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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

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Town hall on charter draws hundreds

Tags: Canada Bill 60 charter of values CIJA Federation CJA Parti Québécois Quebec
Journalists David Johnston, left, Lise Ravary and Tommy Schnurmacher participate in a panel on Quebec’s proposed values charter. [Marlon Kuhnreich photo]

MONTREAL — More than 500 people attended a “town hall” meeting on Bill 60, Quebec’s proposed charter of values, organized by Federation CJA and its advocacy agency, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).

The organizations have taken a clear stance against Bill 60, arguing that the bill violates fundamental rights and freedoms by excluding minority communities from fully participating in public life.

They submitted a joint brief to the National Assembly in December and are awaiting an opportunity to present it at the public hearings being held by a parliamentary commission.

CIJA board member Jason Caron emphasized the Jewish community’s long history in and contribution to Quebec for over 250 years.

“We have a legitimate expectation that the continuity of our institutions, the value of our historic and religious heritage, and our acquired rights will be recognized and respected,” he said.

Caron suggested that the minority Parti Québécois government is tampering with fundamental rights for political expediency, and that the charter is solely about “wedge politics” and the government’s “short-sighted attempt to win a parliamentary majority.”

The Feb. 10 meeting at the Gelber Conference Centre featured a panel discussion among journalists David Johnston, a Gazette senior editor responsible for the editorial and opinion pages; Lise Ravary, a columnist and blogger for the Journal de Montréal; and CJAD radio host Tommy Schnurmacher.

The discussion was moderated by lawyer Marc Gold, a past president of Federation CJA.

During the question period, the audience asked about specific concerns they had about the bill

In introducing the panel, federation president Susan Laxer said: “It is important to note that we are not alone in this fight. On the contrary, thought leaders from across Quebec civil society, including many from sovereigntist circles, have expressed strong opposition to some or all aspects of the charter…

“These include the Quebec Bar Association, the Quebec Human Rights Commission, teachers’ trade unions, the Quebec Association of Health and Social Services Institutions and all major universities.”

Rémi Bourget, president of Quebec Inclusif, a coalition of charter opponents from diverse religious, racial, and political backgrounds, made remarks as well.

The audience was encouraged to sign the group’s “Manifesto for an Inclusive Quebec” and to visit its website for further information on their efforts (www.quebecinclusif.org).

The Federation-CIJA brief on the bill is available at http://www.cerji.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/ENGLISH-BRIEF-FINAL-Feb-1....

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