Quebec academics’ reasonable accommodations report an oil slick that just keeps growing

May 13, 2019 by

The Bouchard-Taylor report, released in 2008, was supposed to put an end to Quebec’s reasonable accommodations debate. It haunts them still

When Quebec premier Jean Charest unveiled the Bouchard-Taylor Commission just over 12 years ago, there was a widespread sense of relief. The reasonable accommodations debate was spinning out of control. The world was gawping at Hérouxville, the all-white hamlet with its hysterically Islamophobic code of conduct (no stoning women within city limits!) and its mayor who wanted martial law declared to protect Quebec culture. It was at least embarrassing, potentially dangerous.

Tweedy sociologist Gérard Bouchard and equally tweedy philosopher Charles Taylor would take things off the boil: tour the province, hear people’s grievances, sort the genuine from the crazy and come up with something everyone could live with. The opposition Parti Québécois was on board. “There’s nothing like a year of scholarly discussion to drain the passion out of any issue,” the Montreal Gazette opined in an editorial, “at least for a while.”

It didn’t really even do it for a while. Mario Dumont’s Action Démocratique rode nativist angst to official opposition. In response, the PQ embraced nativist angst as well. Meanwhile Charest’s and, later, Philippe Couillard’s governments got busy doing nothing about the Bouchard-Taylor recommendations — notably that judges, prosecutors, police officers and other wielders of state authority not wear religious symbols. When the Liberals finally threw the mob a bone in 2017, in the form of Bill 62, justice minister Stéphanie Vallée found herself banning women who wear niqabs from riding public buses.

Far from cleaning things up, the Bouchard-Taylor gambit ended with everyone covered in grime.

Hearings began in Quebec City this week over the Coalition Avenir Québec government’s Bill 21, which would extend the Bouchard-Taylor-recommended restrictions to teachers and, Premier François Legault hopes, put the whole issue to bed. Indeed, that’s the main defence he offers of the law: not so much that it’s a correct or necessary package of restrictions on minority rights, but that it’s the package of restrictions most likely to be accepted by the majority and make this whole ass-ache go away.

Others are more … passionate, shall we say. On Wednesday, a bona fide Université de Montréal professor argued as follows: Belgian cartoon cowboy Lucky Luke used to be depicted constantly hacking a dart; lest children start smoking, he is now depicted chewing on a wisp of straw; ergo teachers should not be allowed to wear hijabs.

Source: Chris Selley: Quebec academics’ reasonable accommodations report an oil slick that just keeps growing | National Post

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