The Premier’s move was bold, but the truth must be told.
To the watching public, the Couillard’s government recent removal of the Human Rights Commission’s mandate to lead the consultation on systemic discrimination and racism, and its subsequent renaming and reframing, may appear like a new move. But in reality it was nothing short of an ace card waiting to be played.
Now Quebec is in full control of the consultation under newly appointed Immigration and Diversity Minister David Heurtel, and Francois Blais (Employment and Social Solidarity), and the nomenclature “Promoting diversity and the fight against Discrimination.”
Exodus of the previously used terms – racism and systemic discrimination, and replacement of consultation with forum speaks volumes in itself, as Quebec has been known to struggle with acceptance of the presence of racism, preferring to call it by any other name except that which it merits.
In politically correct terms, racism is seen as taboo.
The public consultation on systemic discrimination and racism announced on May 20 by then Minister of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusiveness, Kathleen Weil, and scheduled to begin in September was already dead on arrival. The consultations were supposed to document the extent of the problem and provide proposals to fight racism.
Faced with opposition and widespread criticism of the consultation, as well as the chequered history of the actors and the involved institutions, concerned parties wondered as to the imminence of a burial.
La Coalition avenir Quebec (CAQ) referred to the consultation as a circus and lawsuits for Quebeckers, while Jean-François Lisée, head of the Parti Quebecois, seemingly upset with the formation of an advisory committee, initiated a petition opposing plans to debate the issues of racism and systemic discrimination, calling instead for less talk and more concrete action.
Carole Poirier, the Parti Québécois whip and MNA for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, expressed her disappointment with the move to have a public consultation. Opposition parties called on the government to scrap the process altogether, claiming that it puts Quebec society on trial.
Premier Couillard was faced with a decision. Something needed to go, for at stake was his political future. Displaying Trump-like behaviour, by hiding behind alternative facts, he claimed that the recent crisis involving Human Rights Commission’s President Tamara Thermitus prompted him to make this decision, while claiming in the same breath that the province’s consultations on systemic racism was contributory to the party’s agonizing by-election defeat in the Quebec City riding of Louis-Hébert.
There will be a regional tour of ministers David Heurtel (Immigration) and François Blais (Employment and Social Solidarity) to hear from businesses and economic groups about the labor shortage.
In a press conference on Wednesday, Minister Heurtel called for a reframing on the number one issue – employment – recalling the high unemployment rate among immigrants.
This latest move on the part of Premier Couillard is sending a strong negative message – abandonment of the social, ethical and moral issue of the day (racism), and proposals for fighting same.
In Quebec, from the outset the concept of systemic racism was poorly understood, and the word racism was shrouded in taboo-like garments. The name and the game was changed simply to avoid facing the real issue, bringing to light Quebec and Quebec nationalists.
While the initial consultations were designed to investigate the problem and provide proposals, it was seen as a call too close for comfort, hence the opposition from the outset. Premier Couillard had to choose, as he could not afford to lose.
According to Parti Quebecois’ leader Jean-Francois Lisee, an examination of systemic racism was unnecessary, which better translated meant scary.
Now racialized minorities in Quebec will have to wait another day or have their say another way, keeping in mind that there’s a provincial election just a year away.
WORDS AT PLAY
Words carry a significant amount of weight and hidden power, so that users, especially in political circles, need to be cautious when using them.
It is apparent that sometimes we cannot speak to each other on sensitive issues, because we do not speak the same language. The words that we use are the same, but sadly they mean different things to different people on different sides of an argument. However, if we are really interested in solving problems and reaching solutions that everyone can live with, rather than letting the issues linger and fester, then we need to at least understand the position taken by folks on the other side.
It is apparent that there are some individuals who are invested in keeping certain issues unresolved, almost as if they accrue satisfaction from ginning up outrage. If a problem actually went away, they would lose all that. Plainly put, or speaking from a politically correct angle, those are the people who try to redefine words so that the two sides are unable to agree on what is being said, and each side can’t understand what the other side wants, or is upset by.
To bear out my point, here are some examples. We are constantly told that we must be “tolerant” of others’ different lifestyles. According to the lexicon, tolerant means willing to accept behavior and beliefs that are different from your own, although you might not agree with or approve of them. However, “tolerant” is now used by the other side to mean, “completely approving and promoting of something.”
So that side accuses those who do not approve of or promote their thing of being “intolerant”, while those being accused feel greatly insulted about behavior they accept but don’t approve of.
Another example is the word “discrimination.”
By the dictionary, it means “the ability to see the difference between two things or people. The word discrimination, being able to distinguish between two things, is not by itself immoral, it is only when that discrimination is used to divide groups in such a way that one group can be disadvantaged that it becomes bigotry, a “stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own.”
It is apparent that some major principles are at issue when those two words are used. The lingering thought towards resolving the issue is, “Are one or both sides using language that inflames, insults, or confuses the other?”
The last question, “Will the side or sides using provocative language be willing to change the way they talk about the issue and about the other side, for the purpose of understanding and potential resolution, in light of the current society in which we live?”
Words have meanings, but unless we can all agree on what those meanings and which meaning is best suited, then we are not communicating with each other, we’re just “virtue-signaling” to those who already agree with us.
That may feel good for a little while, but in the long run does not go towards making anything better.