Monday, February 05, 2007

Quebec town excludes Muslims, human rights

(Apologies, my images won't post...will try to fix later)
Google News Canada brought this little gem to my attention: "Welcome to town, here are the rules" (Globe & Mail, 5 Feb 07)

It appears that, starting with the Municipalité Hérouxville. a number of Quebec municipalities are adopting so-called "Public Standards" that outline what is and what is acceptable in the town. The county (Mékinac) has a visible-minority population of only 0.16%, so I wonder why they feel so inundated that they must shore up the original cultural fabric, but the reason is less important than the method used.

Of course, the standards themselves are not as starkly exclusionary as the headlines paint them. This is not a case of a town posting a "No Fat Chicks" sign at the city limits. In fact, the standards state: "...we would like to invite, without discrimination, in the future, all people from outside our MRC that would like to move to this territory." They continue:

So that the future residents can integrate socially more easily, we have decided unanimously, to make public, certain standards already in place and very well anchored in the lives of our electors.

It is hard to criticize the people of Hérouxville for promulgating such core Canadian standards as the following:
We consider that men and women are of the same value. Having said this, we consider that a woman can; drive a car, vote, sign checks, dance, decide for herself, speak her peace, dress as she sees fit respecting of course the democratic decency, walk alone in public places, study, have a job, have her own belongings and anything else that a man can do.

Our children are required to attend public or private schools to insure their social development and to help integrate into our society. Any form of violence towards children is not accepted.


In our schools certified men and women teach our children. The women or men teachers can teach boys or girls with no sexual discrimination. They do not have to dress any different to accomplish their tasks.


...boys and girls [play] the same games and often play together.


Our immense territory is patrolled by police men and women of the "Surete du Quebec". They have always been allowed to question or to advise or lecture or to give out an infraction ticket to either a man or woman.


The employers must respect the governmental laws regarding work conditions. These laws include holidays known and accepted in advance by all employees.


You will appreciate that both parents manage the children needs and both have the same authority. The parents can be of the same race or not, be from the same country or not, have the same religion or not, even be of the same sex or not. If a boy or girl wants to get married, they may, they have the liberty to chose who their spouse will be.

Sure, the wording is a little graceless (bear in mind, this is not the original French, which I assume bore little or no grammatical resemblance to Yoda), but all in all the above is a reasonably acceptable code, more descriptive than anything else, and imposing very few positive duties...and those it does impose are, I beleive, of a character that even more libertarian Canadians would accept as neccessary. Unfortunately, the "Standards" go further than they should.

This particular line in the preamble disturbed me, despite its vagueness:

We would especially like to inform the new arrivals that the lifestyle that they left behind in their birth country cannot be brought here with them and they would have to adapt to their new social identity.

They would like to inform? Oh, how very kind of them...If I hear one more person say that those who come to Canada must "leave behind" their "old" culture, I am going to beat them senseless. Did the English leave behind their culture? Did the French? Note that these "Standards" were promulgated in English and French, not, say, Mohawk (which, thank your chosen gods, still exists, unlike so many actually indidgenous languages). But thanks for coming out.

And after the otherwise agreeable paragraph on the equality of women, this is thrown in:

...we consider that killing women in public beatings, or burning them alive are not part of our standards of life.

There's so much wrong with this my eyes cross just reading it. First of all, what in the hell are they referring to? Sati? Please, real sati is incredibly rare, and always has been (and Canada and India have comparable suicide rates, according to the WHO) so that's crap. So then, so-called "bride burning" (dowry murder)? Well, no one's going to argue that isn't a serious problem (one which is slowly getting better?), but it is equal parts hysterical and hypocritical for Canadians--or Westerners in general--to point shocked fingers at other cultures for violence against women, just because other cultures have flashier, more exotic ways of killing females. Newsflash people: we don't have an iron-clad system of protection for women, we just have less imagination. StatsCan tells us that "Between 1995 and 2004, 39% of all homicides committed against females were perpetrated by a spouse..."

This provision, which of course gets most of the press, is stupid and xenophobic, but really is not saying much at all:

We listen to music, we drink alcoholic beverages in public or private places, we dance and at the end of every year we decorate a tree with balls and tinsel and some lights. This is normally called "Christmas Decorations" or also "Christmas Tree" letting us rejoice in the notion of our national heritage and not necessarily a religious holiday. These festivities are authorized in public, schools, and institutions and also in private.
I've never been a big fan of banning Christmas trees from public places; generally I prefer the "pack the lobby with as many diverse holiday decorations as possible" methodology. Forgive me, I grew up in Toronto, where eating latkes by the light of the Christmas tree was a standard activity and I was jealous of my half-brother because there were Muslim kids in his elementary school so he got to celebrate Eid too, the perfect Abrahamic hat trick. And don't forget Solstice or Lunar New Year or International Women's Day (always celebrated with pretzels in the venus-symbol).

Then there's this unsubtle dig:
In our schools the children cannot carry any weapons real or fake, symbolic or not.
Thanks? That is a heavy handed indictment on the recent decision of Multani v. Commission scolaire Marguerite‑Bourgeoys, wikisummarized here, wherein a Sikh student was found to have the right to carry a kirpan, as mandated by his religion.

Then there's this:

You may not hide your face as to be able to identify you while you are in public. The only time you may mask or cover your face is during Halloween, this is a religious traditional custom at the end of October celebrating all Saints Day, where children dress up and go door to door begging for candy and treats. All of us accept to have our picture taken and printed on our driver’s permit, health care card and passports. A result of democracy.

A...a what of democracy? Thanks, Jack Straw, but I hardly think the niqab qualifies as either a security threat or a threat to Western civilization, and by the way, in what alternate universe is Hallowe'en a) a human right, or b) a religious holdiay? It's a pagan holiday, you imbeciles, and by the way, your ancient pagan ancestors weren't above burning people alive, so lets not get uppity, alright? I say that with the greatest affection, too, being a sometime student of neopaganism myself, but truth is truth, and a history of human sacrifice is near universal.

There's some more assorted drivel about no extra holidays, no prayer spaces provided at work, no tinting windows so people can't see in to sweaty excercise rooms, and the like. Basically, ridiculous in a way that boggles the mind.

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