Charter of Secularism


Forget about student protesters, identity is becoming the defining issue in the Quebec provincial election campaign. The mayor of Saguenay has publicly complained about a candidate of Algerian descent, whose name, he says, he can't even pronounce. The Parti Quebecois has announced that -- if elected -- it will prohibit the children of immigrants and francophones from attending English-language CEGEPs, and now we have PQ leader Pauline Marois' plans to essentially ban most religious symbols and articles of clothing from the public sector. Today we hear arguments both for and against her so-called secular charter.

Today's guest host was Jim Brown.

Part One of The Current


It's Thursday, August 16th.

The Parti Quebecois wants to implement a charter of secularism -- to free provincial politics from the signs and symbols of religion.

The Parti agreed to the proposal at its summer retreat on Ile Notre Dame on the scenic St. Lawrence. Just take St. Catherine south and if you hit Rue D'Eglise you've gone WAY too far.

This is The Current.

Charter of Secularism - Former Bloc Quebecois MP, Daniel Turp

We started this segment with a clip from PQ leader Pauline Marois talking about her plans -- if elected -- to introduce a secular charter. It would prevent provincial public servants from wearing "overt" religious symbols... including hijabs and turbans. But, Marois says small crosses would be fine to wear and the crucifix at Quebec's national assembly can stay.

It turns out, that suppressing some religious beliefs while encouraging others can be controversial, particularly during an election campaign. We head from Kathleen Weil, the Quebec Minister of Immigration and Cultural Communities.

Still, not everyone is as frightened of a secular charter as Kathleen Weil. Our first guest welcomes the idea. Daniel Turp is a former Bloc Quebecois MP and a former Parti Quebecois MNA. He now teaches international and constitutional law at the University of Montreal.

Charter of Secularism - Panel

Some Quebeckers are nevertheless alarmed at the proposal for a secular charter. One caller to CBC's Quebec Radio Noon phone-in show yesterday wondered what future there would be for her in the province. We aired a clip.

With more on how a charter of secularism may affect religious communities in Quebec, we were joined by two guests. Esther Delisle is a long time observer of Quebec society and the author of The Traitor and The Jew. She was in Montreal this morning. And Rachad Antonius is an Egyptian-born sociologist at the Université du Québec à Montreal. He was also in Montreal.

This segment was produced by The Current's Sujata Berry, Shannon Higgins and Gord Westmacott.

Other segment from today's show:

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