Brief of the
Party of Quebec on Bill 60
Submitted to the
December 20, 2013 -
The following is the brief presented by the
Marxist-Leninist Party of
Quebec's (PMLQ) on Bill 60, formally
known as the Charter affirming the values of State secularism and
religious neutrality and of equality between women and men, and
providing a framework for accommodation requests, submitted to the
Commission on Quebec's Institutions December 20.
The Quebec government tabled Bill 60 on November
7. The Minister responsible for Democratic
Institutions and Active Citizenship, Bernard Drainville, said the bill
sets out how the government intends to realize its aim of "rallying
Quebeckers around common values" and "clarifying the social contract."
The Marois government gave a December 20 deadline to receive briefs and
requests to make interventions on the bill, and stated that a public
consultation would start on January 14, 2014.
Bill 60 contains 12 chapters and three annexes
said to detail "the rules, considerations, powers and modalities
through which to affirm rights."
Chapter I: Religious Neutrality and Secular Nature
Chapter II: Duties and Obligations of Personnel Members of Public Bodies
Chapter III: Obligation to Have Face Uncovered
Chapter IV: Rules of Application
Chapter V: Handling of Accommodation Requests on Religious Grounds
Chapter VI: Implementation Policies
Chapter VII: Rules Applicable to the Educational Childcare Services
Chapter VIII: Responsibilities and Accountability
Chapter IX: Powers and Functions of the Minister
Chapter X: Powers of the Government
Chapter XI: Amending Provisions
Chapter XII: Transitional and Final Provisions
Schedule I: Public Bodies
Schedule II: Persons Considered Personnel Members of a Public Body
Schedule III: Bodies, Institutions and Offices Made Subject to this
Charter by the Government -- Applicable Provisions -- Terms and
The explanatory notes for the bill state that its
is, "to establish a Charter affirming the values of State secularism
and religious neutrality and of equality between women and men, and
providing a framework for accommodation requests." It goes on to say
that a further purpose is "to specify, in the Charter of human rights
and freedoms, that the fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed by
that Charter are to be exercised in a manner consistent with the values
of equality between women and men and the primacy of the French
language as well as the separation of religions and State and the
religious neutrality and secular nature of the State, while making
allowance for the emblematic and toponymic elements of Quebec's
cultural heritage that testify to its history."
When the bill was tabled, Premier Pauline Marois
explained that, "Our draft charter permits the affirmation of common
rules that we want to give ourselves so we can live in diversity and
harmony. We affirm that our desire is to build a Quebec in which we can
better live together."
Minister Drainville for his part stated, "There
lessons to be drawn from history. What divided us in recent years is
the lack of clear rules." He continued: "There must be clear rules in
which to frame requests for religious accommodation, and that is what
we will do [...] The best way to ensure respect for all religions is
for the State to have no religion."
Three further objectives were given for purposes
inviting public comment on the website nosvaleurs.gouv.qc.ca:
1. Define clear rules for everyone: "Since 2006,
have been many well-publicized cases of religious accommodation that
revealed a profound malaise in Quebec. To preserve social peace and
encourage harmony, we want to avoid leaving tensions to build-up. Clear
rules concerning religious accommodation would contribute to
integration and social cohesion. There would be benefits for all
Quebeckers, including newcomers. We would be better served by a state
that treats us all equally."
2. Affirming Quebec values: "The contribution of
Quebeckers of all origins has permitted the building of an open society
with shared fundamental values. These values define Quebec society and
constitute a contract of adhesion, notably, the equality between women
and men, the religious neutrality of Quebec's state institutions, and
recognition of a common historical heritage. What we are proposing
today, with the affirmation of these values, is to build a strong
Quebec identity, whether one is born here or elsewhere."
3. Establish the religious neutrality of the
state has the duty to neutrality which follows implicitly from the
freedom of conscience and religion. The best means by which to respect
the beliefs of each person, is for the state to remain neutral and not
have any religion. This principle favours pluralism by ensuring the
equal and just treatment of all beliefs."
PMLQ thinks this bill is fundamentally
flawed and should be withdrawn in toto.
The identity of any people, Quebecois or any
not merely a legal category. The identity of a people emerges
historically according to the economic, social and other conditions of
those who live in a definite territory in a relationship of mutual
dependence in the modern sense of the word. An identity exists for
everyone to see and to recognize. In the case of Quebec, it exists in
its concrete reality. Despite the fact that the Quebec nation has yet
to constitute itself as an independent nation-state, its identity
exists as an act of being. It can be strengthened only by promoting
modern practices consistent with the demands of the times. This is what
will truly strengthen social cohesion and the integration of all
citizens and residents within a society created to suit their needs as
human persons living in the complicated world of the 21st century.
The word identity
signifies, "A characteristic of two beings or things that are but two
different aspects of a single reality, which constitute one and the
same being" (Larousse Dictionary).
strengthen Quebec's identity?
What is it amongst Quebeckers that constitutes
sameness, this Quebec being? Speaking objectively, they share a
territory, an economic system and a political system. Their main
language of communication is French. They also at present share a
citizenship of the country called Canada, live in North America and so
on. A citizenship or membership in a definite body politic imparts
sameness to all in the political sense of providing all with the
possibility of enjoying the same rights and duties. All of these shared
elements forge a sameness, which over time gives rise to a common
psychology conditioned by time and space. It evolves and changes
according to the involvement of the people at any particular historical
juncture. In the 21st century, at a time of global interaction at an
increasingly rapid rate, Quebec's identity can only be forged by
recognizing the rights of Quebeckers by virtue of their being human and
members of the particular body politic that exists as Quebec.
The values of Quebec society are based on a modern
identity forged by Quebeckers themselves and informed by the experience
of other peoples, which recognizes the rights of all. The
implementation of the values Quebec society espouses may require
regulations to guide those responsible for leading at all levels, but
it does not require more laws. Regulations must be based on objective
criteria carefully developed to avert Eurocentric or any other
considerations not conducive to modern nation-building. Eurocentrism is
a form of ethnocentrism, which is the belief in the inherent
superiority of one's own group and culture accompanied by a feeling of
contempt for other groups and cultures. It is a tendency to view and
evaluate other groups or cultures in terms of one's own. A Eurocentric
viewpoint believes in the inherent superiority of the Europeans and
their cultures accompanied by a feeling of contempt for non-European
groups and cultures. It is a tendency to view and evaluate other groups
or cultures in terms of the dominant European cultures.
Human rights legislation should be directed at the
actions of governments not individuals. Furthermore, governments must
be neutral and represent the temporal authority not an ecclesiastic
one. Members of the public service and public school system must not
proselytize. They must carry out their duties as per the requirements
of their jobs or as assigned by government curricula. That is
understood. Not to do so is already grounds for hiring and firing. It
does not require special legislation.
The requirement to show one's face in public
one thing, but interfering with how the human person dresses is
entirely another. It must not be subject to laws. Normal workplace
regulations are sufficient to regulate what constitutes decent or
indecent, and therefore acceptable clothing at a place of work.
Clothing which is too revealing is not considered an acceptable
standard of dress, just as head coverings suited for outside wear not
inside wear are also not considered normal work wear. Evening or
sleeping clothes are not considered normal work wear either just as
informal clothes even when accepted on specially assigned days like
funky Fridays are not expected to be full of holes or beyond a certain
pale. Why should these matters now be taken up as a matter of law,
especially using essentially Eurocentric criteria? At what point will a
hairstyle, the presence of a beard, or a certain kind of beard, or the
use of certain colours or body piercings or tattoos become causes for
the criminalization of individual conduct? It is unacceptable.
At no time has Quebec identity been forged by
to make all members of society identical in thought or in reality.
Instead, the fundamental law of the land should proclaim that the basis
of unity as well as diversity is the quality of being human and that
all people have rights by virtue of being human. On this basis,
political rights, cultural rights, the rights which belong to women by
virtue of their womanhood, the rights belonging to the youth and
children by virtue of their position as the younger generation who will
have the responsibility to take society into the future, the rights of
the elderly, of workers, of the indigenous peoples and others will be
guaranteed. Such rights can neither be given nor taken away nor
forfeited in any way. Today, there is no need to issue an endless
number of formal declarations. The necessity is to ensure that the
right to conscience, which is the quality that makes us human, exists in
fact and not as a mere formality. The right to conscience has to
be an integral, essential feature of the conditions in which people
work and live, and not a footnote with no relevance to life. This is
achieved by upholding the rights of all based on a public authority
that provides the rights of the people with a guarantee. At no time
should the state infringe on the right to conscience or interfere with
the human person.
Identifying with something that constitutes an
infringement on one's own right to conscience is the essence of a model
of integration based on privilege in lieu of rights and, by virtue of
this, the acceptance of a higher authority that has privileges over the
citizenry. If a person misbehaves, the privileges can be taken away.
Put another way, if a person does not behave in a certain way dictated
by a higher authority with privileges over the citizenry, the
privileges are taken away or not given. The laws enacted by the
National Assembly should not be mechanisms to deprive people of rights
or infringe on their right to conscience by making it a privilege to
work in the public service and demanding certain behaviour dictated by
a higher authority with privileges over the citizenry.
In this regard, the PMLQ notes that despite the
government's claim that Bill 60 was put forward to strengthen
secularism, promote the equality of men and women and defend the Quebec
identity, a widespread perception persists that the PQ's main purpose
is to isolate its adversaries in the National Assembly and gain an
electoral advantage in the coming election. Despite denials, the
government has not successfully combated this perception. This is not
conducive to furthering the fundamental stated aims of the bill.
At each stage of Quebec's development, Quebeckers
hailed from other lands and established a very definite identity for
themselves in the course of life itself. Today, Quebec brings together
people who come from all corners of the globe and myriad circumstances.
Together they will continue to forge the Quebec identity consistent
with the requirements of the times affirming their rights by virtue of
being human and building a society that provides those rights with a
guarantee. To establish a Quebec identity based on guaranteeing the
enjoyment of those rights within the concrete Quebec reality would be
an honourable act.
Together, all members of society will make their
contribution to building a truly modern nation. Said another way, today
the condition of being within a truly modern nation demands that
everything be judged based on the extent to which the conditions permit
the actualization of human rights.
The Secular Nature of the Quebec State
A fundamental purpose of Bill 60 is "to establish
Charter affirming the values of state secularism and religious
neutrality." The PMLQ sees no need to repeat once again the secular
nature of the Quebec state. In Quebec, no danger is apparent that the
public state authority will become ecclesiastic, a form where priests
run the state, not governments elected by the people. A real danger for
the public authority comes from the stranglehold the monopolies
exercise on political decisions. To suggest the state may become an
ecclesiastical authority diverts from the existing danger.
Also, people have profound and legitimate concerns
the rule is not of, by and for the people. The system of government
called representative democracy, and the electoral process do not
transform the popular will into the legal will. Instead, the electoral
process brings political parties to power that represent sectarian
interests. Those parties vie for power to serve their sectarian
interests. The deficiencies and antiquated nature of representative
democracy and the electoral process require democratic renewal and
fundamental reforms. However, they do not signify a danger that priests
will once again run the state.
In Canada at the federal level certainly, people
concerned over the influence of an evangelical sect called dominionism
on the decisions taken by the Harper government. But this too is at
heart a political problem of lack of an effective electoral process
that transforms the popular will into the legal will. The current
system brings political parties to power that are not representative of
the popular will. At the federal level, similar to Quebec, the real
danger comes from the takeover of public institutions by private
monopoly interests. The danger is not of a takeover by an ecclesiastic
authority but the serious collapse of the public authority and its
replacement or domination by private monopoly interests.
The issue of the separation of church and state
first settled in Quebec by the English in the 1870s. At that time, the
Privy Council in London, England ruled against the Catholic Church
under Montreal Bishop Ignace Bourget who was acting in concert with the
Papacy in Rome under Pope Pius IX. The ecclesiastic forces made a bid
to become the authority in all matters of a temporal nature when they
challenged where Joseph Guibord could be buried. Guibord had been
excommunicated because he was a member of the Institut Canadien and
espoused beliefs the Church considered heretical. On November 21, 1874,
the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council ruled Guibord would be
buried in Cote des Neiges Cemetery whether or not the Church agreed.
This ruling put an end to the pretence of the Church as the supreme
authority in Quebec over temporal affairs.
However, the Privy Council did not deprive the
the privileged position historically granted by the empire, as a
"reasonable accommodation," to keep the people in check. The Catholic
Church continued to play a major role controlling public
responsibilities such as education and educational institutions,
hospitals, orphanages and institutions for the poor and aged, amongst
The conscience of the Quebec people during the
Revolution was directed in large measure against the state of
oppression and backwardness imposed on them by the Church. The people
took a firm stand against any control by the Church of public
institutions in Quebec and turned their backs on the Duplessis era.
Today, the main problem as far as public authority
concerned, comes from a state authority being usurped by the dictate of
the global monopolies. The problem today is not separation of Church
and State but separation of private monopoly interests and State.
The section of the bill entitled Restriction
Wearing Religious Symbols reads:
"5. In the exercise of their
functions, personnel members of public bodies must not wear objects
such as headgear, clothing, jewelry or other adornments which, by their
conspicuous nature, overtly indicate a religious affiliation."
In the opinion of the PMLQ, this attempt to have
state monitor the clothing of individuals working for the civil service
or public schools at any level constitutes state interference with the
human person. As is already the rule, dress code instructions are
warranted by the conditions of work for safety reasons or when uniform
dress codes are mandated based on the professional service. When it
comes to what is acceptable to wear at a place of work, this should be
determined by the institutions and workplaces themselves, as a matter
of regulation. Dress codes should not be legislated by the National
Assembly. Guidelines on the matter must adhere to the rule of law and
must themselves be neutral and apply to all equally, and not be based
on subjective criteria.
In history, coercion of the human person in all
ways has always been rejected, including the prescription of what the
people can and cannot wear. This interference is not acceptable in any
modern society, especially when a Eurocentric approach is taken to
determine what is and what is not acceptable clothing, ornamentations,
hair styles, beards etc. In the days of black slavery, enslaved women
were often forced to wear turbans on the plantations. Now that many
women have adopted turbans as a specific statement of their own, is
society to dictate once again to them what they can and cannot wear?
The proposal is a very backward step.
Already, the culture in Quebec's public school
permits a high level of tolerance when it comes to dress as well as
piercings and tattoos amongst not only students but also teachers and
education support staff. Is this cultural tolerance now to be subject
to laws passed by the National Assembly? Many people have tattoos
including the youth. Once they become adults, are they to be prohibited
from becoming teachers because they have tattoos? Must they be forced
to undergo surgery to remove their tattoos as a condition of
employment? Will the National Assembly dare pass laws on such matters?
We do not think so. Such actions are not acceptable because the
National Assembly has no business interfering with the human person.
When it comes to the manner of dress, more often
not, the line between what constitutes normal clothing for peoples of
different national origins and what constitutes specific religious
symbols is barely discernible. Even within and between religious sects,
what is a religious symbol and what is normal wear is often a matter of
Even within communities, there is a dearth of
knowledge and people are not of one mind as to the significance of
various articles of clothing. For instance, according to some adherents
of the Sikh religion, the turban is mandated by the 10th Guru to keep
the hair clean and orderly. Yet according to the historical record,
long hair, along with a comb normally kept on the head, the steel
bracelet, the kirpan, and boxer shorts are considered Sikh symbols and
the turban is but an article of clothing.
Who will rule what turbans are articles of
clothing and which are not? Non-religious Sikhs may consider a turban
an article of clothing, which they have worn their entire lives and
justly feel it an affront to be identified as religious or not because
of a turban or that they cannot dress as they please. A dangerous
precedent is set when the state starts to identify and tell people who
is and who is not religious. The role of the state is to focus on
citizenship rights and duties and its own responsibilities, not
anything else. How many Czechs, French, Germans, Austrians, Poles and
other citizens of Europe found out they were Jews only when they were
forced into the death camps by the Nazis?
Who but oneself is entitled to define who one is?
Similarly, many atheists object to being listed as Catholics,
Protestants, Muslims or Jews due to the use of categories inherited
from the past that are clearly no longer socially relevant. In a
similar vein, Bill 60 draws unwarranted conclusions about people based
on a false consciousness of what determines religious criteria. To make
decisions about people based on how they dress is not a modern
practice. Many families in society do not consider religion to be their
identifying factor. People wear clothes, not religions.
Furthermore, false consciousness of religions is
commonplace. For example, Sikhism arose as a secular movement against
the Hindu caste system. Sikhism came into being to level the playing
field. Besides other things, it targeted symbols that contributed to
maintaining the oppression of the poor by the rich, the oppression of
women, the separation of men and women and the creation of so-called
untouchables. People of different religions joined Sikhism to oppose
the caste system and other forms of oppression. Whereas formerly,
turbans might be worn by kings and their retinue, entire male
populations began wearing turbans as one measure to eliminate a
distinguishing feature of the discriminatory hierarchy of the caste
system. Turbans were thus adopted as an item of clothing for Indians of
many national origins whose traditions were linked to the Sikh
enlightenment movement irrespective of whether they were religious or
So too is the shalwar kameez an article of
often accompanied by a shawl or scarf worn over the head, as with the
hijab in certain cultures. They are not religious symbols but items of
clothing linked in culture with modesty.
We ask the members of the National Assembly: If
consider turbans as religious symbols when worn by Sikhs, should Sikhs
take off their turbans when they come to work in the public domain and
sport their long hair tied in a knot above their heads? Will they then
be asked to cut off their hair, if they are to keep their jobs? And
what of beards, should all men be clean shaven to work in the public
service? Where does all this dictate end?
The fact remains that turbans of all kinds are
over Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and certain parts of South and Central
America as well as Europe and North America by both men and women. In
many cultures, beards of all styles are worn by men. They carry all
kinds of connotations, but largely they are fashion and personal
statements and not primarily religious symbols.
Who is going to decide what objects "overtly
religious affiliation"? Who will decide who wears these objects out of
religious belief and those who wear them out of other concerns or
because they like them for their appearance or find them practical?
Will those who wear a head scarf because they have lost their hair due
to illness be accommodated, although singled out, and thus made to feel
conspicuous? Again, where does all this end?
The Quebec government says the Bill is going "to
facilitate social cohesion and the integration of children without
regard to social or ethnic origin or religious affiliation." Far from
it, these provisions can only lead to endless litigation to defend
people subjected to discipline and job loss for refusal to comply with
an interpretation that defies their own considerations for what they
The government should understand that these
and measures are being used worldwide by those who refuse to build
modern societies in which the rights of all are recognized. Religious
neutrality cannot be cited as a pretext to justify Eurocentric notions
of what constitutes acceptable clothing and what does not.
Can the government cite examples where wearing
bill calls "objects which, by their conspicuous nature, overtly
indicate a religious affiliation" have caused problems for users of
public services and prevented them from receiving the services they
need or from being served in a professional manner? Surely, any example
of too much zeal in choice of clothing at a place of work is best dealt
with by the local management or administration based on objective
criteria of what is and what is not permissible dress. Has this method
of dealing with problems not been sufficient in the past? When should a
government pass laws to mandate dress codes targeting individual
persons? Never! It is not the duty of government to target individual
persons and their culture or religious practices.
Equality of Men and Women
Bill 60 says that a purpose of the bill is to
that the fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Charter must
be exercised in a manner consistent with the value of equality between
men and women. Nonetheless, how Bill 60 uses equality of men and women
to guide decisions upholding Quebec values is problematic and
The Bill advocates depriving women of their jobs
public sector because they wear a hijab, especially in childcare. This
it claims will be a step towards their emancipation. First, is it not
insulting to women to assume that wearing a hijab or other clothing has
been imposed on them by men? Women who wear a hijab do so for all sorts
of reasons -- as a cultural norm, a personal choice, an act of defiance
against Eurocentrism, or because it is considered a religious duty. And
where women are being forced to dress a certain way against their
wishes, how will it assist their emancipation to deprive them of
employment and an income, and force them to stay at home?
As Quebec women and women all over the world began
working in factories and other workplaces and were no longer dependent
on the income of their spouses, they started winning their freedom. So
too today, it is very important for women to hold their own jobs and
make their own incomes. Only with economic independence can they become
less prone to all the forms of oppression and indignity based on
dependence. They are also much better prepared and in a better position
to escape domestic violence, poverty and other problems, as well as
follow their own choices and not those imposed by others.
In the case of women and girls in families from
backgrounds where backward notions of father right or husband right
prevail, economic independence is an acute need. For the government to
dictate how women must not dress to work in childcare or lose their
jobs is a truly backward step. We are told the Taliban does not permit
women to work and forces them to wear a burqa and stay at home and to
oppose the backward beliefs of the Taliban, we are to force women not
to work because they wear a hijab? Who is the "we" telling women what
to do and not to do? Certainly it is not a characteristic of the Quebec
identity to tell women and families how to live their lives. Why did we
get rid of the interference of the priests and the Church if this is
To repeat. Today, one should worry that due to
increasing economic insecurity, domestic violence is increasing on an
alarming scale. Insecurity and violence are a detriment to women and
children no matter what their national origin may be or what they wear.
An antidote to this is to ensure that women and children are
economically independent. They must be guaranteed a standard of living
that permits them as human persons to sustain themselves independently
of others who may harm them, whether they may be fathers, partners,
husbands or anyone else.
Women must also know that their children and
also have independent means to sustain themselves. With economic
independence, problems of overt oppression of women, children and the
elderly can be sorted out. This process is not helped by creating
conditions where some women may be forced to quit their jobs and become
isolated once again within their homes because the government is making
how they dress a matter of law. Targeting women for their dress in no
way sorts out problems surrounding the equality of men and women, the
neutrality of state institutions, or social cohesion and integration.
It will only make matters worse.
In the past, first the Church and priests would
what women could and could not do. Then came the turn of colonial
governments comprised of white men of property, followed by so-called
responsible governments doing the same. They would dictate what women
could and could not do. Women were not even considered persons until
well into the twentieth century. Because governments today are
comprised of both men and women, must the people accept that those men
and women in positions of authority have the right to dictate what men
and women of certain national backgrounds can and cannot do, including
even what they wear? Is that what the equality of men and women has
come to mean?
The PMLQ also has a problem with Section 30.3 on
restrictions. Bill 60 says:
"30. In order to facilitate social cohesion and
integration of children without regard to social or ethnic origin or
religious affiliation, the policy must provide, among other things,
"[...] 3. a repeated activity or practice stemming
from a religious precept, in particular with regard to dietary matters,
must not be authorized if its aim, through words or actions, is to
teach children that precept."
Many diets, dietary restrictions and
eating philosophies abound in the world today, which includes Quebec. A
modern society researches and understands the basic principles behind
diets, dietary restrictions and other eating practices. Research and
education are part of making sure modern nutritional needs are met and
that society upholds not only nutritional standards but also adequate
standards of food inspection, safety and hygiene in food preparation
and food security.
Understanding the nutritional make up of various
their content as carbohydrates, minerals, fats and proteins; gaining a
knowledge of the basic fundamentals behind food allergies, restrictions
and diets; and making sure the immune systems of the population are
healthy, all form important aspects of the social responsibilities
modern governments must take up as a priority.
Why is the National Assembly diverting from its
responsibility to guarantee the health and well-being of the population
and food security by targeting individual habits regarding this or that
diet? Who can argue that the distinction between clean and unclean
meats, which various cultures have adopted, is based on anything but
health concerns? For instance in the past, many so-called clean meats
were clean because they came from animals that fed on clean foods, such
as certain grasses and grains also considered good for human health.
But nowadays many grasses and grains are themselves no longer
considered good for human consumption. Many people, not just Muslims or
people from the Middle East, today purchase halal meat because of
health concerns. Why does the government of Quebec not put its energies
into making sure all food available in Quebec is grown in a
scientifically verifiable manner making it completely safe for human
The basic problem in food production today is the
stranglehold of monopolies on food production, preparation and sales,
whose aim is not social responsibility but their narrow private
interest for a good return on their investments. For example, fast food
outlets promote obesity. A lack of recreational sports and other
organized physical activities in the schools for all without user fees
contributes to the non-encouragement of healthy habits including proper
eating. Poverty denies families the right to a nutritious diet forcing
them to rely on processed foods high in sugars, sodium and all kinds of
filler products not good for health. The contamination of the
environment makes even water unsafe to drink, without mentioning all
the other risks this contamination poses to the food chain and human
Today we also have a serious increase of allergies
foods due to many factors not widely understood because of monopoly
control over food production and distribution. Lack of public control
and research has led to a marked increase of production methods and
distribution outside the purview of public authority such as
genetically engineered food products, the use of chemicals and
fertilizers and the importation of food from afar consumed out of
Independent research has shown that certain bad
practices weaken immune systems, give rise to allergies and block the
development of local food production and distribution, which is a
serious threat to food security. Also, the relaxation of standards of
food inspection and hygiene contribute to the transmission of illnesses
that should be easily kept in check.
Rather than concern itself with its own duties
the safety of the food chain, the government is amongst other things
prohibiting, "(30.3) a repeated activity or practice stemming from
a religious precept, in particular in regard to dietary matters."
This "must not be authorized if its aim, through words or actions,
is to teach children that precept." Are we not entitled to
question the reasons for its preoccupations and priorities?
A note to this brief is provided listing the
some foods are considered clean and some unclean and some of the
dietary restrictions for whatever reason. It is important to research
and recognize the reason for the dietary restrictions, which the
government so casually labels as religious. Most of those dietary
restrictions have their origins in the codification of rules and laws
practiced by various societies to ensure the protection of health and
hygiene amongst increasingly dense populations. To say they have
religious precepts is misleading and leads to unwarranted conclusions.
Can all members of the National Assembly honestly
they have studied dietary matters, their origins and whether or not
what they call religious precepts stem from health concerns?
What purpose is served by prohibiting dietary
restrictions, practiced by various cultures not just religions, by
claiming they come from religious precepts? In fact, they are codified
in all kinds of texts, not just religious texts, as practices designed
to promote good health and public hygiene. A feature of the
codification of dietary restrictions is the positive delineation of
dietary principles intended to ensure the physical well-being of the
individual and the nation alike through a consistent preventative
approach. Today, people in their wisdom or possible lack thereof still
follow these instructions. If modern society were to promote modern
knowledge and food instructions through the primary and secondary
school curricula so that they become general knowledge, and people have
the perception and confidence that those instructions are trustworthy,
would that not be a far better way to treat this problem than to
criminalize people who follow their conscience?
The fitting response to culinary habits, which
handed down through the ages within definite geographical and climactic
conditions, is proper public standards of what is good for those who
live and work in the climactic conditions of Quebec while not
interfering in the likes and dislikes of people from different cultures
and regions. Most important is to make sure all members of society have
the economic wherewithal for good nutrition and the confidence that
food production and distribution, food security, inspection and
education are looked after on a forward looking basis. For instance in
Quebec, how many people who no longer make their living through work in
agriculture continue to eat too much sugar and starch because of the
habits inherited from peasant life when a diet high in calories was
required or because of poverty?
Except for those who work in certain industries or
agriculture, a high calorie diet is not suitable. Poverty is not
suitable under any circumstances, including the dietary restrictions it
imposes. If people have the economic means and the proper education and
access to healthy food, little by little they will change their habits.
To put it another way, they stick to old habits at their own peril. But
where is the role of public education and restriction of the food
monopolies, when considering the kind of diets necessary for a healthy
population? Where is the economic stability to allow all the people to
eat good healthy food in which they have confidence? Importantly, why
should the state interfere in these matters on a personal level of
lifestyle, which only causes ill-will, harm and does not advance
society? Why not take up the social responsibility of guaranteeing food
availability, quality, security and inspection, and research and
education on all aspects of the people's dietary needs so that they can
decide in confidence what they eat or do not eat?
To make special diets a problem facing early
education by also declaring it is not economically viable to
accommodate other diets or that special diets are interfering with
social cohesion and integration is a bad joke. On a most serious aspect
of accommodation, there are not enough public daycare spaces available
so that all preschool children who wish to attend can be accommodated.
How does that facilitate social cohesion and integration?
The PMLQ stated on September 23 when the proposal
another Charter of Values was first released, that it welcomed the
occasion to involve the entire polity in deliberations over the values
on which Quebec should be based.
The period the world has entered is highly complex
the way forward is not so obvious. The demand has never been greater to
discuss the significance of the experience achieved to date and to
engage in its summation to serve the needs of the present and open a
path for the future. We must educate ourselves about the definitions
inherited from the past and the considerations that informed those who
built the nation. While it is true we must study the past, it is also
true that such a study will not be helpful unless we first identify the
needs of the present. We can then go into the future on a sure footing,
with the full weight of our experience to guide us.
We need to appreciate in a profound way the values
espouse, not superficially, but in terms of how they are experienced
and understood by all individuals and all their collectives. The aim to
harmonize all the competing interests with the general interests of the
society is crucial. This must be recognized as an important condition
to ensure not only that the discussion is successful but also that
social cohesion is strengthened.
The PMLQ thinks no other field of endeavour is
important today than the one we undertake ourselves to define both who
we are and the social, political, economic and ecological arrangements
we need to flourish.
Bill 60 as presented must be withdrawn or rejected
because it fails to overcome the real obstacles that the people of
Quebec face at this time. It is by affirming the rights of all by
virtue of the fact they are human that a new situation providing these
problems with solutions will be created. We will be able to create a
modern, sovereign Quebec nation that flourishes because it guarantees
the rights of all.
1. The PMLQ thinks that the following sections of
Universal Declaration of Human Rights are pertinent when considering
the duties of the state in matters taken up by this Bill.
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought,
and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or
belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in
public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching,
practice, worship and observance.
(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to
service in his country.
(2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms,
shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law
solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the
rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of
morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
2. Various cultures, not just religions, make a
distinction between clean and unclean meats. One only need look at
chapters of the Christian bible, Leviticus and Deuteronomy
in particular, which include many issues of health and hygiene. The
four chapters of Leviticus that follow the listing of clean
and unclean meats deal with precautions after childbirth and the means
to identify and eliminate the spread of communicable diseases. In Exodus
15:26, Moses lists a series of measures to take against the spread
of epidemics. In other words, common practices dealing with hygiene
were codified at that time.
In ancient times, not only were people taught to
eating unclean animals; they were not to touch their dead carcasses.
Laws were passed to this effect, which automatically helped control
vermin. Common unclean animals would be spiders, flies, bugs, rats, and
mice. A dead rat in a house was to be carefully taken out and buried.
In an effort to avoid such problems, housewives were to keep a clean
house. These practices became part of the Pentateuchal medical code,
applicable to orthodox Jews and many gentiles.
Quite a few cultures do not eat shellfish or
Generally, those creatures do not hunt for their own food; they eat the
dead and decaying matter of our environment. The fact that the meat of
shellfish -- shrimp, crabs, lobsters etc. -- is considered unclean by
cultures has nothing to do with religions per se. Many
illnesses, including instant paralysis, devastate some people every day
as a result of eating shellfish. Shrimp, oysters, crab, scallops and
mussels are particularly efficient at purifying contaminated water.
They filter large volumes of water every day. Sewage laden with
chemicals, toxins and harmful bacteria, parasites and viruses become
concentrated in those shellfish. The cause of cholera outbreaks in
several areas has been traced to contaminated shrimp, crab, oysters and
clams. The symptoms of cholera are explosive diarrhea, leading to rapid
dehydration, unconsciousness, hypotension and death.
A pig is also a scavenger. A pig will eat
digestive system is similar to that of humans, in that the stomach is
very acidic. Pigs are gluttonous, never knowing when to stop eating.
Their stomach acids become diluted because of the volume of food,
allowing all kinds of vermin to pass through this protective barrier.
Parasites, bacteria, viruses and toxins can pass into the pig's flesh
because of over-eating.
They will eat garbage, feces and even decaying
All that is eaten usually becomes part of the pig's own flesh. Aside
from the diseases routinely carried by swine, pork is also a very fatty
meat. The toxins in pork are held especially in the fat, which is not
isolated from the meat as can be the case in lean beef, but rather, it
is dispersed throughout the meat. Many people are concerned that these
toxins and infectious agents can be passed on to humans when they eat a
Three of the six most common food-borne parasitic
diseases of humans -- toxoplasmosis, taeniasis or cysticercosis
(caused by the pork tapeworm Taenia solium)
trichinellosis -- are associated with pork
Have these food borne parasites been brought under control? If so, how?
Today, can the Quebec government assure Quebeckers
the meat they eat has been fully inspected and is not full of
chemicals, hormones and agents harmful to their health? If it can
provide such a guarantee, then why does it not focus its attention of
explaining why today pork, for instance, is a healthy meat?
If the government of Quebec can convince those
which reject pork, as well as all those who are seriously worried about
the safety of the food chain, that they no longer need have any
concerns about the consumption of pork, then everyone stands to gain
because the pork industry is the means of existence for many Quebec
farmers and many of us eat quite a large quantity of pork. Why not
educate the population about the Quebec pork industry. What are pigs
fed on? How are they fattened? What hormones are pigs given for various
reasons, and what is the effect of those hormones on the human immune
system and human health? Can the government honestly tell Quebeckers
who do not want to eat pork that their practice is religious and not
linked to health concerns?