What Did Loyola Really Decide?

My first serious engagement in public policy matters occurred in 1997 when I was asked to join the Groupe de travail sur la place de la religion à l’école publique du Québec. Our mandate was to reflect on the place that religious teaching should have in Quebec’s public schools. Quebec was already in the process of eliminating religious school boards, but that administrative measure left untouched the content of religious teaching in Quebec’s public schools. Parents of a certain age will remember that for a number of years, they were required to tick off a box when signing their kids up for school indicating whether they wanted them to receive Catholic religious teaching, Protestant religious teaching, or non-confessional moral education.

That situation was clearly unstable. First, now that schools in the public system were no longer Catholic or Protestant, it required of each school that it provide three different kinds of course, a logistical nightmare for resource-strapped public schools.… Continue reading

Kymlicka on interculturalism vs. multiculturalism

We’ve had some discussions on this blog about whether there are any real differences between so-called “interculturalism” policies and “multiculturalism,” correctly understood. Now Will Kymlicka weighs in with a very good paper on the topic:

Defending Diversity in an Era of Populism: Multiculturalism and Interculturalism Compared

One of the things that I’ve always admired about Will’s work is that, not only does he have an unparalleled mastery of both normative theory and empirical detail, but he also has very good political and rhetorical instincts. He is not interested in doing “ideal theory” in this area, but is concerned to develop normative theories that can directly guide the practice of nation-states, right here and now.

I was reminded of the importance of this the other day, in the department, chatting with a few colleagues about current debates in just war theory. One of them, who has made rather substantial contributions to this literature, said “well of course, the problem is that the mainstream position in the philosophical literature is so far removed from the actual practice of any nation-state ever, that nothing anyone says has any relevance to the real world.” At which point I said, “yeah, the environmental ethics literature is exactly the same,” and another colleague chimed in and said, “yeah, the global justice literature is exactly the same… actually come to think of it, the whole egalitarianism literature is the same.” Thinking about it, I realized that this list could be extended quite considerably — of areas where philosophers have simply written themselves out of any and all policy discussions, by abstracting away so many features of the real world that there is nothing left to prevent the adoption of extremist views.… Continue reading

The (messy) ethics of freedom of speech

A few days ago, I took part in a very interesting panel discussion on the issue of free speech. The panel was prompted by the tragic events that took place in Paris a couple of weeks ago. One of the most interesting aspects of the panel was that despite our disagreements, none of the participants actually thought that the brutal murders at Charlie Hebdo actually raise any particularly interesting issues to do with freedom of speech as it is usually understood. As far as I am able to tell, hardly anyone thinks that the cartoons that the satiric magazine has published over the years warrant censorship. Even commentators who believe that there are cases in which the state appropriately steps in to limit freedom of speech – cases in which speech promotes hatred toward an entire group, for example — acknowledged that Charlie Hebdo steered clear of the line separating ridicule directed at religion, religious symbols and religious beliefs on the one hand, and contempt or hatred directed at a group of people, on the other.… Continue reading

Are these really the Border Services we want?

It’s curious that complaints about the egregious behaviour of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) get so little traction. I wish there were a sophisticated, multi-faceted, complex explanation for this, but having watched the press on this for almost a decade, I think the explanation is pathetically straightforward: the CBSA deals mostly with foreigners. Sure, the Agency does a few bad things, a few human rights abuses and arbitrary exercises of power, but the broadly defined ‘we’ group is essentially willing to ignore this – or at least put up with this – in exchange for the sense of security that an armed border guard gives us.

Today, in my regular pursuit of near futile causes, I’d like to highlight just two things, to serve as a reminder that CBSA practices are quite far from the norm of what ‘we’ typically will tolerate from armed state officials and jailers in Canada.… Continue reading

Identité: l’obligation de résultat du PLQ

Le gouvernement du Parti libéral a sagement décidé de ne pas déposer en catastrophe un projet de loi sur la laïcité ou la neutralité religieuse de l’État avant la fin de la dernière session parlementaire. La précipitation n’est pas de mise lorsqu’il est question d’enjeux aussi profonds et délicats. Cela étant dit, le gouvernement libéral a maintenant une obligation de résultat dans ce dossier.

Le Parti québécois est entièrement responsable du fiasco qu’a été son projet de Charte de la laïcité. Les problèmes et les risques inhérents à la démarche du PQ ont été identifiés dès que le projet de Charte a été coulé dans les médias. Il faut néanmoins admettre que l’attitude du gouvernement Charest eu égard aux questions identitaires a pavé la voie à l’approche populiste du PQ. On se rappellera que le PLQ a rapidement fait comprendre qu’il ne donnerait pas véritablement suite aux recommandations du Rapport Bouchard-Taylor et qu’il ne voulait pas approcher les questions liées à l’identité et à la place de la religion dans l’espace public avec une perche.… Continue reading

BC has a second look at TWU law school

Today the Law Society of British Columbia held a special general meeting to reconsider its approval of Trinity Western University’s proposed Law School. It was a fascinating thing to witness.

Trinity Western University, as its President explained to the meeting, is the largest faith based university in Canada, and a community of evangelical Christian learners. The controversy surrounding it arises from the community covenant that it requires all staff, faculty and students to sign. Among (many) other things, the covenant requires that signatories abstain from ‘sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman’ and attaches consequences to the failing to live by the covenant’s terms. The covenant is perceived as aiming primarily at lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual, intersex and queer people. Many of those voting ‘yes’ today wore rainbows.

The central question for the Law Society is whether to approve a Law School that embraces, indeed requires, this discrimination.… Continue reading

The Unholy Alliance Between Conservatives and Progressives

Daniel and I have been arguing for several years that one of the main reasons why the reaction against a liberal and pluralist political model of secularism is strong in Quebec is that an unlikely coalition between some progressives, including some feminists, and conservative or culturalist nationalists took shape in the course of our ongoing debate on religious accommodation (see here, p. 4). With regard to the controversies about the status of religion in the public sphere, Quebec appears to be closer to many Western European countries than to ROC. The French social scientist Olivier Roy just published a very powerful piece in the NYT showing how the European far right has been pushing for an “aggressive” form of secularism in order to defend against an alleged Islamic threat. It still pays lip service to the notion of a Christian Europe, but it now arguably uses the language of liberal secularism more than the language of culture and tradition.… Continue reading

Les mythes de PKP

Par Jocelyn Maclure et Daniel Weinstock

Ainsi, Pierre-Karl Péladeau estime que le fleurdelisé devrait être mis en berne tous les 17 avril pour commémorer la date funeste à laquelle la Loi constitutionnelle de 1982 fut mise en vigueur. Selon celui qui vient d’être élu député de Saint-Jérôme et candidat potentiel à la chefferie du Parti Québécois, c’est ce jour que s’installa au Canada un « gouvernement des juges », qui fut particulièrement fatidique pour les deux grands acquis de la Révolution tranquille: l’affirmation du fait français et la laïcité.

La lettre de M. Péladeau touche à des questions qui sont sans aucun doute très importantes. Il y est question de l’équilibre entre les différents pouvoirs dans une démocratie libérale, et du partage des compétences entre partenaires dans une fédération. Malheureusement, le propos ne se hisse pas au-delà de la caricature.

Commençons par l’idée que la Constitution de 1982 a instauré un gouvernement des juges.… Continue reading

Le multiculturalisme, un despotisme? Réplique à Mathieu Bock-Côté

Il est pratiquement impossible de discuter sérieusement avec quelqu’un qui ne respecte pas des critères comme la véracité ou la correspondance avec les faits, la rigueur argumentative et la cohérence logique. Le respect de ces standards épistémiques est essentiel à toute discussion rationnelle ou à une véritable dialectique entre des positions opposées. Je ne refuse pas les débats publics avec des intellectuels qui plongent selon moi trop souvent la main dans le sac de la sophistique, de la démagogie et de la polémique car je doute beaucoup que la politique de la chaise vide soit efficace. Dans mes interventions écrites, toutefois, je préfère de loin critiquer la meilleure version de la position adverse. Comment la pensée pourrait-elle progresser autrement ? Quel intérêt y a-t-il à réfuter une position faible ou une caricature?

La faiblesse d’une telle posture, toutefois, est qu’il s’agit d’une autre façon de pratiquer une politique de la chaise vide.… Continue reading