The recent ousting of the Parti Quebecois (PQ) from power in the Canadian province of Quebec was more a rejection of the party’s secularist agenda than its separatist policies, according to many observers.
In the elections, the PQ retained just 30 seats while the Liberal Party gained 70 in the National Assembly, seriously setting back the party’s drive to have the province separate from the rest of Canada. But it was the PQs Charter of Values, known as the Secular Charter, which sought to prohibit the display and wearing of religious symbols in public that drew the most opposition, especially because it could affect the jobs of 600,000.
The Tablet (May 3), a British Catholic magazine, interviews Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor on this development and what it says about secularism in Quebec. Taylor says that voters “realized that the nurse looking after their grandmother would be the person who would lose their job [under the Secular Charter] and be out on the street because she also wore a hijab. And they didn’t like it. The defeat discredits the Charter.”
Taylor adds that the PQ didn’t realize that many people in Quebec seek at least a nominal connection to religion. In the rural areas of the province, the parish system remains strong, providing people with a social structure and sense of the community. The baby boomer hostility to religion (Catholicism in particular) that has been prevalent in urban areas such as Montreal is giving way to a more relaxed response among younger generations as the Catholic Church has lost much of its political power.
“The boomers are still raging mad, but their grandchildren just don’t understand it.” While the Liberal party may not entirely discard the Secular Charter, Taylor does not see a wholesale junking of Quebec’s religious past. “Religion remains powerful in memory; but also as a reserve fund of spiritual force or consolation.”
(The Tablet, http://www.thetablet.co.uk/)