Let’s begin with a little look back.
A quarter century ago, an unassuming funeral director from tiny Huntingdon, Quebec , named Gordon McIntyre said he got ‘really mad ” when language police ordered him to remove his “Funeral Home” sign and replace it will “Salon Funeraire”.
This was the time of rabid language purification in Quebec and the English language was once again under attack.
McIntyre and two other Quebec businessmen said they had enough and filed a complaint to a United Nations committee.
It agreed that the sign provisions of Bill 101 were indeed in violation of the International Covenant on Human Rights.
A Warning From An Earlier Time
Here’s what it wrote:
Human Rights Committee of the United Nations-1993
“A State may choose one or more official languages, but it may not exclude, outside the spheres of public life, the freedom to express oneself in a language of one’s choice.”
The UN report had no legal weight. But it did have some moral influence and Quebec being shown to the world as a language backwater did embarrass the government. Some of the more odious provisions of the sign law were eventually changed. In some way, the UN investigation played a part.
Bill 21 and the U.N.
Which brings us to Bill 21.
The CAQ’s secularism law has been blasted by constitutional experts who argue that it violates freedom of religion guarantees found in the Canadian Charter.
And now the United Nations may step in again.
UN legal experts in Geneva are warning that Bill 21 also threatens freedoms protected by the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights.
It adds that it would be “extremely inappropriate” for a government to decide what is and what is not a religious symbol.
So there you have it Mr Legault.
You have been in power for little over half a year and already you have the United Nations taking notice.
Ramming It Through?
Interviewed this week in Washington, Legault said he didn’t get into politics to adopt a law on secularism. He didn’t say whether he will use to heavy hand of closure to force through the legislation next month.
My guess is that Legault feels his government and economic agenda is being sidetracked by this clumsy and illegal piece of legislation.
He doesn’t want history to remember him for this.
I’m not sure that all the cheering on from the ethnocentric nationalist columnists at Quebecor will help this time.
He has a decision to make. And forcing this turkey through will indeed become a legacy item.
As the chorus of voices against Bill 21 continues to grow, Legault needs to find a way out. And a way to save face.
A Gathering Storm
His heavy handed approach to schools and school boards will not win him any fans either.
The CAQ has no real interest in a vibrant public English education system in Quebec. It will grab schools at will and hand them over to the French sector without regard for local English needs.
And if it thinks it’s got a fight on its hands with Bill 21, wait until Legault and company try to take away our school boards.
We Want Our Boards
A Leger poll this week found that only 12% of English-speaking Quebecers support abolishing school boards.
89% say they are important to our community.
But the CAQ isn’t listening.
Legault it seems has a problem with minorities.
He should remember that he was elected with a minority himself.
Only 37 % of Quebecers voted CAQ.
In other words, 63% voted against him.
Thomas Jefferson wrote “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent”. It is something that Gordon McIntyre knew well, all those years ago.