Thursday, October 30, 2008

Xenophobia Trumps Multiculturalism in Quebec

Quebec extends Herouxville Declaration province-wide

In 2007, a town in Quebec made national headlines when it issued the Herouxville declaration, a controversial code issued to immigrants to the Quebec town.

At its basest level, the Herouxville declaration merely represented a warning to immigrants -- seemingly Muslims in particular -- that the town wouldn't tolerate misogynistic practices including (but not limited to) stoning women, burning them alive, or forcing them to wear headscarves.

"We want the whole world to understand we are no kind of racist," insisted Andre Drouin, who wrote the declaration.

The specific demands laid out by the declaration are, in themselves, far from unreasonable. No Canadian should be willing to tolerate the burning of women with acid or honour killings.

But there's a big difference between an unwillingness to tolerate offenses that are, for the most part, already prohibited by Canadian law.

Which makes one wonder precisely what was going through the mind of Quebec Immigration Minister Yolande James when she announced what amounts to a province-wide adoption of the Herouxville declaration.

"Quebeckers have said yes to immigration, but they said yes to immigration on the condition that these immigrants integrate into our society," James announced, adding that immigration into Quebec is "is a privilege not a right."

Certainly, immigration into any country is a privilege. But there is something ironic about the province of Quebec -- which has, with good reason, historically rejected efforts to assimilate it into the rest of Canada -- demanding that immigrants assimilate into their society, to the extent that they're forced to sign a formal repudiation of a fundamentalist Muslim stereotype.

Furthermore, it isn't as if the kinds of behaviours denounced in the Herouxville declaration have been endemic in Quebec, or anywhere else in Canada.

As such, Quebec's wide-scale adoption of the Herouxville declaration is nothing more than submitting to hysteria: it's being offered up as a solution to a problem that doesn't really exist.

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