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Time for Quebecers to be more open : Bouchard-Taylor report

17 mai 2008

par Jeff Heinrich, The Gazette

Get used to living in globalized society, Bouchard-Taylor report urges.

Learn more English, be nicer to Muslims, get better informed.

Those are just some of the ways the unhappy French-Canadian majority in Quebec can shake off its angst about minorities and help build a truly open society in a globalized world, say the authors of a much-anticipated report for the Liberal government on the "reasonable accommodation" of minorities.

In several chapters of the final draft obtained by The Gazette, GĂ©rard Bouchard and Charles Taylor argue the "discontent of a large part of the population" over demands by Muslims, Jews and other religious minorities "seems to us the result of partial information and false perceptions." The chairpersons of the $5-million commission address a number of what they call "unfounded objections" to the role of religion in Quebec society, mostly voiced by old-stock francophones during three months of highly publicized hearings last fall.

Rebutting those objections, Bouchard, a prominent Chicoutimi sociologist and historian, and Taylor, a world-renowned Montreal philosopher, lay out their vision of a new Quebec coming to terms with kirpans, hijabs, kosher food and other expressions of non-Christian cultures.

In Quebec, they say, everyone should feel welcome and the majority should no longer feel under threat by newcomers.

"We think it is possible to re-concile Quebecers - franco-phones and others - with practices of harmonization, once it has been shown that :

a) these practices respect our society’s fundamental values, notably the equality of men and women.

b) they don’t aim to create privileges but, rather, equality that is well understood and that respects everyone’s rights.

c) they encourage integration and not marginalization.

d) they’re framed by guidelines and protected against spiralling out of control.

e) they’re founded on the principle of reciprocity.

f) they don’t play the game of fundamentalism.

g) they don’t compromise the gains of the Quiet Revolution." The final draft is dated March 19, two weeks before the commission announced on its website that the writing of the report was finished and that, after adding a series of recommendations, proofreading the document and translating it into English, it would be sent to the printers.

The official report is now in the hands of Premier Jean Charest, who is to present it to cabinet on Wednesday. After a budget-style "lock-up" behind closed doors for journalists Friday morning, the commissioners will hold a news conference to discuss their findings.

Broken down into half-a-dozen parts, the voluminous report has more than a dozen chapters and almost as many annexes consisting of a series of research reports, independently produced under special order by the commission.

Their subjects relate to the accommodation debate, including media coverage, ethnic ghettos and French-language training for immigrants.

In their report, Bouchard and Taylor - but mainly Bouchard, who did the bulk of the writing, insiders say- argue that the responsibility for open-mindedness and desire for change lie mainly with one people : the French Canadians themselves.

- Read full text : The Montreal Gazette, Saturday, May 17, 2008.

On Sisyphe, May 17, 2008.

Jeff Heinrich, The Gazette

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