Article: Taouba Khelifa – Contributor
Exactly what values are being represented in Quebec’s proposed Charter of Values? If values are those rights and priorities that we hold dear, things that we believe should be protected and held to high standards, then the Party Québécois’ (PQ) charter is nothing more than an attempt to rid Quebec of any aspects of diversity and multiculturalism, all under the guise of protecting a sacred “value system.”
PQ, give me a break. Your constant ventures of creating a so-called Francophone province by eliminating anyone and anything which does not fit into your ideal image of a French Canadian is ridiculous. And, in your feeble attempts to push these changes, you only end up planting seeds of hate and ignorance in society.
If the PQ had it their way, individuals would be forced through a machine that would strip them of their identities, unique qualities, and clothing choices, and spit them out as character-less robotic beings that submit to the willpower of the PQ.
What the PQ seems to forget is that values are deeply ingrained in us—be they from religious teachings, cultural backgrounds, or family upbringings. So while the proposed charter aims at clearing public institutions of religious symbols, and as a result creating a secular space free of religious decision-making, there is one thing that’s been neglected.
Does the PQ really think that forbidding people from wearing religious symbols will somehow magically make them think differently, or hold different viewpoints and ideologies? There is no on and off button for people’s belief systems. We live our lives based on how we understand and perceive the world around us. And these perceptions are taught to us through various platforms, religion being one of them.
Force me to take off my hijab, and I will still have the same ideas, morals, and viewpoints.
The only difference is, you will have broken me. And that’s what the proposed Charter has done. It has broken people; made them feel unsafe, deeply hurt, and wounded a large section of the population who see their religions as part of who they are. And, by proposing that they no longer can display their symbols of faith, the PQ has validated the ideas of ignorant and judgmental people and provided them a reason to act upon their aggression.
Since the Charter’s proposal, there have been countless reports of men and women being harassed in the streets of Quebec for wearing their faith on their sleeves—Muslims, Sikhs and Jews being harassed on buses, malls, and sidewalks.
The Charter’s effects don’t stop here. While the Charter only proposes a ban on religious clothing, its ramifications are much deeper.
In his opinion piece for the Huffington Post titled “The ‘Values Charter’ is Misguided,” Omar Alghabra talks about how, upon coming to Canada, he wanted to assimilate into Canadian culture by trying to shed his label as a foreigner.
He says, “I wanted to remove any visible or invisible signs of being a foreigner so I can belong. I wished I didn’t have an accent. I intended to assimilate. I rejected the hyphenated ‘Canadian label’ it made me feel less of a Canadian. I wanted to be like everyone else and be treated like everyone else.”
What kind of pressure are Canadians living in Quebec under now, with this proposed Charter?
Are many of them feeling the same self-consciousness and marginalization that Alghabra speaks of, wishing that their skin was just a little lighter, their accent just a little less thicker, or their name just a little less foreign?
Perhaps the question for the PQ is: what threats do such symbols represent to you? Or, are you simply afraid that your idea of the “perfect” Quebec and the “ideal” Quebecer may be impeached by a province with a changing and thriving demographic? And behind all this talk of a “values charter,” whose values are you really considering?
If we are going to talk about values, let’s talk about values that actually matter. Values that build communities and societies, not divide them. Values that bring people together, despite their differences and beliefs, so that they may learn and befriend one another. Values that are inclusive, not marginalizing. Values that allow citizens to express themselves without fear, persecution, or loss of employment.
After all, are these not the values that make or break a province?