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Quebec has a problem with Islamophobia.
If you have any doubts, you need look no further than the political party that leads it. The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) was elected for its first term on a promise of cracking down on religious minorities and using the Notwithstanding Clause to ensure they could do so legally.
They were reelected this past October despite their leader, Francois Legault, publicly making xenophobic remarks, including that he considered immigrants to be a threat to Quebec society. Since Legault took office the first time, hate crimes in Quebec have risen exponentially because of he and his party’s willful blindness of the bigotry and violence they have openly encouraged.
One recent example of this bigotry is calling for the resignation of Amira Elghawaby, a journalist who was recently appointed to be Canada’s new special anti-Islamophobia advisor, by Jean-Francois Roberge, Quebec’s minister responsible for secularism. The calls for her resignation are due to an article Elghawaby co-authored in 2019 in the Ottawa Citizen shortly after Quebec’s secularism law aka Bill 21, was forced through the National Assembly.
Elghawaby, who is set to take office on February 20, 2023, has since apologized for what she wrote. Let me be among the many to say she has nothing to apologize for, and demands that she resign are indicative of not only the plague of xenophobia that continues to fester in Quebec, but also of the immense hypocrisy of the Coalition Avenir du Quebec and its supporters.
First, let’s start with what Elghawaby’s 2019 article, co-authored by Bernie Farber, actually says. The article begins by summarizing what Bill 21 entails. It then cites the vast protests against the law and the rights guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that the law violates as well as citing a study confirming anti-Muslim sentiment in Quebec. She writes that Bill 21 is proof that the CAQ and those who elected them care more about anti-Muslim sentiment than the rule of law.
Like it or not, Elghawaby is right, and the Quebec government knows this. How do I know that they know?
EASILY: They used the Notwithstanding Clause when they adopted Bill 21.
For those who don’t know, The Notwithstanding Clause is a clause in the Canadian Constitution that allows a law to stay in place notwithstanding articles 2 and articles 7-15 of The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms for a period of five years after which it must be renewed by an act of Parliament. These articles include freedom of religion and equal protection under the law.
The inclusion of the Notwithstanding Clause is proof that Legault’s government knows that Quebec’s Secularism Law violates fundamental rights and freedoms and would be less likely to survive legal challenge without it.
The CAQ knows the law is discriminatory, they just don’t care. They claim that the majority of Quebeckers want this, but wanting something does not make it right or in society’s best interests. Even the authors of the 2008 Bouchard-Taylor Commission Report on reasonable accommodation spoke out against Bill 21, but the CAQ and their supporters ignored them.
Jean-Francois Roberge and, sadly, Québec solidaire (QS) spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, consider the 2019 article to be an affront to Quebeckers. From a CAQ government that claims to be against censorship and alleged cancel culture, calls for Elghawaby’s resignation is not just bigotry, it’s hypocrisy, and it’s pathetic.
It sends the message that they are only against censorship when the voice supports their xenophobic narrative of Quebecois victimhood their voters cannot seem to let go of. For people that claim to be secular, the CAQ and their supporters seem incapable of climbing off that cross despite their being well-represented in politics and every other aspect of Quebec life.
Amira Elghawaby has nothing to apologize for. In that article she pointed out the harm the secularism law would cause, and she is right.
Since its adoption, the teaching shortage has gotten worse as Muslim and other women of faith have been forced out of their professions. Despite the provincial government’s alleged commitment to secularism, Catholic crosses remain visible on public land.
Hate crimes in Quebec are on the rise, and the government has squandered millions of dollars fighting legal challenges to Bill 21 by Quebeckers who are determined to have the rights guaranteed to them by law. Whether Roberge likes it or not, Elghawaby’s 2019 article was advising us all on Islamophobia long before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed her.
If Trudeau has a spine, he’ll ignore Quebec on this one and keep Amira Elghwaby where she is, and if she’s as brave and wise as she seems, she won’t resign.
Featured Image: CPAC via YouTube