Not in my Canada: a quiet sob against the 'charter of values'
| Posted: Wednesday, Sep 18, 2013 06:00 am
In the past few weeks as a countrywide freak-out occurred over Quebec’s proposed “charter of values” that would ban public employees from wearing religious symbols, I’ve found myself having a quieter reaction than normal.
Normally such an egregious, freedom-reducing move would have had me pounding a fist on my desk or screaming at my computer screen. This time, I couldn’t even work up the will to gently bang my head on a desk.
Not because I agree with the Parti Quebecois. Never that. My Canada, the Canada I have loved since I was old enough to understand that in many places in the world my group of childhood friends, which resembled a miniature United Nations in terms of diversity, wouldn’t be acceptable or even possible in many other parts of the world, is a place that embraces its cultural mosaic. Multiculturalism has always been a part of my life and I think we’re all richer for it.
Instead, my quiet reaction is because I couldn’t find it within myself to be the least bit surprised. We got a preview of this kind of intolerant policy-making in Quebec this summer, when turban-wearing children were told to get off the soccer pitch and play in their backyards.
That ridiculous decision was reversed by the Quebec Soccer Federation. Now it’s bigger, badder, older brother is being brought forward by the Parti Quebecois.
The so-called Charter of Values would ban public servants from wearing religious symbols. This isn’t a safety issue. There isn’t any good reason, in my opinion, to ban people from wearing religious symbols or anything else so long as public safety isn’t a concern. No matter what province I’ve lived in – and I’ve lived in B.C., Alberta and Quebec – all I care about when dealing with public servants is that they’re doing their job effectively, especially in any situation where I might have to stand in line for a long time.
I believe in the separation of church and state. But, and I say this as someone who considers themselves fairly secular, trying to ram so-called “secular values” down the throats of an entire population is scrapping the freedom brought on by the separation of church and state. Because we don’t allow our government to be dictated to by any church, our citizens have the freedom to practice and worship as they see fit. For so many people, religious worship isn’t merely something they give lip service to – it’s an integral part of their being.
In my Canada, we provide the freedom to choose how, or if, they worship. In my Canada, we should not tolerate any society that tries to make some of its members lesser in any way, and that includes trying to take away the right to wear religious garments.
That there are rallies in Quebec against this lunacy, and an outcry across the nation gives me hope that the majority of Canada just might agree with me. But that hope doesn’t make the fact this is even on the table any less disappointing.
Victoria Paterson is the city beat reporter for the St. Albert Gazette.