Central Committee, Communist Party of Canada, Feb. 10, 2019


At the end of January, the new CAQ government caucus met in Gatineau to prepare for the parliamentary session that began on February 5. With the support of the polls, Prime Minister François Legault reiterated his government's intention to have a law adopted by the end of the session prohibiting the wearing of religious symbols by people in the penal system – judges, police, Prison guards and prosecutors – as well as public school teachers, who are considered to be in a position of authority. Moreover, it also announced that private schools, although subsidized up to 60 per cent by the state, would not be subject to this law.


François Legault admitted that there were discussions in his caucus about the possibility of including a grandfather clause that could allow people already employed to escape the restriction against wearing of religious symbols. But he added that he personally did not like that idea and was prepared, if necessary, to fire those who would refuse to take away their symbols. At the same time, he reiterated his intention to invoke the "notwithstanding" clause if it were found that his law was declared unconstitutional.


On January 29th, the anniversary of the Quebec mosque massacre, Legault rejected the idea of declaring a national day against Islamophobia, which he said does not exist in Quebec, causing dismay in the Muslim community.


He was enthusiastically supported by the deputy mayor of Gatineau, who told to the newspaper “Le Droit” that Islamophobia does not exist and that Muslims do not integrate into society. According to her, it is normal to be afraid of Muslims, implying that they could be terrorists.


A few days later, going far beyond the question of state secularism, the newly appointed minister of the Status of Women, Isabelle Charest, shared her aversion to the Muslim veil, declaring that it is a symbol of women's oppression. She explained that wearing this garment did not correspond to "her values" and prevent women from flourishing. However, a secular state does not declare itself to be atheist or of any religious form, but only that it is neutral. Nonetheless, Legault refused to correct the words of his minister.


These unfortunate statements are regarded by the media as mistakes by inexperienced politicians. But objectively they are already helping to ignite more acrimonious debates and deepen the social split, to the point that we could think that the government is deliberately applying in Quebec the same tactics as Donald Trump in the United States.


Once again, we can see that social media is beginning to be inundated with hateful words. The situation is likely to be similar to that experienced at the time of the PQ's “charter of values” in 2013. Yet there is no real social crisis or urgent reasons to legislate in haste. The government acts only on the basis of the interests of the ruling class, not in the interests of the Quebec working class.


All this at the same time allows the CAQ to divert attention from the real issues that are of direct interest to workers. At the end of its late-January caucus, the Government indicated intentions to carry out public service budget and staffing cuts, and services across departments, in order to fund Legault’s election promises. He wants in reality to continue the fiscal austerity policies of the previous government.


Trade-unions whose members are concerned by the prohibition of the wearing of religious symbols, such as teachers, have clearly expressed their intention to stand firm against any law that violates their fundamental rights. Legault knows well that his law against the wearing of religious symbols will not pass as a letter to the post, but he hopes that the people will fall into his trap and let themselves be divided.


The Communist Party urges the working class, its organizations and the people of Quebec to stand united against the divisive maneuvers of the Government, not to get carried away by the Sirens of intolerance and racism, in order to be able to roll back its neoliberal austerity program.


The Communist Party also reiterates its full support to declare January 29 as a cross-Canada day of action against Islamophobia.


(The above article is from the March 16-31, 2019, issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading socialist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $30/year, or $15 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $45 US per year; other overseas readers - $45 US or $50 CDN per year. Send to People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 706 Clark Drive, Vancouver, BC, V5L 3J1.)