Lost in all this was another proposal, one which was put forward as a draft law in the National Assembly. Athough it seemed innocuous enough, it could have profound implications should it ever be adopted.
The Parti Quebecois proposed a law (Loi 397) that would change the preamble of the province's CHARTER OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS which would be amended to include references to the primacy of French, the equality of men and women and the separation of Church and State.
"Whereas equality of women and men,the primacy of French and the separation of state and religion are fundamental values of the Québec nation;"Seems simple enough, but the draft law went a bit further and proposed to replace Section 50.1 which presently reads;
with this;50.1. The rights and freedoms set forth in this Charter are guaranteed equally to women and men.
“50.1. The Charter shall be so interpreted as to take into account Québec’s historical heritage and the fundamental values of the Québec nation, including equality of women and men, the primacy of French and the separation of state and religion.”(my emphasis)What a dishonest cop out!
According to this new interpretation, the government should be no longer be involved in religious matters, but in ordering it's affairs, should take into account the province's 'historical heritage,' which is nothing more than code for Catholicism.
The language was inserted to allay fears that Quebec could not only lose it's Christian heritage, but be forced to modify or eliminate Catholic symbols and customs in society to reflect this new official secularism.
The irony was not lost on Daniel Baril who in a blistering attack in a Le Devoir opinion piece said;
The effect of the change in the Charter would be to remove religious symbolism and practices from public life, but not necessarily those that are Catholic."We know where this is taking us, the continued presence of the crucifix in the National Assembly erected by Duplessis to mark its alliance with the Catholic Church, now preserved through a revisionist doctrine, as an object of historical heritage!"
It's a case of having one's cake and eating it too.
The real effect of the proposed law is nothing more than a blatant attack on minority religions, Islam and Judaism, particularly.
Under the new secular edict, government workers couldn't greet clients wearing a head scarf, yarmulke or turban. Schools that offered religious training would no longer benefit from any government support and time off from work wouldn't be allowed for the celebration of non-Christan holidays.
While in the name of secularism, the Jewish General Hospital might be required to change it's name, the 'Hotel Dieux Hospital' would protected because of it's 'historical heritage.' Same with the crucifix on Mount Royal and the hundreds of street names starting with "Saint."
It's a cynical and cruel double standard, meant to portray Quebec as secular, while protecting Christan symbols and conventions.
One of the fundamental problems in enshrining secularism in the Quebec CHARTER OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS is that it is in direct violation of the CANADIAN CHARTER OF RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS, whose opening preamble is this;
CANADIAN CHARTER OF RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS
Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law: