Harper and Dion weigh in Quebec village's rules for newcomers

Hérouxville - l'étincelle

Juliet O'Neill, CanWest News Service; Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Stephane Dion both referred to secular Canadian values Friday when they weighed in on a rural Quebec village that has provoked controversy with rules for newcomers such as a ban on stoning women to death.
Dion said Canadian multiculturalism cuts both ways -- the majority must be open to religious and other minorities and minorities sometimes must be told "we live in a secular world."
Harper said that while diversity must be encouraged, sexual equality must be respected.
They commented at separate events on a debate -- which Dion said is healthy -- that was generated by the village of Herouxville, Que. posting rules for newcomers which, among other things, ban the stoning of women, burning women with acid, female circumcision and strongly discourage the wearing of veils.
"There are limits to what municipalities may do because we need to respect the Canadian charter of rights," Dion said during a meeting with the Ottawa Citizen editorial board. "But this is a healthy debate. We need to engage the people in a world where multiculturalism will not be only a reality for Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto."
Harper commented at a separate event, also suggesting that while diversity must be encouraged in Canada, the secular Canadian value of sexual equality must be respected.
"I'm not sure I want to intervene other than just to say that I think in Canada we have an enviable record we should build on of integrating newcomers into our society by encouraging and embracing cultural diversity, while at the same time insisting upon the equal treatment of all men and women in our society," the prime minister said at a news conference. "And I think that's something we should continue to work on."
Dion said that given Canada's economic dependence on immigrants, Canadians need to debate "reasonable accommodation" of religious and ethnic minorities in an open and friendly way.
"And it goes in different ways," he said. "Sometimes you speak to your majority to explain who is the minority. But sometimes you need to explain to some of your minorities that we are in a secular world where the village's realities have not the same scope as elsewhere."
Dion said he is familiar with the debate as a minister who helped Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador secure a constitutional amendment allowing for the establishment of secular school boards.
"We are in a country where the government itself has no religion," he said. "We have values. And one of our values is to protect the rights of each citizen to have religious freedom. It's very important."
The example he gave was that while the government, taking the lead from the Supreme Court, allows civil marriage for same-sex couples, no church is forced to celebrate such marriages.
He also noted that after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, former prime minister Jean Chretien gave a speech at a mosque with the message that "this is not a fight between civilizations but a fight between civilization and terrorism and we will do it all together."
"I think it was an important message for the minority who may have felt targeted, but for the majority as well to understand that Muslim Canadians are Canadians and friends and so on," he said.
Likewise, Dion said he spoke at a Mosque in Montreal after the worldwide controversy over the publication of cartoons in Denmark which made fun of the Islamic prophet Mohammed.
He said the audience was surprised to hear him say it must be awful to see the prophet used to justify killing and destruction. "They thought I would say it's awful to have violent protests for cartoons," he said.
Referring to anti-Semitic slurs against rival Liberal leadership candidate Bob Rae's wife, Arlene, during the December leadership convention, Dion said "you should never take for granted that the fight we had for, first tolerance, and then openness and acceptance and solidarity, is certain."
I would say Canada probably is one of the most tolerant countries in the world," he added. "But we have a lot of bigotry, racism and mistrust anyway."
"We should never forget that still in the '60s immigration laws of Canada were officially racial," he said. "I wouldn't say racist, but racial, taking race as a criterion to accept citizens.
"Tolerance and openness has been something we have learned, not something we have in our genes."

Laissez un commentaire

Aucun commentaire trouvé