The Management of Diversity in a Pluralist Society:
The Quebec Experience, 2007-2014
What is the appropriate stance for the state to take in the face of the legal and other frictions sparked by the increasing mixity of cultures brought on by transnational migration and the rising tide of identity politics? This issue is particularly acute in a jurisdiction such as Quebec, where the francophone population is caught between being a majority culture within the province but a minority culture within Canada and North America generally. The increasingly visible diversification of Quebec society has led to sociocultural anxieties among the “Québécois de souche” (i.e. predominantly white, francophone, Catholic or Catholic-influenced individuals), especially when it comes to the religious beliefs and practices of non-Christian immigrants. Indeed, while Quebec has largely shed its Catholic identity in the past half century, the religious identities of immigrants are often deeply rooted and sometimes more significant personally than national identities in the formation of their individualities, according to a 2004 report by the Conseil des Relations Interculturelles (CDRI). This religiosity appears to trouble the “Québécois de souche.” Some fear that civic space might become religious again and that immigrants might abuse their right to freedom of religion to engage in customs that the majority see as repugnant or threatening to Quebec social values. There are recurring debates on the subject, and many twists and turns to the arguments.
This series of reports specially written by Miriam Chiasson for the Centaur Jurisprudence research project takes an in-depth look at the Quebec experience of dealing with diversity, from the reasonable accommodation crisis of 2007 to the promulgation of a secular charter in 2013-2014. Throughout, the focus is on clarifying the multiple perspectives on intercultural relations, and the multiple reactions to the government’s attempts to determine when and how minority cultural practices should be accommodated. We begin with an analysis of the allegedly major differences between the Canadian policy of multiculturalism and the Quebec policy of interculturalism.
Part 5. Tabling Bill 60, September 2013-January 2014: The Charter Affirming the Values of State Secularism and Religious Neutrality and of Equality between Women and Men, and providing a Framework for Accommodation Requests