“Hate Quebec, Hate Secularism”

by | February 6, 2016

Full disclosure: As David Rand says, I am David’s “friend and colleague” and a member of Atheist Freethinkers. However, if I thought David’s points about the way Canadian Atheist and the rest of Canada (ROC) criticizes Quebec and Quebec secularism were unfair, I would not hesitate to say so.

In his latest post, “Hate Quebec, Hate Secularism,” on his personal blog, David Rand introduces his article by saying,

Antipathy towards Quebec and anti-secularism often go hand in hand in Canadian politics. They are, or should be, unrelated issues, but as republican secularism is more popular in Quebec and multiculturalism more popular outside Quebec, they become intertwined. I give some examples of this harmful attitude, from comments on an atheist web site to a Globe and Mail article.

and starts by criticizing a Canadian Atheist post that is no longer available

One day during the campaign leading up to the Quebec provincial election of April 2014, I visited the web site Canadian Atheist and found, to my initial surprise, that the most recent post consisted mainly of a very brief video, only a few seconds, configured to run in an infinite loop, showing Pauline Marois—premier of Quebec at the time—standing before a cluster of microphones at a press conference and, with the palm of one hand, gently but firmly pushing Pierre-Karl Péladeau away from the microphones.

Rand goes on to ask,

But why would such a video be posted on an atheist web site?

There is a clear answer to Rand’s question: Canadian Atheist writers post what they want to post ; there are no restrictions on topics.

However, Rand is correct when he says

by any reasonable standard, an atheist web site would be expected to adopt a serious, even sympathetic attitude towards that political party. After all, a major aspect of the PQ’s platform in the 2014 election was its Charter of Secularism which, if adopted, would have officially declared the Quebec state to be secular and would have instituted separation of religion and state as official policy in Quebec. All atheists and secularists could be expected to support such a measure enthusiastically and to be favourably disposed towards whoever proposed it.

However this is Canada, and as I have learned to my great chagrin, expecting Canadians—in particular Canadians who claim to be secularists—to behave reasonably and in accordance with their own best interests is a recipe for disappointment.

Rand goes on to provide “a few obvious reasons” why all atheists and secularists should have support the Quebec Charter of Secularism

1. The Charter, whether one agreed with it or not, was certainly about secularism.

2. Quebec nationalism in general has been, for the last half century, resolutely secular in orientation.

3. Putting Québécois culture on par with a religion, as [a CA commenter] does, is absurd.

4. French-language culture in Canada, concentrated in Quebec, is certainly “deserving of special status” and indeed, constitutionally so, as French and English are Canada’s two official languages.

Rand is correct:

The demonization of Quebec nationalism harms all Canadians because it jeopardizes the fight for secularization.

An officially secular Canada is a worthy goal; it is not a bigoted, racist or hysterical idea.

10 thoughts on ““Hate Quebec, Hate Secularism”

  1. PatG

    No Rand is not correct. Secularism and Nationalism (Quebec or otherwise) are not interdependent. One can be in favour of one and not the other.

    Likely due to reporting in ROC, Quebec Nationalism is seen as having a “pur laine” element that unfortunately has tended to overt racism. Backlash against that racism has appeared to have caused this element to adopt secularism as a cover for their racist views. Because of this, initiatives like the secular charter and the discussions on reasonable accommodation are seen by the ROC as being tainted by a racist agenda. Whether or not that is the truth of it is a different matter.

    1. David Rand

      Would it be too much to ask that one actually read my blog (http://blog.davidrand.ca/hate-quebec-hate-secularism/), or Veronica’s summary of it above, before jumping to conclusions? I do NOT say that secularism and nationalism are “interdependent.” I say EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE.

      Secularism and Quebec nationalism are two distinct issues. They become mixed up only because of the bigotry and ignorance of many Canadians.

      By bigotry I mean ethnic bigotry against Quebecers, dismissing them as xenophobic and intolerant. By ignorance, I mean ignorance of secularism (of the small-r republican variety), ignorance which is cultivated by the regressive left by making false accusations of xenophobia and intolerance against secularists. These two varieties of bullshit combine to form a toxic mixture — usually hiding behind the “nice” facade of multiculturalism. We often see such toxic nonsense in anti-secular comments on this web site.

      Fortunately not all Canadians fall into this intellectual trap. After all, the majority of Canadians opposed the niqab at citizenship hearings, indicating that they are far more progressive than either Trudeau ou Mulcair on this issue.

      1. Joe

        It was the PQ that mixed them up, intentionally, to rebrand their nationalism as secularism.
        Fortunately, Quebeckers saw through their shenanigans, and kicked them to the curb.

        I agree, secularism has nothing to do with what the PQ were selling. It is about not creating a theocracy that privileges one religion, or system of belief, over the others, or over unbelief.

        The Canadian charter guarantees freedom of religion, among other things. And the charter is there for the express purpose of protecting minorities and individuals from the tyranny of the majority, from tribalism and nationalism. This way opinion polls can’t be used to empower thought police to punish symbol-crimes.

        Working pretty well so far. But like anything, good things like multiculturalism, take hard work, and commitment.

        1. Veronica Abbass Post author

          Joe says

          “good things like multiculturalism, take hard work, and commitment.”

          Any reputable thesaurus will tell you that a synonym for multiculturalism is fragmentation.

  2. Joe

    The PQ is not Quebec.
    State Atheism is not Secularism

    But a strawman and a dead horse are a dish best served cold.

    1. Indi

      And secularism is also not anti-religion. Secularism is the opposite of theocracy, not the opposite of theology.

      1. Tim Underwood

        Thanks for that explanation. Remember that Canadian Atheists are opposed to theology as a valid study of anything real.

        All you need to have a nation is a common language, so Quebec has no trouble qualifying as a nation. Anyone who is familiar with the extended French nation in Canada knows that racism is a very unrealistic accusation. There is a very distinct visual (from whence racists get their motivations) difference between France and Quebec. Even Quebec’s version of French is distinct. The big division in Quebec is the Church versus the state, just like in France.

        In my experience, the pro French state Quebecers are the least racist in personality. I was a 19 year old troop corporal for around 90 French speaking recruits for a couple of months back in 1964. I also spent a decade working with French speaking technical people throughout the seventies.

        My emotional opinion has always been that Quebec should be separate. The fact that in recent times they advocate for a secular state just increases my admiration for them. Personally I’m an English speaking secularist who would happily enjoy all forms of free trade and travel with an independent Quebec.

        1. Susan Scott

          If Quebec separates from Canada, then logically First Nations can separate from Quebec. There won’t be much of Quebec left if that happens!

          1. Anti-angryphone

            Dans tes rêves puisque nous avons aussi du sang amérindien .?

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