Thursday, 11 May 2017

Street without a Name by Kapka Kassabova; Book Note

Street without a Name by Kapka Kassabova: Book Note

In 1990 I visited what was then still the Soviet Union, as part of an exchange of American with Soviet human rights scholars (I am not American, but the delegation needed a woman, which I am). While there a Russian member of Amnesty International invited us to her apartment. This was a very big deal, as only a short time previously this woman would have been arrested for being in AI, let alone inviting us to her apartment. 

The apartment was in a very ugly block of high-rises in a suburb of Moscow. I noticed long, uncut grass around the blocks, providing a nice refuge for rats. Also there were no street names.  Our hostess explained that the authorities thought if there were street names, the CIA would be able to use them for its nefarious purposes. But you could find where you were going as the authorities had recently decided to paint different-colored decorations on the different blocks, so you could tell your visitors, for example, to visit the blue block.

I thought of this when I recently (April 2017) read Kapka Kassabova’s Street without a Name: Childhood and Other Misadventures in Bulgaria (Skyhorse Publishing, New York, 2009). Kassabova was born in 1973 and lived in Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia, until 1990, when her parents emigrated with her and her sister to New Zealand. The first half of the book recounts her childhood, and the second half her visits back to Bulgaria in the early 2000s. 

Kapka Kassabova
Like my Soviet host, Kassabova lived on a street without a name. Her parents, a professional couple, were interested in literature, arts, politics—all the usual “bourgeois” preoccupations of European intelligentsia—but knew better than to speak their minds about the Bulgarian dictatorship. In extremely cramped quarters, with neighbours who could hear everything and who might very well be spies, it was best to keep one’s own counsel. The price for minimal material security was political silence.

The poverty is pervasive and all-consuming. Kassabova’s father spends six months at a university in the Netherlands on an exchange program. Later, some Dutch colleagues come to visit. They comment that the the shops display many goods, and the Kassabova family does not explain that these are for display only: to get any of those goods requires connections and long wait times. At one point they all visit a rural village, and the Dutch colleagues suggest having a barbeque. Knowing that meat is very expensive for Bulgarians, they suggest that Kassabova’s parents bring potatoes. There is a mad scramble for the potatoes, eventually supplied by the hosts at the cottage where they are staying, as the family doesn’t want to admit to the Dutch people that even potatoes are scarce. The Dutch visitors, meanwhile, have given up on their idea of camping in Bulgaria after they discover how filthy the campground toilets are.

Kassabova glosses over some significant incidents in her life. In 1986 she was hospitalized for some time after contracting a “mysterious” immunodeficiency disease. This was, not coincidentally, just after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine. When she returned home in the early 2000s, she learned than several people she’d known as a child, including fellow schoolchildren, had died of cancer.

Kassabova also discusses a little-noticed incident in Bulgaria’s history, shortly before the fall of communism in 1989. This was the de facto expulsion of about 300,000 ethnic Turks from Bulgaria in the 1980s. As Kassabova says (p. 114) “The ethnic Turks were the tobacco-growers, the agricultural workers, the humble workforce that buzzed away in the background, propping up the diseased body of the State.” In principle, there was no need to go into exile: the government was demanding that all ethnic Turks change their names to Bulgarian ones: you couldn’t register your baby at birth, for example, if you hadn’t changed your name. But those who didn’t want to do so fled to Turkey. This expulsion was a precursor of the ethnic wars in former-Yugoslavia, which started only a few years later.

On one of her trips home Kassabova meets a woman on a train who tells her that she was one of the 1,643 infant and child prisoners in Bulgaria’s communist prison camps. According to her account (pp. 315-17) when her mother was being sent to the camp a guard grabbed her baby and dumped her into a pail of dirty water, since children would not be able to survive in the camps. Another guard fished her out and gave her back to her mother. This woman was trying to obtain compensation, so far unsuccessfully. She described the camp to Kassabova as equivalent to Nazi concentration camps for Jews, which I have no difficulty believing, although Communist camps were not overtly exterminationist. But then she told Kassabova that this was only for comparative purposes, as the Jews hadn’t really been exterminated and the Holocaust was a Zionist conspiracy. It’s a shame she knew so little about Bulgaria’s own history, as it was one of the few countries in Europe that refused to deport Jews during WWII.

I didn’t know anything about Bulgaria before I read this book, and I am terrible at geography, so I sat with an old hard-copy atlas beside me (National Geographic 1975!) while I read this memoir. Bulgaria is in South-east Europe, very close to Turkey: it has an extremely long history and in earlier times profited from the confluence of civilizations, Muslims mixing with Sephardic Jews and Armenians as well as with ethnic Bulgarians and Gypsies (as Kassabova refers to them).  Now it’s Bulgarians and Gypsies, the latter far worse off than the former. It’s a shame that in this otherwise engrossing and intelligent book, Kassabova seems rather insensitive to the plight of Bulgarian Roma.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Human Rights or Global Capitalism by Manfred Nowak: Book Note

Human Rights or Global Capitalism: The Limits of Privatization, by Manfred Nowak: Book Review (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017).

\Note: I am posting this review with the permission of Bert Lockwood, editor of Human Rights Quarterly, in which this review will be published.)

Shortly before I read Manfred Nowak’s important new book on privatization, I came across an article in the business section of Toronto’s Globe and Mail discussing a promising new investment opportunity. The author alerted his readers to the anticipated increase in the number of for-profit prisons in the US as a result of President Trump’s announced policies to get tough on crime and immigration, and suggested that readers could invest in the companies running those prisons. Manfred Nowak has collected much evidence that privatization of essential social services undermines all human rights, civil and political as well as economic and social.

Nowak’s principal argument is that international human rights law cannot be neutral regarding whether services essential to the fulfillment of human rights may be privatized. Such a position, he argues, abnegates responsibility to assess the actual consequences of privatization. International law requires progressive implementation of economic, social and cultural rights to the maximum of a country’s available resources. Thus, Nowak argues, it also prohibits introduction of “deliberate retrogressive measures.” (p. 42). He also argues that the requirement of progressive implementation applies to civil and political rights as well as to economic, social and cultural, although it is unclear whether this is the consensus among international human rights lawyers. Thus, Nowak argues, a thorough human rights impact assessment is required before any privatization program is undertaken, and private providers must be held accountable to the same high human rights standards as States.

In assessing the consequences of privatization, Nowak suggests as a baseline measure the status quo at the time each State ratified the various relevant legal instruments, particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. This appears to be a good principle, but it does assume that what States reported to be the provision of services and protection of human rights at the time of ratification actually was the case.

Manfred Nowak
In chapters 3-6, Nowak provides much evidence that privatization of education, health, social services and water has resulted in poorer services overall. But he does not compare the results of these policies with the reality on the ground before they were implemented. He assumes that all privatization –especially that connected with the Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) instituted by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank —leaves people worse off. This is not necessarily the case. It may appear, for example, that resort to private schools in sub-Saharan Africa is a regressive measure, compared to earlier guarantees of free government-provided primary schooling. But the reality in many government-supported public schools, both before and after SAPs, was that classrooms were overcrowded, supplies non-existent, and many teachers unqualified or underpaid, if indeed not paid at all. In one study of public schools (described in the Economist, January 28, 2017) in seven African countries, children received less than two and a half hours of teaching per day, although there was no evidence that private schools were any better.

Like the educational systems, so also government-provided health services may have been more fictitious than real. Hospitals were often undersupplied; patients and their families had to buy their own bandages, drugs, and food; and they routinely had to bribe doctors in order to obtain treatment. It is, indeed, appalling that SAPs required governments to reduce spending on already inadequate health and education services, but we should not be misled into assuming that these services were either universally available or accessible to all on an equal basis. Nor were they ever free: they were supposed to be tax-supported, but countries with very low tax bases, either because of administrative inefficiencies, tax-payer resistance, corruption, or a combination of all three, routinely do not provide these services.

On the other hand, according to Morton Jerven in his Africa: Why Economists get it Wrong (Zed Press, 2015) statistical data suggesting improvements in economic performance in sub-Saharan Africa in the 1980s and 90s after SAPs were introduced may also be an artifact of mis-reporting rather than a reflection of the reality on the ground. SAP-induced cutbacks applied to statistical offices as well as to other state institutions, reducing their capacities for accurate reporting compared to late colonial and early- post-colonial times. Thus, the economic growth that various international institutions claim occurred after SAPs were imposed may be more an artifice of guesswork and estimates than of actual data. If this is so, then supposedly positive effects of privatization on economic growth may be more mythical than real, as may be privatization’s supposedly positive effects on States’ capacities to fulfill economic human rights. 

While Nowak’s comments on the detrimental effects of SAPs may be sound, he exaggerates the detrimental consequences of globalization. He maintains in his introduction that “globalization driven by neoliberal market forces” has resulted in “growing inequality, poverty, and global economic, food, financial, social, and ecological crises.” (p. 1) The type of inequality—whether within states or between states, among individuals only within one state or among individuals world-wide, depends heavily on public policies. Moreover, there is absolutely no evidence that poverty as a whole has increased: rather, there is substantial evidence that the current era of globalization coincides with decreased poverty. A 2017 World Bank study estimated that from 1993 to 2013, the number of the world’s poor fell by about 1 billion, from one-third to one-tenth of the world’s population. According to Branko Milanovic in his book, Global Inequality, (Harvard, 2016), the “big winners” in this reduction of poverty were the new Asian middle class, while the big losers were the Western working class. The biggest winners of all were the global plutocrats, or multi-billionaires.

This extreme inequality does indeed point to the danger to human rights of unregulated profit-seeking global capitalism. But it does not mean that globalization has caused increased poverty, as Nowak himself later concedes, saying “I am fully aware that neoliberal economic policies in times of globalization have led to rapid economic growth, which…has enabled millions of human beings to lift themselves out of poverty…” (p. 3). This shows the misleading nature of the book’s title, Human Rights or Global Capitalism. There is no known economic system other than market economies that coincides with the institution of rights-protective societies. Capitalism appears to be a necessary, although hardly sufficient, condition for human rights. In this respect, Nowak’s reference to property rights as “bourgeois” is also misleading. Although he is correct that the history of the right to own property is rooted in the struggle of the bourgeoisie against the monarchs and nobles of early modern Europe, that right is now essential to peasants, indigenous peoples, urban slum dwellers, and women worldwide, precisely to protect themselves against global capitalism and expropriation of the resources that they own and use.[6]

The book’s sub-title, The Limits of Privatization, clarifies this. The question is not whether capitalist market economies spread worldwide; it is if and how governments regulate them, and whether governments are willing to turn over the fulfilment of economic human rights to private, profit-making enterprises. When Nowak addresses actual privatization policies, he is on much solider ground that when he condemns globalization outright. Addressing education, for example, he shows that the introduction of vouchers that parents can use to send children to any school they wish, either public or private, has actually resulted in increased inequality of educational opportunity, an impermissible regressive measure. This makes for sad reading, considering the recent appointment of Betsy DeVos, an advocate of school vouchers, as Secretary of Education in the US. Regarding the right to health, Nowak again provides evidence from selected cases that privatization is often regressive. On the other hand, he does not consider the problems of entirely tax-funded health systems that experience shortages of doctors, hospitals beds, and operating time in part because of government decisions to reduce access to save money, as in Canada. This is becoming a severe problem as the population ages.

In his chapter on the right to water, Nowak describes the well-known protests in the city of Cochabamba, Bolivia, against water privatization. But he does not assess whether as a result of the government’s decision to abrogate its treaty with the US water multinational, Bechtel, Bolivians now enjoy better access to clean water. Water is not a free good, nor, as Nowak contends, are “simple tools” (p. 99) such as wells always enough to access it. In some parts of the world, water-borne disease is rampant. I agree that governments are responsible to provide water and sanitation, and should supervise any private enterprises involved in that provision. But there may be times when municipal bureaucrats are incompetent or corrupt, and private providers are more efficient. As Nowak acknowledges, between 1990 and 2012 2.3 billion more people worldwide obtained access to clean water, in large part because of the “construction of water pipelines by private companies.” (p. 116). The trick is to provide efficient, knowledgeable, and incorruptible oversight by public officials of private companies, not to object to privatization per se. 

Concentrating so much on international law, Nowak does not consider the realities of budget and other types of constraints in even the most rights-protective Western countries in the 21st century. He notes favorably that current social policies encourage transfer of incomes from the young to the old, without considering demographic changes that have severely increased the burden on the young of providing pensions for an expanding older generation. Nowak avoids these questions by noting that his book is only about “the permissibility of privatization under international human rights law,” and is “not primarily concerned about the consequences of privatization.”(p. 2)  But if we are concerned with the fulfilment of human rights, then we should be concerned with privatization’s consequences and how they compare to the reality—not merely the legal myth—of state-supplied services in both poor and rich countries.

One of Nowak’s strongest chapters discusses privatization of personal security by the “global prison industrial complex” (p. 121), although this complex is mostly confined to the US and UK. It is outrageous that any government, anywhere, would entrust the administration of prisons to profit-making entitles. As Nowak states, “the very idea of delegating the custody of prisoners to for-profit companies and thereby treating prisoners as a commodity violates their human rights to personal liberty and dignity.” (p.173) Deprivation of personal liberty should only occur under the most drastic of circumstances, after a fair trial and other guarantees of the rule of law. Moreover, under international law prisons are supposed to engage in rehabilitative measures; instead, for-profit prisons cut costs as much as they can. At the same time, they encourage policies that incarcerate more and more people, since higher rates of incarceration mean higher profits.

In another very strong chapter, Nowak discusses privatized services that often undermine the most basic human right to personal security. He argues that some states, especially the US and UK, deliberately use privatized security forces to commit such acts as torture that violate international humanitarian and human rights law. Just as running prisons is a core function of the state, Nowak argues, so also “internal and external security belong to the core functions of the modern constitutional state,” (p. 159) and ought not in any circumstances to be contracted out to private for-profit firms.

 One final critical point. Nowak introduces his argument by contrasting the “Western” with the “socialist” perspectives on human rights. It is illogical to contrast a geographical region with a philosophical position. He should either contrast the “Western” with the “non-Western” or “Southern” position on human rights, or he should contrast liberalism with socialism. In fact, Nowak begins his section on the socialist position by referring to the works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, two people from Germany who spent much of their professional lives in England, surely a quintessential Western country. More than that, one of Nowak’s central arguments is that socialism is indeed a Western philosophical position. He provides very interesting information on how welfare states emerged in Western Europe, and he shows how two Westerners, the Canadian John Humphrey and the Frenchman René Cassin, were instrumental in including economic human rights in the Universal Declaration. His chapter on social security begins with a discussion of how Western countries introduced these “socialist” policies.

This criticism is not merely a matter of semantics. As long as the myth that civil and political human rights are “Western” and that Westerners are not concerned with “socialist” economic and social human rights persists, then civil and political human rights are an easy target for ideologues and repressive political leaders, as in China. At the same time, the myth does a disservice to non-Westerners who not only accept, but often risk their lives to protect, civil and political rights. Scholars of human rights should combat this myth, not support it by use of inaccurate terminology. Nowak’s discussions of welfare states clarifies that  the libertarian position opposed to collective social and state responsibility for economic and social human rights currently dominating the US is not the common “Western” one. To the contrary, the “Western” position on human rights has included economic and social rights for over 150 years. Western states have provided the relevant social services in large part because citizens have exercised their civil and political rights to force them to do so. Without civil and political rights, constitutions such as that of the Soviet Union, which Nowak cites as an example of protection of economic and social rights, are worse than a farce. They are a cynical attempt to cover up massive denials of the right to work or the right to equal access to health care and education, as opposed to superior education and health care for the privileged Party elite and their families.

Despite these critical comments, I recommend this book highly. Nowak has pulled together much information about the dangers that privatization poses to human rights, and made persuasive legal arguments for prohibition of retrogression and the imperative of human rights impact assessments before any privatization policy is instituted.  One can disagree with some of his summary comments and terminology, yet still learn much from this volume. 

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

City of Thorns by Ben Rawlence: Book Note

City Of Thorns by Ben Rawlence: Book Note

Last week (March 2017) I read Ben Rawlence’s City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World’s Largest Refugee Camp (published in 2016 by Random House Canada).  Rawlence is a journalist and former researcher for Human Rights Watch. In this book, he focuses on nine (pseudonymous) people who live in the Dabaad refugee camp in eastern Kenya, close to the Somali border. About a half-million people live in the camp, which is in reality a huge city. Most residents are ethnic Somalis from Somalia, but others are refugees from Sudan and Ethiopia. Some, indeed, are Kenyans who live in the camp and register illegally as refugees in order to have access to free food. 

This doesn’t seem like a camp full of refugees in the usual sense, since many who live there cross back and forth to Somalia, the country they ostensibly fled. Maryam travels from Mogadishu to Dabaad to marry Guled, who has fled the terrorist Al-Shabaad group that had forcibly recruited him. Her mother comes with her, but later returns to Mogadishu and persuades Maryam to return there as well. They would rather live in a house with adequate food, even at the risk of being bombed, than live in a tent in Dabaad, reliant on rations that are often cut. In any event terrorists, presumably al-Shabaad, start attacking the camp itself, so one way or another, they face the threat of bombs. Meantime international aid personnel live in walled compounds.

Ben Rawlence
The camp is also are rife with what we might call corruption, but in practice is normal business. While the World Food Program (WFP) distributes rations on a strictly equitable basis, food is bought and sold. Even starving people sometimes sell their rations so that they can acquire enough funds to make a phone call home. Food destined for the camp is sold en route, and food distributed in the camp leaves it for Somalia. Some people amass fortunes while others starve.  The Kenyan police who are supposed to maintain order can be bribed and bought. An honest Kenyan police supervisor is quickly dismissed, perhaps because the corruption reaches to the very top of the Kenyan political structure. Some WFP food even ends up in the hands of Al-Shabaad, the terrorist Islamist group whom the Somalis are ostensible fleeing.
Dabaad refugee camp

One reason for the corruption is that refugees are not permitted to work in the camp or outside it, as scarce jobs are reserved for Kenyans. Expatriate personnel are, however, permitted to offer refugees “incentive jobs” where they can work and learn skills at a tenth or less than other people are paid for the same job. There is fierce competition for these incentive jobs, as even the tiny amounts the refugees can earn put them at a distinct advantage over those who simply languish in tents, waiting for food handouts.

Meantime the camp is rife with all the problems that any other city faces, including racism. Muna, a young Somali woman, falls in love with Monday, an older Sudanese man. They marry, but they cannot live in a Somali area of the camp because the Somalis as horrified that Muna has married a black man. They retreat to the Sudanese area where they are guarded night and day by Monday’s compatriots. When Muna gives birth, she has to be transferred to a hospital outside the camp because Somali nurses in the camp hospital have threatened to kill her child as soon as it is born.

Other Somali women and girls in the camp are still subject to the control of their male kin. The foreign aid workers offer numerous lessons on gender balance and other liberal norms of the Western world, but women who accept these norms are often considered to be outcasts. They are still expected to marry: relatives arrange their marriages to men who may be in the camp but may still be in Somalia. Dabaad camp is, in effect, merely an extension of Somalia itself.

Sadly, just as I finished reading this book the media started publicizing another famine in Northern Kenya, Somalia, and South Sudan. As usual, the WFP and other organizations began to appeal for funds.  After reading City of Thorns, I wondered briefly what the point was of donating money. Would my donation actual reach the people who were starving, or would it merely enrich a businessman in a refugee camp? Worse, would it end up in the hands of Al-Shabaad or one of the unbelievably cruel and cynical warlords now wreaking havoc in South Sudan?  If so, my donation might be used to buy weapons and kill the many people I would like to feed. 

Books like Rawlence’s run the risk of creating isolationists, people who wash their hands of conflicts in faraway places. What is the point of trying to help if so many people profit from the funds that we donate? I decided to make my usual financial contribution nevertheless, hoping that some of it might help to feed a few people somewhere.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Malnutrition Confirmed in Venezuela

Malnutrition Confirmed in Venezuela

Recently my former research assistant on Venezuela, Antulio Rosales, forwarded me a report by Anabella Abadi in an English-language website called Caracas Chronicles. The report is called “Caritas Study finds Childhood Hunger Racing to Crisis Levels,” and it summarizes the finding of the Catholic organization, Caritas Venezuela, which surveyed children in several of the poorest regions of Venezuela. You can find Abadi’s article here.

The gist of this report is that in Venezuela, once the richest country in Latin America, childhood malnutrition in some of the poorest areas of the country has now reached levels of what is called GAM, global acute malnutrition. When ten per cent of kids are malnourished, a region is at the serious level; when fifteen per cent are malnourished, it’s at the critical level. In twenty-five of the poorest parishes that Caritas surveyed, GAM was at 8.9 per cent between October and December 2016. Many of these parishes are isolated, with poor access to public services and high rates of poverty.

I have been following Venezuela for several years, and have posted blogs on the situation there on several occasions. You can access them here:

I’ve also written an article in Human Rights Quarterly (volume 37, no.4, 2015, pp. 1024-45) on Venezuela, which you can access on-line or email me for a copy at And I’ve discussed Venezuela in my recent book, State Food Crimes (Cambridge University Press, 2016). 

At the time I sent my book to the press in October 2015, I had read one report about malnutrition and was worried about what might happen: now I know that it is quite widespread.

Nicolas Maduro
Conveniently, the government of Venezuela no longer releases statistics that could damage its international reputation. According to Abadi’s article, the last time the government released data on childhood malnutrition was in 2007, just at the time that food shortages started. UN data is out of date. And it’s even more worrisome that the Food and Agriculture Organization gave President Nicolás Maduro an award in 2013 for reducing malnutrition, when there was already plenty of evidence of food shortages. Maduro became President in 2013 after Hugo Chávez, the President whose policies started the food crisis, died. 

As Abadi’s article said, the problem is not the low price of oil (which is often reported as the cause of food shortages, at least on CBC radio). And it’s not because of weather events. It’s because of incompetence, corruption, and an evolving dictatorship. For over a decade now the government has controlled the price of food; these prices are so low that many food producers and distributors have gone out of business. The government has also expropriated productive ranches and farms. I personally know a Venezuelan refugee here in Canada whose family’s ranch was expropriated, and now nothing is produced on it at all.

Food is rationed with guards standing outside supermarkets; people have to show their ID to get in and can only shop on certain days of the week.  Sometimes they have to be willing to give biometric information as well. People line up for hours, sometimes for days, hoping to find food. There isn’t enough milk for babies. 

More and more people are moving to other countries to find food. There’s also a thriving smuggling industry where Venezuelans buy food at low prices in Venezuela itself, sell it across the border to Colombia where the price is raised, then other Venezuelans travel to Colombia to buy it back.

Corruption eats up enormous amounts of food, whose distribution is controlled by the military.  Exporters to Venezuela have to pay huge bribes; so do importers, truckers, buyers, local vendors, and everyone else in the supply chain. If you don’t pay the bribes, food is left to rot in plain sight of starving citizens. You can see a detailed article about this corruption here:

According to Abadi’s article, recently a high school student confronted President Maduro to complain that the lunch program at her school had been cancelled. In a show of supreme indifference, Maduro replied by asking her what she personally was doing to solve the food crisis, saying (according to Antulio’s translation) “You cannot just make a request, you have to mobilize, go to the streets so that your word is heard.”  Maduro’s comment is ironic, given that the government has become increasingly repressive, jailing and torturing political opponents.

One of the problems here is that the international community can do so little to help Venezuelans. There’s no international law that says a country’s rulers can’t mess up the economy if they want to. There’s no option of humanitarian intervention. Maduro and his clique don’t care at all about international human rights law. The best option to pressure them is through the Organization of American States and other Latin American organizations, but so far that hasn’t stopped or even modified the corruption around food distribution. 

Malnutrition in Venezuela is entirely avoidable. A brutal, callous, stupid and corrupt leader supported by equally awful advisors caused it and perpetuates it. I don’t know whether Maduro is personally making money from oil revenues and food rations, but a lot of other people are. At best, he is an ignorant thug.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Rightlessness in an Age of Rights: Book Note

Rightlessness in an Age of Rights: Hannah Arendt and the Contemporary Struggles of Migrants, by Ayten Gündoğlu: Book Note

(Note: I wrote this book review for Human Rights Quarterly: I am posting it with the permission of the editor, Bert Lockwood; the publication information is New York: Oxford University Press, 2015)

In The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt famously called for the “right to have rights.” Reflecting on her own status as a stateless refugee from Germany, Arendt broadened her analysis to include the problem of statelessness as a whole. Ayten Gündoğdu engages with the entirety of Arendt’s opus, especially with The Human Condition and On Revolution as well as with The Origins, to unpack the various meanings and implications of this call.

Gündoğdu starts with what Arendt called the “perplexity” of the contradiction between state sovereignty and the universal enjoyment of human rights. Then and now, rights are protected--or not--by sovereign states that normally extend their protection only to their citizens, and perhaps non-citizens legally in their territory. The naked human being, unmoored from the state-people-territory framework, has no rights.

Gündoğdu extends Arendt’s argument to cover all migrants, not only stateless people, focusing on their powerlessness and dehumanization. She grounds her analysis empirically in the dehumanization experienced by residents of camps for refugees and displaced people. She also refers to the appalling detention camps now dotting the world’s island geography, where potential refugee claimants live in endless limbo.

Hannah Arendt
Gündoğdu discusses the ways in which human beings actually manufacture, claim, and win human rights. She notes that Arendt criticized the “urge to approach social issues with a moralistic framework centered on compassion,” positioning those who faced injustice as “victims…erasing their singularity and denying them equal standing.”(p. 57) Gündoğdu analyzes the limits of compassion in the treatment of camp-dwellers, people without political agency who are mere objects to be administered. She is correct that compassion is not the best basis for solidarity. Camp dwellers cannot rely on compassion if they are to be treated as equal human beings enjoying liberty. Compassion and charity leave the human being at the mercy of others, mostly those of higher status who cannot help but look down upon those who are their administrative objects.

Nevertheless, the real problem here is not that residents of refugee camps must rely on the compassion of those who administer them. Such administrators are probably well aware of the problems of subjecting residents to charity, but they are limited in what they can do by financial constraints and the state system. The UNHRC, other agencies of the UN system such as UNICEF, and non-governmental organizations such as Médecins sans Frontières are dependent upon voluntary financial contributions from states and compassionate private citizens. These voluntary contributions rarely, if ever, reach the amount needed merely to ensure that residents are not riddled by disease or suffering from malnutrition.

Gündoğdu defends Arendt against charges of élitism made by other philosophers with whose work she engages. Arendt is criticized for denigrating manual and other kinds of labor, but Gündoğdu argues that she views both labor and work as crucial to human dignity. According to Gündoğdu, Arendt defined labor as day-to-day bodily maintenance and maintenance of one’s home and surroundings. This labor grounds the individual in the material world and provides her with a sense of routine, permanence, and community with others. By work, Arendt apparently meant creativity, the ability to make or build something new and worthwhile. Both labor and work are denied to residents of camps. Dependent for their every need on the compassion of others, they endure lives of complete boredom without social roles or responsibilities. This is a degraded form of “life,” without meaning or substance.

Gündoğdu argues that Arendt did not rely on what philosophers call foundational principles of human rights. Rather, Arendt used an approach that Gündoğdu calls “founding.” Rights, she argues along with Arendt, are founded in political action, including “inaugural speech acts that bring forth new rights,” such as the French and American revolutionary documents (p. 209). To show how founding still applies, Gündoğdu describes the political movement of sans-papiers (people without papers) in France in the 1990s. Deliberately referencing the urban sans-culottes of the 1789 Revolution, this late twentieth-century movement demanded the same rights as citizens of France, claiming “rights that they [were] not yet authorized to claim” (p. 189).

Gündoğdu discusses the 18th century foundational principle for human rights, what Ētienne Balibar calls “equaliberty” (p. 23). This conjoining of the principles of equality and liberty is not enough, however, to ensure the rights of twenty-first century migrants. Indeed, it is not enough to ensure the rights of anyone, including citizens of rights-protective democratic states. Even if citizens enjoy formal legal and political equality and the liberty to pursue their own interests, they may not be able to enjoy all their other human rights, especially their economic and social rights. Enjoyment of these rights requires a sense of community among all citizens and a state that engages in distributive and redistributive measures that ensure everyone’s access to a basic minimum of material security, as well as access to educational and cultural resources that permit all citizens to be efficacious members of their own political community.       

How to extend this sense of community to strangers is a difficult question, however. Such extension requires recognition of “others” as human beings, whatever their differences.  But such recognition does not mean that these others will be welcomed as full citizens into states that are otherwise democratic and rights-protective. Probably all Gündoğdu’s readers will agree with her principal concerns, that migrants should have human rights, that they should not have to rely on charity or compassion, and that they should be permitted to engage in political action and organization, whether within the camps to which they are confined or in the countries in which they enjoy no or precarious residency rights. These principles, however, confront limited material resources and limited integrational capacities, even in states that welcome (carefully-controlled numbers of ) refugees and immigrants. And they confront everywhere racist and nativist reactions against perceived foreigners. Sadly, the right to belong to humanity does not yet mean the right to citizenship.

While Gündoğdu’s reading of Arendt and other philosophers is profound and her arguments persuasive, her book ignores some legal and political realities. From the point of view of actual law and politics, her conflation of different types of people who no longer live in their homeland is confusing.

Of the 232 million people that the United Nations tells us are people living outside the countries of their birth, some are legal migrants in or naturalized citizens of their new countries: for example, about twenty per cent of Canada’s 36 million residents are foreign-born, among whom most are legal residents and a substantial number are citizens. Figures differentiating naturalized citizens, legal migrants, migrants without legal status, refugees, refugee claimants, and stateless people would have served Gündoğdu’s analysis well. There are only about 12 million stateless people, the paradigmatic group with which her analysis is concerned. While this is 12 million people too many, it is also a far cry from 232 million people. While many migrants are de facto stateless, as Gündoğlu observes (p.4), many others continue to enjoy the legal protections of their natal states as well as of the states to which they move. Not all migrants are seen as “undeserving intruders” (p. 123): this is particularly so in the current round of globalization in which many high-status, highly-educated and wealthy people move easily across borders. Moreover, the book’s title suggests that Gündoğdu confines herself to migrants, but her analysis of the camps applies as much to those containing technically non-migrant, internally displaced people as to camps where migrants or refugees live.

Arendt may have used the philosophical term, “perplexity” to describe the plight of the naked human being without the protection of a state, but to a political scientist there is nothing perplexing about the contradiction between state sovereignty and human rights. The states that drafted the International Bill of Human Rights were anxious to maintain their sovereignty: just as anxious, if not more so, are the new states formed from ex-colonies since the end of the Second World War. Thus, while the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims everyone’s right to seek asylum, no one has a right to asylum itself, as Gündoğdu notes: indeed, while everyone has the right to re-enter her own country, no one has the right to enter any other country. What commentators such as Gündoğdu call a crisis of statelessness (p. 35) is not a crisis for actual states, whose governors take for granted that they have no legal obligations to non-citizens who are not resident in their territories.

Nor will political scientists find Gündoğdu’s argument for basing human rights in human action—the “founding” of human rights—rather than in foundational philosophical principles particularly enlightening. That human rights are what human beings claim ought to be their rights is well known. Human rights are bound up in struggle, as Gündoğdu acknowledges.  Rights claims change, as do the rights that (some) states grant, as new social groups enter the rights discourse and new aspects of human dignity such as respect for sexual orientation and gender identity are made.

Despite these criticisms, this is a very interesting book well worth reading. While it will be of principal interest to political philosophers, especially those engaged with Arendt’s work, others will also benefit from Gündoğdu’s discussion of the entirety of Arendt’s thought and how it applies to migrants and camp-dwellers of all kinds. Gündoğdu is a brilliant analyst, whose thinking is informed throughout by great empathy and by the very compassion that she herself criticizes. 

Monday, 30 January 2017

Stop Appeasing Trump Now!

Stop Appeasing Trump Now!

All democrats everywhere, political leaders and ordinary citizens, must stop appeasing Donald Trump now.  They must condemn his racist policies as strongly as they can. They must stop pretending that he is a normal, democratically elected leader. They must stop being diplomatic.

When we think of appeasement, we think of Neville Chamberlain going to Munich in 1938 to sign an agreement with Adolf Hitler and returning to Britain, saying, “peace in our time.”

But the appeasement of Hitler started in 1933. Politicians and diplomats in the democratic Western world treated him like a normal political leader. They ignored his persecution of communists, socialists, trade unionists, liberals and Jews. Many people in Britain, the United States, and Canada even thought he had a point about communists and Jews.

It’s not sensible to make public policy decisions purely by analogy to past events. There’s also the old joke that the first person to invoke the name of Hitler in a political argument loses. But we can’t help thinking about Hitler now.

Since January 20 Trump has been decreeing arbitrary measures as if he has dictatorial powers.  At best, he is behaving like a mad king; at worst, he is what he seems to be, a racist and an Islamophobe.

People thought Hitler was mad too but that he could be controlled, and they were wrong. We can’t assume that Democrats will resume control of the Congress or Senate in 2018; we can’t assume Trump will be defeated in 2020; we can’t assume his successor in 2024 will be any more liberal than he is. We must join American democrats now to defeat Trump.

Premier Philippe Couillard of Quebec
Meantime here in Canada we see the effects of Islamophobic talk, as Premier Couillard of Quebec has pointed out. Words have meanings, words can hurt, and words can result in vicious actions such as the mass murder in a mosque on January 29 in Quebec City.

 The debate on “Quebec values” that the Parti Québecois unleashed in Quebec in 2013 legitimized prejudices against Muslims. In the guise of women’s rights and protection of a secular Quebec, the PQ suggested that Muslim citizens were less valuable than other citizens.  Even though the PQ was defeated in the election a year later, the damage was done. (see my article on the Quebec Values Debate posted on December 8, 2016).

When I think about Muslims today I think of my own family. My German grandparents escaped to Norway in 1938, from where they tried to enter the US. The American official in Oslo told them that my grandmother could enter as she was a Christian, but my grandfather could not as he was a Jew. Meantime one of my father’s Jewish cousins and her five-year-old daughter were denied entry into Canada: they died in the Holocaust.

I mention these personal stories because every Muslim and non-Muslim individual denied entrance to the US in the last few days has a personal story. So does every Muslim killed and wounded on January 29 in Quebec City. They all have names; they all have families; and many have suffered in ways that those of us who live in Canada will never experience. Instead of escaping from persecution, they now face more.

We must not appease those who would deny these Muslims their humanity. We must join with the Americans demonstrating in the streets and at airports. The US is a nation in danger of being taken over by fascists, if democrats world-wide appease the Trump dictatorship.

American pro-Muslim airport demonstration

Note:(January 30, 2017) this post has been accepted as an op-ed piece in the Hamilton (Canada) Spectator and should be appearing in the next few days.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

The Little Red Chairs by Edna O'Brien: Book Note

The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien: Book Note
Edna O’Brien has written many novels about Irish girls and young women, most of which I’ve read over the years. This novel is very different, being very political. The reference in the title is to the 11,541 red chairs--including 643 chairs for children--set up in Sarajevo in 2012 to commemorate the siege of Sarajevo by Serbian forces during the ex-Yugoslavia wars.  2012 was the 20th anniversary of the siege.

 In Part I, a foreigner called Vladimir Dragan arrives in an improbably innocent Irish village, setting himself up as a “healer” and mesmerizing people with his charm, knowledge and exoticism. Fidelma, a beautiful 40-year-old who has endured two miscarriages, falls in love with him and begs him to impregnate her, which he does. Vlad is later exposed as a Serbian war criminal by the younger brother of one of his victims, who happens to be working in a nearby hotel. Vlad is arrested, while Fidelma is kidnapped and raped with a crowbar by his erstwhile enemies, killing her “Serbian” child.

In Part II, Fidelma goes to London, where she lives a poverty-stricken life that puts her in touch with refugees, rape victims, illegal immigrants, and various other people living an underground life. Along the way there are several set pieces in which individuals tell each other their stories of war, migration, poverty, homelessness, and misogyny. At one point Fidelma lives with an African woman who migrated to London after her husband took a second wife, and whose neighbor is a lonely little girl who is not in school because she and her father are illegal immigrants. Another woman Fidelma meets has come to London to protect her daughter from female genital mutilation.

Eventually Fidelma travels to The Hague, where Vlad is now on trial. After realizing he will never apologize to her or acknowledge his crimes, she returns to Ireland.

The character of Vlad is based on Radovan Karadzic, a psychiatrist who from 1992 to 1996 was President of Republika Skrypska, a Serbian enclave in Bosnia. After 1996 he hid in plain sight for many years within Yugoslavia, posing as an “alternative healer.” It’s thought that Serbian authorities knew where he was but protected him. He was eventually arrested and sent to the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague. He was convicted on March 24, 2016 of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, and sentenced to 40 years in prison.
Vlad shows how psychologically complex mass murderers can be; he loves flowers and poetry and plays the gusle (a musical instrument that looks like a one-stringed violin). We know that many Nazis, including Nazi doctors, had similarly complex psyches, enjoying classical concerts played by Jewish prisoners after long days of mass murder. Edna O’Brien said in an interview that she found Karadzic’s “duality” as a mass murderer and a healer interesting: I just thought he was preying on vulnerable people with fake cures.

In discussion with fellow members of my book clubs, the question came up what the theme of The Little Red Chairs might have been. Perhaps it was evil. Vlad is evil’s embodiment, and Fidelma wonders if she was complicit in evil. She feels remorseful for having slept with Vlad, even though she did not know his true identity at the time. She does not tell ex-Yugoslavian refugees whom she meets in London about the rape and torture she herself endured, when they criticize her for her relationship with Vlad. When she visits him in The Hague, she expects Vlad to feel express remorse but instead he mocks her quest for “truth, justice, atonement.”

Another theme was women’s suffering, especially the suffering of the various women characters who endure miscarriage, still-born births, and various “natural” tragedies not connected to politics. In her autobiography, Country Girl, Edna O’Brien recounts her own suffering as a woman, which I describe in my blog of April 7, 2015: This raises the questions of whether all women might be “sisters,” because all are vulnerable to such natural tragedies, but is this false sisterhood. Miscarriages and stillbirths, however sad, do not compare to rapes, torture, and warfare.

 I didn’t find this to be as fulfilling a novel as many other readers did. There were too many set pieces, seemingly inserted so that O’Brien could incorporate as many political themes as possible, so that the book seemed rather didactic. Too many characters are introduced but then don’t reappear. It seems as if O’Brien invented the character of Fidelma in order to tie together disparate political events and misogynist practices. In the end, O’Brien brings all her characters together for a performance of Midsummer Night’s Dream. I looked up the plot summary of this play by William Shakespeare and found it very confusing, and I could not see any analogies to characters in this novel. 

Nevertheless, professors who read this blog might want to assign The Little Red Chairs to their students.  It is a good way to introduce students to scholarship on genocide, transitional justice, and women’s rights (or lack thereof).  I discussed these topics when I presented the book recently to one of my book clubs. In the past I’ve often used memoirs or novels to introduce students to various political events, and found that to be a successful teaching method.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Minority vs. Group Rights in Quebec

Dear Readers:  Below is a paper that I wrote in spring 2016.  I got tired of waiting for formal review by an academic journal, so I decided to just post it on as many web sites as I could.  So this is a formal academic paper (almost 10,000 words) not a short blog post.  I own the copyright but you are free to post it or send it to others, as long s you acknowledge my authorship.  People who teach the politics of Quebec might find this a useful teaching tool.  If you would like a PDF of this paper for your own or your students' use, please contact me at

Minority vs. Group Rights:  Manifestation of Religious Beliefs vs. “Quebec Values”
by Rhoda E. Howard-Hassmann

Abstract: This paper investigates the debate in the province of Quebec, Canada in 2013 over a Charter of Quebec Values introduced by the separatist ruling party, the Parti Quebecois. It relies in particular on government documents, debates in Quebec’s National Assembly, and editorials in the French press. It relates the Charter to the preceding Bouchard-Taylor Commission Report in 2008 on accommodation by public bodies of particular religious requests. The debates concerned the right to manifest one’s religion, the rights of (particularly Muslim) women, and the rights of the collectivity as opposed to the minority. Part of the debate was about Quebec’s particular policy of interculturalism, as opposed to Canada’s policy of multiculturalism. The paper concludes with a discussion of liberalism, minority rights and collective rights.
Keywords: Quebec values, religious rights, women’s rights, collective rights, interculturalism, multiculturalism
This article enters the debate about whether comprehensive liberal-democratic polities that protect human rights may sometimes limit the religious rights of some of their members in order to protect fundamental principles such as secularism and gender equality or to enhance the society’s collective identity.  In so doing, it points out that sometimes minority rights are incompatible with so-called “group” or collective rights. My particular example is the Charter of Values proposed in 2013 by the then government of Quebec, a French-speaking province of Canada. The Parti Québecois (PQ), which advocated separation from Canada and establishment of an independent Quebec state, was the governing party. The most contentious aspect of the Charter was a provision prohibiting public employees from wearing “ostentatious” religious symbols while at work.
The article is based on examination of the debate that took place in Quebec in late 2013, relying on official documents, parliamentary debates in the provincial National Assembly (NA), and a survey of editorials in several French newspapers. It focuses on the debate among French-speakers within Quebec, as public opinion among English-speakers in Quebec and in the rest of Canada was almost uniformly opposed to the Charter. Among the French-speaking intellectuals and journalists who wrote editorials, opinion was also mostly opposed to the Charter, although some editorialists offered limited support for it.
This analysis does not deal with political questions such as the relationship between the Charter and the PQ’s desire to separate from Canada, or whether the reason it proposed the Charter was actually to increase its vote among certain sectors of the population. Rather, the analysis focuses on apparent incompatibilities among different types of rights, how the PQ interpreted those incompatibilities, and how (predominantly French-speaking) elite opinion responded to its interpretations. This debate occurred in a democratic, rights-protective province within a democratic, rights-protective country. It was not the first such debate; many others had occurred in Quebec and the rest of Canada over such issues as prayer space for Muslim university students, Muslim parents’ rights to withdraw their children from family and sex education classes, family arbitration based on shari’a law, and publication of cartoons deemed offensive to Muslims (Bakht, Natasha 2004; Howard-Hassmann, Rhoda E.  and Reidel, Laura 2007). Both elite policy-makers and private citizens take these debates very seriously, trying to reconcile as best they can what they see as conflicts between religious and other human rights (Howard-Hassmann, Rhoda E. 2003, 114-33).
The theoretical question addressed in this article is whether, in order to preserve its own group identity, a dominant secular culture may both privilege some of its own customs and limit the customs of members of religious minorities, even if doing so violates the international human rights of some individuals. The right in question is protected by Article 18 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR); “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion: this right includes…freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance [my italics].” This debate also addresses the question of whether the equality of women and men takes precedence over the right to manifest one’s religion. Finally, it addresses the question of contradictions between (presumed) collective or group rights and minority rights.
In the Quebec debate over whether servants of the state should be permitted to manifest their religious beliefs via their dress, some argued that freedom of religion was paramount.  Others argued that freedom of religion ought to be subordinate to the equality rights of women to men, and/or that Quebec’s collective values took precedence over the right to manifest one’s religious beliefs when in the service of the state. Nor was this debate merely a local matter; it went to the core of the debate regarding whether Western countries with predominantly European-ancestry populations were to not only welcome but also integrate new types of immigrants, or whether by even such minor means as regulating dress they might make immigrants feel unwelcome and unaccepted.
Two Quebec Charters of Values
On September 10, 2013, the PQ released Bill 60, its controversial proposed “Charter of Quebec Values.” Pauline Marois was Premier of Quebec and leader of the PQ, while Bertrand Drainville was the Minister responsible for democratic institutions and citizen participation and formal introducer of the Charter. The Charter was a statement of certain values the PQ considered key to preserving Quebec’s character: these values were laicization [French: laicité], the secular neutrality of the state, and equality of women and men. As Premier Marois stated “In Quebec, equality of all citizens, equality between women and men, [and] separation of church and state, are fundamental values”*[1] (Government of Quebec 2013 November 7). These principles were also to underpin judgement of requests for religious accommodation within Quebec (Assemblee Nationale 2013, preambular par. 1). One exception was made, for symbols and place names that reflected Quebec’s cultural patrimony (Assemblee Nationale 2013, chapter 1, Article 1). In practice, this applied to the Catholic heritage of Quebec and permitted retention of crosses in public buildings and Christian saints’ names of cities or streets.
The Charter stated that anyone either providing or seeking government services was prohibited from covering her or his face, except when working conditions required it (Assemblee Nationale 2013, Chapter III, Articles 6 and 7); this provision was uncontroversial within Quebec. Another provision proved extremely controversial; namely, that no one providing a public service could wear any “ostentatious” [French: ostentatoire] religious clothing or jewelry while at work (Assemblee Nationale 2013, Chapter II, Section II,  article 5), such as hijabs (headscarves for female Muslims), turbans (for male Sikhs), and kippas (skullcaps for male Jews). Christians would also be prohibited from wearing large, conspicuous crosses. One minor exception was that public servants could wear inconspicuous religious symbols, such as small, discreet crosses for Christians and Stars of David for Jews (Drainville, Bernard 2013 September, 16). Government departments could require that any private contractors they hired also follow these rules (Assemblee Nationale 2013, Chapter 4, Article 10).
The prohibitions on the wearing of conspicuous religious clothing extended as far as workers in the provincial network of state-subsidized day-care centers (Drainville, Bernard 2013 September, 15). The government was particularly concerned that children’s religions not affect in any way their eligibility to enter nursery schools; that teachers not proselytize in any way; and that nurseries not provide any religious training to children. Children were especially to be educated to respect the religious neutrality of the state and the equality of women and men. Thus, even religiously-based diets, such as kosher (Jewish) or halal (Muslim) food, were forbidden. A major purpose of these rules was to facilitate social cohesion and integration of children into Quebec society regardless of their religious, social or ethnic origins (Assemblee Nationale 2013, Chapter VII, Articles 27-30, 43). Social cohesion and the necessity to “live together” [French: vivre ensemble] were underlying principles of the PQ’s approach to collective life in Quebec (Drainville, Bernard 2013 September, 5).
Bill 60 also offered rules for religious accommodation, such as granting days off for holy days or religious festivities. Decision-makers were to take into account several principles, including that the accommodation must respect the equality of men and women and that it must not compromise the separation of religion and state and the overall secular nature of the state (Assemblee Nationale 2013, Chapter 5, Articles 15, 2 and 15, 4). The government was particularly concerned that recent accommodations had undermined the principle of equality between women and men (Drainville, Bernard 2013 September, 13). Its view was that these accommodations had caused much acrimonious debate—indeed, that there had been a social crisis over reasonable accommodation-- and had sometimes undermined these two fundamental principles of Quebec society. It also argued that past religious accommodations had emphasized differences among citizens instead of uniting them (Drainville, Bernard 2013 September, 3, 8).
On April 7, 2014 the PQ was defeated in a provincial election by the Liberal Party. The proposed Charter thus was no longer under debate. However, in 2015 the Liberals proposed their own substitute Bill 62, which was still under discussion as of November 2016. Its stated purposes were only two; to preserve the state’s religious neutrality and to establish procedures for religious accommodation (National Assembly 2015, Chapter I, Article 1). Like Bill 60, it exempted some place names and symbolic features of Quebec from religious neutrality on the grounds that they reflected Quebec’s cultural heritage (National Assembly 2015, Chapter IV, Article 13). Like Bill 60, it also focused on equality of men and women. 
Bill 62 removed some of the more controversial aspects of Bill 60. Public servants were no longer prohibited from wearing religious clothing and symbols. The requirement that people providing and seeking public services not cover their faces was retained (National Assembly 2015, Chapter III, Division II, Article 9). Like Bill 60, Bill 62 also stressed the necessity for education to facilitate integration of all children into Quebec society and to foster social cohesion. Unlike Bill 60, however, Bill 62 specifically protected halal and kosher kitchens (National Assembly 2015, Chapter V, Article 16 ). There was still some public discussion about the requirement that people seeking public services should not cover their faces (Montreal Gazette Editorial Board 2015 June 10), but in general there was much less opposition than to Bill 60.  
The Bouchard-Taylor Commission
Bills 60 and 62 were both in part a reaction to an earlier debate within Quebec on the limits to religious accommodation that culminated in the 2008 Bouchard-Taylor Commission (BTC) report, Building the Future: A Time for Reconciliation (Bouchard, Gerard and Taylor, Charles 2008). The commissioners were the French-speaking historian and sociologist, Gérard Bouchard, and the eminent English-speaking philosopher and resident of Montreal, Charles Taylor.
The BTC was set up by the then Liberal government of Quebec after a series of public debates about various judicial or other decisions whose function was to adjudicate requests for accommodation by members of religious minorities: these requests emanated not only from Muslims but also from Jews, Sikhs and others. Much public opposition to these demands was stoked by media reports. One case garnering attention concerned a male Sikh student who wished to wear a kirpan, a ceremonial dagger, in school. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that he could wear the kirpan if it were carefully and fully encased in a protective cloth covering, which would make it difficult for him to use it as a weapon (Legault-Laberge, Raphael Mathieu and Rousseau, Guillaume 2012, 206-7). There was much protest in Quebec against the Court’s judgement, which many saw as interference in Quebec affairs by the “foreign” Canadian judiciary. Another case concerned Muslims inaccurately alleged to have demanded that everyone at a festival celebrating maple syrup season be required to abstain from alcohol. In yet another case, officials at a yeshiva, a school for religious Jewish boys, allegedly asked that a gym across the street frost its windows so that the boys could not see women in gym clothes (Bouchard, Gerard and Taylor, Charles 2008, 53). The facts in most of these cases were mis-reported.
After listening to the concerns that many Quebeckers had about requests for religious  accommodation  Bouchard and Taylor recommended that Quebec adopt a policy of “open secularism” (Bouchard, Gerard and Taylor, Charles 2008, 20). Under this policy, the state and its servants would be neutral, but the latter would not be required to demonstrate their neutrality by discarding their religiously-prescribed clothing. Bouchard and Taylor contrasted this with “rigid secularism,” such as they argued was imposed by France’s ban on the wearing of the hijab in schools. Bouchard and Taylor argued that religious accommodation would facilitate integration and social cohesion, rather than excluding those who chose to wear religious symbols from public schools and the public service. They asked “Does not a more rigid secularism risk…fostering community withdrawal rather than integration?” (Bouchard, Gerard and Taylor, Charles 2008, 150).
Bouchard and Taylor did, however, recommend that certain officials of the Quebec government holding coercive power not be permitted to wear any religious symbols that might suggest to those under their control that they might hold religious biases; these officials included among other judges, Crown prosecutors, and police. They argued that religious symbols such as the Crucifix hanging in the NA and the prayers that opened meetings of municipal officials should be abolished, as these symbols implied that Catholicism was Quebec’s state religion. They also recommended certain principles to which accommodation practices should conform. Accommodations should not violate gender equality; thus, for example, requests for separate swimming classes for girls and boys in Quebec schools, or boys’ refusal to have women teachers were not granted. Bouchard and Taylor noted that in general, accommodations should not cause undue hardship, infringe on other people’s human rights, or undermine safety and public order (Bouchard, Gerard and Taylor, Charles 2008, 150, 20, 85, 63).
Public reaction to the BTC Report suggested that many people were still somewhat uncomfortable with immigrants and the adjustments that Quebec society might have to make to their presence. 40 per cent of Quebeckers polled between May 28 and June 1 2008 believed that Quebec society was endangered by the arrival of non-Christian immigrants, while 51 per cent thought that immigrants should abandon their traditions and customs to become more like the majority of Quebeckers. Sixty-seven per cent opposed moving the crucifix in the NA, and the same percentage opposed permitting female Muslim teachers to wear the hijab in public schools. Fifty-nine per cent thought that crucifixes should be permitted in public school classrooms, while ninety-two per cent thought that Jews and Muslims should better understand the majority’s culture (Jedwab, Jack 2008 June 11). This negative reaction to the Report’s general recommendations for changes to accommodate minority groups may have contributed to the PQ’s decision to try to enact Bill 60. The PQ considered the BTC Report to be a document proposing political correctness, instead of a response to the  concerns of the general population about reasonable accommodation (McAndrew, Marie 2009 June 2, 13).
The Rights Debates
Religious Rights
The prohibition of the wearing of religious symbols or religiously-required clothing while in the service of the state was the subject of much heated debate in the NA in the autumn of 2013. The Liberals were the chief opposition party to the PQ, with the Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ: Coalition for the Future of Quebec) the second opposition group.
All three political parties agreed on the principle of gender equality and on the necessity for state neutrality in the provision of public services to Quebeckers. All also agreed that neither public servants (while at work) nor those seeking public services should cover their faces. The debate focused on whether state neutrality required that public servants not demonstrate their own religious beliefs through their dress or accessories. The PQ considered this to be a violation of state neutrality; neutrality, it argued, should be visible to citizens, not merely invisible or abstract (Assemblee Nationale 2013 November 7, 5456). It considered the wearing of conspicuous religious symbols to be, in and of itself, evidence of a passive or silent proselytism (Drainville, Bernard 2013 September, 16). The Liberals and CAQ argued that the wearing of religious symbols did not imply proselytism, which they agreed was unacceptable (Assemblee Nationale 2013 October 23, 5108, statement by Marc Tanguay).
In effect, the PQ advocated what the BTC called rigid secularism, while the Liberals and the CAQ advocated open secularism. The Liberals referred specifically to the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, Article 3 (Government of Quebec 1975), as well as to a 1985 decision by the Supreme Court of Canada that freedom of religion included the right to openly profess one’s religious beliefs without fear of reprisals (Assemblee Nationale 2013 October 23, 5109, statement by Marc Tanguay), Thus, those who objected to the Charter argued that it did not advance separation of church and state; rather, it discriminated against minority religious groups. However, the CAQ did agree with the BTC recommendation that people in positions of authority should not wear religious symbols (Assemblee Nationale 2013 November 6, 5395, statement by Francois Legault).
The problem was further complicated by the government’s proclamation that the Crucifix would remain hanging in the NA; thousands of other crucifixes already hanging in public buildings would also remain there. The government argued that these were important symbols of Quebec’s “patrimony” [French: patrimoine] or heritage, without defining clearly of what this heritage consisted (Bouchard, Gerard 2013 September 10). This raised the question of whether Muslims, Sikhs, and Jews – or indeed English-speaking Protestants --who lived in Quebec contributed to its heritage. As one commentator put it, it seemed that secularism was for “the others*” (Dubuc, Alain 2013 September 11).
In any event, critics also noted, the “heritage” nature of the NA Crucifix actually was symbolic of the premiership of Maurice Duplessis from 1936 to 1939 and again from 1944 to 1959 (Bottari, Jean 2013 September 11). Duplessis was a dictatorial and corrupt premier famous for his persecution of communists and Jehovah’s Witnesses (Berger, Thomas R. 1982, 127-89), whose long period of rule was known in Quebec as “the great Darkness” (Clement, Dominique 2016, 49). Critics argued that retention of the Crucifix in the NA and other public buildings was hypocritical, given that all other religious symbols were to be banned, suggesting that this was pure opportunism on the part of the government, if not a sign of Islamophobia (Sciortino, Giuseppe 2013 September 14).
The Quebec Commission on Human Rights and the Rights of the Young (QCHR) strongly criticized Bill 60. Relying not only on the UDHR but also on the province’s own 1975 Charter of Human Rights, it argued that everyone had the right to manifest her religion, including via dress, and that such manifestation did not constitute proselytism. While the state had to demonstrate its religious neutrality, its individual employees did not have the same obligation. Moreover, the QCHR argued, there was no evidence that anyone wearing religious dress had ever undermined state religious neutrality; the PQ was relying solely on hypothetical situations. On the other hand, the QCHR noted, prayers in municipal meetings—which the PQ was willing to tolerate—did violate the principle of state neutrality. The QCHR concluded that Bill 60 would constitute the most radical modification of Quebec’s own provincial charter of human rights since its adoption (Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse Quebec 2013 October 16, 10-11,  8, 20).
Women’s Rights
Perhaps one could argue that denial to some Muslim women and girls of the right to wear hijab as public officials, or while seeking or enjoying government services including in schools or hospitals, was justifiable in order to retain Quebec’s collective secular, post-Catholic culture. According to the PQ, the equality of women with men was a paramount collective value in Quebec, superior to religious customs that might imply discrimination against women or their relegation to a secondary status. This raised the question of whether Muslim women freely adopted hijab or whether they were compelled to do so by male family members. The Liberal’s Bill 62 side-stepped this debate: it did not prevent public servants or those seeking or enjoying public services from wearing religious symbols, merely stating that public servants should not discriminate in favor of or against anyone on the basis of her or his religion.
In the NA debate on Bill 60, both opposition parties argued that if equality of men and women was a fundamental principle of Quebec society, then it was discriminatory to refuse the opportunity of employment by the state to women who chose to wear religious symbols (Assemblee Nationale 2013 November 7, 5455, statement by Jean-Marc Fournier). In a province of eight million people, 600,000 jobs, 20 per cent of all those in the province (Bouchard, Gerard 2015, 127) were covered by the PQ’s Charter (Assemblee Nationale 2013 October 23, 5109, statement by Marc Tanguay). The QCHR agreed that in so far as it would apply mainly to (some) Muslim women, prohibition of the wearing of religious symbols would undermine women’s equal right to work; women, it argued, should not have to choose between their employment and their religion (Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse Quebec 2013 October 16, 10).
Aside from the different views of the political parties, an intra-feminist debate also occurred within Quebec, some feminists arguing for complete secularism as a means to protect women’s equality and others arguing that women who enjoyed equality should be permitted to make autonomous individual decisions about whether to wear hijab. Janette Bertrand, a writer, published an editorial co-signed by 20 other women, among whom (according to their names and biographical descriptions) five seemed to have Muslim backgrounds or come from Muslim-majority countries. She argued, “Right now, it seems to me that the principle of equality between the sexes is being compromised in the name of freedom of religion…I would like you to remember that men have always, and even now, used religion for the purpose of dominating women, putting them in their place, that is, beneath them [men]”*(Bertrand, Janette 2013 October 15). A group of women calling themselves the Janettes agreed with Bertrand. Nadia Alexan, a retired professor of Egyptian origin, argued that the spread of politicized Salafist Islam from Saudi Arabia was undermining the gains that had been made by Muslim women. Calling the veil (hijab) a “symbol of submission to the patriarchy,*” she argued that to wear the veil was indeed to proselytize, to promote “the barbarism of excision…of forced marriage of nine-year-old girls, of stoning, of polygamy, of fatwas, [and] interdiction of freedom of expression*” (Alexan, Nadia 2013 October 5). Another Janette argued that while some women wore hijab voluntarily, they had nevertheless been inculcated since birth to believe that the sexes were unequal; it was important for the state, therefore, to send a message to these women that it was legitimate to remove religious signs that symbolized unequal relations between males and females (Lortie, Marie-Claude 2013 October 16).
On the other side of this debate, the Quebec branch of Amnesty International argued that if women were being coerced into wearing religious garb, then the persons coercing them should be punished, not the women themselves. Furthermore, the ban on religious garb would undermine some minority women’s right to employment, risking further social stigmatization and isolation (Amnesty International Canada 2013 September 20). Three female religious leaders, one Christian, one Muslim, and one Jewish, used the 1960s slogan of women’s right to control their own body, arguing that this gave Muslim women the right to decide whether to wear hijab just as it gave non-Muslim women the right to decide to wear mini-skirts (Rollert, Diane, Ashraf, Shaheen et al. 2013 November 7).  The state, such critics argued, should not take a paternalist position, trying to emancipate women by prohibiting conspicuous religious head-coverings (Chambers, Gretta and others, 21 2013 October 16). Others argued that if the government were really interested in promoting the status of women, it would invest more in day care centers and other pro-family social services (Breton, Brigitte 2013 October 19).
Quebec has a fairly recent history of extricating itself from social domination by the Catholic Church. Following the Great Darkness, the 1960s were the period of the “Quiet Revolution,” when many institutions such as schools and hospitals that the Church had controlled were secularized. The 1960s was also the decade that saw the rise of feminism among Quebec women. In 2013, many older Quebec women still remembered the Catholic norms that had stifled their and their elders’ lives. Prohibitions on birth control and abortion had condemned millions of women to multiple pregnancies, often endangering their health as well as undermining personal autonomy. Some of these older women viewed the Charter of Values as a means to defend women from the stifling effects of other religions, especially Islam (Petrowski, Natalie 2013 October 16).
Opponents of the Charter argued that there were already laws in Canada to protect Muslim and other women from coercive pressures to wear religiously-mandated garb. The BTC had earlier warned Quebeckers not to extrapolate from the Catholic Church’s treatment of women to the treatment of women under Islam or Orthodox Judaism. It was for those women to emancipate themselves, should they so wish, rather than for the state to liberate them. Muslim girls wearing hijab, Bouchard and Taylor argued, should not be prevented from attending secular public schools, the very purpose of which was to integrate everyone into the wider society. Nor should Muslim women teachers be required to demonstrate support of educational neutrality by discarding their hijabs. However, Bouchard and Taylor did think it reasonable that Muslim women teachers not wear full-body burkas or face-covering niqabs, which would impede communication between teacher and students (Bouchard, Gerard and Taylor, Charles 2008, 150). As noted above, there was little or no controversy in Quebec over this provision.
The debate in Quebec was part of a wider international debate among both Muslim and non-Muslim feminists about whether Muslim women wearing hijab were acquiescing to patriarchal religious norms or whether they were adopting religious dress of their own free will (Hirschman, Nancy 1997). Many Muslim women living in Western liberal states such as Canada and France freely adopted religious dress as an affirmation of identity against the wider secular society (Freedman, Jane 2004, 8) (Barbieri, William 1999) (Hoodfar, Homa 1993, 15). Another aspect of the debate was whether, if Muslim women were acquiescing to patriarchal religious norms, it was the obligation of the wider secular society to liberate them from those norms, assuming that the law already protected them from physical coercion. In general, the debate was about “what, if anything, was appropriate public policy for women who seemed to voluntarily subordinate themselves to men” (Howard-Hassmann, Rhoda E. 2011, 441).
 Minority vs. Collective Rights
The debate on the Charter of Values also raised the question of minority versus collective rights. Premier Marois and Minister Drainville both argued that the collectivity—the Quebec people— had rights that could over-ride minority rights in some instances. This explained why the PQ did not take the BTC’s advice to remove the Crucifix from the NA or to prohibit Christian prayers at municipal meetings. The PQ argued that Quebeckers had the right to preserve their collective national heritage. Catholicism was a significant part of that heritage, despite Quebec’s rejection of the formal power of the Catholic Church after the Quiet Revolution, and despite the historic and contemporary existence in Quebec of non-Catholic religious minorities who, the PQ agreed, also constituted part of the Quebec collectivity. In the PQ’s view, the values it sought to protect were integral to Quebec’s identity, and it was the state’s duty to reflect and protect the values of the society as a whole. Prohibition of civil servants’ wearing of religious symbols was necessary to preserve the secular, post-Catholic collective character of Quebec society, and was a relatively minor violation of freedom of religion, if indeed it constituted such a violation at all.
The PQ also invoked the right of the community to a certain level of social integration or cohesion which, it argued, would be furthered by the prohibition on civil servants’ manifesting  their religious affiliations in the workplace. “The charter of values,” asserted Minister Drainville, “will be a source of harmony and cohesion for Quebec,*” (Government of Quebec 2013 November 7). Results of a poll conducted in Quebec in September 2013 showed that 72 per cent of those who spoke French at home strongly agreed that Quebec culture needed protection, as opposed to only 13 per cent of non-French-speakers. Among French-speakers, 55 per cent strongly agreed that minorities should do more to fit in, while only 25 per cent of others strongly agreed (Angus Reid Global 2013 September 12, 11, 12).
There was some evidence of a split in opinion between the still relatively-homogeneous “regions” where “old-stock” Quebeckers of French Catholic heritage predominated and there were few immigrants, and the more cosmopolitan cities of Montreal and Quebec City where many minorities and immigrants lived. The split was not severe, however: 73 per cent of respondents to the September 2013 poll who lived outside Montreal and Quebec City supported the prohibitions on public servants’ wearing religious symbols at work, while 69 per cent of respondents living in Quebec City and 63 per cent of respondents living in Montreal also supported it. More obvious was the split between those whose language at home was French and others: 75 per cent of French speakers supported the ban, while only 31 per cent of others did. Age and level of education also influenced the level of support: older and less educated people were more likely to support the ban (Angus Reid Global 2013 September 12, 6).
Many critics of the Charter assumed that anyone who defended it was afraid of “the other;” that is, of residents of Quebec not descended from the original French Catholic settlers. In this interpretation, the PQ’s insistence on protecting Quebec “values” would spur ethnic nationalism among those Quebeckers who were already disturbed by the presence within their society of identifiable minorities never before seen in such large numbers. The Charter appeared to be directed primarily against Montreal (Cardinal, Francois 2013 August 31) and to reflect a fear of cosmopolitanism in Quebec’s more homogeneous regions (Simard, Marc 2013 September 4). This fear was all the more intense because such a high proportion of recent immigrants to Quebec—around 40%--were Muslim (McAndrew, Marie 2009 June 2, 6).
The Quebec Community Groups Network, representing 41 community groups and one million English-speaking Quebeckers, was completely opposed to Bill 60, claiming that it was “yet another attempt by the Parti Québecois government to limit individual rights and freedoms in the interests of a state-defined collective identity.” The Network noted particularly that Muslims comprised six per cent of English-speakers in Quebec as opposed to only 2.6 per cent of French-speakers (Quebec Community Groups Network 2013 November 7). It accused the government of instituting a “we-them mentality,” and especially of pitting “Catholics against non-Christians” (Quebec Community Groups Network 2013 December 20, 7).
The Charter’s opponents believed that the government was claiming that there was a social problem in Quebec when there was none (Bouchard, Gerard 2013 September 10). They asked whether a government should proclaim the “values” of its entire population, as opposed to merely enforcing and legislating laws, including human rights laws (Gagnon, Lysiane 2013 September 7). The QCHR questioned the PQ’s assertion of values over human rights, arguing that the latter ought to have precedence and that a right could not be limited solely because its exercise might offend someone else, or even the majority (Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse Quebec 2013 October 16, 4, 9). The eminent human rights lawyer, Julius Grey, argued, “legislative definition of some values as more fundamental than others is a very dangerous exercise…. In what way are these two values [secularism and equality between men and women] more important than freedom of expression, freedom of conscience, or even racial equality?*” (Grey, Julius 2013 November 2).
Living together was one of the PQ’s themes in arguing for the ban on wearing religious symbols (Assemblee Nationale 2013 November 6, 5397). As Minister Drainville said, “We should never lose sight of the collective dimension…We must find our common values, identify that which brings us together, that which unites us so that we are a community, so that we are a society, so that we are a nation. …And that, the cement that unites us, that makes us a people, goes beyond our individual differences, especially religious*” (Assemblee Nationale 2013 October 23, 5112).  It was important for citizens to recognize themselves as members of the Quebec community, as Andre Villeneuve, a member of the PQ, argued: “It’s always a question of equilibrium…There’s an equilibrium to be made between individual rights and there’s an equilibrium to be made with collective rights. And in creating this place where people can recognize themselves, and all Quebeckers can recognize themselves…[we will] reinforce people’s individual rights*” (Assemblee Nationale 2013 October 23, 5121).
Opposing this position, Jean-Marc Fournier of the Liberal Party accused the PQ of actually removing some human rights in the name of living together. “The clothing code removes fundamental rights from Quebeckers. With this code the government wants to impose a new model of society that directly forms a rupture with what we’ve known until now. Under the pretext of better living together better, certain people are advised not to come and live with others. The Liberal Party of Quebec has never thought that to protect rights, one must remove rights *” (Assemblee Nationale 2013 November 7, 5454 ). Moreover, as one commentator argued, it would be impossible to “live well together” under a charter that closed the doors to employment in many public agencies to those wearing religious symbols (Breton, Brigitte 2013 August 31). It was estimated that 30 per cent of Quebeckers of North African origin (presumably mostly Muslim) were unemployed, among whom the rate of unemployment was higher for women than men (Kerboua, Nadia 2013 September 14).  In general, Muslims in Quebec were less likely to be employed and had lower incomes than Muslims elsewhere in Canada, who in turn were less likely to be employed and had lower incomes than other minority religious groups (Kazemipur, Abdolmohammad 2014, 112-142).
From the point of view of the Charter’s opponents, to live well together was to acknowledge the importance of fundamental human rights documents such as the English Magna Carta of 1215, the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, and the many international documents that protected human rights in both Canada and Quebec (Paquet, Georges 2013 October 19). These universal values included equality between men and women (Deri, Thomas 2013 September 21), part of a universal, not merely a Quebec, heritage. To call these “Quebec” values, one commentator argued, was “an abusive appropriation of a universal heritage which we share with our Canadian compatriots and the vast majority of citizens of liberal democracies*”(Jacques, Daniel D. 2013 October 23).  But many Quebeckers objected to any references to Canadian policies as guides to the policies that their provincial government should adopt, as the next section shows. 
Multiculturalism and Interculturalism
Some Quebeckers supported the Charter of Values as a reflection of a republican, rather than a liberal, model of government. The latter, they thought, characterized the rest of Canada with its philosophy of multiculturalism.
Guillaume Rousseau, a law professor from the Université de Sherbrooke in Quebec, defended the PQ’s policy of laicité, arguing that it reflected the French republican tradition in which the state gives citizens the opportunity to free themselves from their various ethnic or religious communities. The Charter would help individual Quebeckers free themselves from religious and ethnic practices which they believed were oppressive or with which they disagreed. The liberal tradition as found in English Canada, Rousseau maintained, was based on freedom from the state, rather than freedom through the state, the republican way. In this, he agreed with the PQ’s view that it was important for Quebec society to free itself from the last vestiges of religious control of its institutions. Overall, Rousseau maintained, cultural convergence was the best option for Quebec, promoting “a French culture that evolves constantly, notably with inputs from immigrants’ cultures of origin that are compatible with the fundamentals of French Quebec culture” (Rousseau, Guillaume 2014 March 14, 7).
By contrast, as noted above, Bouchard and Taylor had argued that the republican tradition represented what they called “rigid secularism.” They supported laicization, which they defined as “the process by which the State asserts its independence in relation to religion,” but viewed secularization as “the erosion of religion’s influence in social mores and the conduct of individual life” (Bouchard, Gerard and Taylor, Charles 2008, 135). They saw no need for the state to emancipate its citizens from religion. To do so, they argued,  privileged agnostic and atheist citizens over religious citizens, or presumed that non-religious rationalism was a higher value than those rooted in religious tradition (Bouchard, Gerard and Taylor, Charles 2008, 137-138). The liberal tradition, Bouchard and Taylor argued, permitted citizens to endorse fundamental principles of morality stemming just as much from religious as from non-religious principles. Thus, it was not the duty of a liberal state to emancipate women from the constraints of their religions. Women should not be forced against their will to adopt the values of equality and autonomy consistent with the national framework of human rights, if they preferred to accept all or some of the strictures of their religion.
For many who favored the republican tradition, the Quebec policy of “interculturalism” was superior to the Canadian policy of multiculturalism. Multiculturalism appeared to imply a kind of silo effect, or even ghettoization, in which different cultures existed side-by-side without interaction or integration (Duval, Xavier Barsalou 2013 October 1). It appeared, especially, to privilege minorities’ freedom of religion over the collective rights of the majority, thus “far from rendering citizens equal, [it] has given some [citizens] permission to be more equal than others*” (Morgan, Caroline 2013 September 25).  As a former PQ premier of Quebec, Bernard Landry, argued “when you change your country, you change your country….Quebec is not and should not be multicultural. Multiculturalism is a perverse doctrine that Ottawa has rudely imposed on us.*”(Landry, Bernard 2013 November 3)
By contrast to multiculturalism, Quebec’s model was one of cultural convergence (McAndrew, Marie 2016 forthcoming, 8 (ms)). According to the PQ, Quebec was multiethnic but was not and should not become multicultural. It was imperative to integrate Quebec’s various ethnic and religious minorities into a cohesive, French-speaking culture, respecting both individual rights and the collective values of Quebec (Drainville, Bernard 2013 September, 10). Quebec was defined as “a nation with a French character, where French culture represents a focus of convergence for minority cultures, but where the legitimacy of these cultures is confirmed.” Immigrants were expected to respect several common principles including equality between women and men, a secular state, pluralism and democratic values (Labelle, Micheline 2006, last edited July 2 2015, 4). “In a pluralist society,” argued one professor of philosophy, “the affirmation of common values is essential to affirm collective identity, assure cohesion and solidarity among its members, and provide benchmarks to guide the collectivity’s choice, now and in the future… Our common values can be at the same time universal and Québecois*” (Lapierre, Marilyse 2013 August 28).
This concern with creation of a collectivity reflected the fragility of French-speaking Quebeckers’ identity in an English-speaking continent. Until the Quiet Revolution, English-speakers had dominated Quebec’s economy and French-speakers were often obliged to speak English at work. Only with the introduction of Bill 101 in 1977, mandating that the children of immigrants to the province from outside Canada attend French schools, did it appear that the language would be saved from extinction. Thus, invocation of only universal values—reflecting a liberal, and predominantly English-speaking, Western tradition—was seen as insufficient to ensure the coherence of the Quebec community. Many Quebeckers also thought that multiculturalism was meant to subsume French-speakers as just another minority within Canada, rather than recognizing Quebec’s distinct historical status (Kymlicka, Will 1995, 17) (Waddington, David I., Maxwell, Bruce et al. 2012, 3 (ms)).
The common perception in Quebec that Canadian-style multiculturalism produces various cultures living in silos separate from one another is far from what actually exists. Although Canada’s 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects multiculturalism (Government of Canada 1982, Article 27), and Canada also has an official multiculturalism policy (Government of Canada 1985), Canadian “multi”-culturalism is underpinned by a unifying small-l liberal culture (Howard-Hassmann, Rhoda E. 1999, 532) (Kymlicka, Will 2007). Under this liberal multicultural tradition, a multiplicity of religions is accepted, as is the wearing of religious symbols. Far from believing that governments ought to help citizens to free themselves from their religious or ethnic affiliation, as in the republican tradition, the liberal tradition acknowledges that there can be advantages to membership in religious and ethnic groups; in that sense, it encourages religious and cultural diversity. Many individuals feel a need to belong to groups of people with similar beliefs, customs, or languages. Muslims in the rest of Canada, like those in Quebec, benefit from this small-l liberal culture.
Nevertheless, actual practice all over Canada, in Quebec and elsewhere, more closely resembles what the BTC called interculturalism than official multiculturalism. Interculturalism was an evolving policy in Quebec, not clearly defined, but which Bouchard and Taylor believed the Quebec government should specify, themselves defining interculturalism as follows:
[I]nterculturalism seeks to reconcile enthnocultural diversity with the continuity of the French-speaking core and the preservation of the social link. It thus affords security to Quebeckers of French-Canadian origin and to ethnocultural minorities and protects the rights of all in keeping with the liberal tradition…[It] proposes a way of promoting ethnocultural relations characterized by interaction in a spirit of respect for differences (Bouchard, Gerard and Taylor, Charles 2008, 19, 118).
Put simply, interculturalism means voluntary, un-coerced integration of immigrants into the dominant culture: it is voluntary assimilation. Many, if not most, immigrants in Quebec and Canada assimilate in this fashion. Such assimilation is a natural social process during which migrants and their children increasingly adopt the customs and social mores of the larger society in which they live. In contemporary society, individuals have many identities. Religious symbols are one means of showing one’s belonging to particular groups or communities, thus “an affirmation …of the rapport they have established with others*,” but they are certainly not the only means, and do not preclude identification on other grounds with other, non-religious groups (Genest, Serge 2013 September 11). Nevertheless, some in Quebec believed that there was a moral onus on immigrants to integrate into the larger society (Iacovino, Raffaele 2015, 46), while in the rest of Canada such integration was merely a matter of choice.
Liberalism, Minority Rights and Collective Rights
It might seem that the debate over Quebec’s Charter of Values was a straightforward one posing ethnic against civic nationalism; many supporters of the Charter were indeed ethnic nationalists (McAndrew, Marie 2016 forthcoming, 14 (ms)). Perhaps the PQ, or some of its supporters, could not accept that relative “strangers” in their society were actually members of the Quebec nation. Perhaps, indeed, the PQ was playing to a “nationalism of resentment*” among some French-speaking Quebeckers who were fearful of the new minorities in their midst (Seymour, Michel 2013 August 28). Thus, the Charter of values was an important part of the PQ’s attempt to forge Quebec’s distinct collective identity as opposed to its perceived status as an “unrecognized minority nation” within Canada (Iacovino, Raffaele 2015, 41).On the other hand, perhaps the PQ also wanted to strengthen minority groups’ membership in Quebec society by providing them with the tools to enter the secular world of freedom of choice in matters both of religion and gendered behavior.
            By contrast to the PQ’s willingness to undermine the human right to manifest one’s religion as a concession to Quebec’s dominant culture, Bouchard and Taylor argued that “In order to recognize the equal value of all citizens, the State must be able, in principle, to justify to each citizen each of the decisions that it makes, which it cannot do if it favours a specific conception of the world and of good” (Bouchard, Gerard and Taylor, Charles 2008, 136). But the PQ did favor a specific conception of the good, in which freedom of religious expression was to give way to the state’s requirement for rigid secularism and equality of women with men.
Even so, Bouchard and Taylor themselves recommended some minor limitations on manifestation of religious beliefs. They recommended that citizens providing or seeking government services do so with uncovered faces, thus constraining the freedom to manifest their religion of the very few Muslim women in Quebec who wore the niqab or burqa. This recommendation was supported by widespread public opinion, even among those who otherwise opposed the PQ Charter of Values. As noted above, Bouchard and Taylor also recommended that individuals who occupied positions in which they exercised coercive power over other citizens should not wear any religious symbols whatsoever, so as to provide an image of complete neutrality. Some would argue that these constraints were permissible. On the other hand, if the requirement not to wear any religious symbols were also extended to members of juries, as Bouchard later suggested (Bouchard, Gerard 2015, 123), it might be considered a major prohibition on the right to manifest one’s religion and one which might not withstand the scrutiny of the law.
Several years after writing the BTC Report, Bouchard modified his views on religious accommodation, arguing that the majority culture in Quebec ought to have collective rights; “a society,” he argued, “does not have to repudiate its history in the name of pluralism.” One right was to a common patrimony, which would contribute to creation of a collective memory and sense of belonging, incorporating not only French-speaking Canadians of European Catholic heritage but also other groups in Quebec. Bouchard proposed that certain religious symbols such as non-religious Christmas decorations and the cross on the Quebec flag had by 2015 entered “the broader sphere of civic life,” and should remain as symbols of the wider Quebec culture. He also favored “cultural interventionism,” which would permit the state to devote resources to protection of Quebec’s founding French Catholic culture by, for example, devoting funds to maintenance of Catholic churches. Thus, he conceded that there was some value to collective cultural rights, as the PQ had advocated. He did not agree with the PQ, however, that retention of the Crucifix in the NA or retention of Christian prayers in municipal meetings were appropriate manifestations of Quebec’s cultural heritage, as they were too explicitly tied to Roman Catholicism (Bouchard, Gerard 2015, 107-12, 131-133).
Despite the claim that Quebec’s republicanism differed radically from Canadian liberalism, Quebec was a predominantly liberal society, with liberal, individualist values inscribed in its own provincial charter of rights. The debate within Quebec was about how far liberalism should go. Should agents of the state show by their apparel, and only in so far as they were representing that state, that they were adherents of particular religions? Would such apparel undermine others’ perception of the state as religiously neutral? Would it, moreover, undermine the perception that the state supported absolute gender equality?
The PQ argued that religious apparel would indeed undermine both the neutrality of the state and gender equality. By contrast, the successor Liberal government did not worry that religious dress would undermine these two principles. It saw no need for the restrictions that the PQ wished to impose on some members of some minority religious groups, except for the provision that people providing or seeking government services should not cover their faces. There was no incompatibility between the rights of members of minority religions and the rights of the collective; both could be accommodated. In the Liberal’s view, the right to manifest one’s religion through the wearing of religious signs was compatible with all other human rights, in particular the right to employment, especially for Muslim women.
 At the same time, both the PQ and the Liberal governments agreed that the collective group, Quebeckers, had the right to enjoy its own culture. Just as the wearing of religious symbols was not necessarily a sign of proselytism, so retention of Catholic symbols as a form of cultural heritage did not mean that the government of Québec considered those of French Catholic heritage to be superior citizens. Nor did it imply discrimination against minority groups with different heritages. In societies in which the state respects the private cultural and religious identities of its citizens, secularism does not mean that all references to religion must be removed from the public sphere. Rather, it means that official proselytism—either by individual citizens in their capacity as employees of the state or by the state itself—is forbidden, as is official discrimination against any religion. The state is not permitted to constrain the freedom of religion of citizens who are members of a minority when those constraints serve no human rights purpose, merely serving to suggest to minority citizens that they are not as worthy of the state’s concern and respect as members of the majority collective.    
This is a question of enormous international importance, if a relatively minor one in Canada.  Assuming that the wearing of hijab does indeed reflect Muslim women’s subordination to men, how far should a liberal regime go to protect non-liberal values and ideas? The competing answers to these questions can and do affect the national security of liberal states, as seen in recent years not only in France and Belgium but also in Canada itself. In 2014, two young men who described themselves as converts to Islam committed two murders in two separate shootings. In one case, the attacker managed to enter the Parliament building in Ottawa and came dangerously close to shooting many members of Parliament, including the Prime Minister, before he himself was killed. Moreover, there were several reports of young Quebeckers having been radicalized and having travelled to the Middle East to fight for various Islamist groups.
Perhaps there is a long-term threat to the very existence of liberalism if it protects minorities that appear to reject its fundamental precepts. This may have been part of the PQ’s reasoning in prohibiting in the public service apparel that identified the wearer’s religion. Perhaps neither religion nor culture is a mere private matter, easily tolerated within a liberal framework. In some circumstances, it seems—or in some individuals’ belief systems—religion and/or culture are all-encompassing worldviews that require the modification, if not destruction, of liberal social values and a liberal polity. If Quebec’s underlying principles of secularism and gender equality are threatened by some citizens’ adherence to anti-liberal worldviews, then the PQ’s insistence on rigid state neutrality might be seen as a liberal counter-offensive against such views, not merely an assertion of (perhaps outmoded) collective values. But if such rigid neutrality makes members of minority groups feel unwanted in their own society, then it might have an effect contrary to the one intended.
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[1] All translations from French documents and sources are my own. Translated quotations are starred *.