Change your vocabulary.
Be kind and say "adjustments," "adaptations" or "harmonizations," not "accommodations."
Be precise and refer to "people of French-Canadian descent," not "old-stock Quebecers."
And avoid the racist term "visible minority" and the meaningless catch-all "cultural communities."
The Bouchard-Taylor report introduces a new lexicon to the debate over immigration, minorities and Quebec identity.
In the final draft obtained by The Gazette, co-chairmen Gérard Bouchard and Charles Taylor are categoric: It's out with worn-out terms and in with new ones.
The official version of the commission's report is to be made public Friday.
Their $5-million commission was struck more than a year ago to address the thorny issue of "reasonable accommodations" of religious minorities - Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, evangelical Christians.
But the scholars - Bouchard is a historian and sociologist, and Taylor is a philosopher - find the concept of "accommodations" to be narrow and legalistic, even condescending.
Why? Because it implies the majority is doing a favour by bending to the diversity around it.
Leave "accommodation" to describe cases that have gone through the courts and human rights tribunals, they say, such as the eruvs and sukkah of Orthodox Jews, or the kirpan of baptized Sikh men.
Adjustments, not accommodations: "Adjustments," "adaptations," "harmonizations" - now there are some softer, more neutral terms. In the report, they're everywhere.
"The main goal of adjustments is to protect minorities against flaws in the laws of the majority, and not the contrary. (The adjustments) guarantee that every person enjoys the same rights," the commissioners write.
"Sometimes different treatment is needed to ensure an equal right. It's not a question of a privilege. It's a reasonable adaptation."
In terms of religion, "every believer can ask for adjustments; wherever they come from, such requests are treated in the same way." That goes for wearing religious symbols, like the hijab, in public - and in government jobs, they say.
"The fact that people, through visible signs, display their religion in public, and in particular in the institutions of the state, in no way impedes the exercise of anyone else's rights," the commissioners write.
"Nothing prevents these people from participating fully as citizens while at the same time respecting the participation of other citizens."
Bouchard and Taylor acknowledge that the term "accommodations" can sound condescending, "an affirmation of superiority over the other" person.
"Harmonization practices," on the other hand, reflect "the conscience of the majority that is critical of itself. They're the fact of a majority that has learned to be wary of its limits and its faults and which, to forewarn its eventual victims, put into place a mechanism of protection."
French-Canadian, not old-stock: The professors also don't like the term "Québécois de souche" - roughly translated as "old-stock Quebecer."
"We reject the expression 'Québécois de souche' as a description of Quebecers of French-Canadian origin." This expression is loaded with negative connotations in two ways, they say: It makes people whose family history here is shorter feel less important, and it makes French Canadians themselves "seem a bit folkloric ... an image they want to shake off."
As well, "the term is ambiguous in the sense that the aboriginal peoples also qualify as being 'old-stock,' as do anglo Quebecers," they add.
"To avoid any hierarchical connotation, it's better to say Québécois of French-Canadian descent or origin," or more succinctly, "Québécois by descent," or even "francophones by descent."
But even the word "Québécois" is problematic, the commissioners acknowledge.
"The fact French-Canadian Quebecers have appropriated the term 'Québécois' for themselves has created an ambivalence that is a source of distancing, if not of exclusion (of non-French Canadians)," the professors say. "As a result, some ethnic minorities leave (or concede?) the term to 'old-stock' francophones and fall back on their primary identity - of being a minority living on the margins" of society.
In the same vein, another taboo term: "visible minority." The United Nations has stopped using that description of groups whose skin colour is not white, "because of its reference to biology," and so should Quebecers, the commissioners say.
The bottom line for the French-Canadian majority? Be inclusive or risk losing ground to the multicultural remainder of Canada.
"Going back or falling back on French-Canadian identity, combined with excluding other francophone Quebecers (of North African, Haitian, even European origin), could reactivate a collective entity that would become simply another ethnic group among others in Canada," Bouchard and Taylor warn.
Cultural communities? Try again: Under the Parti Québécois government of the late 1970s and early '80s, "cultural communities" became the catch-all phrase to describe immigrants and their descendants who weren't French Canadian.
Now, Liberal Premier Jean Charest's government should "give serious consideration to abandoning that category, along with the approach (to diversity) it encompasses," Bouchard and Taylor write.
Why? Because "cultural communities" is being assailed by minorities and the French-Canadian majority alike as an imprecise and even meaningless part of the Quebec lexicon.
Time to change our lingo
'Accommodation' 'de souche' and 'visible minority' have got to go, report says
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