The Charter is Dead. Long Live the Charter!

“The Charter is Dead. Long Live the Charter!” is the title of  David Rand’s latest article on the Atheist Freethinkers website.

The first part of the title makes it clear

With the crushing defeat of the PQ in the recent elections, the secular Charter proposed by the outgoing government is now dead.

However, we would be “incorrect” to conclude that the secularism proposed by the PQ Charter is dead as well:

In spite of ferocious opposition, the Charter was not the principal cause – and perhaps not even a cause at all – of the defeat. Furthermore, although the Charter as a specific proposal of secular legislation is very dead indeed, the goal of completely secularizing the Quebec state – and the Canadian state! – remains a critical and unresolved issue, a question which will inevitably return to the spotlight and contribute in major ways to future debates about the sort of society in which we wish to live. Secularism is not only necessary; it is indeed a popular idea, and not just inside Quebec.

David Rand presents a compelling argument for why the Charter was not the reason for the PQ’s defeat:

The evidence strongly suggests that the results were rather a rejection of the party’s sovereignist programme. The Charter was instead collateral damage.

Rand concedes that the “Charter as implemented in draft Bill 60 is thus dead”; however, as Rand points out,

the questions it raised remain current and of capital importance for our societies, our quality of life and our freedoms. Any programme of secularism will be incomplete if it does not include a ban on religious symbols in the public service, including those worn by civil servants. Any organization which claims to be secularist must recognize that such a ban is not only feasible and reasonable, it is desirable and necessary in order to guarantee the religious neutrality of the public service.

Rand encourages his readers and all genuine secularists to “direct [their] energies towards the promotion of secularism,” in Canada.

12 thoughts on “The Charter is Dead. Long Live the Charter!

  1. I fully agree with the need for a secular government and constitution in order to guarantee justice for all. Justice cannot be achieved when certain institutions have special status because of some religious superstitions which override the rights of the non-religious. A level playing field requires that no organizations can have such special status that a person rationally questioning or criticizing its tenets can be prosecuted for such criticism with the excuse of “blasphemy.”

  2. Good riddance to that abhorrent and divisive charter. Quebeckers have enough real problems to worry about without needing to enshrine discrimination against religious minorities into law, as if both the Canadian and Quebec charters didn’t already protect a secular state. Now we can move on to mending the bridges with minority communities that the PQ thugs burned in their quixotic and thankfully unsuccessful quest for power.

  3. The (Quebec) Charter is Dead, long live the (Canadian) Charter.

    Good for Canada, good for Quebec.

  4. However, we would be “incorrect” to conclude that the secularism proposed by the PQ Charter is dead as well:

    What the Charter proposed was not “secularism”. It was Christian (Catholic) privilege and bigotry. It was plain as day – it *explicitly* enshrined Québec’s “Catholic heritage” and the continued government support for Catholic institution while flipping the finger at Jews, Muslims, and Sikhs – and no, punishing the province’s religious minorities while letting the power-holding majority off the hook is not a good “first step” toward real secularism. For a so-called secularist like Rand to support it was ridiculous and offensive. It was the politics of divisiveness – identity politics – which is the way the PQ plays politics, and *that* was certainly a contributing factor to the that fall.

    • I also agree. There was a certain hijacking of the word “secularism” going on here, as well as something completely abhorrent about a government that proposes to chase religious self-expression out of its individual citizens before it chases it off the walls and books of its own institutions.

      Something back-asswards about that.

  5. Indi, i could not agree more. The PQ’s secularism is nothing of the kind.

    This is an issue of changing people’s attitudes toward religion, and that is a delicate thing. Laws are a blunt and unsubtle tool for changing the culture, and should be used very carefully, if at all, for that purpose. Each of us here came to secularism and atheism on the strength of words alone. It is condescending to assume that other people cannot be swayed by ideas, and must have their freedoms restricted to get them to adopt certain ideas.

    • “This is an issue of changing people’s attitudes toward religion, and that is a delicate thing.”

      Why is changing people’s attitudes toward religion, and that is a delicate thing?

      Why do we have to be delicate? Are religious proselytizers delicate? I think not.

      • Setting the bar a bit low, I would say.

      • Why do we have to be delicate? Are religious proselytizers delicate? I think not.

        Are they really a model you think we should be taking lessons from?

        If our goal is really to change people’s *beliefs*, then our strategy should be to tackle their *beliefs*… it should not be to use political clout to criminalize what they do and drive them underground. Pushing religion out of public view will not make it weaker, it will only make it madder, and that makes it more dangerous. Pulling religion and religious beliefs out into the light where all of its warts and nonsense is clearly visible – *that* is how we will change people’s attitudes toward religion.

      • It is a delicate matter because it touches upon ideas relating to identity and community and morality. From their perspective, we are trying to change their identities, and that is one of the most threatening things in the world.

        Of course, we are not trying to erase anyone’s identity — religions tend to do that. But that is the perception we have to deal with. And using the power of government to change people’s behaviour related to religion really does look like a concerted effort to change people’s identities.

        • It is a delicate matter because it touches upon ideas relating to identity and community and morality.

          And also “cultural heritage”.

  6. So the governemnt could have their religious ornaments preserved ubiquitously throughout the common space, because of a “cultural heritage”,

    but individual citizens could not claim the same right to preserve a style of dress for themselves as “cultural heritage.”

    hmmm……

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