I’m thinking about two key matters, nowadays: the need for environmental conservation, first, and second, Quebec’s proposed “Charter of Values” that has caused so much controversy.
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The so-called “Harper Government” correctly understands how fragile the Canadian economy is right now, and basically sees the selling of oil as the best way to keep the country afloat financially–but the cost is the permanent damage to our entire planet that is occurring as temperatures get warmer. With all the ice melting forever up north, major, irreversible, observable changes are occurring–and seeing this, the response of the federal government has been to lay off many scientists while muzzling others, eagerly looking forward to the day when the northwest passage can become a commercial shipping lane. Incidentally, I find this more than a little naive given the large Russian Bear that shares the Arctic, and the various other nations that have competing interests there. Profits will not suddenly come streaming into Canada just because the northwest passage opens up; on the contrary, Canada will be strategically weaker.
Second, at a time when the number two threat to the planet is Islamic fanaticism, our government in Ottawa has decided to challenge Quebec’s proposed “Charter of Values” all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. In brief, Quebec’s charter seeks to suppress the wearing of burkas, niqabs, and the like by government workers. The law seeks to throw in Jewish kippas and Sikh daggers for good measure. I am against the ceremonial wearing of daggers; they have no place in today’s world, and as much as I love Sikhs, I want those daggers to have no place in courtrooms, schools or other public places. That said, I have known hundreds of Sikhs ever since I was a boy, and I’ve never known a Sikh who actually carried one on a day-to-day basis–which goes to show that the religion is by no means monolithic at all on this matter. In the meantime, while Quebec’s law specifically says that it is permissible to wear a Star of David necklace pendant if it is small, the proposed law does seem a little unfair to devout Jewish people–but again, most Jewish people do not see a need to wear the kippa, and if this is the price that must be paid to keep out the Islamic headscarves, then so be it. My commitment is to the values of secularism and humanism.
Cabinet Minister Jason Kenney mused the other day that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms specifically allows for “freedom of religion,” not “freedom from religion.” Well, if that’s the case, then the Canadian Charter should be changed to allow for freedom of conscience in a pluralistic, secular society that values the rule of law and not the rules of stone age religions with their unfortunate tendencies to exclusivism, misogyny, and anachronistic grumpiness regarding relationships and human sexuality. It is far too easy for the federal parties to pander to the votes of the religious–still too numerous, sadly, due to the lack of critical thinking skills being taught in schools–by opposing Quebec’s well-thought-out response to difficult and trying times.
I never thought I’d say this when the Liberals were in power in Ottawa, but I very much miss having a Prime Minister from Quebec. It is with great sincerity, then, that I say–for the sakes of all in English Canada: Vive le Québec en Canada. We need less Stephen Harper and more Pauline Marois in Ottawa.