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Re Leave Quebec And Bill 21 Alone (Nov. 8): Perhaps contributor Peter White is wise to suggest that the rest of Canada not meddle in Quebec’s internal affairs. I, however, live in Quebec, and I disagree with many of the premises articulated by Mr. White.
I believe Bill 21 is based on discrimination: It prevents labour mobility, it unfairly targets Muslim women and it is – as we will hopefully see – in violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I agree that Quebec is a distinct society, but that should not give it the right to trample on minority rights.
In multicultural Montreal, home to most of the province’s hijabs, kippas and turbans, we all get along and there is no problem. To quote Mr. Bumble from Oliver Twist, “The law is a ass.” I hope the courts will agree and quash Bill 21.
Mark Anthony Billings Montreal
I wholeheartedly agree with contributor Peter White in urging English Canada to cut its political moralizing. Let Quebec voters and courts deal with their own government and its legislation. Plenty of them are opposed to the legislation now in force.
But these voters also point out that France and French-speaking parts of Switzerland have legislated similarly delineated bans on authority figures in schools and courts wearing religious symbols, generally at the urging of the socialist parties there. The imperative of a secular state has been stressed more in francophone societies.
Here in 1807, voters in Trois-Rivières elected to the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada one of the first Jewish officials in the British Empire, Ezekiel Hart. Nationalist commentators in Quebec often cite Mr. Hart with pride as a mark of their ability to make room for religious minorities. A good precedent.
We should let free debate in Quebec determine its laws, and stop the heavy-handed backseat driving.
David Winch Montreal
The French have an expression: A beau mentir qui vient de loin. Roughly: Those who don’t know much about a subject can be told just about anything. Contributor Peter White says that Canada is “largely ignorant” of Quebec’s internal affairs. So a Quebecker writing about Quebec for the rest of Canada should get it right.
Mr. White believes that only newcomers are affected by Bill 21. I believe the law is multitiered in its discriminatory effect. Even hijab- or kippah-wearers who benefit from acquired rights do so only if they remain in the same position within the same institution. They have no possibility of career advancement and their mobility rights are denied.
Mr. White believes that such legislation is within the province’s jurisdiction. We shall see if Bill 21 passes constitutional muster. There are several court challenges underway arguing parts of the Canadian and Quebec charters of rights not subject to the notwithstanding clause. The rest of Canada may not know this. It’s important that they do.
Howard Greenfield Montreal
Quebec spent years under the patriarchal yoke of the Catholic Church. It does not seem hard to understand why Quebeckers are proud of their laïcité. They have no wish to see manifestations of religious faith in public life. (And recently, many readers have been revisiting Margaret Atwood’s Gilead in The Testaments, with its attitudes toward women and clothing.) I agree with contributor Peter White that we can be more sensitive to how Quebeckers feel about people employed in public service.
Margaret van Dijk Toronto
Thanks are owed to contributor Peter White for admonishing English Canadians who would meddle in Quebec’s decision to restrict the wearing of religious regalia in public offices.
Let us remember that practicing religion is a choice, pursued regularly by a minority of Canadians, and Bill 21 in no way restricts religious freedom in privately owned buildings or homes. Those who believe that their shot at eternal life rests on wearing particular costumes can continue to follow that view – privately, outside of public office.
Bob Publicover Waterloo, Ont.
Like contributor Peter White, I was born and educated in Quebec, have spent most of my life in the province, but have also lived elsewhere in Canada. I am therefore also not “ignorant of my country.” Canadians do have legitimate, informed concerns about what is going on in Quebec.
Mr. White ends with a question: “Will Quebeckers conclude, once and for all, that they are not welcome in this country and must reluctantly leave it?” The better question is: Will Quebeckers ever stop using the threat of separation to silence the rest of Canada?
Peter Duschenes Ottawa
The unintended irony of contributor Peter White offering advice to the rest of Canada about how not to inflame Quebec nationalism is staggering to me.
As principal secretary to Brian Mulroney, he participated in the former prime minister’s dance with Quebec nationalists to keep them happy. And how well did that strategy work out? It resulted in the defection of Lucien Bouchard, the emergence of the Bloc Québécois and a second referendum which the Yes side lost by a mere sliver, caused, in the immortal words of Jacques Parizeau, by “money and the ethnic vote.”
Religious minorities who live in Quebec are Canadian citizens and should be treated as any other Canadian citizen. Charter challenges have been raised in Quebec by Quebec citizens, as is their right under the Canadian Constitution, and will work their way through the courts. Mr. White should be grateful that his rights, as a Canadian, are also protected under our Constitution, which applies in Quebec as much as the rest of Canada.
James McCall Toronto
A memo to Quebec: Either consider the province as part of Canada, or choose other options. Quebec has done very well within the confederation, but it’s always done well with the threat of playing the separatist card. Hasn’t this bluff gone on for too long now? We’re either one country or we’re not, and not two nations within the same country. Canada is very regional, but at the end of the day we’re all Canadians – or we should be.
Douglas Cornish Ottawa
We should note that Bill 21, from my reading, tells women what they can and cannot wear, solely on the basis of whether or not they’re religious: An atheist woman new to the Quebec civil service can wear a headscarf at work; a Muslim woman in the exact same situation cannot. For me, that’s too egregious a violation of human rights to merit further consideration.
Brian Lowry Fredericton
As a proudly liberal Reform Jew, I have mixed feelings about Bill 21. Contributor Peter White warns that opposing it could lead to Quebec eventually leaving Canada, yet it seems more likely that the exodus will be among orthodox minorities who decide to leave Quebec. In the recent past, Bill 101′s sign law strictures, which felt draconian, resulted in a lot of well-heeled minority groups leaving Quebec for cities such as Toronto, and that helped Toronto eclipse Montreal as a corporate hub.
As an anglophone who deeply believes in the value of our having two official languages, I also recognize that Quebec women have fought very hard to achieve equality in a province long dominated by a paternalistic church that strove to keep them pregnant and at home. I believe that shedding the garb of the shtetl greatly helped Jews enter modernity as full and equal partners with our Christian brethren.
In the end, we have to see what the Supreme Court of Canada says, and if orthodox people in Quebec opt to live with Bill 21 or vote with their feet and leave. For now, I feel ambivalent about this law – and the effect of opposing it too strenuously that Mr. White warns about – to know exactly where I stand.
Ron Charach Toronto
Despite contributor Peter White’s provocative “leave us alone or we’ll leave” attitude, I find it to be an ill-advised voyage without adequate provisions. In light of $13.1-billion in yearly equalization payments that are expected to remain stable into 2022, threats to leave home come easy when you’re still sitting at the family table being well fed.
W. E. Hildreth Toronto
Re Quebec Posts $4-billion Surplus Amid Booming Economy (Nov. 8): I was born in Rimouski, Que., and grew up in Montreal. I have also lived in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. In addition to Quebec’s $4-billion surplus, this is what I learned while reading The Globe and Mail this morning: Quebec will continue to receive $13.1-billion a year in transfer payments; Quebec has the lowest university fees in Canada; Quebec has the lowest daycare costs; Quebec passed Bill 21, which I believe goes against everything Canada stands for.
Given that there are 78 seats in Quebec, it has become painfully obvious to me that politicians will pander to the demands of this province in order to ensure their continued power. This attitude seems to have reached circus-show proportion, and I suspect that the rest of Canada is already fed up. I know I am, and I’ve moved as far away from my native province as possible.
Cam Kourany Kelowna, B.C.
Quebec’s surplus: $4-billion. Quebec’s equalization revenue: $13.1-billion. Alberta’s net outflow to the rest of Canada: about $20-billion. Alberta’s deficit: $6.7-billion. This fiscal unfairness is just one of many reasons why many Albertans want out of confederation. Remove equalization payments and Quebec actually ran a deficit.
Mike Priaro Calgary
The federal government, following a disappointing election result for them in the West, has been seeking ways to reconcile with Alberta and Saskatchewan. Quebec, by announcing a $4-billion surplus this year, has handed them a real opportunity.
A recurring complaint from the oil-rich West has been the federal equalization program. It is not that they oppose the principle of the plan, but, rather, the way it is implemented. Alberta, in particular, feels aggrieved at having to send billions to Ottawa as a have province, at a time when it is facing a $6.7-billion deficit. Quebec, currently classified as a have-not province, should have $4-billion removed from their current yearly payment of $13.1-billion, and the contributions by all have provinces should be reduced proportionately.
By including all the have provinces in this adjustment, it should not be seen as pandering to Alberta, but rather, a sensible adjustment to the equalization formula.
Jack Strawbridge Esquimalt, B.C.
Quebec’s $4-billion surplus, alongside $13.1-billion in equalization payments, feels like a surplus on the backs of everyone else.
I agree with the concept of equalization, but there is a problem when the province with a multibillion-dollar surplus, universal childcare and affordable postsecondary education is getting billions from everyone else. In Ontario, the poor struggle to obtain legal aid and face cuts to the Ontario Student Assistance Program. Public servants in Alberta are taking as much as a 5-per-cent pay cut. Yet these taxpayers are sending billions of dollars to Quebec so that they can receive better services.
Quebec has always seemed to show disrespect for English Canada and its values, most recently seen with Bill 21. Yet it has no problem taking money from the rest of Canada.
Aliraza Asrani Toronto
With SNC-Lavalin and Albertan oil in the rear-view for Quebec, is it not time for the province to put money back into the communal pot? Apparently not, as the first thought is how to further benefit its own economy, with no consideration of past, continuous equalization payments from other provinces.
Is this how a confederation works? Maybe Quebec could separate and leave the rest of us a few loonies.
Elaine Baldwin Vancouver
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