Anglos don't seem to understand accommodation crisis

Hearings in English underscore differences between Montrealers and other Quebecers

Accommodements - la Commission BT à Montréal

The accommodation crisis - it's just one more thing about Quebec we anglos don't get.
That much became apparent on "anglo night" at the Bouchard-Taylor commission this week.
It was another of the commission's "citizen forums," only this one was held in English.

That didn't stop members of the anti-English Mouvement Montréal Français (you know, the people who feel threatened by somebody pressing nine for English) from showing up again, after their spokesperson had addressed the commission on two previous occasions.
The audience of 195 listened with typical anglo politeness to their harangues in French, and to anglo Péquiste John Saywell as he blamed anglophones for speaking English in public, while doing the same himself.
They also heard from a man who said he was Jewish who denounced Israel for its treatment of Arabs.
And there was a woman wearing a hijab who described herself as a Muslim feminist and called the Quebec council on the status of women "paternalistic and misogynist."
She was one of several feminists who criticized the council's proposal to give the right to gender equality priority over religious freedom.
But the prevailing mood was one of worry - and also puzzlement.
Almost everybody at the forum was a member of at least one kind of minority in Quebec. They feel vulnerable in the face of the hostility toward minorities on the part of some members of the white, French-speaking majority. They yearn for reconciliation among the communities.
Also, they were almost all residents of the Montreal area, and so are used to being in contact with people who sound and look different from them. For that matter, so are French-speaking Montrealers. The commission's Montreal consultations this week has confirmed on the accommodation question, Quebecers are divided not only between francophones and non-francophones, but also between francophones from the regions and those from the metropolis.
And almost everybody at the forum belonged to a linguistic community that is multiethnic and multicultural, with a long experience of accommodating non-Christian religious practices in schools and hospitals.
The mood at the forum could be expressed in the questions:
"Why can't we all just get along?" And, "accommodation problem? What problem?"
Perhaps answers could be found in one particular French-language daily this week. It was the Journal de Montréal that created the accommodation controversy last year, sensationalizing - and often distorting - incidents of friction between religious minorities and the majority.
Le Journal remains unabashed by criticism of the media's role in the controversy. "The Sikh weapon is in school to stay," said a headline on a story in the paper this week, inspired by the Bouchard-Taylor consultations. It was illustrated by a photograph of a young Sikh wearing a kirpan, shot from an angle that exaggerated the size of the symbolic dagger
The Sikh religion forbids the use of the kirpan as a weapon, and there is no recorded case in Canada of its being used for that purpose. Also, the school board mentioned in the story doesn't know whether the kirpan is being worn in its schools, since it isn't aware of any incidents involving one.
The commission heard about another problem in the schools this week, concerning schools in poor areas that don't give tests at the end of the month because pupils whose parents' welfare benefits have run out are too hungry to concentrate.
Some families can't afford to pay 50 cents for each of their children to eat lunches provided by a mobile kitchen every day, so the children take turns going hungry.
That's a real problem, unlike the imaginary ones of veiled voting that have been receiving so much more attention.
- source

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