Preface this by saying I’m a resident of Quebec so you’re getting a bonfide Quebec opinion with this. In case you’re wondering where we actually weigh in.
Let’s begin, shall we?
I want you to look at a poster. It’s a very simple poster, no bigger than 20 inches wide, yellow in colour, and printed on thin cardstock. It features an image of a six-pointed star, the Star of David or magen David (“shield of David”). It reads, in German,
Jude: Wer dieses Zeichen tragt, ist ein Feind unseres Volkes ("Jew: who bears this mark, is an enemy of our people")
This poster was a propaganda piece produced by the government of Nazi Germany in the 1940s. The Star of David was then an identifying symbol of The Other, those individuals who walk among us, but are not one of us. And, of course, those who were forced to wear it were later gathered up, removed from society, and forced into brutal death camps, where survival was a miracle often won at the cost of one’s humanity.
Now I want you to look at another poster: and this one comes to you not from 1940s Germany, but from the modern day, in the Canadian province of Quebec. This one is digital: Adobe Illustrator was the likely medium. The design is flashier, and the variety of “marks” has increased; but it uses the same essential rhetoric: those who bear the mark, are enemies of our people.
The top reads, in French, “A province neutral in your service,” before displaying three permitted symbols: subtle crescent moon, cross, and magen David jewelry. Below, and this is the far more sinister part, are displayed “ostentatious” religious items of clothing, items such as the Muslim hijab and burka, the Sikh turban, the Jewish kippah, and a large Christian cross, that will no longer be permitted in the Quebec public sector.
When Westerners on Tumblr speak of “institutionalized racism,” we’re using alluding to something vague, nebulous, and/or impossible to pinpoint, but rarely do we, in the age of Twitter and Doctor Who gifs, see a bonafide racist legislation introduced in our own countries. Well… here it is.
The first clue that would tip you off to the fact that this is embroiled in anti-immigrant rhetoric is when you learn that the large crucifix in Quebec parliament will remain unscathed by this assault; as will Christmas trees, both of which the Quebec government claims have been “secularized” and do not have religious significance anymore. The assertion that a crucifix, for two billion Christians the very symbol of living faith, could ever be secular is preposterous. But more importantly, it reveals that white privilege, and the normalization of Christianity, as well as racism, sexism, and xenophobia, are the dominating factors at play here: hatred of other societies, much more so than any desire to preserve one’s own.
Quebeckers need to ask themselves: who will be affected by this new legislation disproportionately? If you answered “Muslim women,” then you just answered the $64,000 Question. Muslim women, who have already experienced persecution in the province, are by far the most visible believers targeted by the law. Their hijabs are full head coverings, as opposed to the smaller kippah and cross. Schools will be hit hardest by this move (let’s keep those immigrant fuckers from teaching our kids, oh, diversity and tolerance), and we all know there are way, way more women in the public school system than men, and a lot of North African teachers in Quebec schools. See where I’m going with this?
This legislation, which flies in the face of every major international rights charter since… well, since ever, is a travesty, and it doesn’t represent Quebec values, or Canadian values. Ever been to the cultural tapestry that is Montreal? Or Toronto? Or… any Canadian city? So, when you guys see this on the news, please don’t think all Canadians are xenophobic. We’re not, no more than we all live in igloos (though to be sure, some of us do), own pet beavers, or club baby seals for pleasure. We are fighting this every fucking step of the way.
Just today, I contacted my teachers’ union, and they were exceptionally sympathetic to my complaint, and they took an official opposing stance against the new legislation, following suit after several other major teachers’ unions. Quebec needs to realize that true secularism means freedom and equality of religion. This isn’t “Harrison Bergeron,” anymore than it’s Nazi Germany, no matter how convenient the parallel. Thankfully, democracy is there for those who want it in this country, whether Idle No More and my province’s Nishiiyuu Walkers, or some kid with access to Tumblr.
What do you think? Will this legislation pass?