The National Post – March 11, 2011
The report from the 2008 commission headed by sociologist Gérard Bouchard and philosopher Charles Taylor was supposed to clarify, finally, the boundaries where secular politics and religious accommodation could reside comfortably in Quebec. But in the three years since making public their “reasonable accommodation” recommendations, things have only grown more tense, leading Mr. Bouchard last week to bemoan to a Montreal reporter the persistence of “division among the people.”
“A lot of the debate has been compounded by the growing presence of non-Christians in Canada,” says Jack Jedwab, executive director of the Association for Canadian Studies. “There’s a significant percentage of people who are worried about the threat of non-Christian immigration, and the percentage is not declining.” Worries about hostile Islamists taking advantage of our open society are, he believes, “the dominant issue” hidden beneath the reasonable accommodation debate.
The confrontation doesn’t always look like it’s about Muslims. For decades, the Alberta government was just fine with allowing members of its Hutterite colonies to own special driver’s licences that had no photographs on them, as this conflicted with their beliefs. The province never mentioned any growing concern around Muslim veils, but called it a necessary security measure. But it’s a security measure exactly like the debate over whether veiled women should vote or whether Sikhs can bring kirpans in the National Assembly; post-9/11 any thinking about so-called security measures plainly considers radical Islam top of mind.