A number of weeks ago a Muslim security worker at Pearson airport was suspended for wearing an ankle length skirt instead of the regulation knee length skirt or pants. In another instance, 11 year old girls were kicked out of sporting competitions in Manitoba & Quebec for refusing to remove their hijab. Further clarifications determined the safety concern was the hijab could fall over a competitors eyes or used as a weapon. Most recently a teenage girl was the victim of an "honour" killing by her father for refusing to wear the hijab.
Also in recent events, a University of Toronto cafeteria began carrying halal food. The Muslim student body refused to give their endorsement fearing that it would undermine their desire to open a halal cafeteria that doesn't serve alcohol. This resulted in a tremendous backlash at the idea of a university cafeteria not having a liquor license.
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, reelected in October, declared that non-Catholic religious schools posed a threat to society. The Parti Quebecois proposed a law requiring a Quebec citizenship seperate from their Canadian citizenship. Those who did not speak adequate French would be forbidden from petitioning the National Assembly for help or running for public office. In the aftermath NHL Montreal Canadiens captain Saku Koivu came under fire for his language skills.
A few months ago it became public knowledge that Pearson airport had installed a foot washing station in one of the bathrooms on behalf of the Muslim community. A local radio station had multiple callers state they were against this accommodation because it would be vandalized. Does any city in the world take into consideration likelihood of vandalism when requiring or approving building permits for bathrooms?
In other years these incidents would have been seen as isolated events, but coming on the heels of each other I think we need to pay a bit more attention.
Both sets of events serve to separate "us" from "them". Many of them bring out sentiments that immigrants are demanding that the Canadian way of life be altered to make it more like the country they fled from. Everyone should adopt to the 'Canadian' (meaning Christian) way of life or go 'home'. This argument is made in the name of preserving the values Canada was built on. But what are those values and what happens when we stand up for them?
Earlier this year the Quebec town of Herouxville made headlines when they passed a code of conduct for immigrants. Making the headlines were their outlawing practises already protected by Canadian law such as public stoning and equality of women. The result was the Bouchard-Taylor commission designed to address the issue of reasonable accommodation for immigrants and religious minorities.
Representatives from the community testified to the commission. Their rules include:
*Christmas is celebrated in public, in schools, institutions private or public. Christmas is secular and no area will be reserved for prayer or religious manifestations. No one is allowed to be offended by these customs.
*In all public health care institutions, patients eat the traditional food that is served to them.
*In schools, no space is provided for prayer or other forms of religious manifestations.
*In business; no collective labour agreement should authorize employers to assure their employees of special space(s) reserved for praying, or leaves of absence for religious motives.
Working schedules stretch over a daily period of 24 hours; having to work after sundown is frequent.
*No food products may receive any certification after it passes the mandatory government inspection.
*Prisoners relinquish all of their religious liberties. There is to be no accommodation for religious dietary requirements and no areas allocated for prayer.
*"Generally, we believe that different Gods, out of respect for their own creatures and their nourishment, cannot impose nor proscribe certain foods."
*"Our recent history clearly demonstrates that it is possible to be accommodated by God in order to be able to subscribe to modern society. Fifty years ago, when employers asked us to work on Sunday, the Lord’s Day, the Catholic God permitted that we break our obligations to assure the welfare of our families. This enabled us to avoid asking our employers to build churches on our working premises. Recently, the National Assembly allowed the opening of retail stores on Sunday. This same God accommodated us once again, sparing Hell to the faithful. After many years of observance of God’s order to fast during Lent, we had to give up this religious practise to have sufficient energy to work and study hard. Then again, by the grace of God and his sense of accommodations, we were able to avoid the promise of roasting in Hell after death."
So we all need to adopt the "Canadian way of life" and that life is secular Christian weather we like it or not.
When France abandoned Quebec the British were left with a tough decision. They took possession of a territory with different language, laws and territory allocation. How would they assimilate these people to become loyal British citizens without having a rebellion? They decided to respect the people of Quebec and allow them to preserve their own identity. While it didn't help reach the goals of assimilation, it established the true Canadian value that everyone can contribute to society in their own unique way. The results will benefit society as a whole.
Over a century later across the ocean in Russia citizens were looking for their own Utopia. They decided that if everyone was treated exactly the same they could live together in perfect harmony. In the Soviet Union under communism the opposite happened. People lived in fear as neighbour would spy upon neighbour for any sign of sinking outside of the accepted norms. Such a crime could result in a trip to Siberia or death. The eventual rejection of communism solidifies that one way of thinking for everyone is not the best foundation for a prosperous society.
Those who trumpet suspending minority rights to protect 'Canadian' identity are causing the erosion of one of the most core Canadian values. Everyone has the ability to contribute. By allowing everyone to contribute to society as they see fit, Canada will continue to set an example of prosperity with true harmony from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds from around the world. Attempts to destroy this harmony will result undermining all that is truly Canadian.