Exploring Identity Documents in Debate

It will have been ten years, on September 10, that the draft “Charter of Quebec Values” was presented to the National Assembly. The news had the effect of a bomb in my circle of friends. We were twenty-something years old, our experience in political and social mobilization went well beyond our age, and we were determined to defend the idea of an “open” or “inclusive” Quebec.

In less than two weeks, we had sought the support of Jewish, Muslim and Sikh groups, then gathered 5,000 people in downtown Montreal for a demonstration where we chanted in particular that “Quebec is not France, long live the difference “. Charles Taylor, already of venerable age, had climbed into the box of our rental pickup in front of us to deliver a passionate speech whose strength was drawn directly from the energy of revolt. For me, who had only seen the man in his role as “wise man” at the televised hearings of the famous commission on reasonable accommodations, the image was striking.

The weight of the news was, of course, borne most heavily by religious minorities, Muslim women, in particular. What was more difficult to predict was that many allies would also receive the bill as a personal attack. Some saw in the “Charter” an attack on their conception of Quebec values or on rights and freedoms, more generally. Others saw a stab in their dream of an independent Quebec and the sign of a turn towards a nationalism that would never be able to touch Quebec in all its diversity, nor even the rising generation.

The feeling of fear was felt most acutely by my friends who, like me, are children of immigrants. Some belonged to religious minorities, others not. Because “other” in the eyes of the majority, we all said to ourselves that a government which attacked the rights of a minority group in this way could attack any other group tomorrow, including ours. This reasoning was rarely explicit, and not even always conscious. It was less through words than through our behavior, the urgency to act and the shared emotions that we noticed that we all felt a bit in the same boat.

Already, at the beginning of fall 2013, my guts were screaming at me that this “debate” was going to end badly. As a girl from the suburbs of Quebec, I knew too well how media discourse quickly affects our daily lives. As a child, I could feel the eyes turning towards me on the mornings when, when I entered the bus, André Arthur would vociferate against black people or immigrants on the driver’s radio. As teenagers, my brother and I had been verbally attacked by customers a few times in our student jobs, while politicians, radio hosts and other columnists were pumping people almost daily against “minorities who exaggerate” in the heart of the “crisis of reasonable accommodation”.

Most only saw the “Charter of Values” for what it explicitly was, that is to say a bill proposing specific ideas that could be adopted or not after a debate. When we understand, or have directly experienced the power of words in a society, we first see the “Charter” as a disinhibitor of speech, which also takes the form of a bill.

The text of the “Charter” never became law, but a certain type of discourse on minorities spread like wildfire in Quebec public space starting in 2013. Ten years ago, the more sensitive could already understand that the moment was going to transform, at least for a generation, what was sayable and audible in Quebec politics.

What I write will be difficult for many readers to receive. I see coming from here the “with people like her, we could no longer debate, we could no longer say anything!” “. Of course, that’s not my point. This type of reaction is most often fueled by an insistence on the intentions – of people who propose certain political ideas or make certain speeches in the public space – and a refusal to also seriously consider the consequences of words, their effects, their power.

It seems to me that if we want to be able to carry out an honest reflection exercise on a political event as significant as the famous debate on the “Charter”, we cannot pretend that the circulation of ideas in the public space is not It also does not have a direct effect on the feeling of security, on a daily basis, of the Quebecers we decide to “debate”.

By coincidence, the man who submitted the draft “Charter of Values” in 2013 is still a minister today, and this time, he is trying to figure out how to react to those who would like us to have children. trans and non-binai.

This article originally available on ledevoir.com

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