Civility and its discontents

September 25, 2007 § 5 Comments

As some of you well know, a government-appointed commission has lately been touring the province to solicit public opinion on the “reasonable accommodation” of immigrants.  Headed by scholars Charles Taylor and Gerard Bouchard, the commission will report back to Premier Jean Charest early next year after having consulted with communities across Quebec about the issue, which erupted during the last provincial election campaign and contributed to the strong showing by the conservative ADQ.

According to the commission’s website, the goal of the public consultation sessions is to “give rise to frank, open discussions that are tempered by reason and civility.”  I wonder if these comments, drawn from last night’s meeting in St. Jérome, are quite what the professors had in mind:

“It’s really a mentality that’s separate,” St. Hippolyte resident Lise Casavant said, adding that immigrants should sign a new Quebec citizenship charter “or choose another province,” a sentiment several other speakers also evoked.

Émile Dion said that [kosher food] made him angry because he believes the cost of getting a rabbi’s blessing raises food prices by as much as 10 per cent. “Why should I pay 10 per cent more for the Jews?” he asked during his comments, which went on for several minutes. “It forces us to eat kosher, and I don’t want to,” he said.

Lise Provencher, of St. Jérôme, said immigrants are “buying their way in” to Quebec and that Jews are the worst because they’re “the most powerful. … It’s always been said that the Jews are the trampoline of money in the world.” After she spoke, the crowd applauded.

Meanwhile, Christopher DeWolf writes about a recent instance of anti-Semitic graffiti in Mile End and wonders if the civility he has come to expect from his neighbours is “just a mask” for a “larger and more insidious problem.”  I think that his question bears thinking about, although I am not today feeling particularly optimistic about the answer.

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§ 5 Responses to Civility and its discontents

  • Basil says:

    This is nothing more than allowing racists a platform where they can make their views heard. Admittedly, ignoring them will not make them go away and these racists tend to vote for other racists, so I understand why the government is doing this, but it still makes me sick.

    Reasonable accommodation is a term that should never have been coined. It implies that we as citizens should measure our accommodation to newcomers. First, if it weren’t for our immigration policies allowing people to come live here to offset the effects of our very low birth rate, our economy would suffer and we would not be able to support the baby boomers’ pensions. Secondly, this is a free country. While the rural folks on this committee are free to talk all they want about their gripes with kosher food, they’re also free to not buy it.

    What is there to argue about?

  • Caron says:

    Oy vey.

  • As you are no doubt well aware, anti-Semitism has long history in Quebec, particularly in the far-flung rural regions. Heck, the caisse populaire were started largely in response to fear of “Jewish bankers”. All in all, we’re not really that far away from the days of Lionel-Groulx.

  • tornwordo says:

    Those comments shock me, but I’m curious as to the age of the speakers. It seems the older people get, the more they feel justified in their prejudices.

  • […] Politics and Quebec The latest proposals to make the rounds at the “reasonable accommodation” hearings would ban religious displays and prohibit the wearing of religious apparel by […]

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