Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Illiberal democracy in Canada (expanded)

The indispensable Montreal journalist and thinker André Pratte has more to say against Quebec's new Bill 96 than any politician seems willing to offer. 

He notes that in exempting this bill (intended to strengthen the French language in Quebec) from Quebc's own Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, the Quebec government does not select a few parts of the Charter that may impinge on language use. It excludes the legislation from all rights : 

Bill 96 dismisses the sections that guarantee: the right to life and integrity of the person; the right to assistance of a person whose life is in peril; freedom of conscience, religion, opinion, expression, peaceful assembly and association; the right of a person to the safeguard of their dignity, honour and reputation; the right to respect for one’s private life; the right to the peaceful enjoyment and free disposition of their property; the right to be a candidate in an election and to vote; the right to a public and impartial hearing of his/her case by an independent tribunal; and so on.

Actually the Legault government did the same thing for Bill 21, the one that bans Muslims (and others) from their choice of headgear. Pratte notes that previous governments have applied "notwithstanding" exemptions -- but only to a few carefully chosen rights each time. This removal of all rights is happening, he notes "with the blissful consent not only of the majority, but also of those whose deepest convictions should be offended."

Erna Paris draws a similar conclusion in the Globe and Mail, though she focusses more on the gutting of the Canadian Charter than of the Quebec one:

By dispensing with the convention that Canadians are driven by the primacy and universality of fundamental rights, Mr. Legault has effectively created an illiberal democracy at the heart of Canada: a Québécois society where some are more equal than others. In consequence, we are left with the peculiar spectacle of a country renowned for its commitment to pluralism with a constitutionally legal “rights outlier” at its centre.

In a recent profile, the New Yorker identified Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the independence party in Scotland, as "an apparent oxymoron: a left-of-center nationalist." But left-wing nationalisms have thrived all over the world, and notably in Canada, the Parti Québécois of René Levesque being the prime example. The success of the PQ was depended on an agenda driven by progressive urban Montreal leadership finding support from basically conservative nationalists -- all those rural voters in Saguenay-Lac St-Jean were hardly socialists.

Now that has been reversed. It is the progressives who have been marginalized ever since the days of Jacques Parizeau and Lucien Bouchard. Now the right-wing populist CAQ holds the loyalty of old péquistes by appealing to tribal nationalists and xenophobes in the name of secular values and defence of the French language.  


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