2011/02/09

A cowed legislature?

I learned a new word a few weeks back. And when I read the Globe's editorial, about Québec's move to bar the kirpan from the National Assembly and prevent four men wearing it from entering the building, it took me a while to get it. I couldn't honestly reconcile the headline with the story that was being told. And then it hit me!... the Globe and Mail was being contemptuous; these people obviously knew better. That's also the attitude they had when covering the niqab story almost a year ago.

A few days later, The Gazette printed an editorial on the incident, a text in which the authors state that there is no record of any incident in this country of anyone being injured by a kirpan... hmmm... a little journalistic integrity is in order here. And then what!?... you guessed it!... it's all because of the sovereigntists!... "the only logical explanation" concludes The Gazette.

Today, the National Assembly unanimously voted against the kirpan in the legislative buildings... that's right!... unanimously! Whether an individual should enter parliament with a blade or not may be an issue in other provinces, but it isn't in Québec.

You think this is being racist or xenophobic? I think not. You see, from where I stand, everyone's equal. Wearing a kirpan is a personal choice, not a human right. Of course, freedom of religion is, but is forbidding the kirpan really about depriving someone from her, or his, religion? Have you ever seen someone with a ceremonial blade on an airplane? Is this a pleasant thought?

Simply put, anyone with a blade can't enter Québec's legislature, regardless of her, or his, personal convictions. On the other hand, anyone complying with the rules of the house is welcome. And these rules equally apply to women, Sikhs, Hindus, Anglos, midgets... name them!

Clean and simple... no ambiguities... fair to all...

Oh!... but I don't understand Sikhism you say? You're probably right. But I do understand the deviant minds that might want to use Sikhism to justify wearing a blame when entering premises they wouldn't normally have access to.

You're not sure about the soundness of my stance? Here's a little food for thought. A few years ago, a couple of Québécois whom I had common friends with sincerely converted to Sikhism... they grew their hair all over their bodies and wore the clothes. Now... do you honestly believe they would enter the parliament building in Ottawa as easily with a kirpan as any other Sikh?

8 comments:

James said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michel Bolduc said...

I see. The proximity with Sikhs for English-speaking Canadians is similar to that with Lebanese or Haitians for French-speaking Québécois. Interesting...

Mataboyacos said...

The problem with the ban is that while "the PQ said it was acting to underscore Quebec’s neutrality in dealing with religious groups", they seem perfectly fine having a crucifix presiding the NA and claiming the Catholic faith as a pillar of their distinct society. At the end, this whole episode is nothing more than the acceptance that, as Barbara Kay put it, Multiculturalism ‘is not a Quebec value’.

Michel Bolduc said...

No need to go that far. PQ MNA, Louise Beaudoin herself said multiculturalism isn't a Québec value. The idea here is interculturalism, in which any given group acknowledges the presence of the other by adapting their own cultural practices, i.e. not imposing them when they're deem unacceptable. Of course, you're right about the crucifix being out of place.

James said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michel Bolduc said...

The Catholic heritage the PQ emphasizes is a recognition of the church's role in sustaining the French-speaking nation that we are. Without the church's stronghold on families forcing them to have babies (search "Revenge of the cradle" for more on the topic), the use of French wouldn't be at the levels it is today. The crucifix in the National Assembly has more to do with that recognition than the religion's past omnipresence. But that distinction is very hard to grasp and, because of it, I think the religious symbol should simply be dropped.

Obviously, whether a norm is of the francophone majority or the society in general is hard to tell when both are more or less the same. But it's fairly easy to make a distinction between private and civic spaces.

There's no room for cultural behaviors based on private choices when they clash with the applicable norm in the civic space. For example, having to walk through Muslims doing their ablutions in a public washroom when answering nature's call is unacceptable. But doing ablutions out of respect for your host's customs when invited over for supper is the least one can do.

I emphasize the fact that we're talking about personal choices being imposed on the society. I often read about parallels between the kirpan and a steak knife in a restaurant or about accommodating blind people and their dog in public places. Both examples aren't based on personal choices.

James said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michel Bolduc said...

Many parallels can be drawn between the Canada-USA and the Québec-Canada relationships. There's a feeling of vulnerability in both. But Québec understands itself a lot more that Canada does. Discussions to adapt the national anthem and the buzz created by Canada's success in Vancouver are good examples of that; both these topics are inexistent in Québec.

This distinction largely accounts for the difference of attitude with newcomers. Canada is sort of asking them: "Would you help me define myself?" While Québec is saying: "Here's who I am, would you help me improve myself?"