------- Systemic racism ?
------- Systemic racism ?
I am surprised that the Bulletin would give such prominence to as simplistic a commentary as that of Mr. Reuel S. Amdur ("Is There Systemic Racism In Quebec?" March 10, 2021). Mr. Legault admits there is racism in Quebec, but feels that the notion of “systemic racism” is ill-defined and opens the door to demands that run counter to the Quebec government’s duty to protect its culture from the steamroller of North American Anglo-Saxon cultural hegemony.
The idea of “systemic racism” is imported, cookie-cutter style, from the US, and since it was first invoked in the context of the “Jim Crow” laws of the southern US, it can hardly be applied “as-is” to Canada, let alone to Quebec. The Francophone population of Quebec and of Canada has a long history as victims of “systemic racism” (as long as we are including culture and religion in the definition of “race”).
“Bill 101”, Mr. Amdur's example of systemic racism, was a response to generations of systemic prejudice that saw the majority Francophone population excluded from meaningful participation in Quebec’s economic life, since business affairs, up until Bill 101, were conducted in English, putting Francophones at a systematic disadvantage, and this legacy of “Anglophone privilege” is still evident today. Where else could a minority group decide that they are going to ignore the majority, official language of the society (and get away with it!) simply because they are convinced of the superiority of their language?
Mr. Amdur states that Quebec’s “Bill 21”, banning religious dress and symbols from some public service jobs, affects “primarily Muslim women, but also some Jews and Sikhs”. This ignores the fact that decades before Bill 21, Quebec’s publicly-funded teachers were asked to put away their religious accoutrements, crosses, veils and wimples, in order to reflect the secular nature of modern Quebec’s education system.
If the term “systemic racism” is to have any meaning, it is necessary to define what “system” is being referred to. If one is referring to the government, then one must admit that there is also systematic “anti-racism” in the measures taken to increase diversity in the public service, and the in cultural sensitivity training that public servants are obliged to undergo. On the other hand, I can see where the capitalist system leaves many marginalized groups in poverty and distress, both in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada. Premier Legault has every reason to be hesitant in applying the American notion of systematic racism to Quebec, with its very different cultural dynamics and the long history of English privilege in the province.