Decision to allow face covering in French class 'stupid'
Author of Quebec town's controversial code for newcomers speaks in Ottawa
By Matthew Pearson
The Ottawa Citizen
March 21, 2010
The decision to allow an Egyptian-born woman dressed in a face-covering niqab to attend a government-funded French class was “stupid,” says a stalwart of Quebec's sticky debate over reasonable accommodation.
Andr Drouin, a former city councillor from the town of Hrouxville and author of a controversial 2007 code of conduct for newcomers, made the comments Saturday after giving a speech in Ottawa.
They come as Quebec's Human Rights Commission considers a complaint lodged by the Montreal woman after she was ordered to uncover her face if she wanted to continue attending the class.
The woman had been taking classes for several months before she left in November and filed her complaint.
She has since been kicked out of another government-funded French class under similar circumstances.
“I can't even believe that happened in Quebec, it's close to stupidity,” Drouin said. “If we keep accommodating all kinds of people — mainly because of their religions — we will end up in a mess in the country.”
Drouin drew international attention to Hrouxville after drawing up a code of conduct for newcomers to the town north of Trois-Rivires.
The code outlawed carrying a weapon to school (in reference to the Sikh ceremonial kirpan), covering one's face (in reference to forms of Muslim veils) and accommodation of prayers in school.
It was denounced by many, including Quebec Premier Jean Charest.
Debate over the accommodation of cultural and religious minorities in Quebec has not disappeared since the Bouchard-Taylor Commission, which held hearings across the province in 2007, filed its 2008
report calling for an official policy on Quebec as a secular society, more funding for diversity programs and better training for institutions on handling cultural minorities.
Peace, Order and Good Government Canada, an Ottawa discussion group, invited Drouin to speak and presented him with an award for defending what it called, “Canadian values.”
The group's president said POGG Canada has written two discussion papers on immigration. “We should be winning with immigration,” said Harry Weldon. “At the moment, we're not.”