Canada needs to brace itself for a series of constitutional lawsuits about the Charter of Values proposed by the government of Quebec. Though the Parti Québécois has only a minority government, the Coalition Avenir Québec is taking a middle, but still objectionable position. Consequently, the passage of an amended version of such a charter is quite probable. Philippe Couillard, the Liberal Leader, deserves praise for standing firm and unequivocal: for equality before the law and against unreasonable lack of accommodation.
François Legault, the Caquiste Leader, and the party’s culture critic, Nathalie Roy, take the position that the PQ’s charter would go too far in applying its rules to all public-sector employees. But the CAQ would extend the charter to persons in a position of authority. That would still add up to a lot of people.
The Caquistes want to impose such a charter not only on judges, Crown prosecutors, police officers and prison guards – as recommended by the Bouchard-Taylor commission on reasonable accommodation in 2008 – but also on teachers and principals in primary and secondary schools.
Mr. Legault’s views are tortuous. On the one hand, he says that the Marois government is guilty of “a confusion of genres,” by basing such a law on values rather than the principle of laïcité (or secularism). But there is no coherent distinction between principles and values; surely the religious neutrality of a liberal-democratic state itself is a value.
On the other hand, Mr. Legault says that schoolteachers are in a position of authority: “When you’re in school, the teacher has the value of a model. Therefore, he or she must be laïc.” He comes close to suggesting that a teacher wearing a headscarf, a yarmulke or a cross is setting a bad example. Mr. Legault wants to impose values, too.
It will take probably take time and litigation to work through such incoherent thinking. The CAQ complains that the Liberals are “hiding the problem” – in fact, a values charter would be a solution without a problem.