So you are a new immigrant to Canada - Welcome aboard! Canada has earned a reputation around the world as a country of tolerance; a place where people can speak freely, practice their own religion without persecution and express their political views without fear of reprisal from the government of the day.
That is, with one notable exception.
Let's just say newcomers might want to think twice before checking out real estate ads in this nation's second largest province.
Quebec has taken its obsession with all things French to a whole new level with the introduction last week of the Charte des Valeurs, or Charter of Quebec Values - an odious piece of legislation introduced in the province's National Assembly by the minority Parti Quebecois government.
Not satisfied with offending Indo-Canadians by attempting to ban turbans - and, in effect, South Asian boys - from the soccer pitches of the province, the Parti Quebecois has now targeted every religion.
The province that already has an Orwellian office dedicated to ensuring French words are larger than English words on signs throughout Quebec now wants to mandate that civil servants cannot wear any religious clothing and adornments at work.
No turbans, no yarmulkes, no hijabs, no burkas - none of it. Even the silver crucifix necklace grand-mère gave you for communion will be banned if the Parti Quebecois deems it to be too large.
If Canada can be described as a nation of two solitudes divided between the English and the French, then the Parti Quebecois is taking the province on a path to even greater isolation - as in North Korea isolation, where the population dwells in a society increasingly shaped by misguided ideologues.
It's not a culture so much as it's a hegemony with a backward, close-minded rural population imposing its warped values on the rest of the province's population. American right-wing nut jobs have their Tea Party and Quebec whackadoodles have the Parti Quebecois.
This is exactly the reaction the architects of the Parti Quebecois' latest inflammatory legislation hope to provoke with its list of "values."
"See how Les Anglais doesn't understand our noble efforts to preserve our culture? Separation is the only answer!" No, sadly we do understand. We understand that the Parti Quebecois is obsessed with turning the province into a French enclave on the western shores of the Atlantic.
Given Quebec's history and its love/hate relationship with the Catholic church, a secular land free of religious influences sounds appealing. For centuries Quebec society was dominated by the Catholic church, an omnipresent theological force with tentacles that touched every region of the province through churches, hospitals, social services, schools and even branches of government.
The Quiet Revolution of the 1960s and '70s severely curtailed the church's influence, but the province's Catholic roots are revealed whenever a Quebecer stubs his or her toe. Where English speakers utter choice four letter words, Quebecers unleash a stream of epithets rich in Catholic argot: tabernac, sacrement, chalice, pape merde, etc.
But like the sign laws and other aspects of Quebec's fixation on the preservation of its ever-shifting definition of distinct society, the Parti Quebecois is going overboard and offending everybody in hopes of appeasing its electoral demographic. The PQ wants to erase centuries of Catholic influence so therefore all vestiges of religion must be banned from government offices. Problem solved, non? There is, of course, one big fly in the ointment for the new charter dreamed up by the PQ policy wonks. Like the rest of Canada, Quebec's birthrate is declining and the province depends on immigration to sustain its workforce. With policies such as this charter of values in place - and who knows what coming down the pipe - what kind of immigrant will look upon Quebec as a desirable new home? Let's see, who would want to move to a province where minorities are openly persecuted for their beliefs by the authorities, where the sitting government is actively seeking to break away from the rest of the country, where government officials carry rulers to measure the size of lettering on signs, and where corruption is an accepted part of doing business with the government.
Most immigrants are leaving their home countries to escape these situations, not actively seeking them out in the place they want to settle and build a new future.
Bon chance, mes amis.
Michael Booth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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