Unconstitutional and unconscionable
By Sophie Isbister, Life & Style Editor
Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: freedom of conscience and religion. – The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
The above quote is from Section Two of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: a constitutional document ratified in 1982 that grants political rights and civil freedoms to all Canadians. Given that, it’s unclear to me why Quebec’s Parti Québécois feels as though those same rights shouldn’t extend to civil servants.
Their proposed Quebec charter of values seeks to directly override aspects of the Canadian Charter by calling for the ban of religious dress on civil servants in the province. This would include all forms of dress worn by Quebec’s not-insignificant Islamic community, such as the hijab, niqab, or turban, and also the Jewish kippa. Small artifacts like discreet jewellery will be exempt from the ban, and, of course, the giant crucifix that adorns Quebec’s legislative building.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms also covers multiculturalism. Section 27 states, “This Charter shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians.” What that line does is entrench values of multiculturalism in every aspect of the charter. It’s why Canada is such a desirable place for people to emigrate to, and the fact that we’re the only country to have multiculturalism entrenched in our constitution makes most Canadians proud.
Except, apparently, the Parti Québécois and the proponents of their rogue charter—a document which can only be viewed as racist.
Some argue for the charter on the grounds that such religious dress makes them uncomfortable, but the largest argument in favour is that articles of clothing like the hijab are oppressive to women and that Canada shouldn’t allow such oppression to take place in their public, tax-funded spaces. Arguments along this line ignore the fact that freedom for women is about choice.
If Quebec’s feminists are seriously concerned about women being coerced into wearing their religious garbs, then banning them is not the solution. Do they seriously think that taking away the livelihood (jobs) of women who are in coercive marriages will do any good? Taking away the rights of Islamic-Canadian women to hold jobs in civil services because of the customs of their religion is harmful and dangerous. And it’s un-Canadian.
I’m proud to be Canadian. I’m proud that we’ve opened up the gates of our country to other cultures, and that we peacefully coexist. I agree with secularism in government, but ahead of that, I believe in personal choice, especially personal choice in manners of dress, and with regard to already entrenched constitutional law.
The issue of religious artifacts on civil servants isn’t a question of whether cultural artefacts are attractive or even important. It comes down to this simple question: do you want to fundamentally suppress the cultural rights of people who are proud to call Canada their home? Quebec’s charter of values tells real Canadians that all they are is their religious garbs. It tells them that we don’t want them here. And that is simply not true.