Bernard Drainville, the PQ Minister charged with selling the restrictions on the wearing of religious symbols by Quebec civil servants, made a point today in conversation with a CBC radio reporter. Drainville pointed out that many in English-Canada wanted a discussion of the appropriate balance between signs of religious adherence and conforming to the needs of the host society, and that this debate was being suppressed in English Canada. He made the same point in an interview a few days ago with Terence McKenna.
He is correct in this assessment. Many in English Canada probably agree with the Parti Quebecois’ proposals, up to a point (40% in English Canada agree with the PQ, he says, while 47% do not.)
You can read the giveaway lines here and there in the denunciations by English Canadaians. For example, Conrad Black writes:
And if Quebec proceeds on any more ambitious basis than requiring people to be reasonably identifiable (i.e.unmasked), it will be a watershed in Quebec’s protracted experiemtn in the conjuration and abuse of provincial state powers for contemptible – in fact, racist – purposes.
Notice, if you please, that Conrad admits that if the proposals were directed towards face-masked Muslim women, then he would not object. Neither would I, and neither would most of Canada.
Yes, many in English-Canada think the Quebec government goes too far, but they also think that it is about time for some more open debate on the role of Islam in Canadian society, and if this is the way we are going to have it, then let us have that debate. Shouting at the French Canadians because of their excessive political interference immediately opens us up to all kinds of tu quoque arguments about how ludicrous nanny-statism prevails among us.
I do not want you to think I am being too tolerant of the Quebec government in this. Their legislation is odious, but so is Bill 101’s suppression of the far more vital rights to language and education, and we did nothing about that.
The French Canadians are ahead of us, not behind us, by choosing to foment a political punch-up around a forbidden subject, and I hope they do not get shouted down. Yes I know the can be fascists, or more properly speaking, authoritarian collectivists, but they are also far more attuned than we are to not giving in to multiculturalism. They are not buying it, and I agree with them on the impossibility of real multiculturalism. Everyone in English Canada thinks multiculturalism is fine as long as it means nothing more than general tolerance. There are those among us who think multiculturalism ought to act as suppressor of our cultural immune systems, preventing us from rising to the defence of free (and therefore anti-Islamic) speech.
I happen to be a political liberal, and therefore a Conservative in the current context. Consequently I oppose French Canada’s authoritarian collectivism, but even as an Anglo I feel far less threatened in every one of my liberties by the French than I do by the insidious propositions of Islam. And I bet you feel the same way too. While I do not agree with the Parti Quebecois, they are forcing a discussion which badly needs to happen.