Protesters don’t mince words over PQ policies
Activists and politicians assembled Friday afternoon at Premier Pauline Marois’ doorstep on the corners of McGill College and Sherbrooke Street to show their anger and disappointment at what they consider the rising state-sanctioned exclusion against Quebec’s religious, linguistic, and ethnic minorities.
Conceived by Canadians for Coexistence (CfC), a group advocating for full Canadian inclusion, only a handful of the planned 200-some individuals came out to brave the wind and the rain. Although the weather might have chilled bodies it certainly failed to dampen the fiery rhetoric.
“We’re a group that believes in diversity in inclusion and the PQ is against our beliefs. They’re a group that very clearly believes in exclusion and division,” said founding member Norma O’Donnell, highlighting in particular the rights of Quebec’s religious and anglophone minorities.
When asked on her thoughts as to why anglophone rights aren’t more visible, she said there were many reasons; from sympathetic francophones who remain quiet because of social pressures, to an inability to connect with students.
“It’s seems like students in Quebec are more concerned about their tuition than their rights and freedoms, which is extremely disappointing,” she said about the number of youth protesters, and referring to the recent Charter of Values which would prohibit ostentatious religious displays and clothing by government employees, and last year’s failed Bill 14, which would have strengthened the primacy of the French language.
“We’ve spoken to students, we’ve encouraged them to participate in these rallies. Students don’t seem to be interested … and that’s where we have to try and bring the two together.”
Though interviewed well before Monday’s elections, O’Donnell said that one way or another, whoever wins, her group’s ambitions were only just beginning.
“Canadians for Co-Existence, as well as several of our other groups, are very much going to be working alongside these politicians … because we don’t plan to accept the same-old, same-old. We plan to see that whichever party gets into power, that things will be very different. We’re not going to be the same old Anglo groups who sat by quietly and let this happen.”
Echoing O’Donnell’s sentiments was Montreal’s Reverend Darryl Gray, former Kansas state senator and head of English rights group, Alliance Quebec, and current pastor of the Imani Family and Full Gospel Church.
“The reality that there needs to be a stronger voice in the anglophone community is something that concerns me. I think there are those who acknowledge that the PQ government has failed the anglophone community, it has failed communities of faith, it has failed students, it has failed people in ethnic and cultural communities. I think that somebody needs to show up and stand up and speak up,” said Gray.“I’m not concerned about the Bills themselves. It’s about the mindset that would create such a thing.”
Gray, who says he has supported civil rights movements for decades, was careful to draw distinctions and not paint everyone with the same brush.
“There are many people in the PQ … that do not submit or believe in the policies and the behavior and the attitude of their leadership. I think that it’s important to say that. But, having said that, the leadership too often reflects and speaks on behalf of the body — and that is unfortunate.”
“I’m not here to represent the Liberals, or the Green Party, or the NDP. I’m here to represent the person who best speaks to the human condition. Mrs. Marois will have to understand that she’s going to have to stop running away from Montreal, that she’ll have to embrace Montreal for the diversity that it is. I’m here because I need to be here, I’m here because I want to be here.”
Additional speakers included, amongst others, Green Party leader Alex Tyrell and Muslim community activist, Salman Shabad Saidi, who organized Montreal’s first World Hijab Day back in February and has been, like Tyrell, a very vocal critic of the Charter.
“When they introduced the ban on religious symbols, I began to see what direction they [the PQ] were headed,” said Saidi of his motivations. “They were […] laying out the platform for the right demographic — and by right demographic, I mean white, purlaine, speaking the same language.”
Saidi calls the PQ tactics cheap attempts at raising division for political reasons, and mocked Marois’ vision of Quebec.
“We have our own ideas that are based on tolerance, intelligence, diversity, and productivity,” Saidi said, adding that his strong words were necessary to reflect the very real undercurrents in Quebec which are only now beginning to be voiced.
“They’ve unleashed a campaign of hate and intolerance against minorities, [ and these tactics] never embodied any true Quebec values and went against much of the tolerance that this province has been showing.”