The eggnog is on sale and it’s no longer socially acceptable to lounge around in your pyjamas all day. If you’re not back at work, you will be soon. Before we know it, memories of the winter holidays will melt away like snowflakes once they hit the windshield.
The economy, politics and religion: That’s not the beginning of a bad joke or a shortlist of what not to talk about, but rather precisely what matters to most Canadians as we start this new year.
The good news is that in general, things are going well.
Last year saw the MeToo movement take off in North America, and gains for female empowerment overall. I look forward to our society continuing to forge ahead when it comes to protecting the rights of all women.
Our rights should not be contingent upon what articles of clothing we choose to wear, however. As a society, we are better than that.
Yet, as I look ahead to what’s likely in store this winter, a shiver goes down my spine. It has less to do with the cold weather and more with the axe hovering in the political air, so to speak. I worry about what will happen if and when Premier François Legault and the Coalition Avenir Québec introduce their promised policies that would infringe on Quebecers’ religious freedoms.
Religious minorities eagerly await the specifics of Legault’s promised ban on the wearing of religious symbols by certain public officials deemed to be in positions of authority. Teachers who wear the kippah, turban or hijab are bracing for potential layoffs. While it’s hard to speculate on exactly what the official ban on religious symbols will look like, I know many people who are already weighing out their legal options and are fraught with anxiety.
Imagine not knowing whether your future was safe. Imagine working hard to further your education, studying for years to perfect your art and in some cases, spending your entire career in your chosen field. Imagine then that it might all be taken away from you because of a piece of cloth on your head. Imagine how that might make you feel. These are the thoughts going through the minds of many Quebecers. While my journalism profession would not be targeted by the proposed ban on religious symbols, as a mother, my heart aches at the thought that anything might hinder my daughter’s professional options in the future should she choose to wear the hijab.
Along with the pending ban on religious symbols, in only a few more weeks it will be the second anniversary of the Quebec City shooting. While there has been a definite increase in the amount of interfaith dialogue in our province in the last two years, there has also been an increase in the number of hate crimes against Muslims and Jews across the country. As a Quebec-born Canadian Muslim woman, this time of year now brings me some unease and concern, but particularly this year, as we are expecting mosque shooter Alexandre Bissonnette to be sentenced on Feb. 8.