Quebec teen told she cannot referee and wear her hijab

News Agencies – June 21, 2011

A Quebec teen has been told she can no longer referee soccer while wearing her hijab. Sarah Benkirane, 15, said her Montreal-area soccer association informed her she could no longer referee games wearing her traditional Muslim headscarf after someone filed a complaint with the league. Benkirane said she’s contacted the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations and plans to put pressure on the Canadian Soccer Association to force Quebec’s governing soccer body to overturn its decision.
The president of the Quebec Soccer Federation told reporters it is simply applying FIFA’s international rules, which stipulate referees and players may not wear religious symbols on the pitch. In 2007, an 11-year-old Ottawa girl was ejected from a soccer game in Laval after she refused to remove her hijab, which violated FIFA’s no-headgear rule.

Mosque in Dorval, Quebec Vandalized

Montreal Gazette – April 14, 2011

A Dorval mosque that has been plagued by vandalism in the past had two windows and several doors broken during an overnight break-in. “I’m not sure if it was thieves or vandals,” said Mehmet Deger, president of the Dorval Mosque. “But it’s very upsetting to our members when it happens.”
He said the culprits broke in through a fire exit door and stole a computer. But they also used some kind of slingshot to fire steel bolts through a couple of windows, including a large picture window. In 2009, the mosque was vandalized four times, usually with graffiti painted on walls. The last time it was vandalized was in September 2009. The mosque has about 2,000 members and has been operating since 1994.

Quebec Mayor Reaches Out to French-Speaking Immigrants

News Agencies – March 17, 2011
Like small-town mayors everywhere, Stéphane Gendron is trying to entice newcomers to settle in his community. But he may be the only one whose enticement offers include a promise to build a mosque and halal slaughterhouse. Although open to all immigration, Mr. Gendron says, he’s especially keen on courting people from the French-speaking Maghreb region of North Africa.
Mr. Gendron’s campaign, though mostly based on intentions for now, is being called La Grande Séduction, after the hit movie about a Quebec village’s all-out attempts to lure a family doctor to set up in town. And the seduction campaign in Huntingdon, a former mill town an hour’s drive southwest of Montreal, is badly needed. The town of 2,587 has lost about half its population since the 1970s, mainly through the departure of Anglophones, and it then fell on hard times after the closing of its textile plants. Like small towns and villages across the province, its population is aging.

National Post Opinion Writer Suggests Christianity is used as a tool to combat radical Islam in Quebec

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.

Muslim Council of Montreal responds to ban on religious instruction to toddlers in Quebec

The National Post – December 17, 2010

After eliminating denominational education from schools, the Quebec government announced plans to extend its ban on religious instruction to toddlers. The new policy will make it illegal for workers in the province’s network of subsidized daycares to teach their charges, aged five and under, about a specific religion. Teaching religious songs, including many Christmas carols, will be off limits, as will crafts with a religious connotation. Government inspectors will enforce the rules beginning next June.

The initiative was sparked by media reports last spring that some subsidized daycares in the province were offering Muslim and Jewish programs to toddlers.
Under a system created in 1997, parents pay just $7 a day to send their children to state-subsidized daycare. The government covers the balance, approximately $40 a day. There are currently about 2,000 subsidized daycares in the province offering spaces for more than 120,000 children. Ms. James said a tiny minority of those facilities — about 100 — currently offer some degree of religious instruction.

The Muslim Council of Montreal said it hopes to mount a legal challenge to the new policy. “We view it as explicit discrimination against the rights of religious communities to educate their children in the values and principles they hold dear,” said Salam Elmenyawi, the council’s president.

Canadian Bombardier Fined for Discrimination

News Agencies – December 8, 2010

Montreal-based Bombardier Inc. will pay $319,000 CAD in damages to a Canadian of Pakistani origin after he was denied pilot training because he had been identified as a “threat to aviation or national security” by U.S. authorities. The Quebec Human Rights Commission announced details of the recent ruling by the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal in favour of Javed Latif.
Latif was denied training under Canadian licence by Bombardier in 2004 because he had been identified as a “threat to aviation or national security” by U.S. authorities. The penalty was for material, moral and punitive damages. A $50,000 assessment for punitive damages is the highest amount ever awarded by the tribunal.
The tribunal found that Latif had been discriminated against based on his ethnic and national origin and that his right to the safeguard of his dignity had been compromised.”The ruling by the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal is without precedent,” commission president Gaetan Cousineau said in a release.

Similar niqab-related laws in Montreal, Paris and Bruxelles

This article in Le Devoir examines similarities between anti-niqab legislation in Quebec, France and Belgium. These countries articulate their positions differently: thus far, Belgium has proposed a more radical approach proposing a full ban for niqabs in all public spaces, while the proposed law 94 in Quebec suggests restrictions to public services. France has yet to fully articulate its legal position.

Opinion column claims that anti-Niqab positions in Quebec are unfounded

In his editorial column in the Toronto Star Haroon Siddiqui points to the errors within the two commonly cited reasons for supporting the anti-niqab bill in Quebec. Siddiqui states that the two most cited reasons in support of Quebec’s anti-niqab bill are that the veil is an imposed oppression since no woman would ever voluntarily wear it and, second, that the province’s proposal to deny public services to niqabi women is far less punitive than the strictures imposed on non-Muslims in some Muslim countries. Siddiqui concludes, with reference to statistics on women around the world and an argument of cultural relativism, that the first proposition is conjecture while the second is misguided moral equivalency.

Opinion column points to power of Quebec media in niqab debate

Toronto Star columnist Chantal Hébert claims that the newspapers in Québec have a profound role in shaping the current niqab debate. She argues that by the sheer nature of its size and its relative homogeneity, francophone Quebec is home to a journalism of proximity that translates into a capacity to mobilize public opinion in ways unparalleled anywhere else in Canada. Gérard Bouchard – who co-chaired the recent Quebec commission on the so-called reasonable accommodation of cultural and religious minorities – has also often criticized the media for setting off that discussion on unduly inflammatory terms.

Hébert claims that if anything fuels the high level of support of the proposed Bill 94, it is certainly not populist empathy with Quebec but rather the post-9/11 environment and – more specifically – much of the media and political narratives on Afghanistan. It is impossible for media and politicians alike to spend the better part of half a decade advancing the notion that one is sacrificing Canadian lives to give women and girls a fairer shot at equality in Afghanistan – routinely using the burqa and the niqab as code images for oppression – and not expect a significant number of voters to want their place (or non-place) in Canada’s public arena addressed in no clear and decisive terms.

Policeforce in Quebec issue statement: remove veil for mugshots of face further charges

Police forces in different parts of Canada claim charges will be laid against anyone who refuses to remove religious face-coverings such as Muslim niqabs when being booked after an arrest.

The RCMP and the Montreal police forces, who outlined the policy in interviews, laid down one notable caveat: such a case has never actually come up in either of their jurisdictions.

“This is getting absurd, really,” said Wahida Valiante, national president of the Canadian Islamic Congress. “There are only, in the entire Quebec province, 25 women who wear the niqab so they can’t be in the highest number of criminals expected to be arrested.”

The RCMP and the Montreal force confirmed that to their knowledge no one wearing a niqab has ever refused to remove it for a mugshot. In fact, they can’t actually recall arresting anyone with a full veil either. While Montreal police sought legal advice on the issue a year ago, the RCMP say they’ve always followed the Identification of Criminals Act, part of the Criminal Code of Canada.