News Agencies – August 15, 2012
Pauline Marois’s vision for Quebec includes fewer hijabs and fewer symbols of the Crown. She announced that if her Parti Quebecois wins the Sept. 4 election [ed note: they did], it will introduce a Charter of Secularism that would forbid public employees from wearing religious symbols on the job — like Muslim head scarves.
But the Charter of Secularism, it seems, would not be applied evenly. The ban on religious symbols would not extend to employees who wear a crucifix necklace. Nor would it extend to the crucifix hanging in the legislature, which Marois says is part of Quebec’s heritage. The ban on religious symbols would extend, however, to some non-religious aspects of Quebec’s history as selected by the PQ.
Artistic references to the monarchy would also disappear from the legislature under Marois’ watch. She allowed that “some moldings” might remain.
Marois made her secularism announcement on land belonging to a Christian religious order. She was accompanied by one of her candidates, Algerian-born Djemila Benhabib, an author who has been deeply critical of Islamic fundamentalism and a vocal proponent of secularism.
News Agencies – March 14, 2012
The Parti Québécois is sounding the alarm bell over an Islamic food ritual, calling slaughter for halal meat an affront not only to the rights of animals but to the values cherished by Quebecers. The pro-independence party recently declared its concerns about halal animal-rights standards, and is worried that mainstream companies are selling the meat, without any labelling, to unsuspecting Québécois customers.
Not to be outdone, the fledgling Coalition For Quebec’s Future (CAQ) concurred later that consumers should have the right to choose which product they buy and halal products must be labelled. The halal flap is the latest iteration of Quebec’s identity debates, which have raged on Montreal’s populist talk radio in recent days.
The PQ is now demanding a report on the halal situation from the provincial government, by March 23. The opposition party wants to know how many companies are involved in producing halal meat, and how many animals are being slaughtered per year under Islamic rituals. It says it’s concerned about animal rights, in addition to potential food contamination.
The company at the centre of the political storm expressed bewilderment over all the fuss. Olymel, a meat-processing giant with plants in Quebec, Ontario and Alberta, said it obtained a halal certification for one of its poultry plants two years ago after some clients requested it.
The clients wanted to label Olymel-produced meat with the certification when they sold it.
But Olymel spokesman Richard Vigneault said his company’s products are processed under all required food safety and quality control standards mandated by the federal government. “In no way we’re practicing traditional halal slaughtering — no way,” he said in a telephone interview. “In matter of fact, this [halal] certification has changed nothing about our slaughtering.”
Hearings on Bill 94, the Quebec government’s proposal to set guidelines on the reasonable accommodation of religious differences — including banning Islamic face coverings in some circumstances – are closing. Several critics have underscored the brevity of the hearings. Louise Beaudoin, the Parti Quebecois immigration critic, noted that in the hearings, no one has offered a ringing endorsement of Bill 94, with the first Islamic group to testify describing as “Islamophobic.”
Ms. Beaudoin also noted that Bill 16, an earlier attempt by the Jean Charest government to deal with so-called “reasonable accommodation,” was abandoned by the government in the face of opposition. It was also confirmed that hearings would resume in August. An aide to Jacques Dupuis, the government house leader, said this was for “scheduling reasons.”
Salam Elmenyawi, chairman of the Muslim Council of Montreal, said that if the move indicates the government intends to back down on Bill 94, he welcomes suspension of public hearings. “It’s clear this law is made against the Muslim community,” he said. Bill 94 was presented after two Muslim women wearing niqabs were expelled from French courses for immigrants because they refused to remove their face veils.