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.

Quebecois Journalists Revisit Reasonable Accommodation Following “Honor” Killings

Speculation that the deaths of three Montreal-area sisters and their female caregiver could have been “honor” killings has rekindled the reasonable accommodation debate in the Quebec press.

Le Devoir columnist Jean-Claude Leclerc called the tragedy, which took place in Kingston, “the pretext for another dispute over tolerance in Canada.” Le Journal de Montreal’s Richard Martineau declared the killings a result of a “barbaric” extremist ideology and concluded by quoting French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s statement regarding the banning of the burqa in France: “We should not be ashamed of our values, we should not be afraid to defend them.”

In La Presse, Patrick Lagacé reserved some of his outrage for the police officers involved in last week’s press conference.