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Saturday, January 31, 2015

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Quebec votes

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Five days remain before Quebecers vote, on Sept. 4, to elect a new provincial government (as of August 30). As of this writing, the race is very close. It is too close to call. In the last few days, each of the three main parties – the Liberal party, the Parti Québécois (PQ) and the Coalition Avenir Québec – has led in the polls. The two other main contending parties – Québec solidaire and Option nationale – the latter viewed as being more aggressive than the PQ in promoting the separatist agenda, are given no chance by pundits to play a major governmental role, but could influence the election outcome.

It is no overstatement to write that the upcoming election is one of the most important for Quebec – and it must be added for Canada too – in at least 30 years.

Although Pauline Marois, the PQ leader has openly campaigned about her desire for Quebec sovereignty and the possibility of a further referendum to achieve it, it has been her unselfconscious ardour in promoting the curbing of minority rights that has attracted the attention of Canadians from all walks of life.

Not surprisingly, minority communities in Quebec have been affronted by the PQ leader’s willingness to curtail rights that are enshrined and guaranteed to them in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Quebec’s own Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

Early on in the campaign, Marois announced that she would restrict access to English-language CGEPs. She then pronounced that she would restrict the democratic rights of Quebec individuals to stand for office on the basis of language. She backpedalled on the latter pronouncement, but not on the former.

Marois’s demand for French-language proficiency tests and her decision to introduce a charter of secularism, proposing to ban religious symbols in the public service, with the apparent exception of Christian symbols, have offended the sensibilities of a great many in the province and beyond, including the various minority groups.

In her campaign stops, Marois has urged voters to choose a government “that will defend the interests of Quebec.”

We would agree with that statement.

In the same way that all provincial governments strive to defend and advance the interests of their respective provinces, so too should the government of Quebec. But surely, defending the interests of Quebec cannot require stripping away the fundamental rights of large pockets of its people.

No great society can flower in a soil of intolerance and prejudice.

That soil is certainly not the soil of the Quebec that we all know, need and love.

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