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Marie Mc Andrew Canada Research Chair on Education and Ethnic Relations Chair in Ethnic Relations University of Montreal Metropolis Armchair Discussion.

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Presentation on theme: "Marie Mc Andrew Canada Research Chair on Education and Ethnic Relations Chair in Ethnic Relations University of Montreal Metropolis Armchair Discussion."— Presentation transcript:

1 Marie Mc Andrew Canada Research Chair on Education and Ethnic Relations Chair in Ethnic Relations University of Montreal Metropolis Armchair Discussion Ottawa, 27 juin 2008

2 1.The reasonable accommodation crisis in Quebec The context The saga The Commission and its work 2.A critical look at the Report The Strengths The Weaknesses 3.Future prospects Reactions Potential impact 2

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4 The place of diversity in public institutions: complex challenges existing throughout Canada Conciliation of diverse rights, including equality between the sexes and religious freedom Collective impact of adding individual exemptions Political or identity-related use of religion by marginal groups Extent of the requirement of public institutions neutrality Impact of the increasing court appeals on the quality of relations among citizens Specific resistance against the demands of certain groups: i.e. international context (Islamophobia) 4

5 A particularly intense debate in Quebec linked to: The specific rapport of French-Canadian Quebecois with religion coinciding with the deconfessionalization of institutions The recent – and unfinished – character of the development of an inclusive Quebec identity Reasonable accommodation = integration of immigrants Confusion between the civic values and the cultural heritage of the majority Marked intergenerational cleavage 5

6 Certain characteristics or limits of governmental action Emphasis on francophone immigration massive arrival of Muslims from Northern Africa Underestimation of identity related issues and of the fears experienced in certain milieus faced with a rapid transformation (cleavage Montréal/rest of Quebec) Despite the amount of normative positioning on interculturalism, lack of a global action strategy in matters of intercultural relations A public-wide ignorance of the assets and guidelines of reasonable accommodation, despite their significant appropriation by concerned institutions 6

7 A trigger: the Supreme Courts judgement concerning the wearing of the kirpan in public schools (March 2006) A balanced treatment from the media Open lines and public opinion letters that reveal a great potential for public dissatisfaction From September 2006 to March 2007, a media campaign to hunt for reasonable accommodation 35 cases, almost exclusively regarding Jews and Muslims, including: YMCA frosted glass windows Prenatal courses at the Local Community Service Centre (CLSC de Parc- Extension) Home health care during the Sabbath Exemption from music courses Parking in Outremont Pork-free menu at the sugarhouse 7

8 A sensationalistic coverage marked by many biases: Exclusive emphasis on the excesses and problem cases Confusion between reasonable accommodation and voluntary adjustment or even compromise between neighbours Associating almost exclusively the reasonable accommodation topic with the integration of immigrants Non-inclusive and polarized language Confusion between the secularism of institutions versus that of individuals 8

9 An insufficient and disputable political response Wait-and-see policy at the PLQ followed by election-minded concerns Weakness of the leadership at the PQ Silence from the Federal parties vs Instrumentalization of the identity issue by the ADQ and various municipal instances (Code de vie dHérouxville) 9

10 Two respected intellectuals but not very representative of the Quebec population and of its diversity A targeted and well-defined mandate: Assess the state of accommodation practices and related issues Lead a wide consultation Formulate recommendations compatible with the fundamental values of Québec 10

11 A very broad interpretation by the commissioners, criticized by some Secularism and religion in the public sphere Integration of immigrants and intercultural relations Concerns regarding Quebec identity and the evolution of its culture Numerous activities (researches, hearings, meetings with experts and organization representatives, etc.) obscured by the great visibility of the public consultation 900 briefs 15 regions / 31 days of hearings 241 testimonies from ordinary citizens visits on the interactive Website 11

12 Daily coverage by the media at peak listening hours Hearings where the majority from a French- Canadian background was split between three ideological positions difficult to reconcile: The Pluralists The Republicans The Traditionalists 12

13 Concerns about the potential impact of various slip-ups during the hearings on the attitudes towards minorities, especially Muslims and Jews, however: Few openly discriminatory comments Negative testimonies amplified by the media Significant immigrant participation at the various forums 13

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15 An articulated and convincing deconstruction of the crisis and its fabrication by the media The wisdom of being able to resist the temptation of the Henceforth… or the Tabula Rasa: A reaffirmation of the principles of liberal democracy A continuity with the choices made by Québec society in the last 30 years, including its belonging to Canada 15

16 An assessment of the state of reasonable accommodation that puts things back into perspective Stability of the requests Diverse origins of requestors Guidelines already clearly stated, even if they are insufficiently known or mastered by managers Institutional assets with regards to managing diversity A set of legitimate concerns and needs to fulfill 16

17 A commitment to the open secularism model and to its relevance: i.e. competing models Rejection of a rigid secularism that would exclude the expression of individual allegiances in the public sphere Acknowledgement of the legitimacy of some symbols linked to the cultural heritage of the majority An original position (different from that of multiculturalism and of the federal tribunals) on the expression of religious identities by civil servants 17

18 An innovative reflection on the definition of reasonableness in public institutions, responding to some of the limits of a jurisprudence better adapted to the private sector Reintroduce common public values at the centre of the concept of undue hardship Give preference to planned harmonization practices rather than to accommodations imposed by the courts Take a clear position in cases of conflict between rights, especially with regard to equality between men and women 18

19 A courageous discussion of various contested issues (that also affect English Canada…) The identity concerns of majority groups Common to all Western societies Specific to the minority context in Québec Regional, social and cultural cleavages Inequalities and discriminations affecting immigrants Misconceptions of the majority with regards to minorities 19

20 A clear position on intercultural relations Reaffirmation of the Québec model of interculturalism French, the common language of public life Participation and fight against discrimination Valorization of pluralism but also of the necessity of sharing and of respecting fundamental democratic values Rejection of both the ethnicist temptation and of the multicultural otherworldliness: No specific rights linked to antecedence or to the seniority of implementation but Overriding influence of the majority via the power of history and numbers The wager of openness and of confidence in the future 20

21 A number of interesting recommendations on reasonable accommodation, harmonization practices and secularism Promotion of the common civic framework within multiple institutions and in the general public Instrumentation and training of managers and employees in institutional settings Creation of an Intercultural Harmonization Office Development of terms of reference for religious holidays Development of a White paper on secularism Identification of the functions when wearing religious signs becomes problematic for civil servants Increased separation of State and Church: no prayers at municipal council meetings and removal of the crucifix from the National Assembly 21

22 An analysis centered on Québec and on the relationships between the majority and immigrant minorities with potential negative effects Contested ethnic categories or, at least, out of step with the reality in Montréal and among the youth A limited comparative dimension, especially with regard to English Canada (presented in a stereotypical way) and some of its policies (ambiguity of positioning on multiculturalism) Absence of English-speaking Quebeckers and of Aboriginal communities, unconvincingly justified by their particular status (vs: participation in forums and public consultations) An extremely large approach susceptible to reinforce, within certain sectors of public opinion, the undue association between reasonable accommodation and the integration of immigrants 22

23 A report that is more intellectually convincing than politically strategic: Length University style of writing with a limited impact (with a few exceptions) Weak emotional and mobilizing dimension Extremely favourable to the pluralistic view o Not very accommodating to the preoccupations of the Republicans and Traditionalists 23

24 Recommendations that show little innovation and lacking a spark when it comes to integration and intercultural relations A few exceptions: Better recognition of the Economic and Social Rights in the Québec Charter (extension to the articles 39 and 48 of the primacy on legislation) Elaboration of a Policy Statement on interculturalism Creation of an Independent Investigation Committee on the recognition of diplomas and of an independent body enabling immigrants to formulate complaints or to request a related revision 24

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26 A bad start: excerpts leaked in the Gazette a new Durham Report? A more positive but mitigated reception during the launch: 26 Favourable Strong majority of Quebec and Canadian editorialists and columnists Municipal instances and civil society organizations experiencing diversity Federalist parties and some sovereignist parties (Bloc Québécois/Québec Solidaire)

27 27 Unfavourable Minority of Republican (Québec) or Multiculturalist (Canada) columnists Majority of open lines, particularly facing some recommendations (crucifix, veil) Political instances (ADQ/Hérouxville) at the origin of the crisis Pauline Marois Parti Québecois (# at Boisclairs previous position) A recent increase in activity from the Nationalist camp (intellectuals et politicians) Caricature and instrumentalization of the report (strong convictions and political interest) A core issue: the place of the majority groups identity

28 A public opinion that buys certain findings, while rejecting many propositions and recommendations (Survey from the Association for Canadian Studies) The artificial and mediatic character of the crisis and the necessity for openness to others Minorities should assimilate; Non-Christians threaten the Québec «culture»; no to the veil but yes to the crucifix More positive attitudes from: o Non Francophones o Montrealers o The youth o The elderly (impact of the hearings?) 28

29 Tabling of the report but adoption of a series of actions reflecting the traditional strategic positioning of the Liberal Party Very visible appeasement measures to satisfy the French- Canadian majority (ex. : crucifix, modification of the Charter, re: men/women equality) o Objective: to court the Traditionalists and Republicans that are dominating the polls 29 SHORT TERM

30 Concrete interventions aiming at the cultural communities with regards to non-contentious issues o Socioeconomic integration o Fight against discrimination and racism Discrete initiatives in diversity training and instrumentation for public managers and employees 30

31 Increasingly visible divisions within the Nationalist movement: Sincere believers in civic and inclusive nationalism, vs those who are gradually abandoning this rhetoric A significant influence in many milieus that need to manage diversity on a daily basis (reference frameworks, policies, training tools, etc.) 31

32 32 MEDIUM TERM Two hypotheses: 1)Possible resurfacing of the debate and a step back to the starting point only the victory of the Republican position will be able to politically manage the dissatisfaction from the Traditionalists (A new Bill 101 on laicity?) or 2)Appeasement and rediscovery of the report and of its wisdom

33 33 Necessary Conditions Generational change at the Parti Québecois or rise of a new sovereignist party recreating the great national-progressist alliance Significant integration of the new immigration, in particular Muslim, in public institutions Disappearance of the question of reasonable accommodations from the radar of the media and related loss of public interest

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