In May 2008, less than a year after I moved to Ottawa from Montreal to work at the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin, I attended a talk at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre given by Queen’s University historian Gerald Tulchinsky.
Tulchinsky was here to speak about his then-new book, Canada’s Jews: A People’s Journey, a history of Canada’s Jewish community. At one point in his talk, Tulchinsky was describing the Protestant school system in Quebec in which the vast majority of Montreal’s Jews in the 20th century were educated. He asked if anyone in the audience had been through that system. About two-thirds of us put up our hands.
All that to say that there are many of us in Ottawa’s Jewish community with roots in Quebec. And many of us retain deep ties there. So, we feel like we have a stake in what goes on in Quebec.
One of the main issues in this election – I would argue the main issue – is the so-called Charter of Quebec Values proposed by the separatist Parti Québécois (PQ), which seeks to take away the right of public sector workers to wear clothing or obvious symbols of their religion. Under the charter, a Jewish doctor, a Muslim teacher or a Sikh bus driver would be banned from wearing the kippah, hijab or turban they might feel is important to their religious observance. And there are PQ ministers who have said they would like to see private sector companies adopt the charter as well.
In essence, the proposed charter is a decidedly unsubtle message to religious minorities that they are not welcome in mainstream society – at least the society envisioned by the PQ.
That this proposed charter runs contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and to Quebec’s own Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, is of no consequence to the PQ. They want nothing more than to provoke court battles with the federal government as a way of proving the need for separation to their followers.
Yes, this election is very much about values – and it remains to be seen which values Quebecers will choose.
We want to hear from you
One of the most important roles for the Bulletin – both in print and online – is as a medium for discussion and debate on issues of concern to the Jewish community. We welcome letters to the editor and guest columns and, since the launch of our new website – www.ottawajewishbulletin.com – last November, comments on the individual articles and columns that we post online.
As with everything else in the paper, letters and guest columns that we publish are subject to editing for length, style and clarity. Both letters (up to 300 words) and guest columns (up to 700 words) should be as concise as possible. The best way to submit them is via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We don’t accept anonymous submissions. Letters and guest columns need to be fully attributed with the name of the author and, if relevant, any organizational affiliation.
When we launched the website, we decided to apply the same standard to comments. We welcome readers’ comments, but they must post under their real names and be on-topic. Internet forums – including the comments sections on the websites of many newspapers – often turn vindictive, ugly and very personal when anonymous posting is allowed. Particularly so, it so often and sadly seems, when anything to do with Israel is under discussion.
We recently rejected a comment made to a column on the website, even though it was relevant and interesting, because it was submitted anonymously. The person who made the comment called me to explain the reasons for wanting to remain anonymous. While I understood and respected the person’s concerns – even though I didn’t agree with them – I thought it better to not set a precedent by allowing an anonymous post.
The Bulletin website is an extension and expansion of what we have been doing in print since 1937. We welcome your voice and your opinions – but we need to know whose voice and whose opinions we’re hearing.