Monday, February 26, 2007

Is Quebec A Racist Province?

In my experience, yes - they have a problem.

The very statement that Quebec is a racist province could be termed racist itself. However, the recent ejection of a female Muslim soccer player for wearing the hijab is merely one incident in a long line of incidents that just reinforce the belief that Quebecers, despite crying foul for being discriminated against by English Canada, themselves have a problem with racism.


  • A Toronto Sun report last month found that Quebec was the province where a majority of the people saw themselves as racist (59%). A day later, a private Muslim girls' school in Montreal was vandalized, with hooligans shattering 15 windows and damaging a school bus. [Canoe]

  • In a diverse society, "religious symbols have no place in public space," Parti Quebecois Leader Boisclair said.

  • Mario Dumont, leader of the Action democratique du Quebec, said Quebec should quit bending over backwards to accommodate minorities.

    "We must make gestures which reinforce our national identity and protect those values which are so invaluable to us," Dumont wrote in a letter to be sent to Quebecers.

    Unpopular with his political opponents, Dumont's position seemed to strike a chord with some Quebecers.

  • A Montreal elementary school had to hire guards last April after a Filipino mother alleged that her son was chided by a lunch hall monitor for the way he ate. The school's excuse - "Oh it had nothing to do with the traditional Filipino manner of eating, but bad manners."

  • Two Orthodox Jewish schools have been firebombed in the past couple of years.

  • Hérouxville, a small town in Quebec, published a new code of conduct for immigrants, stereotyping Muslims and Sikhs amongst others. It banned kirpans and head scarves except on Halloween, and said women can drive and write cheques but cannot be stoned to death.[CBC]

  • It was Quebec that had a problem with a kirpan.

    My own experiences in Quebec has not made a favourable impression on me. As a rule, many Quebecers of French descent has behaved rudely with me when they found out I did not speak French. Why is it that when the rest of Canada has no problem with reasonable accommodation for diverse cultural and religious practices, it is Quebec that must make a fuss, all the time?

    Marc said...

    Generalisation is the worst enemy of any intellectual or philosophical and rational thinking.

    A very simplistic opinion.

    KC said...

    I would agree with Marc that this is a simplistic post. I'd also say that some of your examples are not necessarily indicative of racism. For instance Boisclair's comments about religious symbols are not racist so long as they apply to all religions. Also opposition to Kirpan's in certain settings is not necessarily rooted--although Im sure for some people it is--in racism. Not everyone has been informed that they are dull and sewn into ones clothing.

    Tory@York said...

    The referee who ejected the girl was a muslim himself. Are you still going to call him a bigot, racist or any other term you call people who don't share your views?

    You want racism? Just take a look at how many anti-jewish (or anti anything non-muslim) comments and incidents are made in the middle east. So is the Middle East a racist region? In my experience, yes - they have a problem.

    A View From The Left said...

    I agree with Marc and KC that you're over-simplifying things. There’s problems with racism everywhere, and there were defiantly problems with the way that poll you refer to was conducted, that was covered in the press as well. I’ve never had a huge problem when I’ve gone to Quebec, generally those who do speak French or attempt to get better service then those who insist on speaking only English. The same thing happens when I go into certain places where I live because I don't speak Italian or Chinese and therefore they have to switch to their second language – English. While it’s a pain to watch other’s get better service based of language it’s not racist in my opinion. What would you do if someone came into a place where you worked and demanded that you serve them in a language you didn’t know very well, you’d probably be annoyed and therefore give them poorer service, that’s how things generally work.

    MrBinnes said...

    Like tory@york said, the referee who ejected the girl is a muslim.

    So we might be racist (i'm not saying that we aren't), but if we are it's not because of that soccer thing.

    - A guy grom Quebec City

    Faraz said...

    Quebec might be considered the most racist province by it's own admission, but I don't think this incident is one of racism. The referee was doing his job. While I think the "risk" associated with wearing a hijab is highly exagerrated and should not be prohibited, the rules are clear, and that particular referee chose to enforce the rule. In the admittedly unlikely event that the sister was injured because of her hijab, the referee would have been liable for failing to enforce the rules. This incident has been blown out of proportion.

    Sure, the sister should be allowed to wear her hijab. But if she is prevented from doing so, it's not a race issue. I've reffed soccer before, and I've read the rules. I've asked players to remove hats and jewelry and things before. That was my job, and that was the refs job in this case as well.

    And for the record, I've lived in Quebec for over 20 years, in Montreal and Gatineau. I currently maintain residences in three different province and regularly spend time in each. And I also have a long beard and regularly walk around in a kufi and jalabiya. So when I say that I've personally never experienced any more racism in Quebec than elsewhere in Canada, I speak with quite a bit of experience. I also don't blame Quebecers for treating English-speaking people differently - Ontarians are guilty of the same thing with French people. I've experienced more racism living in Ontario as a Quebecer than I have living in Quebec as a Muslim.

    Regarding the attack on the Montreal Muslim school a few months ago (which wasn't only a girls school, by the way) - when I related this incident to friends in Ontario and BC, they say this sort of thing happens all the time at their Muslim schools. Obviously, this doesn't justify it, but it's not the only incident, and it doesn't happen only in Quebec. I've seen it in Ottawa, seen it in BC, and have heard of numerous incidents in Toronto.

    maryam said...

    um... because they can speak French?

    Its strangely comforting to note that the notion of multiculturalism is taking flight from most established ethnically diverse populations. It gives me comfort to know that its not just happening here in Australia. Multiculturalism used to be the selling card for the govt, this is how they brought tourists and prompted greater immigration. Now, it seems, we all need to adhere to Australian Values, none of which have actually been described by any politician although they're comfortable to hide behind the slogan.

    mezba said...

    Marc: My problem with Quebec is that issues (particularly of religious minorities) that seem to be dealt with reasonably by people in other provinces seem be dealt with in a bull-headed manner by Quebecers, or at least by those in charge.

    kc: While I agree not everyone opposing a kirpan is a racist, I do disagree that when Bosclair says religious symbols have no place is not discriminatory, particularly to the religious. A true mosaic (not melting pot) of a society makes reasonable accomodation for everyone's diverse religious views.

    tory@york: the debate is about Quebec, not about Middle East. As someone who has lived there you don't need to tell me they have racism issues.

    Why did the Quebec soccer body defend the referee yet Ontario referees have no issues with her hijab, even going to the extent of allowing hijabs and Jewish skull caps? Because we want to be more inclusive and no one loses if a girl plays in her hijab.

    A view from the left: I understand what you are trying to say. But, and I speak from a collective experience of a lot of other people, particularly English speaking 'brown' (South Asian) people visiting Quebec, not only is the service poorer, but ruder.

    mr binnes: hmm...

    Faraz: if we argue that the referee was doing his job, then the other referees who saw no problem with her hijab weren't. I will post on this again.

    Maryam: it is hypocritical for the government to bring in immigrants because they need their labour, yet make it hard for them to live and work here.

    Faraz said...

    This is making me change my mind. Not on it's own, but combined with everything else ... it's just getting tiresome.

    I still believe Quebec as a province has a wonderful, if misunderstood, character that outsiders don't quite understand. But they make it harder and harder to keep defending it.

    M. Trudel said...

    I think most of the comments about Quebec from outside of the province have to be handle with precaution.
    Where is the truth, where is the prejudice. Anglo's press like to depict darkly Quebecers. They're racist, they're bigot, they're lazy. Sometimes it's true, and sometimes not. As every place on this planet.
    It's too easy to simplifie. The situation is more complex then you would like. You have to live in Quebec to understand the difference.
    Your question about Quebec and racism seems a twisted way to talk about a political dispute.

    Hamza said...

    Interesting post, however Quebec has a long history of a need to preserve their culture. Many countries throughout the world have that feeling. It is one thing to be patriotic about ones values and traditions, it is a completely different story when one is a nationalist. Quebec has a large immigrant and minority population. After years with trying to preserve their own culture from Anglophones, the new enemy is people within their own province. Quebec is at a crossroads, they either need to acknowledge the rights of the already established minority in their province or they can continue to butt heads, which will either lead to a huge exodus or a civil rights movement from the various minority groups.

    Hamza said...

    PS. I didn't steal the name of your blog for my own. :P i guess canuck is kind of a fun term.

    Anonymous said...

    I do not see how a Hijab is any more of a safety concern than say long hair or a jersey neck; someone could just as easily pull on one of those as pull on the Hijab. Plus with all sports there is inherent risk, wearing a Hijab is no more dangerous than walking out on to the field to play.

    Anonymous said...

    lately i have noticed when phoning Quebec institutions, the answering machine says for English press 8 or 4 and after you do, the recording continues in French, or just doesn't answer ever...( i.e. S.T.M.) . So there is a language war going on. Anyone in the middle that does not take sides is a target...Why should an "outsider" take sides ?... Does anyone immigrate to participate in language wars of others ?

    Anonymous said...

    Absolutely agree. quebec is vbery unwelcoming and absolutley disengenous in its immigration policies.

    landon said...

    In my opinion , I don't think Quebec is a racist province. However, I see it more of a province with racist "blemishes" (sorry for the comparison). It is normal for a place to possess its good and bad sides. Especially a province like Quebec whom the history has long been fought to protect roots and identities. So as I agree with marc, kc and tory@york and a view from the left for the generalisation, I'm still compelled to say that this is not a simplistic post.

    The ban of the kirpan in schools and the hijab in sports is a mere precaution.(even though an incident while playing sports with a hijab is highly unlikely). As for the political figure opinions, people like Gilles Duceppe, Pauline Marois and Mario Dumont belong to parties who tend to aim the native quebecker society (majority). It is true that this place has a real language conflict, but it is not like they dont give the option like anonymous said. So by looking at these sides, Quebec is not a racist province.

    As for the racist blemishes, yes there are some, maybe even alot. Such as: Pauline Marois continuous nagging for french preservation when the quebec french is mainly composed of slangs and english derived words, the government immigration policies and the constant civil generalisations such as all asians are "chinois" and all middle-easterns are "arabes" (again this is of experience...please dont blast me... it is IN MY OPINION).

    Its weird that there are so much generalisation when most quebeckers consider themselves "québécois"

    As for the tourists, racism is different in different places. Don't expect to be accepted in places like st-constant, or whatever french towns if you're from a ethnic minority. Vice Versa: If you're a quebecker, expect racism in big cities such as Montreal (city where ethnic minorities form a whopping 80%). So in my opinion, its all about where you go

    As a Quebecker of south asian descent that has also lived in Ontario, i think i possess a pretty good view on things :D

    PS: THIS IS MY OPINION meaning that there are people that DISAGREE...please dont hate me :D:D

    mezba said...

    I do believe there are many nice people in Quebec as well as racist people - on my most recent visit to Quebec I was treated with politeness wherever I went. However it's in the policies and people's silence to correct these injustices that I fear for this province.

    Anonymous said...

    Yes Quebec is definitely racist. I lived in Montreal for 27 years and I have constantly felt their hostility towards non quebecers ,even towards immigrants who speak french. And the problem is even worse with older quebecers, they are almost entirely prejudiced and racist.

    Anonymous said...

    I have only been here for 2 years. In that time, I was told, "We don't dislike you because you speak English. At least you try! We only hate Jews. (she didn't realize I was a Jew)."

    At my son's school, he had to endure racist songs about Chinese "Ching Chong Chinaman". My son is half Chinese.

    His first teacher in Maternal thought he was retarded because he couldn't speak French. This was after he was in country for only 4 months.

    I get routine dirty looks and nasty service as an English speaker. I am often foregiven if I admit I am from the U.S. "If you were from Westmount, I would be very angry at you", one person said.

    "Quebecers are not racist" I hear all the time. I think they are very racist. The anti-semitic incident rate is quite high here. Vandalism, swastica graffiti, shooting with bb guns at Jewish passerbies; this happens once a day in Quebec. While one study shows 59% of quebecers admit to racism-the highest rate in Canada, another shows that Quebecers think there is very little racism in their world. Amazing, and very telling.