Nunavik leaders should build bridges with others on Quebec values charter, Inuit lawyer says
“Our experiences of cultural and spiritual oppression will resonate with the oppression of religious minorities"
While Quebec Premier Pauline Marois hopes for clear skies Sept. 13 during her Nunavik tour, many in Quebec say her government’s proposed Quebec Charter of Values has put the rights of people who live in Quebec under a dark cloud.
Quebec’s proposed values charter, unveiled Sept. 10, would, among four other proposals, bar public sector employees from wearing a hijab, turban, kippah, large visible crucifix or other “ostentatious” religious symbols while on the job.
The proposed values charter does not ban opening prayers at municipal council meetings, such as at the Kativik Regional Government or Northern Village council meetings, which was recommended by the 2008 Bouchard-Taylor Commission report into cultural accommodation.
But while its proposed measures may not directly affect many in Nunavik, there are three things worth noting in the proposed charter, Joey Flowers, the first Inuk lawyer from Nunavik, and a McGill University graduate, who now lives in Iqaluit, told Nunatsiaq News.
First, the PQ seeks to impose a duty of “neutrality and reserve” for those who carry out the actions of the state so they reflect the state’s neutrality and its independence from religion.
“This is a problem for many indigenous peoples in Quebec, since spirituality is inextricably connected to governance,” Flowers said.
Second, the history of Quebec includes suppression of the spiritual expressions of the original inhabitants and owners of this land, he said.
“Now they wish to impose the same restrictions on the settlers,” Flowers said.
Third — and related to the second point, Flowers said — indigenous people are in a special position now to support their friends from Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, and other religions.
“Our experiences of cultural and spiritual oppression will resonate with the oppression of religious minorities,” Flowers said.
“I think this is an opportunity for Inuit leaders in Nunavik to build bridges with different groups in Quebec.”
If the PQ truly wants integration — one of the purported aims of the proposed values charter— then that would require representatives of the PQ government to speak Inuktitut in Nunavik, Cree in James Bay, and Kanienkeha in Montreal.
“Starting with you, Madame Marois, lead by example, atii,” suggested Flowers.
To gain support for the values charter, which will be tabled in a bill this fall at the National Assembly, Quebec has launched a $1.9-million promotional campaign to sell the package.