The Quebec government has once again expelled a student from its French classes because she had been accepted for the class at another centre. Read more here.
This happened yesterday. Yesterday was also the first day Quebec’s National Assembly (the provincial parliament) reconvened after a break. Sure enough, the niqab issue was brought up by the opposition. And all indications are this is going to get a lot worse (blog post on that coming soon).
Here is a translation of the debate that took place at Quebec’s National Assembly:
Mrs. Beaudoin (Rosemont): Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Confusion reigns in our institutions because of the laissez-faire attitude of the Liberal government. Nobody knows anymore how to treat the requests for religious accommodation. Last week, it was learned that it is the Minister for the Immigration who intervened to expel a young woman who did not want to withdraw her niqab in a Francization course at CEGEP Saint-Laurent. Today, the minister had to prevail again after this same young woman re-registered while keeping on her niqab in another course of Francization subsidized by the government. Its directive was thus not very clear.
For how many years will the government continue to to manage this issue on a case-by-case basis, by arbitrary decisions without clear directions for the government officials and the users?
The Speaker: Mrs. the Minister of Immigration and Cultural Communities.
Mrs. James: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Initially, it is necessary to say, in the case which the deputy of Rosemont raises, the government assumed its responsibility. The Madam was met and it was clearly indicated to her: To take the Francization course….the Francization courses are to be given with the face uncovered.
So there is no compromise around it, it is not a blur, it is exactly that, Mr. President. It was the case the past week, it is the case today and that will be the case tomorrow. Because we will make no compromise on the equality between the men and the women and it is our government which makes the decisions to protect the values from Quebec, Mr. Speaker.
The Speaker: In complementary question, Mrs. the deputy of Rosemont.
Mrs. Beaudoin (Rosemont): Then, it is a case-by-case approach which continues, Mr. Speaker, it is what we saw this week and last week. But can the minister indicate to us precisely when and how her government’s policy on having the face uncovered will be known and especially adopted so that finally it applies to the students of the courses of Francization, but also in the whole of public institutions and semi-public institutions?
The Speaker: Mrs. the Minister for Immigration and the Cultural communities.
Mrs. James: Mr. Speaker, in the case which we’re dealing with now, there’s no case-by-case approach. The services for the person who presents herself, which wishes to attend the courses of Francization, that is to be done with the face uncovered. The person in question, and I repeat… Mr. Speaker, I would like that…
The Speaker: Mrs. the minister.
Mrs. James: In Quebec, we receive the services with the face uncovered and we provide services with an uncovered face, Mr. Speaker. Plus, the deputy prime minister thus indicated last week that the government intends to make other moves, but this is very, very clearly, and I want to repeat that for the deputy of Rosemont, there is no ambiguity nor compromise on this question. The Madam in question was met…
The Speaker: While finishing.
Mrs. James: … it was very clearly indicated to her that the services are given to those with an uncovered face.
The Speaker In complementary question, Mrs. the chief of the official opposition.
Mrs. Marois: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. For rightfully avoiding case-by-case decisions, can the Prime Minister finally take his responsabilities and accept to introduce into the Charter of the Rights and Freedoms of the person the fundamental values for the Québécois people and especially and finally to adopt clear guidelines to frame reasonable accommodation in Quebec, Mr. Speaker?
The Speaker: Mr. the Prime Minister.
Mr. Charest: The government precisely amended the Charter to reinforce the principle of the equality between women and men, which the leader of the official opposition supported. Moreover, her party participated in the parliamentary commission looking into this question. They even were, I note it today, divided in their opinions regarding the measures to be taken, on…
Yes, if one reads again what Louise Harel said at the time and what you’re saying today, obviously, another who left, I know it, but, Mr. Speaker, obviously there are divisions. That being said, on the principles, the Québécois values, the government always was…
The Speaker: While finishing.
Mr. Charest: … very clearly: The equality, the language, secularity, they are our values.