Hypocrisy, nailed to a cross.
It is about three feet high, and it is found at the very centre of a massive, baroque throne. It rather resembles something one would find at Versailles, in fact. At a minimum, it is more ornate and more conspicuous than something one would see above the tabernacle, in a church.
And that is what Maurice Duplessis intended, one presumes, when he had it affixed to the blue walls of the National Assembly more than 80 years ago: to resemble a church. Back then, Duplessis – an autocrat and a bigot who ordered Jehovah’s Witnesses arrested for practicing their religion, and who led anti-Semitic campaigns to keep out Jewish refugees fleeing persecution in Europe – called his province “the only Catholic government in North America.”
At the time of its installation in 1936, then, the crucifix was regarded as a literal embodiment of the solemn bond that then existed between the Quebec state and the Quebec church, when more than 90 per cent of the province’s population were Roman Catholic. But the crucifix even survived the Quiet Revolution, after which Quebec finally became a secular state.
Over the years, there have been reports written about it, and debates about it. In 2008, academics Gérard Bouchard and Charles Taylor recommended removing the cross. They said that “it seems preferable for the very place where elected representatives deliberate and legislate not to be identified with a specific religion. The National Assembly is the assembly of all Quebeckers.” All of the politicians in the National Assembly disagreed. They voted unanimously to keep it, in its hallowed spot above the Speaker’s throne.
Aware, perhaps, that they are intensely hypocritical for maintaining the crucifix, some Quebec legislators have argued that the Christian symbol has historical value. But this, too, is a lie. The original crucifix is long gone. The one that is up there, now, is a copy, surreptitiously nailed to the wall in 1982.
During one of the more-recent debates, last Fall – when controversy was raging about “Liberal” government’s bill that would force women to remove veils when getting on a city bus, or going to see their doctor – Francois Legault, the leader of the CAQ, was asked about the decidedly-unsecular symbol hanging above his head in his workplace. Legault shrugged. He said the crucifix should stay. “We have a Christian heritage in Quebec and we cannot decide tomorrow that we can change our past,” said the leader whose very party name is about Quebec’s future. “I don’t see any problem keeping it.”
“A Christian heritage.”
Therein lies the problem, of course. Legault is no longer a mere member of the opposition in the provincial legislature. In a few days’ time, he will be Premier of Quebec, presiding over a massive majority in the National Assembly.
At his very first press conference after the election, then, Legault dispensed with any notion that he would be the Premier of all Quebecois. To the Muslims (with their headscarves), and the Jews (with their kippahs), and the Mennonites and the Amish (with their traditional styles of dress), and the Hindus (with their tilaka markings on their faces), Legault’s message was plain: I don’t represent you. I don’t care about you. You are second-class citizens – or worse.
Here’s what he said, at that first press encounter: “The vast majority of Quebeckers would like to have a framework where people in authority positions must not wear religious signs.” And then, knowing what he wants is wholly contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and every human rights code extant, he went even further: “If we have to use the notwithstanding clause to apply what we want, the majority of Quebeckers will agree.”
From the man who said he would march newcomers to the border who lack the ability to properly conjugate verbs, and expel them – to…where? Cornwall? Vermont? Newfoundland and Labrador? – we shouldn’t be surprised, one supposes. Francois Legault has already revealed himself to be another petty, pitiful aspirant to Maurice Duplessis’ throne. He’s a hypocrite.
Andrew Scheer, however, is seemingly fine with all of that. The Conservative leader was on the phone to Legault mere moments after the polls closed, heaping praise on the Premier-elect, promising future cooperation and all that. Justin Trudeau – looking and sounding like a Prime Minister should – was much more circumspect.
As he has done before, the Prime Minister said “the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is there to protect our rights and freedoms, obviously,” adding that the state should not “tell a woman what she can or cannot wear.”
He went on: “It’s not something that should be done lightly because to remove or avoid defending the fundamental rights of Canadians, I think it’s something [about] which you have to pay careful attention.”
And we are paying attention, now. Before he is even installed, Francois Legault is making national headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Jesus, from his lonely, lofty spot above the National Assembly, might remind Monsieur Legault about what he said in Matthew 23:3. You know:
“Do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.”