TORONTO, November 1, 2007 - The Canadian Race Relations Foundation is deeply concerned about the xenophobic climate which is evolving in Québec, particularly in the context of the Bouchard-Taylor Commission and the Parti Québecois- (PQ) introduction of two bills in the National Assembly, which would, in reality, provide a legal cover up for discrimination against immigrants and racialized groups. Indeed Bill 195 (Québec Identity) and Bill 196 (Québec Constitution) are divisive and would, in fact, lead to the creation of a hierarchy of rights in Québec.
While the concept of reasonable accommodation has been addressed by the courts and human rights commissions across Canada, with the purpose of securing the full participation of all in society, the tenor of the reasonable accommodation debate in Québec society today is the exclusion of Muslims and Jews and other racialized groups from the public domain. It is our view that the debate has drifted away from search for equitable and meaningful accommodation of all peoples to creating a climate of ''us'' and ''them''. History has shown that ethnic nationalism feeds the xenophobic sentiments of the ''majority'' against the ''minority''.
In addressing Québec Identity, Bill 195 follows the lead of European extreme right wing politics by promoting exclusionary views and practices. For example, the Bill's provisions would prevent immigrants and permanent residents from becoming citizens in Quebec if they did not have "appropriate French" or "appropriate knowledge of Quebec" and would be precluded from running in municipal councils, school boards and provincial elections.Clearly, these kinds of practices serve only to promote an "us" and "them" vision of society and would institutionalize discriminatory barriers thus excluding immigrants from being able to fully participate in and contribute to Quebec society.
The CRRF calls upon the PQ to withdraw Bill 195 and Bill 196 because of their potential to violate the fundamental rights of members of society. Commitment to democratic values and human rights carries with it recognition of diversity.