Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Quebec Hearings on Reasonable Accommodation of Minorities Begin Next Month

Public hearings into what is referred to as reasonable accommodation of minorities are to begin in September in the province of Quebec.

Internationally famous philosopher and McGill University scholar Charles Taylor and sociologist Gérard Bouchard will co-chair the consultations that will take place in some 17 cities of the province.

The Consultation Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences was created by the provincial government last spring after a number of incidents involving clashes or controversies between members of minority groups, in particular religious minorities, and the members of the highly secularized French-speaking majority that overthrew the restraints of its earlier conservative Catholic culture more than 40 years ago during the "Quiet Revolution" of the 1960s.
The Commission's consultation document is available online.

More background on the debate:
  • Quebec's 'accommodation' hearings to start in September - Debate rages over immigrant integration even as commission announced (CBC News, August 14, 2007): "The debate over accommodating immigrants was sparked earlier this year when the small town of Herouxville passed a code of conduct for immigrants, which included a rule against stoning women. There has also been significant debate about whether women should be allowed to wear head scarves while playing sports (...) A few months ago, a Montreal community health centre was under fire for holding women-only pre-natal classes to make Muslim, Sikh or Hindu women feel more comfortable. Quebec, a French minority within North America, considers itself a secular society that encourages immigrants to integrate into its francophone culture."
  • Quebeckers' insecurity said to fuel backlash against minorities (Globe and Mail, August 15, 2007): "While integrating newcomers is a challenge for all Western societies, the two men noted Quebec's unusual dynamic, where the francophone majority is at the same time an insecure minority in Canada. Confronted by the cultures of immigrants, 'they fear that it will erode and drain out the French-Canadian culture,' Prof. Bouchard said. They were taken aback by the intense insecurity they witnessed. Prof. Bouchard noted that francophones, who make up 72 per cent of the population, were fearful of Muslims, who make up 1.4 per cent."
  • Let the debate begin - Commission unveils timetable on accommodation hearings (Montreal Gazette, August 15, 2007): "Reasonable accommodation is a legal notion, defining equality in a diverse society. But the phrase in Quebec has come to encompass everyday gestures that help integrate immigrant customs and religious practices into the broader society. Taylor and Bouchard said they are taking the widest possible view of their mandate, and will look at the root problem of integration in Quebec society (...) Old-stock francophone Quebecers, sometimes called Québécois de souche, are a minority in Canada and North America and seem insecure in the face of immigrant minorities in the province, Bouchard said. That might explain why the issue of reasonable accommodation is now more hotly debated in Quebec than elsewhere in Canada, he added. Quebecers need to regain confidence and show the 'openness and generosity of spirit' that majorities have toward minorities in their midst, Taylor said."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:04 pm


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