Despite the pouring rain, defiant protesters of the proposed Quebec Charter of Values rallied at Place du Canada this past Sunday.
Several members of Equality Quebec, an organization against all forms of prejudice,discrimination, and intolerance took turns expressing their frustrations towards the charter. Each member wore a “Rights are non-negotiable” pin, as others held banners that read,“Canadians for coexistence.”
Equality Quebec wrote in their press release that the proposed Charter is a form of oppression against the freedom of expression of religious belief, and a violation of the human rights of Quebecers.
“I have just one question for Pauline Marois,” said one of the speakers at the protest. “Did the French invaders adopt the traditions of the autochtone?”
Salman Shabad Saini, the president of Equality Quebec and a recent convert to Islam, explained that sweeping changes in the legal system are not needed to have secularity. “We wanted to voice our opinion publically as a unified body, to show that we’re also Quebecers. We’re also religious people, and we don’t have a lack of respect for secularism.”
Premier Pauline Marois has been noted for defending her charter by insisting that multiculturalism is a cause for animosity and inequality, according to one Globe and Mail article. Shaini says that the charter is an ill-fitted attempt to remove judgmentalism from our society.
“All kinds of people judge,” said Shaini. “Attacking religion will not solve this problem at all.”
Shaheen Ashraf, who proudly wore her hijab throughout the protest, said that an individual’s state of mind has nothing to do with their dress.
“I consider myself a feminist,” she said. “I want gender equality, I want women to do well in life. I want women to be able to choose what they wear, what they eat, where they go.”
Ashraf, originally from Pakistan, explained that her choice of religious clothing has no influence on her state of mind.
“My father encouraged me to go out and do sports, to get educated.” “My father was a very modern man, very religious,” she added.
Although the weather conditions were problematic, Saini said the the lack of determination could be caused by something more.
“We’ve had about 4 or 5 protests now, and I think that people don’t really think that Bill 60 is going to pass now, so their motivation to protest is kind of going down.”
Shaini went on to say that it has yet to be proven whether secularism is under attack by religious expression.
“Secularism can exist, and people can still follow their religion, as long as they’re following secular laws. That’s a key point to remember.”