With the provincial elections coming up on Apr. 7, a major issue on many people’s minds is the Quebec Charter of Values. McGillography approached several members of the McGill community to talk about their views on the charter.
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Anna Savittieri U2 Political Science The charter conflates my identity as an atheist and one who supports the public good by demonizing the markedly religious as those against secular values of fairness and reason. The charter wrongly differentiates between religion and state secularism, creating an ‘Us’ and [a] ‘Them’. As long as this legislation persecutes minorities through methods of division, majorities will remain unaffected and ignorant to the suffering of their fellow citizens.
Mariam Hachem U2 Chemical Engineering The charter limits my options to work in Montreal (in Quebec, to be general) so that I can’t work in positions in the public sector as long as I’m veiled. I don’t plan on changing my faith or removing my veil; and so, the charter limits my ability to live here after I graduate. Personally, I believe that every state has the right to impose whatever restrictions it should see fit, in terms of secularity, etc., and as an individual, I have the power and choice to work around these restrictions. However, at the same time, I hold the following view: how does my veil, turban, yamaka, cross, shorts, skirt, or print t-shirt infringe upon the rights or limit the freedom of other individuals in our community? Montreal is renowned for its variety in culture, and physical expression of faith is a major signifier. If we take that out of the equation, the government is effectively limiting my ability to reside here for pointless reasons.
Matthew Miller U2 Jewish Studies I, as well as many of my Jewish brethren, [am] deeply concerned about this proposed legislation. This concern extends beyond my own religious community and how it will be affected, but also extends to those in other faith communities, since their religious freedom is also being restricted. We must stand up and say “no” to such prejudiced and unreasonable legislation.
Julian Paparella U3 Biology The Charter of Values affects me and those around me by restricting one of the most fundamental elements of our identity: our faith in God and our ability to express it in our daily lives. It turns something beautiful that enriches life and culture into something untrustworthy that antagonizes and raises suspicion. It prioritizes the interests of a political agenda over the interests of individual conscience. Government is meant to safeguard and uphold the rights of its citizens, not limit them for the sake of imposing a collective ideology.
Benjamin Butz-Weidner U1 Political Science As a foreign student, and as someone who cannot fully participate in the political decision-making of Quebec, I cannot say that the Charter of Values will truly affect me. However, I do think that the Charter is wrong; rather than tucking away religious difference in the “cause” for equality, I think religious diversity should be promoted. As a country of immigrants, it is startlingly xenophobic to note that such legislature could take place here. This is going to polarize people into camps, more so than has previously occurred. The only way to achieve true tolerance and diversity is to embrace the differences that make people culturally and religiously unique and different. Sweeping religion under the carpet is just going to produce some animosity-laden dust bunnies that will require more difficult cleaning in the future.
Rabeea Siddique Masters Counselling Psychology I moved here from Toronto in August, although my family lived here [for] 15 years. My mother used to reminisce about Montreal as being the friendliest place she’s ever lived in, but I can’t say I felt that when I moved in. I think the charter talk has really had an impact on changing the social climate of Quebec and Montreal for the worse, and this has been really salient to me over the last few months, as well as to the friends I’ve made here, both Montrealers and not. It also completely upended my plans of one day permanently moving back and working here.
Navaldeep Kaur PhD Rehabilitation Science Sikh women are glorified with equal privileges [to] men. As a member of the Khalsa, [a] collective body of baptized Sikhs, I am blessed with five articles of faith, and my turban is one of them. Every day when I wear this gift of our Guru, it is like a royal crown that both reminds me of how I should conduct myself and allows me to stand out as a Sikh. My turban is not a mere piece of cloth, it is an inseparable part of my physical and spiritual self. If the state-mandated discrimination [is] enacted through the proposed Charter of Values, I will have no option other than to terminate my PhD in Rehabilitation Science at McGill University and to leave Quebec.
Gurdeepak Singh U3 Engineering It’s sad to see [the] [Parti Québécois (PQ) trying to fulfill their political agenda by attempting to restrict the minorities who stand up for their unique and different identities in the first place. I’m glad to see so many people already speaking up for freedom of expression of their fellow citizens. Why should we let our cultural or religious differences act as barriers to celebrating diversity and equality in our democratic society if we all share the basic values of humanity? Ironically, it seems that opposing the Charter of Values is accomplishing what [the] PQ says the charter would accomplish. Go figure!
Anastasiya Voloshyn U1 Science [The Charter of Values] affects many of my friends—especially my Muslim friends. I think that the charter has some good points, such as promoting [secularism] in the public institutions, but I think that it’s way too rigid in doing so. People should not be prevented from wearing a religious sign—that is part of who they are.
Sukhmeet Singh Sachal U1 Anatomy and Cell Biology One of the reasons I moved to Montreal was because McGill has the highest rate of international students. Diversity is something I have tried to promote since I moved to Canada in 2002. Heck, I even gave a TEDx talk on diversity. This charter will diminish all that Montreal and Quebec has to offer, which is a place to explore and understand new cultures and backgrounds. Personally, the charter will be going against my religious views of not being allowed to wear a turban. If this charter does become law, I will have to move back to Vancouver.