This Week in Religion 2017–09–10

by | September 10, 2017

This Week in Religion 20167–09–09

Scott Douglas Jacobsen

“Confusion over Quebec’s offer to help Texans dealing with the effects of Harvey has generated a storm of a different kind, this one involving not wind and rain but religion and politics.

Earlier this week, Quebec’s International Relations Minister Christine St-Pierre called her Texas counterpart, Secretary of State Rolando Pablos, to offer the province’s help with emergency relief efforts.

In media interviews following the call, St-Pierre suggested Pablos declined the offer of immediate aid.”


“Justin Trudeau embraced “fairness” as a guiding principle on the afternoon of Feb. 22, 2014.

“In 1968, when my father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, said that Canada must be a just society,” he told a Liberal Party convention in Montreal, “fairness was at the heart of that argument.”

By that reading, one might trace a line connecting Pierre Trudeau’s just society and his son’s Great Incorporated Tax Kerfuffle of 2017.

One can at least trace a line from that afternoon in 2014 to the current trouble.

Trudeau invoked the f-word 14 times in that speech. Fourteen months later, #fairness was the official hashtag when Trudeau unveiled a set of policies as Liberal leader that would ask the richest to pay more, reduce the tax rate for the less rich and provide a substantial means-tested child benefit to families. A week after that, he used a speech in downtown Toronto to posit that fairness was the basis for Canada’s success.”


“One wonders what Jack Layton would make of his party nowadays — of the trajectory it has taken since his untimely passing and of the battle to replace his successor, who seemed like such a good idea at the time. The party’s new support in Quebec had been by design: The 2005 Sherbrooke Declaration essentially argued Quebecers should be free to secede from Canada with a simple 50 per cent-plus-one-vote, and in the meantime offered them a seat at the table in a social-democratic government in Ottawa.

Alas, hitching your wagon to Quebec nationalists only works so long as the horse doesn’t spook. In recent years, Quebec’s politics has become more and more seized with “religious accommodations” in general, with Islam specifically, and with niqabs very specifically indeed. Such is the state of play that the Liberal government’s Bill 62 is considered moderate: It would ban providing and receiving public services with one’s face covered. Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée won’t even say whether women in niqabs would be allowed to ride the bus.

This is something you might expect the left-most candidate to lead the left-most party in the House of Commons to oppose unambiguously. Niki Ashton’s campaign promises to end “the oppression of racialized communities,” tackle “Islamophobia, anti-black racism, and violence towards Indigenous peoples” and address “intersecting oppressions” as well.”


“Islam, religious freedom, hatred, and free speech: their intersection in Canada’s free society is messy and complicated.

Muslims praying at Parc Safari zoo in Quebec in early July sparked public comments that religion should be private, confined to living rooms and houses of worship. After advocating for the right of Muslims (and everyone else) to pray peacefully in public, I heard from many saying that Islam is a violent, intolerant ideology that is wholly incompatible with Canada’s free democracy.

For example: “Please go to Europe and see what is happening to my family, my friends, with all the killings. Islam is not a religion, but a vile and murderous system;” “Muslims who are apparently tolerant are simply biding their time until they are the majority;” “Where has Islam governed where misogyny and human rights violations aren’t the norm?”; “The so-called ‘peaceful majority’ of Muslims aren’t publicly denouncing their terrorist co-religionists.””


“In one part of the GTA, three schools were plastered with anti-Semitic, anti-Black graffiti. In another, a Muslim woman’s car window smashed, with “derogatory” comments spray-painted on her property.

Hate crimes are nothing new, but religious groups are sounding the alarms as they appear to be on the rise.

“We continue to see a trend of a high level of anti-Semitic incidents in Canada going back to 2012,” said Aidan Fishman, the interim national director of B’nai Brith Canada’s League for Human Rights.”


“While more than 630 Ontarians to date have legally ended their lives with the help of a nurse or doctor, none have been able to do so within the walls of a hospital that has historic ties to the Catholic Church.

But advocates for medically assisted dying argue that since these are public-funded health-care centres, they are bound to offer the option — even though Ontario law currently exempts any person or institution that objects.

It’s legislation that Dying With Dignity Canada may challenge in court, according to the group’s CEO.

“What Ontario did is they gave an opt-out to basic and essential health care to hospitals that don’t want to provide for the dying,” says chief executive Shanaaz Gokool.”


“In the early 2000s, transnational cinema became a developing discussion in film criticism. Directors like Guillermo Del Toro and Ang Lee, among so many others, had a globalized perspective, whether they were making movies in Mexico or China or the US. In films like Chronos and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, there was fluidity in culture and influence, occupying space beyond national boundaries.

That’s a trait evident in Canadian cinema from the same period by filmmakers like Mina Shum, Atom Egoyan and, most resoundingly, Deepa Mehta. All of them made films in Canada that reflected on their cultural roots. Mehta’s films often told stories about India that only an Indo-Canadian could tell: Fire, Earth and her Oscar-nominated masterpiece Water.

“India, the country of my birth, gives me its inspiration for its stories,” said Mehta, when Waterarrived at the Oscars. “But Canada gives me the freedom to tell those stories.””


“The four NDP leadership hopefuls tread carefully on Sunday when they were asked to weigh in on Quebec’s ongoing discussion over religion and identity during a French-language debate in Montreal.

Manitoba MP Niki Ashton, Quebec MP Guy Caron and Ontario MP Charlie Angus and Ontario legislature member Jagmeet Singh were asked about the Quebec government’s proposed legislation that sets guidelines for accommodating religious requests.

The bill attempts to enshrine into law the policy that all people giving or receiving a service from the state must do so with their face uncovered.

Caron chose to tackle the issue in his opening statement, saying it was important to fight racism and Islamophobia but also to support Quebec’s right to make its own decisions on the issue.”


One thought on “This Week in Religion 2017–09–10

  1. Randy

    “all people giving or receiving a service from the state must do so with their face uncovered”

    This is quite reasonable, but of course draws the usual criticisms from the usual types. To head off this criticism, they need to embrace a true laïcité, and ban not only face-coverings (religious or otherwise) but all religious symbols. They need to re-emphasize that clothing is a language, and that while on the province’s dime, a person must speak for the province only.


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