The political temperature over Quebec’s identity is so scalding, the provincial government didn’t bother waiting for the official unveiling of a report on religion and minorities before trashing its most symbolic recommendation: Removing the crucifix from the National Assembly.
The swift reaction in Quebec City belied the central conclusion of the Bouchard-Taylor commission on the furious debate over so-called “reasonable accommodations” of religious minorities — that the identity crisis in Quebec is a matter of perception, not reality.
The commissioners, McGill University philosopher Charles Taylor and internationally renowned Université du Québec sociologist Gérard Bouchard, conducted a sprawling study of subjects from secularism in public places, to racial discrimination, to the insecurities of Quebec’s French-Canadian population.
“There is no crisis ... one could even say we are far from it, despite the impressions people might have,” said Bouchard, adding “the only crisis is one of perception ... we came close to skidding out of control. I think all Quebecers should draw a lesson from it.”
But in politics, perception is reality, and so angst over questions of identity was front and centre yesterday.
Premier Jean Charest personally tabled a motion to preserve the National Assembly’s crucifix before Bouchard and Taylor had even spoken at a news conference to divulge their report; it was unanimously adopted.
“We won’t rewrite history ... The church has played a major role in who we are today as a society, the crucifix is more than a religious symbol,” Charest told a news conference in Quebec City.
The minority Liberals also issued a proposal to have new arrivals sign written undertakings that they will “adhere to our society’s common values,” summarized as gender equality, Charter rights and the defence of the French language.
Action democratique du Quebec Leader Mario Dumont said Quebec should adopt its own “founding document” that spells out “Quebec’s cultural heritage.”