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Democracy Renewed: Reasonable Accommodation and Differences

November 22, 2007


For more recent article about Charles Taylor see Joshua Rothman’s November 11, 2016 “How to restore your faith in democracy” in New Yorker Magazine.

Published in 2007…

It is surprising that so little attention outside of Quebec is being paid to one of the most robust contemporary exercises in democracy, the Consultation Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences. This commission on the social accommodation of religious and cultural minorities in Quebec, is participatory, accessible online, completely bilingual (French/English), pluridenominational and intercultural. Building on Quebec’s model of sociocultural integratation the Commission is examining issues related to managing diversity in a society committed to democratic participation and the protection of human rights. Issues discussed include relations with cultural communities, immigration, secularism with a focus on the management of religious diversity. Renowned Canadian philosopher, Charles Taylor, (1931-) and sociologist Gérard Bouchard will oversee the commission’s one-year mandate. The process includes gathering information from public and on-line forums.

Taylor argued that the media have promoted an image of Quebecers as exclusive by focusing on the most explosive racist and zenophobic comments. The moderate majority in Quebec are participating in the forums and are very welcoming toward immigrants and their cultures, and don’t adopt an attitude of exclusion (CBC 2007-11-16).

Footnotes

Some 88% of immigrants in Québec live in the Montréal area and account for 19% of the population (9.9% of the population of Québec). The population of Quebec is 7.6 million with 47% living in the Montréal area (GQ 2007:16).

Timeline

1948 The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted.

1960s Debate[s in Quebec “sought to redefine powers and the division of responsibility between the State and the Catholic Church (GQ 2007:6)”

1960s “Québec has ranked among the top 10 host countries of immigrants* among the OECD countries [since at least the 1960s] (GQ 2007:16). Source: United Nations, Trends in Total Migrant Stock, 1960-2000, 2003 Revision, Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2004.

1970s Quebec adopted a “sociocultural integration* model or perspective. The sociocultural integration model compelled the Bouchard-Taylor Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences “to reexamine interculturalism,* relations with the cultural communities, immigration, secularism* and the theme of Québec’s identity as part of the Frenchspeaking countries and communities of the world. In a word, it is, in particular, the management of diversity, especially religious diversity, that appears above all to pose a problem (GQ 2007:10).”

1975 Quebec adopted its own Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. “Québec’s political system is both democratic and liberal. It is democratic inasmuch as political power is vested, in the last analysis, in the hands of the people, which delegates such power to representatives who exercise it on their behalf for a given period of time. Our democracy is thus representative,* but is also liberal in that individual rights and freedoms are deemed to be fundamental and are confirmed and protected by the State (GQ 2007:12).”

1977 Quebec adopted the Charter of the French language (Bill 101), stipulating that “French [is] the language of Government and the Law as well as the normal and everyday language of work, instruction, communication, commerce and business (GQ 2007:12).”

1981 “It is generally agreed that the main thrust of Québec’s integration policy was initially defined in 1981 in “Québécois—Each and Every One” which rejected federal multiculturalism* policy in favour of a policy of “cultural convergence.” “Québécois—Each and Every One” (action plan for the cultural communities), Québec, 1981, 78 pages. To our knowledge, this action plan dating from 1981 is the first government document to sanction the notion of a “cultural community (GQ 2007:14 footnote 23).”

1982 Canada incorporated a Canadian charter of rights and freedoms into the Constitution Act.

1985 “Although it is rarely formally spelled out in legislation, accommodation is deemed to be included in the right to equality that the charters recognize. It is a mechanism that the Supreme Court of Canada, which drew inspiration from a concept already recognized in the United States, sanctioned in 1985 in order to combat indirect discrimination,* which, following the application of an institutional norm* such as a statute, rule, regulation, contract, administrative decision or customary practice, infringes a citizen’s right to equality or freedom of religion (GQ 2007:8).”

1985 “March 20, 1985 resolution of the Québec National Assembly on recognition of the rights of the aboriginal peoples (GQ 2007:11).

1989 May 30, 1989 resolution of the Québec National Assembly on the recognition of the Malecite Nation (GQ 2007:11).

1990 “The Énoncé de politique en matière d’immigration et d’intégration was adopted which proposed the notion of a “moral contract*” that establishes, in a spirit of reciprocity, specific commitments by the host society and newcomers. The integration framework proposed adopts the basic principles mentioned earlier, i.e. Québec is a liberal democracy* in which French is the common public language, and specifies the nature of the desired relationship between the host society and immigrants (GQ

2007:14) The Énoncé stipulates that Québec is: • a society in which French is the common language of public life; • a democratic society that expects and encourages all citizens to participate and contribute; • a pluralistic society, open to extensive cultural contributions within the limits imposed by respect for basic democratic values and the need for intercommunity dialogue. Source: Au Québec pour vivre ensemble. Énoncé de politique en matière d’immigration et d’intégration, ministère des Communautés culturelles et de l’Immigration, 1990, page 15. (GQ 2007:14 footnote 24).

2007-01 The municipal council in the Mauricie town of Hérouxville adopted a code of conduct for immigrants in January. Seven of the region’s 10 towns moved quickly to support the list of rules. The Muslim Congress of Canada is considering a human rights complaint against the town.

2007-02-08 On February 8 “Québec Premier Jean Charest announced the establishment of the Consultation Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences in response to public discontent concerning reasonable accommodation (GQ 2007:5) [T] he current debate is taking place in a unique context of pluridenominationality (GQ 2007:6).”

2007 “Almost all Western nations are facing the same challenge, that of reviewing the major codes governing life together to accommodate ethnocultural differences while respecting rights (GQ 2007:5).”

2007-11-16. CBC. 2007. “Quebec accommodation hearings are serving a ‘great need,’ co-chair says.” http://www.cbc.ca/canada/montreal/story/2007/11/16/qc-boutay1116.html

2007-11-21 CBC. 2007. “Montreal immigrants fuel debate on accommodation.” http://www.cbc.ca/canada/montreal/story/2007/11/20/qc-accommodation1120.html

Keywords used in Consultation on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences

[A]ccommodation related to cultural differences [. . .] “is based on the principle of negotiation, whether or not it is formal, between two parties, usually an individual and an organization, the first of which claims to be the victim of discrimination. Such negotiation seeks to strike a balance between each party’s rights without imposing an undue burden on the party targeted by the complaint.” [A]ccommodation practices or arrangements fall under two largely overlapping spheres, the citizen (cooperation) sphere and the legal sphere (GQ 2007:5).”

Webliography

CBC. 2007. “Quebec accommodation hearings are serving a ‘great need,’ co-chair says.” http://www.cbc.ca/canada/montreal/story/2007/11/16/qc-boutay1116.html

CBC. 2007. “Montreal immigrants fuel debate on accommodation.” http://www.cbc.ca/canada/montreal/story/2007/11/20/qc-accommodation1120.html

GQ (Gouvernement du Québec). 2007. Accomodation and Differences: Seeking Common Ground: Quebecers Speak Out: Consultation Document: Dialogue Makes a Difference. http://www.accommodements.qc.ca/documentation/document-consultation-en.pdf

 

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