God Save Poutine

Image of woman in burqa Canadians can always rely on the imagination and ingenuity of Quebec politicians to define, and redefine, hypocrisy by implementing new and inventive legislation: all in the name of cultural protectionism. The tendance passagere in Quebec politics this month is the Parti Quebecois' proposed new Charter of Values legislation. The Charte desvaleurs quebecoises, the official name given to the Reich's proclamation, has become one of the most controversial and divisive issues to grace Quebec's political landscape in recent months. The legislation, guised under the pretense of promoting a neutral and secular state, will prohibit "public sector employees from wearing or displaying conspicuous religious symbols".

A secular society, I'm loathe to say, is not only an ambitious objective but, I'd argue, a desirable one. Unfortunately, and contrary to the assertions of Fuhrerprinzip Marois and the Reich's PQist Staatspolizei, the proposed legislation has absolutely nothing to do with promoting a secular society and precisely everything to do with promoting an apartheid one. An examination of how the legislation will operate reveals its ominous underpinnings: the systemic discrimination of minorities. According to a Globe & Mail report, the much touted apocryphally neutral legislation would serve to "ban Muslim headscarves, Sikh turbans, Jewish kippas and other 'overt' religious symbols" while simultaneously allowing "discreet cross pendants or Star of David rings" to be worn.

No religious symbol could be any less overt than the large crucifix which hangs above the Speaker's chair in Poutineland's National Assembly: a gift from the Catholic Church in 1936. Commenting on why the prominent religious symbol would not be exorcised from the legislature, Reichsmarschall Bernard Drainville, Minister responsible for democratic institutions, responded: "The choice we made about the crucifix is that of our heritage, of history. There's still a lot of Quebecers who are still attached to this crucifix, not because they're particularly Christian or Catholic, but because they see it as a symbol of our people."

Quebec's flag was adopted in 1948 and its status as a "national emblem" was subsequently conferred by An Act Respecting the Flag and Emblems of Quebec in 1999. The flag, showm below, features a central white cross on an azure background which divides the standard into four quadrants: a white fleur-de-lis graces each quadrant.

Image of Quebec flag There is no unanimity with respect to the flag's symbolism although its religious connotations are often cited. One source asserts that "the blue and white of the Quebec flag is not actually derived from the red, white, and blue of the French flag, but instead from a religious banner that celebrated the Virgin Mary". Another source, attributing additional religious symbolism to the flag, asserts that a "white fleurs-de-lis (symbols of purity) and blue field (symbolizing Heaven)" make up each of the standard's quadrants. And if that big white cross in the center of the flag isn't a religious symbol, then just what the hell is it? A giant mothering + sign? According to an aquaintance of mine, whom I'll simply refer to as another one of Quebec's refugees, "Quebec's large talent pool includes l'usti de Roch Voisine PLUS la calisse de Celine Dion."

So what's going on? Is Quebec undergoing a secular zeit geist? Can we expect legions of secularists to lay siege to the National Assembly demanding that Jesus, and the cross he rode in on, be stripped from the walls of the legislature? Are angry mobs of torch-bearing atheists poised to burn provincial flags in effigy, liberating the haloed nation of ALL symbols religious? Are the sons of Quebec no longer willing to carry the sword (porter l'epee) and cross (le croix) in the crusade against evil as duly commanded in Canada's national anthem?

The Quiet Revolution has long ended. And the pendulum has swung back in the other direction. Quebec's Charter of Values is not a shift towards a more secular state. It is a jihad; a holy war destined to exorcise the symbols of all religions - save one. A less cynical critic opined: "What many Quebecers seem to want is a secular society with separation of church and state - except for one religion. And a flag bearing the symbol of that religion is a pretty good representation of what they seem to want."

I can hear the critics now. "What the hell do you know about Quebec hostie? You're not a Quebecer and you're a damned rosbif to boot!" That's right. "I speak Hen-glish, maudit tabarnac; not Joual or Quebecois." My view of Quebec differs significantly from that of right-wing fundamentalist Quebecoise politicians who choose to define Quebecers on the basis of what's on their head as opposed to what's in it.

With Quebec poised to introduce legislation governing what a person can and cannot wear, I'm forced to ponder one simple question: Is there any significant difference between a legislation which says Take off that wrap and head-scarf and a legislation which says Put on this brown shirt and these jackboots! ?

I thought not. God save the Quee, er, um, I mean... God save Poutine!

Submitted by Bob Shurunkel, 24 October 2013