Bloc and PQ Blast Report On Quebec Religious Minorities

Bloc and PQ blast report on Quebec religious minorities

From Tuesday's Globe and Mail
May 20, 2008 at 4:27 AM EDT

QUEBEC Sovereigntist leaders are demanding the immediate release of a leaked report on the reasonable accommodation of religious minorities in Quebec that calls for francophones to become bilingual and be more open-minded toward immigrants.

“The report needs to be released immediately because now it has become ridiculous,” Parti Qubcois Leader Pauline Marois said yesterday after the contents of the report were ridiculed, criticized and condemned by nationalist leaders. “If this is all the commission has to offer, it is quite worrisome.”

Bloc Qubcois Leader Gilles Duceppe said “I think that it's better to release the report immediately because it is now being left open to all kinds of interpretations.”

The report of the $5-million commission headed by sociologist Grard Bouchard and philosopher Charles Taylor is scheduled to be released on Thursday.

In a draft copy obtained by the Montreal Gazette, the commission reportedly puts the onus squarely on francophone Quebeckers to be more accommodating toward immigrants, while noting that francophones “have a strong feeling of insecurity for the survival of their culture.”

The report argues that “discontent” toward religious minorities “seems to us the result of partial information and false perceptions.”

The report also calls on francophone Quebeckers to become bilingual, insisting that learning English should not be viewed as a threat to their culture but as a means to tap into the modern world. “In this day and age of migratory mixing, of the Internet and globalization, it is to be greatly hoped that the largest number of Quebeckers master English in addition to French,” it says.

However, the report appears to create confusion when it rejects terms such as Qubcois de souche (old-stock Quebeckers) in identifying francophone Quebeckers. Even the term Qubcois excludes everyone who is not a francophone, the authors contend. “It is better to say Qubcois of French-Canadian descent or origin,” the report says.

The commission's remarks fly in the face of everything that leaders of all political stripes have argued for decades, insisting that everyone living in Quebec is a Qubcois regardless of race, language or religion.

The PQ Leader ridiculed the commission's efforts at political correctness. “A bit more and it would remind us of Elvis Gratton,” Ms. Marois said, referring to the zany ultra-federalist character in film director Pierre Falardeau's comedies about the identity crisis of Quebec francophones.

“We are Canadian-American francophones of North America, franco-Quebeckers,” Elvis Gratton replies in a hilarious segment of one film, responding to a foreigner who asks where he's from.

Rachida Azdouz, a psychologist who sat on the commission's advisory panel, said the report does not place the onus entirely on Quebec's francophone majority, since minorities are also asked to do their part by respecting fundamental values such as the equality of men and women.

“There is reciprocity,” said Ms. Azdouz, a vice-dean at the University of Montreal. “If they had put the burden exclusively on francophones, it would have aggravated the problem and been unfair.”

However, unless the final report proposes specific “mechanisms” to arbitrate future conflicts, the process will prove to be useless, she said.

“It would be a shame if at the end of the exercise they said, 'Hug one another, dialogue, and show goodwill.' I don't think you solve conflict with goodwill.”

Premier Jean Charest returns to Quebec today from France, where he refused to comment on the contents reported in the media.

“We gave the commissioners all the freedom that they required,” Mr. Charest said. “So I'm curious to see the final version of the report and what it will be. And that's why I won't comment on even what's been reported, because I don't know if it's all correct or not,” Mr. Charest said in Paris yesterday.

With reports from Ingrid Peritz in Montreal and Susan Sachs in Paris