Experts are concerned that Quebec’s controversial Charter of Values could end up driving away the much-desired francophone immigrants who help keep the language alive in the province.
Immigrants from French-speaking countries like Lebanon, Algeria and Morocco have long been among the biggest group of new arrivals to the province, whose immigration system is specifically built to target French speakers. However, many of the immigrants from those countries are also Muslim, which involves donning religious symbols such as the hijab as a part of everyday dress.
The highly controversial Charter of Values would ban the wearing of any such religious apparel for all public-sector employees, meaning that many Muslim women, for instance, would not be able to work in public schools, hospitals or government.
According to Statistics Canada, Montreal currently has the second-largest Muslim community thanks to the influx of French-speakers in recent years. However, officials with the Quebec government argue that the Charter of Values will not hinder Muslim immigration, but rather help to attract “moderate” Muslims.
“I think there are a lot of people from Maghreb and Lebanon and elsewhere who choose Quebec because it is a secular society,” said Montreal Minister Jean-François Lisée. “If we send a message that here in Quebec we take secularism seriously, we will have moderate Muslims, moderate Christians, and moderate Sikhs, who say ‘I like my religion a lot at home, but I like a secular state,’ and Quebec is a progressive state that sends that message.”
However, experts on the other side of the debate, such as executive vice-president of the Canadian Institute for Identities and Migration Jack Jedwab, argue that the Charter will instead drive away desirable immigrants.
“People don’t like places where there are restrictions on people’s rights and where there is intolerance toward certain religious minorities,” said Jedwab. “These people do have choices and this kind of instability is not attractive.”
Many officials have come out publicly against the Charter in recent weeks, including the president of the Fédération des médecins spécialistes du Québec. For now the province appears intent on moving ahead with the controversial policy.
Source: Montreal Gazette