Values Charter Dissent Keeps Truckin’ Despite Some Stalling

Confusion on Location Halted Marching for One Hour

One estimate tallied about 3,000 people protesting the proposed Charter of Quebec Values Saturday Sept. 29. Photo Brandon Johnston

While confusion on the starting location caused some delays, one estimate had 3,000 people in downtown Montreal protesting the proposed Charter of Quebec Values this afternoon.

“This PQ government in all their policies but particularly this one, the proposed Charter, wants to bring about state-sanctioned discrimination and state-sanctioned intolerance,” said Lawrence Bergman, Liberal MNA for the D’Arcy-McGee riding, which includes the cities of Côte-Saint-Luc and Hampstead, as well as part of the Montreal borough of Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.

The proposed charter seeks to ban “ostentatious” religious symbols, such as kippas, niqabs, hijabs, turbans and large crosses, for public institution workers, including those at hospitals and universities.

The protest against the proposed ban was slated to start at Place des Festivals at 1 p.m., but instead was relocated further east on Bleury St. at the base of de Maisonneuve Blvd.

A few supporters not affiliated with organizing the protest provided direction from Ste. Catherine St. to help protesters reach the new starting location.

“Tell your friends, we are here! We will be beginning [to march] in ten minutes,” said an organizer from atop a rented U-Haul pickup truck at roughly 12:55 p.m. The protest did not leave the parkette for another 50 minutes.

Rabbi Reuban Poupko, who was at the protest with members of the Beth Israel Beth Aaron Congregation in Montreal, says the demonstration’s multiethnic turnout shows the broad dissent that the Charter has sewn in Quebec.

“The opposition to this proposal is not limited to religious or ethnic minorities, the opposition to this proposal goes across the spectrum of ethnicity and language in the city and the province,” he said.

“This is not a demonstration organized by the Jewish community or the Islamic community, this is a demonstration organized by Québécois,” he continued.

Michael Simkin, currently running for mayor of the C.D.N.—N.D.G. borough as a part of Richard Bergeron’s Projet Montréal municipal party, says his potential new constituents would be particularly affected by the Charter, since the borough is one of the most culturally and racially diverse areas of Montreal. An adopted Charter could force people to decide between their faith and gainful employment, he said.

“The ‘ostentatious symbols’ aspect of the Charter clearly gives people the choice between getting rid of their cultural or religious identity or working like anybody else for the public service,” he said. “That seems to me to be a pretty stacked choice and hardly an integration strategy.”

A pro-Charter demonstration is scheduled for Oct. 1. Another anti-Charter protest has been set for Oct. 20, partly organized by Jaggi Singh, QPIRG Concordia’s working groups and programming coordinator.

Singh told The Link the organizers will seek to challenge the charter in “a feminist and anti-patriarchy” framework.