Quebec doesn't need reasonable accommodation debate: Harper
Published: Wednesday, November 07, 2007
VANCOUVER — Quebecers could do without the ongoing debate on the integration of immigrants into society, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Wednesday.
“I do think that most Quebecers are feeling increasingly secure in the position of their language and culture in this country, as they should,” Mr. Harper said. “My sense is… kind of going back over debates over language or culture or immigration is not frankly where most Quebecers want to go.”
Quebecers want to look ahead and not get bogged down by old debates, Mr. Harper said Wednesday. “Quebecers really do want to move forward,” he said. They want to “put behind them the battle between the two extreme positions that they've faced over the past couple of generations — extreme separatism on the one hand and extreme centralization on the other hand.”
Mr. Harper's position on the so-called reasonable accommodation debate, which has enflamed passions across the province over the last few months, may disappoint Quebec Premier Jean Charest, whose government launched the provincewide commission.
It also is in sharp contrast to Governor General Michaelle Jean's opinion on the issue.
Ms. Jean said in a September interview that Quebec's debate on the reasonable accommodation of religious and ethnic minorities is a healthy exercise that should take place not only there but in the rest of Canada as well.
Ms. Jean said Quebec is no different than other parts of Canada when it comes to attitudes toward minorities. The difference is that Quebecers are talking about it.
“I think it is always healthy to confront perspectives and points of views,” said Ms. Jean, a Haitian-born Quebecer and Canada's first black Governor General. “It is always healthy. I think it would be unhealthy not to do it,” she said.
Mr. Charest's office had no immediate comments on Mr. Harper's statement.
Mr. Charest announced the reasonable accommodation hearings earlier this year after the Quebec election campaign was monopolized by tensions over how religious and ethnic minority groups were being integrated into Quebec society.
With files from the Montreal Gazette