Is there systemic racism in Quebec?
Reuel S. Amdur
Last June, Quebec established a Task Force against Racism. Nevertheless, Premier Legault has maintained that Quebeckers are tolerant and that there is no systemic racism here. However, survey data show that Quebeckers are more intolerant, regarding Muslims and Jews, than other Canadians.
So, where is Legault wrong in his contention that there is no systemic racism in Quebec? Exhibit A: Bill 101. A store must have signage with a language other than French with the French at least twice the size of the other language, usually English. Public servants go around with tape measures to enforce the regulation. Sociologists have a term for this requirement: a degradation ritual.
Exhibit B: Bill 62, requiring those giving or receiving a public service to do so with face uncovered. COVID-19 has blown this nonsense out of the water. At the time of the passage of Bill 62, the then-Liberal government explained that the law would resolve once and for all the issue of reasonable accommodation. However, as the French say, “L’appétit vient en mangeant.” The appetite comes with eating. So, from Bill 62 to Bill 21.
Exhibit C: Bill 21. No religious dress or symbols by certain employees in the public sector. The victims are primarily Muslim women, but also some Jews and Sikhs.
One consequence of these measures is that racism, pure and simple, tends to proliferate, especially when they are in the process of adoption. We get instances of people trying to rip hijabs from the heads of women and the proliferation of racist slurs.
Arguably, the atmosphere that the government promotes by such measures helps to incite such extreme actions as the assault on the Quebec City mosque. Society and culture define acceptable behavior but also the directions of deviance.
The sociologist Max Weber, in his essay “Politics as a Vocation,” said that one of the hardest things for a politician to do is to force someone to act against conscience. He died long before Legault came along. Legault acts with deliberation, almost with nonchalance, to put systemic racism into effect, even thumbing his nose at the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the process.