Before we stop talking about the Charter of Values entirely

A piece I wrote for Global Brief magazine just appeared (not a moment too soon, since it was written before the Quebec election call). It’s aimed primarily at a non-Canadian audience, with the goal of explaining the current dust-up over multiculturalism/secularism:

Misunderstanding Canadian Multiculturalism

There’s not all that much new in it, mainly it brings together in one place arguments that have been made by Daniel, Jocelyn and others, within a broadly “Kymlickian” framework for thinking about Canadian multiculturalism.

There is however one observation that I consider moderately original (or that I have not seen enough discussion of). The fact that religious accommodation is so much more controversial in Quebec than it is in the rest of Canada is, in my view, related to the extremely rapid secularization process that Quebec underwent beginning in the ’60s, which was experienced by many as a cultural trauma:

No visitor to Canada can fail to be impressed by, on the one hand, the vibrancy and enthusiasm of religious communities in immigrant groups – particularly Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus – and on the other hand, the obvious signs of decline in the traditional Christian churches. This is even more noticeable in Quebec, where evangelical Protestantism (the only form of Christianity that is not in long-term decline in North America) is practically non-existent. The province of Quebec is today littered with once-beautiful but now decrepit churches and convents, being sold off to the highest bidder because no one can pay for their upkeep. The temptation to privilege Christianity, on the grounds that it is not religion but rather ‘patrimoine,’ is an expression of this sense of cultural loss. In such an environment, it is not surprising to find a certain measure of resentment directed against the enthusiastic religiosity of new immigrants.

For those who have no idea what I’m talking about when I refer to cultural “trauma,” I invite you to watch a particular scene from Les invasions barbares — you can find it if you skip forward to 53:50-56:00 — which I always thought expressed that sense of loss in a particularly brutal way.


Sorry, that’s the best version I could find!

Comments are closed.