One of the crowning achievements of Canadians society is the success of multiculturalism. As a country we have taken in people from all corners of the globe and encouraged them to not assimilate upon their arrival here. Instead of expecting them to adapt to local mores and customs we encourage them to continue to act as they did in their home countries. When it comes to dress, language and behaviour we seem to send out the message that their becoming more Canadian would actually be a disappointment.
This is true for the entire country outside of Quebec. Inside la belle province the story is quite a bit different. The White French majority, fed on a diet of "We are under threat!" propaganda for the last few decades, is revolting against multiculturalism. They have seen a future in which the burka replaces the beret and they're not going to put up with it. While the rest of Canada does what it can to bury its English heritage (including the parts about hard work, honesty and quite civility) these Quebecois are determined to protect and enforce theirs.
Hence the recent introduction of Bill 14 into the Quebec provincial parliament. To be charitable, it's a fascist law that forbids civil servants the wearing of religious garb of any kind while at work in public buildings. Are you a Sikh who works in the Ministry of Transportation office? Sorry, leave your turban at home. Are you a Jew who works for the Human Resources Ministry? Kippah off at the door, my friend.
Now, as others have noted there is a reason for this bill. It's called the niqab, the garment worn by some Muslim women that covered their entire body except their eyes. Muslim immigration to Quebec has increased over the last few years and, like everywhere else, the number of women going around with their faces covered has gone up. This has led to some valid concerns in a variety of areas. Canadian law says that the accused has a right to see his accuser. What if his accuser is a woman in a niqab? Canadian law says that when you vote you have to present ID to prove who you are. Well what about the woman who won't show her face?
The government of Quebec, faced with this challenge, pulled out a hammer to kill the ant. Instead of creating a simple law that said "Public workers are forbidden from wearing face coverings while on the job" they reached for the far more fascistic banning of all religious symbols by those workers. It's not hard to understand why. Quebec has been anti-religion ever since emerging from centuries of reactionary rule by the Catholic Church. Why just go after the niqab if you now have an opening to attack all religions?
We must also remember that the Quebecois consider themselves quite progressive. This is, after all, the province with the highest rate of fetus murders in the country and also the first one to legalize the execution of the infirm elderly. Isn't killing off the most helpless in your population a sign of how civilized you are? One of the things a progressive society is not is racist. If they were to just ban face covering the Muslims would scream "racism". Better to attack a bunch of races all at once to avoid that.
Finally one must consider that some secularists are just as fanatic about spreading their beliefs as some religious folks. We see coercion is all religious societies. Islamic countries and Chareidi neighbourhoods are excellent examples of how a fanatic fringe can control the behaviour of the more sensible majority. The secular leadership in Quebec is behaving in a similar fashion. They hate religious symbols and therefore they are going to ban them as best they can. Goose and gander, mes amis.
What's really amazed me, though, is the public response. A sizable proportion of Quebec's population, and a not-insignificant number of people in the Rest of Canada (RoC) support this law and many of them feel it doesn't go far enough, thinking that all religious symbols should be publicly banned.
Imagine that. I'm walking down the street with my kippah on. It doesn't affect you. I don't walk over and try to impose my views on you. But you think I should be forbidden to wear it because seeing religious symbols offend you. Now who's intolerant?
And what about religious symbols worn for non-religious reasons? If I, as a Jew, wear a turban will that also be forbidden because it's objectively a religious piece of clothing or will it be permitted because for me it has no religious significance?
Having said all that, I am strongly in favour of Bill 14. As a long-time resident of Ontario I can confidently say that the Parti Quebecois, with their racist and idiotic ideas, has been the best thing to happen to the province I live in. Every time they come up with another one of their pur laine initiatives many of the remaining Quebecers with have an ounce of sense in their brains jump into their cars and migrate down the 401 highway to us. The influx has been especially good for the Jewish community of southern Ontario which was, until the first exodus from Quebec almost 40 years ago, a dull and colourless place.
Alors, allez, mes camarades fascistes. Apportez votre meilleur et les plus brillants de votre facture et de laisser venir de notre côté.