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Quebec Minister Responsible for Democratic Institutions and Active Citizenship Bernard Drainville responds to reporters’ questions at a news conference where he presented the Charter of Quebec Values on Sept. 10, 2013 at the National Assembly in Quebec City. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Quebec Minister Responsible for Democratic Institutions and Active Citizenship Bernard Drainville responds to reporters’ questions at a news conference where he presented the Charter of Quebec Values on Sept. 10, 2013 at the National Assembly in Quebec City. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)


Sept. 12: A charter’s mark, and other letters to the editor Add to ...

A charter’s mark

Re Quebec Draws Its Line (Sept. 11): When my mother was 13 in the 1950s, she was physically attacked for speaking French at a bus stop in Winnipeg. “Speak white!” the man said, as he slammed his fist into her jaw.

The Quebec Charter of Values is just another way of doing the same thing, only the person swinging the fist has changed – and the victim speaks the same language, but wears a veil.

Karin Bjornson, Montreal


Interacting with people whose dress makes them walking advertisements for one or another of the world’s conflicting mythologies is a fascinating and welcome aspect of daily life in a diverse society. But must it play a part in any person’s dealings with agents of an avowedly non-secular government?

The cross in the National Assembly has to go, too, for the same reason and as a sign of good faith (no pun intended).

Bob Marshall, Port Credit, Ont.


Quebec’s flag has a white cross (or crucifix) and four lilies. The lilies are symbols of the Virgin Mary (or the Bourbon line of royalty, depending on whom you believe). In any case, it is a religiously inspired symbol created much more recently than the religious symbols to be banned belonging to non-Christians, who were here for generations before the flag was created. If the Quebec government wants to be consistent, it needs to replace this flag.

David McKeagan, St-Lambert, Que.


Even just proposing and discussing this charter has already left its mark. I suspect it is a mark that will take some time to heal.

Alain Strati, Toronto


The irony is delicious and thick as clotted cream. After years of trashing Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Conservatives are forced to defend it.

Jim Lang, Thornbury, Ont.


The charter of so-called “Quebec values” speaks more to myth-making and ignorance than historical reality. It privileges some cultures, ethnicities and faith traditions to the detriment of others.

“There can exist in Canada no privileged caste above and beyond the mass of its inhabitants,” wrote Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine in 1840.

Describing “social equality” as the “distinctive character” of Upper and Lower Canada, he noted that to destroy it would “prevent us from enjoying” political liberty. “These values are stronger than laws, and nothing we know of will weaken them.”

Quebec needs no charter: Its values are written in the true character and histories of its peoples.

Ayaz Somani, Mississauga


My Canada does not include a Quebec that has government-imposed discrimination against visible minorities.

Kirsten Bennick, Amherst Island, Ont.


On this anniversary of 9/11, a truer reality might be to acknowledge that certain religious attire can both camouflage identity and compromise security. Rather than ostracizing any one segment of the population, the PQ has justly chosen to attempt a charter of values that applies to all denominations. A dress code in the workplace does not infringe upon a secure faith life after work.

Charlene Costigan, Mississauga


While some “pure laine” Québécois may harbour historical resentment against repression by the Catholic Church, the way to deal with past transgressions is not by repressing today’s religious and ethnic minorities in Quebec.

Robert Perlman, Mount Royal, Que.


The point behind this absurd proposed PQ legislation is to achieve a majority after the next election and, more importantly, to stoke the fires of “separation.” Recall the famous concession speech by Jacques Parizeau after the 1995 referendum: “We were beaten … by money and the ethnic vote.”

If they keep immigrants out of Quebec in the future with this talk, who knows? Perhaps the PQ will achieve a “yes ” vote.

Jon Strom, Toronto


Syria: climate war?

The Syrian civil war may be a harbinger of the future, as climate change rewrites geography and displaces millions of refugees from previously fertile lands.

According to scholars like Nayan Chanda, editor of YaleGlobal Online magazine, a brutal four-year drought (2006-2010) created massive water shortages and rural unemployment, transforming 60 per cent of Syria’s richest agricultural lands into desert and killing 80 per cent of its cattle stock.

As a result, the first mass protests of the Syrian Spring in Daraa in 2011 were fuelled by farmers and rural poor fleeing the blighted countryside. Granted, their protests were met by government policies that discriminated against the Sunni majority (for example, granting well-drilling rights for water). Nevertheless, climate change was the spark that ignited the flames of war.

A similar case can be made for unrest in the Sahel grasslands, which are rapidly being overrun by the Sahara Desert. In the end, it doesn’t matter if climate change reflects natural cycles or human intervention: Rising sea levels, droughts and desertification will inevitably lead to mass migrations of climate refugees and conflicts over scarce resources.

Unless we adjust our world view to recognize and mitigate large-scale climate disruption, Syria will not be the last example of civil strife and unimaginable suffering related to our changing climate.

Atul Sharma, Winnipeg


Rolling bombs

Re Regulators Say Train Behind Disaster Improperly Labelled (Sept. 11): This is not just a Bakken-oil issue, this is a fracking issue generally. As more tight shales are tapped for oil, the incidence of volatile hydrocarbons being transported by rail will escalate. It is imperative that we have safe handling procedures (including testing and labelling requirements) in place.

Susan Cantlie, Toronto


Womens’ hearts

Women reading Michael Posner’s first-person account of heart disease and the accompanying statistics could be in for a rude – and dangerous – surprise (My Great Escape – Focus, Sept. 7).

Women can have different heart disease than men and experience different symptoms. More women die from heart disease in Canada than from all cancers combined. Since 1984, more women than men have died from heart disease. As men’s rate of death from heart disease is declining, the rate of death from heart disease for women is increasing.

I suggest that your female readers check out information from the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the WISE study and blogs like the award-winning Heart Sisters.

Lauren Williams, Prince Rupert, B.C.


Sad spin on Sam’s sign

Re Sam’s Sign Won’t Return To Toronto’s Yonge Street (Sept. 11): If you cannot trust a respectable university like Ryerson to keep its word, given publicly, then who can you trust? Another piece of Toronto’s history discarded with the tacit approval of city officials.

Izabella Cresswell-Jones, Toronto

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