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Jean-Paul Lemieux (Galerie Michel Bigue)

Just a few words.



Under Premier François Legault and several members his Coalition Avenir Quebec, Quebec is again trying to secularise its already secularised society. All faces are bare in Quebec. Muslim women wear a discreet veil. However, if Bill 21 is enacted, they would be required to remove their discreet veil or, perhaps, if not certainly, lose their position.


People gesture during a demonstration in Montreal, Sunday, April 7, 2019, in opposition to the Quebec government’s newly tabled Bill 21. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes)

Given its rigidity and Quebec’s preexisting official laïcité, Premier Legault’s, Bill 21 is unacceptable. Were there a genuine threat of terrorism, which there isn’t, a society could forbid the niqāb to make faces visible. It would be a matter of security. But, if enacted, Bill 21 could be interpreted not only as Islamophobia, but as an expression of religious intolerance across-the-board.

Some employees wear uniforms in order for the public to recognize that they are policemen, bus drivers, firemen, etc. So did school children when I was a child: navy blue and white. We looked like the young girl depicted by Jean-Paul Lemieux, including the hairdo. So there are uniforms. Men will not be affected, but Muslim women will be.

Alexandre Bissonnette

  • sentence
  • Premier Philippe Couillard

He will appeal his sentence, but as things stand, Alexandre Bissonnette, who killed 6 Muslims worshipping at a Quebec City Mosque, will not be eligible for parole for the next 40 years.


When Alexandre Bissonnette killed, he was not affiliated with a terrorist group and, to my knowledge, he has not joined such a group since he has been detained.

At the time, Quebec Premier Dr Philippe Couillard reassured Quebecers and Canadians.


The Consequences

As for my Muslim ladies, their daughters may wish to remove their veil. They may find it cumbersome. However, if their mother was forced to remove her veil or be unemployed,  her children may insist on wearing a veil, if they have not left Quebec.

Under Bills 22, enacted in 1974, and 101 enacted in 1977, Quebec declared itself unilingual and would not allow immigrants to enrol their children in English-language schools. Therefore, Quebec’s best immigrants were North Africans who spoke French fluently. However, to a very large extent, they were Muslims. French-speaking Muslim immigrants to Quebec did Quebec a service. Has Quebec forgotten?

Religious Intolerance Across-the-Board

Bill 21 smacks of religious intolerance. All display of adherence to a religion would be forbidden. Some of us are atheists, but others believe in God, and many find a refuge in spirituality. We are a diverse society and will grow more diverse. If Bill 21 is enacted, Quebec could be divided along religious lines.


Students and staff at Pierrefonds Comprehensive High School in Montreal’s West Island, held a protest against Bill 21 over their lunch break on Friday. (Valeria Cori-Manocchio/CBC)


I will close by suggesting, boldly, that Bill 21 may not be entirely what it seems. I suspect that it is and that it isn’t about religious affiliation. Quebec’s two referendums (1980; 1995) have not given the government of Quebec a mandate to negotiate sovereignty. But the province is drifting away using all means it can dig out. For instance, Quebec has yet to sign the Constitution Act of 1982.

Could it be that, once again, Quebec wants to differ, Bill in hand … ?  If Quebec wants to differ, let it not be at the expense of its law-abiding and French-speaking Muslim women. Immigrants from everywhere, first generation immigrants in particular, mourn their country. Many have lost everything. Let us not think that we have done them a favour. Such an attitude would be insensitive and, in fact, arrogant.

Our duty is to respect everyone, despite colour, faith, language and other differences. These are superficial differences. Let our immigrants belong. All of us are human beings and merely passing …

Love to everyone 💕

We are returning to Molière. But laïcité weighed on my mind. I have friends who are supporters of Bill 21. I hope they will forgive me. They know that Quebec is a lay society.

Marie-Nicole Lemieux chante “Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix”
Camille Saint-Saëns  — Samson and Delilah op. 47


Samson and Delilah, by Gustave Doréc. 1860

© Micheline Walker
19 April 2019