It is that time of year again when most of us celebrate how fortunate we are to be Canadians. In spite of our warts, in spite of the naysayers, we still have the privilege of living in one of the greatest countries in the world. I for one, am far more concerned with keeping it that way, than I am in continually apologizing for sins of past generations. I regret our mistakes, I celebrate our achievements, but I really believe our focus should be on our future as Canadians. From that perspective, we do, in my opinion, have something to be concerned about.
We have become complacent. We have embraced populism and sometimes I think we have forgotten what it means to be Canadian; what it means, as small as we are, to be a leader in the world and not a follower.
It absolutely blows my mind that one of the greatest threats to our identity, our reputation and our humanity, is taking place right under our noses and we are all but ignoring it. Canada was founded on diversity and diversity remains its strength. And yet, there is an attempt, in one part of Canada, to at least partially wipe it out. And no one is paying attention.
I am talking about legislation in the Province of Quebec, Bill 21 to be precise, that is now enacted into law. It is styled as a secularism law that would ban public workers from wearing religious symbols. But that is not what it really is. It smacks much more to me, of an ethnic cleansing of Quebec’s public service.
Public workers in Quebec include teachers, nurses, in some cases, Doctors, police officers, paramedics, firefighters, hydro workers, social workers and anyone else who receives a government paycheque. It means that people who are of Muslim, Sikh, Hindu and in some circumstances, Jewish faiths, have to choose between their religious requirements and their ability to work and provide for their families. It means that none of these people can work in public sector jobs in Quebec. That is not Canadian. Surely, that is not who we are.
To be fair, when becoming a Canadian citizen, there are limits. The rule of law for instance, trumps everything and there are instances where women have to reveal their identity and no one should tell another person what they can or cannot eat. But what one wears, is simply a symbol of their faith, to which they are entitled by Canadian law. it should not be denied.
The reality is, that Canada is a multi-cultural country. It is also a country whose intrinsic underlying values include, freedom of speech, freedom of worship and freedom to work. The result, is that some people will dress differently, eat differently and worship differently. Some will wear a hijab, a chador or rarely, a full burqa. Some will wear a turban or a yarmulke. But all are Canadian and entitled to freedom of religion and the right to work. Anything else smacks of white supremacy.
So why is there so little fuss being made about all of this? Is it possible that because there is an election in the air, that no-one wants to take on Quebec? Where is the leader of our country, that great champion of human rights? Yes, Prime Minister Trudeau has paid lip service to his disagreement with the Quebec legislation. But he has not stamped his foot as he has on other issues, much less significant to our national fabric.
This is a serious human rights issue, staring him in the face, in his own home Province. He has paid much less attention to it than he has to similar issues in other countries. He has shown no leadership here on a matter of fundamental importance to all Canadians. He and no one else, IS the Prime Minister. Sometimes, Mr. Trudeau, it is more important to do what is right, than to do what is politically safe. This is one of those occasions.
I went to Church today, and on the eve of Canada Day, found a verse in an ancient hymn that caught my eye.
“For the Healing of the nations, God, we pray with one accord;
For a just and equal sharing of the things that earth affords.
To a life of love in action, help us rise and pledge our word.”
To me, that is Canada as it should be. Happy Canada Day from a proud but worried Canadian.
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