, 10.03.2018 07:03 AM

Look up, Mr. Premier-elect

One of the first things François Legault said, after he won the Quebec election, was this:

François Legault, the premier-designate of Quebec, says he will invoke the notwithstanding clause to work around the Charter of Rights and Freedoms so that his government can ban people in positions of authority in the province from wearing religious symbols.

The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) Leader said on Tuesday the plan would prevent public servants, including teachers, police officers and judges, from wearing religious garments such as the Muslim hijab and Jewish kippa while performing their public functions. He would also amend Quebec’s charter of rights to impose the ban, which is long-standing party policy, but barely came up on the campaign trail.

I’ve written a lot on this subject, some of which you can see here and here. Basically, my view (as a church-going Catholic, no less) is that the secular State should never interfere with the peaceful, divine Church (and synagogue, temple and mosque).  Nor the reverse.  Neither should be dictating to the other.

But the worst thing about Legault’s bigoted, unconstitutional declaration – in these ugly and brutish times – is this, of course: his rank hypocrisy.

This guy wants to ban “religious symbols” where Quebec public servants can be found, and use the notwithstanding clause to ram through his law, does he?  Except, what about this, found on the big wall where he works, and where he does his work as a public servant?

 Pictured: law-breaking in Quebec.


  1. Peter says:

    This is not a terribly strong argument. It’s not “where he works as a public servant”, it’s the Legislative Assembly and is full of historic symbols that mean little in modern day-to-day life. Would you slam the Nordic countries as hypocritical because their identities as secular states and societies committed to human rights are compromised by the Christian crosses they all have on their flags? I somehow doubt you would feel better if they carried through on his pledges but took the cross down.

    There is plenty of Canadian history to suggest one thing that could ignite a new round of nationalism/separatism is English Canada loudly preaching the absolute sanctity of individual Charter rights at them and finding political and legal ways to keep them from taking measures to protect their linguistic and cultural identity. Quebec is not a bigoted society and has welcomed and integrated hundreds of thousands of immigrants over the past several decades. There is no shortage of voices opposing this kind of stuff without having fits of the vapours over the notwithstanding clause. I would suggest we temper our condemnations lest someday they tell us “OK, we are hypocritical. Goodbye.”

    • Peter,


      If anyone thinks we are already in fun times as regards this question, just wait until this Prime Minister refuses further decentralization of powers to Quebec (and the other provinces/territories).

      Legault has explicitly said that he is not a federalist. He’s a nationalist, which means one SMALL step away from sovereignist.

      The PM told Couillard to take a walk — with absolutely no political risk for Canada. Won’t be that way when Trudeau tries it again with Legault.

      But at least English Canada continues to sleep soundly…

    • KmmF says:

      – Peter, well said/written. Warren should really have written this post in French if he wanted a firestorm. A little nuance would be nice, but paradoxically, nuance doesn’t drive traffic. It’s no mystery that the more controversial you are the more free media you get.
      – But, seriously how about talk to people from the effected communities?
      – Why do we assume that the effected Sikh, Muslim, Catholics, Protestants and Jewish Quebecois are against this pseudo-secularist policy?
      – These communities are not monolithic! We should be tolerant of the intelorance towards religious people rather than react in the obvious way that we are open minded & want people to self-determine how they should express their faith publicly.

    • Fred from BC says:

      “It’s not “where he works as a public servant”, it’s the Legislative Assembly and is full of historic symbols that mean little in modern day-to-day life.”

      Exactly. He speaks of public servants *wearing* religious symbols, meaning that they are true believers in (whatever religion) and might be prone to let that interfere with their impartiality in the performance of their official duties. As an atheist/agnostic, I could easily work all day under a crucifix, Star of David or any other religious symbol hanging on the wall…means nothing to me…

  2. Robert White says:

    As a confirmed Anglican I, for one, insist on separation of Church & State given that contemporary society is wholeheartedly Secular Society in terms of our Charter of Rights & Freedoms.

    Governance should be clearly distinct from religious belief systems promulgated throughout society. Belief and the Rights paradigm are mutually exclusive constructs and should be treated as such with respect to legislation.

    P.S. The Anglican Communion accepts female priests whereas the Roman Catholic tradition is still paternalistic and institutionally misogynistic. Moreover, the Roman Catholic priests are institutional child molesters & rapists en masse and have been for centuries.


  3. Peter says:

    Thanks back at you. I have already posted my pro-immigration views here and I oppose some of what Legault is proposing, particularly the language tests, but I find these issues incredibly difficult and the public debate about them more and more useless or worse. I don’t dismiss Warren’s perspective or cause, indeed I admire it, but I wish he wouldn’t use words like always and never so much in his heartfelt philippics and I wish he hadn’t called Legault a bigot, but that’s our Warren. I certainly don’t think everyone who voted for the CAQ is a bigot just because they are concerned about immigration levels. As a matter of fact, I see little evidence that Trump is a bigot or that the 63 million who voted for him are, but I am increasingly resigned to the fact that such views either condemn me in progressive circles as something unspeakable or the remnant of a bygone era.

    Immigration is an issue that should be debated more pragmatically than we are seeing today, but as it isn’t being debated pragmatically anywhere else in the world, I suppose we can’t expect it to be here.

    I agree with you that Quebec nationalism never goes away, it just takes breaks. The last round was over anglo language rights. I’m beginning to wonder whether the next one will be over the burka and the kippan.

    • Peter,

      No doubt that the values charter and secular garb for those in positions of authority has considerable support in this province.

      But if people based primarily their vote on such issues, wouldn’t Pauline still be premier?

    • Pedant says:

      If someone can be called bigoted for questioning whether the current immigration level is too high thereby having a negative impact on Canadian citizens, then are proponents of the current immigration quota bigoted for not suggesting a HIGHER quota? Or, to go one further, simply dispensing with the quota and open the borders to everyone?

  4. Steve T says:

    I think the religious approach is only being taken because the more-logical approach – public safety –
    has been struck down (erroneously) by the courts.

    Ban things that are a risk to public safety. For example, knives and face-coverings. Doesn’t matter what religion you are; you can’t do things that go against general norms of public safety. Under this approach, wearing a cross around your neck, or a yarmulke on the top of your head, or a hijab around your head, are fine.

    It mystifies me why the courts struck this approach down (other than hyper-political-correctness), but that is the approach that the notwithstanding clause is best used for.

    • Jack says:

      It was struck down because its an asinine argument made by even dumber people.

      Firstly, explain to me how the fuck a veil is any more of a public safety danger than a ski mask worn in the winter, a scarf that partially covers the face or large framed sunglasses? Then, explain to me you would enforce a unilateral ban on face-covering.

      Secondly, site – with sources – at least five instances in Canada over the past year where a religious face covering has lead to an public safety incident or where any other religious symbols have caused significant harm to the general public.

      You don’t like people covering their faces or wearing religious garb – fine. It’s your prerogative to be a prissy bitch who is pre-occupied with what other people do with their lives.

      But if you’re going to offer up stupid-ass hot-takes, you best come prepared to back them up.

      • Steve T says:

        Wow – way to keep the conversation civil. I’ll bet you have very few prolonged intelligent discussions with people who disagree with you. Wonder why?

        To your hyperbolic points:

        – This is a discussion about what employees of the public sector may do. It is not about what you do in your private life. Employers have the authority to prescribe all manner of dress codes on their employees.

        – More generally, we have trade-offs of safety vs personal freedom all the time. You go to the ATM, you know you are on camera. You want a driver’s license, you have to show your face. You want to work in a daycare, you have to undergo a personal records check. And the list goes on.

        – Specifically for public safety, give some thought to incidents like the Boston marathon bombing, where surveillance video helped identify the suspects. Granted, they could have worn balaclavas and escaped identification, but the point is that having visibility to people’s faces does have value. It isn’t just some draconian arbitrary requirement.

        – With regard to weapons, like a kirpan, what if I claim my religion requires me to carry a firearm? Or wear clothing that says defamatory things about another group? We always have to balance personal freedom with societal risk. I was expressing my opinion that face-covering and the wearing of weapons is going too far.

        I await your balanced, calm response. Or not.

        • Jack says:

          I’ll have an intelligent discussion with someone who warrants one and you certainly are not one someone who does.

          Re-read your initial post, then my comment thoroughly. You’re response answers not even one of my questions because you’ve pathetically (as expected) withered away into an uncorrelated soliloquy. You hopped onto this site to offer an opinion that obviously doesn’t hold up against an even a slight test of rationale.

          Like I said, it’s your prerogative to have an ill-informed perspective, but if you’re going to provide ridiculously stupid commentary, you better be able to support your reasoning categorically or end up looking like another comment-section policy professional trying to launder blatant prejudices through pseudo-intellect.

          Your civility can kiss my ass, as far as I’m concerned.

          • Fred from BC says:

            “You’re response ”

            (that’s ‘your’)

            “withered away into an uncorrelated soliloquy. ”

            (Withered? Uncorrelated? Wrong words, both times. Sorry.)

            “doesn’t hold up against an even a slight test of rationale. ”

            (‘rationale’? wrong word again…)

            ” you better be able ”

            (that’s ‘you’d’)

            ” pseudo-intellect. ”

            THAT one you got right. Only it describes you, not him.

            I love it when people attempt to use flowery language to make themselves appear to be more intelligent than they really are.

      • barn E. rubble says:

        RE: “. . . any more of a public safety danger than a ski mask worn in the winter, a scarf that partially covers the face . . .”

        For at least 4 months a year most of Quebec will have a balaclava, scarf or full hood parka covering their faces outside. Or, at least, the smart ones will for personal safety. But I don’t think that’s what the new government is talking about – or targeting. And it’s not just Muslims they’re targeting. Think back to Parizeau’s speech after the referendum . . . he didn’t mention the Muslim vote as among the reasons they lost.

  5. barn E. rubble says:

    I posted this further down but it seems appropriate here.

    Apparently, the separation of church and state has become more complicated . . . I mean, if Canada does have a ‘separation of church and state’.

    Some don’t think so. RE: ” . . . So where things stand is that Canada does not have an official separation of church and state . . .”

    The rest here:

  6. barn E. rubble says:

    Can’t wait for the NDP to weigh in on this . . . Apparently, they have a leader (that for some reason has gone to ground) who won’t be able to run for Premier, if he wanted to. They’re also hoping to increase seats in the next election.

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