” or worse.
The religious fanatics who oppose Bill 21—and their allies, such as the Globe and Mail editors—have no valid arguments to offer, nothing reasonable, nothing coherent. That is why they always fall back on slander, using preposterous accusations of “racism” and similar epithets.