The town and the principle promoter of the "Code," André Drouin, have been the butt of many a joke and have been lampooned mercilessly on television these last three years.
But lately the pendulum is swinging back and many Quebeckers are coming around to the idea that immigrants must be 'controlled' and so André Drouin is making a comeback, much to the consternation of some, much to the delight of others.
Mr. Drouin's strategy, which is shared by other like thinkers, is to declare the State 'Secular' or as they say in French - 'laïc' . The theory being, that the government and it's institutions should be officially neutral and take no stance for or against religion, nor promote any particular belief.
This philosophy is being advanced by a rainbow coalition of groups that are as politically diverse as can be imagined, with orthodox Christians teaming up with devout atheists.
The secular state would bar employees from wearing religious jewellery or garb while dispensing government services and would interdict the public from doing the same, while attending school or otherwise receiving certain government services.
The policy would not only bar veils but the very benign hijad,(a scarf worn by some observant Muslims) and the 'kippa' (a small skullcap worn by observant Jews) and the turban and kirpan worn by some Sihks.
The government and it's subsidiaries would also be barred from offering any sort of accommodation to those asking for exceptional treatment based on religious preferences (example; a female asking to be treated by a female doctor only, in a hospital.)
While the policy has a veneer of fairness, with all religions ostensibly treated equally, it is far from the case. Christians no longer wear large ostentatious crosses or religious robes and need no accommodations because society is ordered to Christian standards. So while the rules apply equally to all, they only affect non-Christian orthodox citizens.
Very clever, but not foolproof.
All is fair, until one asks Mr Drouin and friends to limit their Christian symbolism and customs in society. That is going too far.....
Therein lies the fatal flaw in Quebec's quest for a secular state. It isn't a secular state that is being described, it is a secular "Christian" state that is being proposed.
Mr Drouin is a pipsqueak, but he is no longer alone in describing a society that outwardly bans all religion in public, but maintains the Catholic nature of Quebec society.
Up in the backwaters of the Lac Saint Jean region, two hours north of Quebec City, via a miserable and dangerous highway, sits the isolated and frozen city of Saguenay. Like many outlying districts, the region is largely divorced from the distant melting pot that is the metropolitan region of Montreal.
The separation between the two regions goes beyond distance, the cultural chasm is glaringly wide.
The Saguenéens remain incredulous to the fact that Montreal has, according to them, evolved into a virtual Tower of Babel, where immigrant hoards have infected native Quebeckers, with unwelcome customs, tradition, dress and religious practices, altering and abasing the very fabric of Quebec society.
To say that there isn't much ethnic diversity in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region is to understate the obvious. Aside from a few Anglos who serve at the Canadian Air Force Base in Bagotville or who work at the aluminum company, the region is about as White, Catholic and French as can be, with 96% of the people identifying themselves as Francophone Catholics and 3% identifying themselves as having no religion.
The city of Saguenay is no Herouxville, after amalgamating the towns of Chicoutimi, La Baie and Jonquiere back in 2002, the population rose to close to 150,000 people.
That being said, less than 300 residents are black and the city boasts a measly 150 Baptists, Anglicans, United Church and Pentecostals, each. As for the Jewish presence in the region, Jews are fond of describing an area where few Jews live as an area where "You couldn't raise a Minyan." (Judaism requires a quorum (minyan) of 10 Jewish males to perform religious services.)
There are 42 Catholic Churches in Saguenay and no other religion maintains an official house of worship.
The community is so lily White and Christian that it's hard to believe that the city's 125 Muslims are the object of close scrutiny by a nervous Catholic majority, who are starting to rumble that measures should be enacted to protect the region from those disruptive influences seen in Montreal.
If you think this attitude is a bit of an over reaction, listen to the idiocy spouted by the Mayor of the city, Jean Tremblay. Every third family in Lac St. Jean seems to be named Tremblay and perhaps his moronic pronouncements can be explained by some form of inbreeding, otherwise it's hard to fathom the nonsense which he espouses.
Remember, Mr. Tremblay is not mayor of some hick town like Herouxville, the city of Saguenay is the 22nd largest city in Canada.
Mr Tremblay, a devout Catholic went before a parliamentary committee pleading that the veil be banned everywhere except in personal residences.
When asked if his position supporting a secular state in any way conflicts with his habit of reciting Christian prayers before city council meetings, he used some nifty logic to support his position.
"If there was no prayer, it would be the atheists imposing their will on the majority and that wouldn't be fair." At any rate he continued, "everybody likes the prayer and nobody objects." When asked if he'd accept it if a Muslim was to roll out a carpet and pray alongside, he was unequivocal. "It would be too much of a show, but if we were all Muslims, it would be different."
Some other pearls of wisdom from the good mayor;
"Catholics are not superior to atheists, but I prefer Catholics, and wish that everyone would be Catholic..."
"We should accept some religious customs, but not others and certainly not just in public buildings"And so in Saguenay, Christmas trees and other decorations including manger scenes shall be erected on city property and street lamps will be decorated with Christmas lights. All paid for by the city and erected by city workers.
In the city of Montreal almost a million dollars in public money will be spent on refurbishing the giant
crucifix on Mont-Royal and all of this in a perfectly secular society!
Here's a translation of a letter written to Quebec City's LeSoleil newspaper and is indicative of the twisted logic that is surfacing in the religion debate.
And so is born the oxymoronic term "CATHOLIC SECULARISM" a term I can only define as a society that is officially religiously neutral, EXCEPT that the Catholic heritage is to be respected and nurtured to the exclusion of other religions."If we are to assume that the laws should reflect the will of the people, one wonders why seculars seek to impose their ill-timed views so ardently.What people want is secular Catholicism. That is to say, that all symbols of the Catholic religion are to be maintained everywhere, but symbols of other religions not be allowed to spread.This is the will of people which must be respected. It need not be reformed, corrected, clarified by the condescending elite. The good people want to maintain the visibility of the Catholic religion exclusively, even if it displeases the minorities who must conform to the will of the founding people." Réjean Labrie, Québec
The logic employed by Quebeckers to argue for more than their fair share in Canada has always confounded Anglophones in the rest of Canada.
So too is the argument for a CATHOLIC SECULAR state.
It makes perfect sense to Quebeckers but defies all logic to others.